Shanghai – the Pearl of the Orient

Shanghai – the Pearl of the Orient

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There are numerous places for one to visit after all the day’s work is done. If you are a knowledge seeker then museums might interest you. There are many to choose from including the Shanghai musuem, Madame Tussaud’s Museum, Museum of Contemporary Art, China Sex culture museum, the Propaganda Poster art Center and the Shanghai Music Conservatory Oriental Musical Instrument Museum. They are sure to keep you occupied throughout your stay in the city.

If you are more of an outdoors person, the options are endless. The Bund area is a great place to take a stroll. Admire the colonial architecture and buildings such as the Peace Hotel, Customs house, the Hong Kong and Shanghai Bank among many others. Stroll into the old city just across the street for a whole new world. You wouldn’t believe you are in the same city!

Cross the Huangpu river by ferry or take a cruise along the 27 km river to the mouth of the Yangtze river. You will see evidence of it being the largest port…wharves, tankers, all busy at work. View the panoramic city from either the Oriental Pearl tower or the Jin Mao tower…it is sure to leave you breathless.

Shanghai is also making a mark as the region’s fashion and shopping capital. Some of the most frequented shopping areas in the city are Huaihai Lu, Maoming Lu, Xingle Lu and not to forget the ‘number one shopping street in China’ Nanjing Lu. These places offer a variety of smaller shops where you can get a variety of items but you need to be prepared to face the crowd. The sea of people can intimidate someone not used to it but once you brave the crowds, you are sure to find good bargains.

Dongjiadu Fabric market or the South Bund Fabric market as it is known now will leave you spoilt for choice. You can pick up everything from silks to cashmere and hundreds of other kinds of fabrics at cheaper prices than anywhere else in the city. The market also has on-site tailors making it a one-stop shop for that perfect outfit.

Of course, how can you come to China and not pick up a fake designer bag or watch? There are many markets that offer knock-off branded goods and you have to have a keen eye to spot the difference. If you would rather not face the crowd or take a chance with the quality of the product, the city offers numerous department stores and malls like the City Mall to make your shopping experience complete.

Other sights of the city include the Ohel Moshe Synagogue, reminiscent of the city’s Jewish past; taking a gondola ride in one of the water villages near the city, such as Tongli, Nanxun and Zhou Zhuang, passing traditional bridges, old-fashioned stone houses and gardens; the impressive Jade Buddha Temple which houses two statues imported from Burma, one of which weighs three tones and is 1.95 m tall; St Ignatius Cathedral or the Xujiahui Cathedral, located on Puxi Road is the largest cathedral in the city and was featured in the Steven Speilberg movie ‘Empire of the Sun’; or visit the Wen Miao market open every Sunday which also has a thousand year old temple dedicated to Confucius.

Shanghai is a truly international city with restaurants serving food from all over the world but when in Shanghai, try the local fare. The city is known for its own style of dim sums especially steamed pork dumplings (xiao long bao). Seasoning in this part of the country is kept to a minimum. People here use more of sweet ingredients in their food than in any other part of China. Other local delicacies include freshwater fish and shellfish which are found in plenty, preserved duck eggs (pi dan), smelly tofu (chou dou fu) and the seasonal hairy crabs (da zha xie). To get the authentic flavor, try one of the many roadside stalls. Of course, Chinese specialties from the rest of the country is widely available.

The weather in Shanghai is extreme ranging from icy cold winters to humid summers. The winter months of November through February and the hot and sultry months of July and August are not the best times to visit Shanghai. There are a few typhoons during the year but none in the recent years that have caused any considerable damage. March or September and October are considered the best time to be in the city but that also means high costs of hotel rooms and overbooked hotels so you need to plan and book your stay in advance. The Chinese New Year is the most important holiday in China and most of the city is out on the streets celebrating and visiting relatives. It is a good time to taste the local flavor and join in the festivities.

A simple handshake and the exchange of business cards with a slight bow of the head is now the common way of greeting in Shanghai. Cards and gifts should be given and received with both hands and one should never go empty-handed if invited to someone’s house. A basket of fruit is a safe bet on all occasions. Learn the use of chopsticks and a few words of Mandarin. Your effort to blend in will greatly please your host and always take off your footwear before entering the house. Chinese people take great offense to being criticized in public, so make sure to not call attention to their mistakes or contradict them publicly.

Make sure that when you enter the country, your passport has a minimum validity of 6 months beyond the date of your arrival. All visitors to mainland China are required to have a visa. A list of Chinese embassies and consulates can be found at www.fmprc.gov.cn/eng. The Chinese currency is called Yuan (RMB) or more commonly known as Kuai or Renminbi, and is not convertible outside the country.

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