I do a fair bit of research before I reach any destination, and in researching Shanghai, I thought it was going to be just another big city. To my surprise, it was one of the most beautiful and culturally rich cities I have ever seen!
I rely heavily on the reviews and advice provided by Trip Advisor to find the ideal hotel in a perfect location. Because of this, I am usually in a prime location, but this time I hit the jackpot! I found a very reasonably priced, clean hotel, with free WIFI and it is just a few steps away from “The Spot” in Shanghai.
The spot I am referring to is “The Bund”, a section of Zhongshan Road that runs along the west bank of the Huangpu River. The Bund is incredible and it is no surprise that it is one of the most visited areas by tourists coming to Shanghai. There were thousands of people walking along the waterfront promenade, snapping pictures of Lujiazui (The financial district) on the other side of the river. The Pearl Tower is the iconic tower that is quintessentially Shanghai. It is to Shanghai what the CN Tower is to Toronto, or the Empire State Building is to New York. At any time of day, it is one of my favourite city skylines to look at. I actually got out of bed, got dressed and walked to the Bund so I could have one final look at the beautiful lights reflecting off the river at night.
The Bund is a very historic area with many different architectural styles. It houses one of the richest collections of Art Deco buildings in the entire world. Walking along the street, I mildly felt like I was in Paris, walking along the Siene River at night.
From there it was off to Nanjing Road, a very busy street for walking traffic only. Both sides of the street are lined with high end shops and restaurants. Every 20 steps, a local would approach me and ask me if I am looking for handbags or watches. Having a backpack loaded with $25,000 of equipment, I avoided all back street shopping for now.
I woke up bright and early the next morning to walk the Bund to Yuyuan garden, another famous destination in Shanghai. The classic Chinese style buildings made for excellent photos and it seemed like the food stalls were never-ending! There were a few famous dumpling houses that had hundreds of people lined up for an order of Dim Sum. As you know, mass crowds don’t interest me. There was one stall that caught my attention and it was one that no one was ordering from. It was just a large pot of dumplings, but I could tell there was something about these dumplings that made them special. Every other stall had scores of locals fighting for an order of whatever was being sold, but I was the only person standing at this one. I tried with no success at asking what was in the dumplings. The people behind the counter just smiled at each other and spoke a few words of Mandarin. Not knowing what was in them, I decided to order a bowl of the mystery food, and see what happened! As soon as I had the bowl in my hand, local people started staring at me. It felt like the scorpion incident all over again! I ate the dumplings, not knowing what was in them and they tasted very good! It looked like a normal dumpling with red meat in the middle. I have a feeling that I just ate another super exotic food. It’s too bad I can’t add it to my list because I have no idea what it was!
The last thing on my list was to check out the famous underground shopping of Shanghai. I left all my camera gear, my wallet and my passport locked in the hotel room and headed out to explore. It is the first time on this expedition that I have parted from my camera. It did not take me long to find a local to guide me to these hidden shops. They are very illegal in China as the government is cracking down hard on counterfeiting. I was led through a maze of small streets and then through many back alleys to get to the first shop. There was a surveillance camera above the door and my guide knocked on the door with what seemed like a secret knock. The door opened and I was then led through a room with two men sitting at desks as a false wall was opened up! Through this false wall, were rooms of counterfeit watches, sunglasses, handbags, clothing and shoes. All the big names were represented in this shop. Rolex, Breitling, Gucci, Prada, Coach, Armani, Boss and any other designer label you can think of. From here, I was led to five similar shops with varying levels of security. I was not there to purchase anything, just to observe and experience this world behind the scenes.
Enjoy these images of Shanghai. I am heading further inland to Shijiazhuang today. This is a city where I was the only white man the last time I was there. I am planning on bringing you some fresh new images, and to try and get away from the tourists for a while.