As one flies over Shanghai on the Yangtze delta, one is but awestruck by the skyscrapers that dot the Pudong and Puxi or the eastern and the western banks of the other major river, Huangpu or the Yellow river. As you touch down the tarmac, yet another technological marvel greets you – the Mag Lev, the world’s fastest train that works on the principle of the magnetic leviation clocking 430Km/hr. This train transports you to the mainland. Shanghai is the commercial and cultural capital of China. Breathtaking office complexes merge with hi-fi streets, not to forget McDonalds and other food chains and other food chains and multi – level malls in between. The maple – lined parks and street food stalls outside the ‘fake’ street tempt visitors to take a long walk and feast on a sumptuous fare. While on cuisine, a plethora of up market and traditional restaurants dish out authentic seafood and meat fare.
The Chinese opera is a treat to watch. For architecture buffs, the skyline is sheer poetry. The Oriental Pearl TV Tower is the tallest tower in Asia. With a futuristic space city, a plush hotel for State guests, shops and restaurants, it also services the various telivision programmes and FM radio stations. Glass facades and multistory buildings break your imagination of the natives dressed in qipao, walking past pagoda style structures or tea bars. This latter is restricted to quaint corners of the Yu Garden, where you can pick up the herbal tea. Yu Garden, the one – stop shop for all things traditional, the buildings that are built in the stark contrast to the high – rises in the business districts. Find here silk scarves and robes that you can take back as souvenirs. Key chains with insects in the raisins are a popular gift item as also animal pendants depending on the year of birth.
Commuting is smooth with subways, taxis and public transport completing the circle. Known as the ‘Kingdom of bicycles’ till 1980s, Shanghai is today the land of Volkswagen Santana, the popular automobile. Limousines and other cars such as Hyundai can be seen zipping past the ring road. People live on three levels, as oft said of Shanghai – on the road, above the road and below the road. The elevated roads are a marvel. The system ensures the 19 million population of the city never faces traffic jams. There are few streets known for historical reasons such as Edward Street built on a creek, dividing French and British colonial establishments. The night cruise on the river is another must while here. Learn Mandarin if you must before you embark on your trip. It would go a long way since a very small percentage of people speak English here. The weather fluctuates during summer, spring, autumn and winter. The trip to this on – sea land can be nostalgic, for you can bring back gifts as well as memories.