Although we didn’t have any specific reasons for coming to Shanghai, our travel agent said that she wouldn’t let us visit China without spending at least a little time in Shanghai. It would be like visiting the US without going to New York. She had arranged for us to do some of the typical tourist activities, and we had a couple things of our own planned as well.
Even though the country is roughly as large as the United States, it is kept all in one time zone. Shanghai is toward the Eastern side, so the sun rises at about 5:00 AM, so we woke up bright and early.
We started the day with a visit to the Shanghai World Financial Center. This is currently one of the tallest buildings in the world, and it has the highest habitable floor. From the ground outside the building, it is amazing to look up an see the building which is 100 stories high – nearing 500m or about 1600 feet. Put another way, it is over 5 football fields tall. What is even more amazing is that there are three super skyscrapers all within the same block, so looking up, you can see all three of them at once. The older Jin Mao tower is only 88 stories tall, and the soon-to-be-completed Shanghai Tower is 130 stories.
We took a tour to the top level of the Shanghai World Financial Tower which was fun. The tourist-only elevator goes clear from underground to the 96th floor in a dramatic display of lights and visual effects. There is then an escalator and another short elevator ride to make it all the way up to the 100th floor. It was quite amazing to look out from that height across the rest of Shanghai with the “tiny” 30-50 story buildings as far as you can see into the smog.
After spending the morning in downtown Shanghai, we spent the afternoon close to our hotel in the “Old Town” section of the city. This part is so named because it is where the native Chinese population was allowed to stay during the French and British concessions. The architecture and experience here was what Americans would think of as stereotypical Chinese.
Our tour guide took us through an Antique Chinese garden that was several hundred years old and was beautiful. As I understood it, the garden and surrounding grounds once belonged to a wealthy family and was their residence.
We then went to a Dim Sum lunch in Old town that was okay, but not fantastic. Our guide also showed us through some Pearl and Silk markets that were obviously intended for tourists. Nobody from our group bought anything here because it felt too much like the tour guide was getting a commission for showing us to the store. I think she was pretty irritated that we didn’t buy anything.
After a little break at our hotel, we ate (again) at another place arranged by our travel agent. This one was very strange and felt like a bad 1980’s prom. I think we were all tiring of Chinese food a bit by now. We finished up with dinner a little quick, so our shuttle brought us to the area for our acrobatics show and we wandered through some import grocery stores and such for a half hour before making our way to the acrobatics show.
The acrobatics show was actually pretty fun. The venue was right above the Ritz-Carlton, so I expected it to be a very polished show, but it was strangely not. The music was cut off between performances and it had a strange “unfinished” quality about it. However, the acrobatics and stunts were pretty fun to watch and included things like spinning plates, tossing large vases around, and human towers.
The show went until about 9:00 and we headed back to the hotel for the night.