Shanghai - Port Guide
Where is the ship/how to get to the sights?
Winter Oct-Feb cold 5-10 degrees Celsius, with snow possible Nov-Feb. Spring: Mar-May 10-16 degrees. Summer: 16-30 degrees. Rain possible year round.
Sights & Sites
Shanghai has many attractions and also great smaller cities and towns nearby that are worth visiting. Some of the highlights are here;
- The Bund – This is the area along the Huangpu River that is the coolest spot in Shanghai. There are cool clubs, bars, Michelin Star restaurants, as well as high-end fashion stores and businesses along it, with a boardwalk running all the way along the riverside. This is the place to get the best view of the iconic buildings all lit up at night. Street: East Zhonshan No 1 Rd. Metro: East Nanjing road. This is the historical financial centre, and where there is a lot of nightlife open late in the evening when we’re there for an overnight.
- Shanghai Museum – This huge, beautifully designed imposing building in the centre of the city is a fantastic museum of four floors, which is free to go in and has a lot to see. There are sections on Ancient Chinese Sculptures, pottery, Buddha sculpture, as well as Royal stamps, calligraphy, jade and ivory works. 201 Renmin Avenue. Open 9am-5pm. Metro: People’s Square.
- Yuyuan Gardens & Bazaar – This beautiful garden is an oasis of peace in the midst of the bustling Shanghai. It is filled with flowers, statues, pavilions, trees and even has an art gallery with art by local artists in its centre. It costs 35 Yuan to enter (about $5 USD), and in my opinion well worth it. There is a bazaar attached which sells many local handcrafts and souvenirs. It is possible to walk here form the ship, but it is about an hour’s walk. The shopping area near there is great for souvenirs, and has a lot of choices and bargains, and also street food. Street: Anren Jie. Open 8.30am-5.30pm. Metro: Yuyuan Garden.
- Jade Buddha Temple – As well as the shiny, somewhat consumer led exterior of Shanghai, the city also has a religious heart that beats strongly today. The pretty Jade Buddha Temple was built in 1882 showcases this side of the city, by still be a popular place for locals to worship daily, as well as a draw to tourists who come to admire the two jewel encrusted Buddhas that adorn it. Street: Jiangning Roads. Open 8am-4.30pm. Metro: Changshou Road.
- Maglev Train – Zoom along at the speed of light, well, almost, in this futuristic very convenient and time saving way to get to the airport in Shanghai. Or just take a ride to experience the fun of travelling at 431km an hour on the world’s fastest bullet train. Longyang Road Station.
- Jin Mao Tower – You can be whisked up to the 88th floor of this statuesque beauty to enjoy the best views of the city in this art deco style pagoda-esque skyscraper. Coffee shop, gift shop, and comfy seats await to help you enjoy the vista. Give cloudy days a miss here though as the view is more like the centre of cotton candy. If you’re feeling brave, you can arrange to go ‘rooftopping’ which means you go out on the outside of the 3rd top floor attached by a cable and walk around its peak a la King Kong. Street: 88 Century Avenue. Open 8.30am-9.30pm. Metro: Lujiazui.
- Shanghai World Financial Tower – The second tallest skyscraper adorning the skyline of Shanghai is 492m high and is a key player in the ballet of twinkling lights of the city. Street: 100 Century Avenue. Open: 8am-11pm. Metro: Lujiazui. In Pudong new area. http://swfc-shanghai.com
- Chinese Cooking Class – Authentic Chinese cooking class with Chef Mike. Wonderful cooking class ran by the knowledgeable, helpful, and patient Chef Mike. Book in advance. You can choose your menu of what you’d like to learn to cook. Street: 2 Dong Ping Road, by Hengshan Road, French Quarter. Metro: Hengshan Road. chinesecookingworkshop.com
Other places to visit in the Shanghai area are:
- Hangzhou: You can take the train to Hangzhou from Shanghai, it takes around 45 minutes to there. Is a very beautiful city, with the West Lake, and the Lingyin Temple. I will try to see it next trip. There are guests tours going there too, you can try to be an escort on it time permits.
- Suzhou: Another beautiful city outside Shanghai but near enough to get to in a day. Also around 45 minutes away by train, and also available on a guest tour if you can go as an escort. It has the Humble Adminstrator’s Gardens, China’s most famous garden. Reputed to be very beautiful.
- Extra note: If you’re planning on bringing any visitors on the ship in Shanghai, there are a lot of strict rules and regulations about bringing guests on then, and also it is expensive to bring them on, as the Chinese customs people charge us for bringing people on. It costs 200 yuen per person, plus they have to pay 300 yuen for being escorted to the ship from the customs building, (whether they’d need that or not), so for me to bring my friends who are a family of 4 on; it would cost 1100 yuen. $166. None of the cruise lines ask for a penny for the visit so this is somewhat strange and a bit shady in my opinion.
Shanghai is a strange mix of new and shiny, expensive and chic, with ramshackle, old fashioned and cheap. And that is exactly what the shopping there is like. You can find Gucci and Armani stores along East and West Nanjing Road, and just around the corner, find an elderly man well past the age he should be retired and enjoying a peaceful life, trying eagerly to sell his cheap plastic souvenirs and trinkets to passing tourists for a dollar. The contrast between rich and poor is of course everywhere, but nowhere have I felt is more prevalent than in Shanghai.
If you only have two hours
The ship docks very close to the Bund, so it is possible to walk to the main part of the Bund in 15 minutes, and spend time there walking along the boardwalk, seeing the buildings and you can walk along part of Nanjing street and see some of the shops and eateries in the area.
What is it known for?
Shanghai is known as the most international of China’s cities, and the first to open her doors and welcome foreign visitors in fully with open arms and pockets. The city is visually stunning, an architectural masterpiece at every angle, especially along the world famous Bund. There are world-class restaurants, gorgeous malls, beautiful gardens and museums, and the futuristic Maglev train here. However, you don’t have to scratch much underneath the shiny surface and you will find a darker side to her, filled with counterfeit goods and bank notes, and scam artists galore. And that is just the stuff that is easy for a tourist there for one day to see. No other city that I know of has actually had its name made into a negative verb to describe what will likely happen to you at some point in the city. To be “Shanghaied” is part of the fun, apparently. So just keep your wits about you and if you sample the fine, expensive cocktails in the en vogue bars along the Bund, or any of the much cheaper, but also less well lit ones further into the maze of side streets, make sure you have a safe way back home at the end of the night.
Food & Drink
Shanghai is a foodie’s paradise, with so many delicious options to choose from, it would take you at least a month here to get round to trying all of the local tasty treats on offer. Some of my top picks are xiao long bao (soup and pork dumplings), local warm egg tarts. You can get breakfast pancakes from street vendors for about 50 cents, and they are delicious. Noodle soups can be bought in side street cafes for about $1.60 (about 10 yuen), for a huge bowl. We had a lunch with two friends who live in Shanghai, of 4 big bowls of noodles, 2 large local beers, and a sprite, for about $8. This was in a side street small café in the Yuyuan Gardens area, there are many similar places around. A lot of very tasty and cheap local food is very easy to find in Shanghai.
Places to check out in the evening to drink are; Trois Rouges (three reds), which is a fashionable rooftop bar. It has a terrace with a great view of the Bund skyline. It is one of the cool places go to party, and it is quite fun. It is expensive though. Expect to pay around $8 for a beer, and $15 a cocktail, very expensive for China. It stays open until 5am. The Jazz and Blues club is a great live music venue. The drinks are quite expensive too, around $7 for a beer, and $12 for a cocktail, but there is no cover charge to see the very good live music, which is good, and on until 1am, and the bar stays open until 1.30am.
There is no Wi-Fi outside the ship, and no official terminal here. In restaurants and bars there is often free Wi-Fi in Shanghai. Be aware that China blocks Facebook, Google and some other websites you may frequently use. You can use a VPN on your device to get around this blocking if you are comfortable doing that. Or just wait to update your status until you are out of China and back on the ship. Sending emails or getting updates on your laptop, or messaging people at home or doing online banking etc. shouldn’t have any issues though.
I recommend exchanging money on the ship, or before in another port or at home before joining the ship if possible. You can exchange money in banks in Shanghai, but bureau de changes are few. Be very wary of money exchange scams, as they are quite common, even in official currency exchange vendors. People being given counterfeit bank notes or not the correct amount is sadly quite common. You will need local currency for buying anything in any market, or small business. Only larger shops, restaurants, hotels or tour companies will accept credit cards. If you need to exchange the money when in China, go into a reputable bank or hotel lobby of an international hotel, and count your money in front of the person giving you it before leaving. International hotel lobby money exchange places are my pick for most trusted place to exchange money in Shanghai.
Karen’s Top Tip
Try not to get Shanghaied. Don’t take out any more money than you need for the day, and don’t go out by yourself here, especially not at night. Shanghai’s character completely changes at night. During the day, I strolled along beside nice, happy families walking with their children, nicely dressed up on a Sunday afternoon going to have a family lunch, and the same spots at night were open areas ready to highlight the tourist gazelles for the local lion scam artists to pounce on. Always be on your guard here. I don’t recommend it as a place to get intoxicated, as you need to know what you’re doing to make sure you get back safe.
My experience here
I visited Shanghai 3 times,
October 2016, day 1 & 2: My first day in Shanghai started at night, after finishing work, going out to spend the night off the ship on the overnight stay there. I stayed at the Captain’s Hostel, which was cheap ($50 a night for a private room), or $10 for a bunk bed in a dorm room. It was a lesson in “you get what you pay for”. It was not the nicest place, but in a convenient location and free wifi, and has a bar on the rooftop which has a great view and is much cheaper than all the other rooftop bars. We had difficulty checking in without having our passports on us, and the man working in reception didn’t speak any English. Luckily, in the group of us heading off ship for the night, was a Chinese friend who worked on the ship who spoke Mandarin. After quite a bit of negotiation from her, they allowed us to check in. The air conditioning didn’t work, the bathroom’s cleanliness was dubious, and I had 38 mosquito bites on me when I woke up, after having left the window open for the night due to the non existent air conditioning. I do not recommend staying there. Some friends stayed in international hotels in the city to enjoy staying off the ship for the night and they had a much better time of it. They paid four times what we did, but also got a much better experience.
Day 2 – I met up with an American-living-in-Shanghai shipmate I worked with years ago on another ship, and his lovely daughter, and they showed us around the city. They first took us for Shanghai street breakfast of delicious savory pancakes from a street vendor, then to their apartment to see how many people live in Shanghai. It was a spacious, homey place with all mod cons,in a high rise building in a good area near the centre. We then walked to the People’s Park and strolled around the garden, enjoying the flowers and people watching some elderly residents of the city play chess. We stopped for dragonfruit smoothies from a stall in Middle Xizang road. Next we went to check out all the exhibits at the Shanghai Museum. It is a very interesting museum, giving a very decent education on a lot of cultural and historical aspects of Shanghai and China in general. From there, we walked to Yuyuan Street and scoped out some of the shops and stalls along the bustling street, then found some tasty, cheap noodles in a side street tiny café (see food and drink section for more details).
Day 3 – March 2017. This day I started by taking a walk along the Bund, taking in the views and lovely Sunday family atmosphere. I walked through Hai Hai Park all along to the Yuyuan Bazarre, where we had a browse through the stores there, before going for lunch in a small family run restaurant just outside the gardens. My group of shipmates and myself ordered and enjoyed sampling several dishes family style, of; pork dumplings, grilled fresh green vegetables, spring roles, shao mai shrimp dumplings, with oolong tea. It was delicious and full of local flavours and very reasonable at about $7 per person. Next was a walk around the beautiful Yuyuan Gardens. It costs about $5 for entry (35 yuan), and it is really worth it. I’d recommend allocating at least an hour to viewing the flowers, statues, pagodas, ponds, and art gallery of the famed gardens. Then we looked around a giant manga, toy store, before heading back to the ship.
Day 4 – My fourth day in Shanghai saw me attending a fantastic Chinese Cooking Class, at the Chinese Cooking Workshop in the French Quarter, with the excellent Chef Mike. To take the class, you book ahead, online, which is easy, and the more people in your group, the better your rate. If you are planning on taking several classes you get a better rate with each class. I had fallen in love with xiao long bao, pork soup dumplings, so chose the class to learn to make these and spring rolls from scratch. The class was around $55, and really worth it. Chef Mike has excellent English and is very good at teaching clumsy foreigners. There is a very nice small coffee shop two doors down from the cooking school that is nice to stop in if you arrive to the class early (as we did), and their coffee, and Wi-Fi was very good and the owner/barista Chen gives a very warm welcome to the lovely patio area outside. After the class, we explored the French Quarter, checking out dance classes in small local parks, the grounds of the Shanghai University, and the character filled French influenced small streets filled with patisseries with French and Chinese classics.
Day 5 – My next day in Shanghai included eating tasty Din Tai Fung in a mall on street. I enjoyed the most incredible xiao long bao, pork, chicken and truffle ones. A while after we went for coffee and cake in the very welcoming, warm, clean hipster vibe of the vegetarian café ‘Whole Pure’. They do an afternoon special of getting a drink frree with any dessert. We stopped in Breuheusen, a large, German pub for a happy hour tipple, before heading back to the ship. It is situated just around the corner from the ship and has free, fast Wi-Fi. A German pub China wouldn’t be my first choice, as I always like to go for something local, but it was a safe distance of being right beside the ship, as it got dark, and add the happy hour and much needed Wi-Fi in there, and it made sense to stop for a half hour there.
Day 6 – My final day thus far, in Shanghai, I spent on a tour with the guests as a tour escort, to visit the Maglev Train and Jin Mao Tower. The Maglev Train is a wonder of modern technology, and is exciting, and novel. It is a fun way to get to the airport, or just enjoy the ride, speeding up to 431km an hour. The Maglev – Magnetic Levitation train – leaves from Longyang Station and takes 7 minutes each way of the ride that only goes to the airport and back again. The other stop on the tour was the Jin Mao Tower. The tour took us up to the 8th floor to get incredible views of the city. This day, it was cloudy, so impossible to see any of the city, but it usually is splendid I have heard.
My Most Memorable Moment
I think my most memorable moment in Shanghai was being in Yuyuan Gardens looking at the coy carp filled ponds, and seeing the ancient architecture of the Xing Dynasty style pagodas all around the park. The Yuyuan Gardens are beautiful and show off the culture and artistic side and history of Shanghai, while being only a few minutes walk away from viewing the shiny skyscrapers and light shows of the Bund, one of this century’s most revered cityscapes. I enjoyed the feeling of connection with old China, in the centre of the modern metropolis.
Nick and I finding the most interesting foods Shanghai has to offer, sampling many tasty things with friends while checking out history and sights.