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Shanghai, a whole new world

[ 10 ] June 5, 2010 |

I had heard all the tales about beautiful Shanghai, dazzling buildings, bright flashy lights, European architecture, not to mention expensive! Until I actually went there it was all just stories and google images in my head.

The moment I got off the train at Shanghainan (Shanghai South) Train station I felt like I was in a whole other world and it certainly wasn’t China!  Coming from Keqiao, a fairly small rural city that doesn’t even have a train station of its own, I found the streamlined modernity, flashy lights, English signs and the abundance of western foods a shock, at the same time I couldn’t help but be amazed!  Shanghai seemed like a whole new world!

From the station I jumped onto the extremely overpriced metro to take the 30 min trip into the city to the Jewish Quarter.  When I arrived at my destination, Linping Road Station, despite being in the historical Jewish Quarter I felt like I had stepped right back into China.  I was met with the familiar view of washing hanging out of windows, old men riding around on bicycles, street stalls selling traditional Chinese street food, I felt right at home. 

Shanghai Jewish Quarter

My hostel, Innjoyworld was a charming former Jewish residence built in 1924.  Retaining its old world charms with peeling paint, chandeliers and exposed wooden floors it felt as though I was stepping back in time to the heyday of the Jewish Quarter.


After spending what must have been less than half an hour at the hostel I jumped back on the metro to head into the centre of the city to meet my Irish friend Diarmuid.  After apparently walking right past him we found each other and set off on our adventure downtown.

Far too stingy to pay the Y4 for another metro ticket to get to The Bund, we instead decided to walk the lengthy distance through the CBD.  On the way we were nearly hit by a liquid projectile flying from some kid who decided to pull his pants down and urinate right in the direction of the footpath at the passers by!  We weren’t shocked, in our time living in China both of us had come across Children doing their business in full view of passers by, in fact it seemed the more public the area the better location to got to the toilet!

Shanghai CBD

Leaving the CBD behind we boarded what must be the cheapest ferry I’ve ever taken.  For Just Y0.50  ($0.07 USD) we got a 5 min scenic trip across the river along with about 10 or so standing passengers and  50 or so scooters and their drivers.  Watching them drive on and off really was quite the sight all revving their engines eager to go, all trying to swerve around one another to be the first out onto the street. 

Shanghai Ferry

The best part about this dirt cheap ferry ride (I know how could anything beat the price!) was the view looking down the river towards The Bund with the gorgeous golden sunset as a backdrop as the sun bid us farewell for the day.

 Shanghai Sunset

Just a short walk from the ferry terminal we found ourselves at the beginning of the infamous Bund Boulevard.  It was clear that this was the place the local’s hung out on a Saturday night; it was packed!

The Bund, Shanghai

What everyone really came here for was the jewel on Shanghai’s crown, a view across the Huangpu river to the world famous Oriental Pearl TV tower.  That was certainly what I had come to see! An amazing architectural design, iconic and unique. A building that can only be described as something that should be on mars, it looked like something straight out of Futurama!

Pudong Skyline in the Evening, Shanghai

I snapped countless pictures of this building and the skyline from every angle imaginable, maybe slightly overkill.  But I wasn’t the only one; the Bund was packed with people all trying to snap the perfect image, all squeezing in along the railings to get that iconic picture in front of the tower. 

The most beautiful image across the river was still to come as the sun dipped below the horizon.  Once the sun had gone and darkness set in the view was at its most spectacular.  The skyline was lit up like a Christmas tree, the colours were dazzling and the reflections on the water were simply gorgeous.

 Shanghai Pudong at Night

Moving on from The Bundwe headed towards Nanjing Road, though not before stopping to admire the beautiful European architecture along Zhong Shan road directly behind Bund boulevard.

 European Architecture, Zhong Shan Road Shanghai

Wandering down Nanjing Road, the first thing on our agenda was to track down some food that wouldn’t break the bank. Unfortunately Nanjing Road lacked food options for the budget conscious. We settled for McDonalds, yes indeed the first meal I ate in Shanghai was a Grilled Chicken Burger and Fries!  Along with the lack of cheap food, Nanjing road was all bright lights and expensive stores.  This was western brand Mecca with brands such as Zara, Nike and  Tiffany.  I knew I was clearly poor by Shanghai standards when I spotted jewelry store to the rich, Cartier!

 Nanjing Road at Night, Shanghai

Walking down parts of the road I was so disorientated, what country was I in!?  The bright neon signs were in Chinese, the brands were western and the European architecture reminded me of walking around London’s Knightsbridge.

 Nanjing Road Shanghai

Further exploring the road we came across an entire shop/café dedicated to Hershey’s chocolate!  Me being an Australian (where Hershey’s is rarely stocked) I found this quite the novelty, Hershey’s chocolate was always what my Dad would bring back as a gift from his business trips to the USA.  As I looked around the shop mouth watering I couldn’t help but think my Mum would be in heaven right now!!!

 Hershey's Store/Cafe Shanghai

(This pics for you Mum!!!)

Disappointed that we couldn’t afford the delicious looking Hershey’s Iced Chocolate for Y27 a pop we searched out for a Milk Tea bar.  For only Y5 we got the Chinese answer to a milk shake, flavoured milk tea and sat and enjoyed the late night refreshment before jumping back on the metro before the lines closed for the night.

The entire afternoon and evening had been wonderful of course made all the more better by spending it with my amazing Irish friend who also doubled as a pretty awesome tour guide!  I couldn’t stop saying WOW! and thinking where am I?  Shanghai seemed like foreign land! This was the certainly the cheapest trip to Europe I’d ever taken!  The confusion of this city trying to be the entire world made for a delightful contrast and fodder for my curious eyes who at this point were so used to seeing an older more traditional China of Canals, Hutongs and lack of English signage.  This is what I had come to know as China but my visit to Shanghai made me realize that there is so much more of this country left for me to explore and more importantly to understand.

COMING SOON Shanghai on a budget…It’s not as expensive as you may think, you just need to know where to look!!!

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About onurwaytravel: Colin has been travelling the world with his young family for the past 2 and half years. He runs a couple of websites all revolve around travel, family travel and digital nomadism. His websites include,, and now View author profile.

Comments (10)

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  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Jiyeon Juno Kim, Sasha Peakall. Sasha Peakall said: New Post: Shanghai, a whole new world …Check it out!!! #lp #MatadorN #travel [...]

  2. tucky says:

    i remember a girl about 5 peeing in the street and trying to high five me as i walked by

  3. Sasha says:

    Hahaha oh now that is taking peeing on the street to a whole new level! Expecting a high five after is a bit of a tall order!!! Crazy kids!!!

  4. Amanda says:

    What a great post — the pictures especially are stunning! I remember feeling similarly overwhelmed and awed when I visited Shanghai a couple of years ago. It certainly wasn’t what I expected at all! Glad you had a good experience (and that you avoided getting peed on).
    .-= Amanda´s last blog ..Don’t forget about Italy. =-.

  5. [...] is located in Zhejiang province of south eastern China.  It is only 40 mins from Shanghai and can be reached by regular trains or [...]

  6. Suzy says:

    How strange about those children in the streets! Sounds like a great itinerary. Love the shots of the skyline over Huangpu river.
    .-= Suzy´s last blog ..Suzy Stumbles Over Travel: Week of June 7, 2010 =-.

  7. [...] the whole city of Shanghai seems to be on crack and steroids so are the items in the market in one of the poorest area’s [...]

  8. [...] my first trip to Shanghai I was blown away and somewhat culture shocked, Shanghai was a whole new world, an unfamiliar China.  I was amazed and seduced by the bright lights, the western foods, the [...]

  9. [...] Deeper and deeper I wandered into the old neighborhood, the more I descended into it’s depths, the more energized I felt.  Despite being surrounded by the familiar sights of China, everything still seemed new, everything still seemed to trigger my natural curiosity, these people’s lives were so different to my own life in Shanghai and worlds apart from the life I had back home.   Everything was fascinating to me, old ladies sitting by the side of the road knitting, tuk tuks and scooters whizzing by, people preparing food on small fold up tables outside their homes, people washing dirty dishes on the road, oh how different this all was!  I hadn’t felt like this in a long time, I hadn’t felt this excited about China since I’d backpacked around the south months before.  I was elated to feel excitement, I was elated to feel something for Shanghai, I was elated that I was finally excited by Shanghai again. [...]

  10. [...] be manipulated into thinking China is not Chinese at all but in fact western.  The first time I laid eye’s upon East Nanjing Road I had to pinch myself “Is this China?” In fact when I want a little break from China [...]

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