The sick boi squad rolled out early in the morning, taking the subway to get to the Tianzifang market, an area in the former French concessions with narrow streets and countless storefronts. It was very cool to see the skyscrapers of the city rising in the distance, framed by the low European architecture.
Lilliana told us that we probably wouldn’t be able to haggle here like we would in the Beijing markets, but Ryan was able to cut the price by a third in every store he walked into. The market was home to the typical tourist shops selling chopsticks and fans, but also high end jewellry, modern fashion, and juice bars. Not to mention a terrifying mannequin, a golden Spongebob, and an entire cafe dedicated to Peppa Pig:
For lunch we ate at an Italian restaurant in the market, ordering Hawaiian pizza. It was something that felt very American, but it served as a nice break from Asian cuisine.
Following the market, we traveled to the center of Pudong, Shanghai’s financial district. This eastern side of the Huangpu River was decidedly more modern than the rest of the city, and skyscrapers towered overhead. This area was home to all of the buildings that made the Shanghai skyline so iconic, the Oriental Pearl Tower, the Shanghai Tower, and the “Bottle Opener”.
We then went to the Shanghai Tower, the second tallest building in the world. In the basement was the elevator that would take us to the building’s observation deck, as well as a number of displays about the tallest buildings in the world over the course of history. It also explained some of the buildings civil engineering feats. The building is actually comprised of two layers, and outer glass shell and the actual structure of the building, separated by open air. The building also twists 120 degrees as it rises in order to reduce strain caused by high winds at altitude. The building boasts not only the highest observation deck in the world, but also the fastest elevator, traveling 118 floors in less than a minute (22mph!).
From the observation deck it was apparent just how dense Shanghai was. The urban parts of the city had nearly eight times as many people per square kilometer as Beijing. From so high up we were able to see high rise apartment buildings with blue and red roofs stretching as far as the smog would let us see. Being able to look down on the Huangpu River and some of the tallest buildings Shanghai had to offer was also an incredibly unique experience.
After our visit to the Shanghai Center, we had some time to burn before we would be meeting up with the rest of the Plus3 group that we left in Beijing. We stopped at a mall and I saw that the Toys R’ Us in the mall spanned two floors and was fully stocked, a surprise considering the recent news of their bankruptcy in the United States. I also saw stores selling Jeep and CAT clothing lines, something that I didn’t know existed.
We met the rest of the group at the base of the Oriental Pearl Tower, and after a happy reunion, moved into the mall situated at the tower’s base. There we walked through a history museum detailing every part of Shanghai’s history. It was fascinating to see how much the city had been changed by different European powers that had carved out spheres of influence within the port city. They brought Western culture in the form of fashion, architecture, and financial trade. Chinese culture still persisted in many forms, including the Chinese opera and the practice of binding women’s feet. The real development of Shanghai actually came in the last 40 years or so, where the Pudong was transformed from rice paddies to the towering financial buildings you see today.
Following dinner we were treated to an incredible nighttime cruise of the Huangpu River, offering great views of both sides of the city. The lights of the city were colorful and brilliant, something that can only come with from the modern metropolitan that is Shanghai.