SHANGHAI, CHINA – Shanghai – land of xiaolongbaos, shengjianbaos, capitalism and…honestly, we’re not sure what else. Considering how rapidly the city (and in fact, all of China) has been developing since the last time we came here over 10 years ago on tour with the family, our recent trip to Shanghai effectively felt like our first trip there.
With the only real plans being plans to review The Theatre Practice’s overseas debut of Liao Zhai Rocks! and Pundrunk’s Shanghai edition of Sleep No More, the sprawling city was our oyster, with so much to do in so little time.
Going on a number of guides and off-kilter recommendations from friends for a couple of hipster sights and great coffee, what we also wanted was a slice of Shanghai tourist life. That means things like seeing the Bund, the temples and gardens littered all over the city, and of course, the convenience of transport. Thankfully, the solution was just under our noses the entire time – with Changi Recommends.
Besides relying on them everytime we go overseas for a trusty portable WiFi for all means and purposes, Changi Recommends also offers up various tour packages and great deals on itineraries for most major destinations in the world. Shanghai, of course, was one such destination, and with the power of a single all in one purchase, our trip’s schedule was made that much easier by providing a tour bus, and entry to some of the must-see tourist attractions of the place. We opted for a Shanghai Flexi Pass, offering entry to 4 attractions, including the Yu Gardens, a river cruise, one of the ultra-touristy places like the Shanghai Dungeon or the famous Jinmao Tower, and of course, an all important City Sightseeing Bus.
After reaching our accommodation around evening, we were raring to get the most out of our journey, heading out to see the Shanghai Jinmao Tower over at the Bund, covered in our tour package. With an exhilarating journey from bottom to top, the sight of the city at night from above was one to behold (unfortunately, one that our phone camera skills were a little too rusty to capture, especially with the rainy weather). That’s one thing we managed to check off the list, and the rest of the night followed with some well-deserved xiaolongbao and other appetizers at a nearby shop.
All metropolitan cities are relatively easy to navigate, especially with just a map app (高德地图) and a travel card, but if anything, they’re even easier when you’ve got access to a city bus taking you straight to your points of interest. After making a couple of detours into the more hipster parts of town, from the 1933 Slaughterhouse (come for the architecture, stay for a couple of photos, then leave) to Ju Lu Road (with fascinating shops and great cafes like the very hip Small Company Coffee), it was time to get touristy once again, and get into the heart of the district with the Yu Gardens.
Taking their version of the MRT, we stepped out and went straight to the tourist district around the Old City. Being the enthusiastic, extremely happy people we were about food, there’s nothing that delighted us more than the wealth of street food and snacks all around:
While Yu Gardens itself can be a little tricky to find, the moment you stumble into the throngs of people snapping photos on the bridge, you know you’ve found the entrance. With entry included in our flexi pass, how could we say no to taking a stroll amidst these picturesque gardens? Filled with rocky structures and plenty of greenery, the Yu Gardens boasts some beautiful backdrops and is essentially a place of repose. Even the tourists aren’t as noisy while inside, possibly calmed by the natural environment!
Finding our way out, with the ominous weather, we decided to forego the river cruise and finish up with our flexi pass by redeeming the all access city sightseeing bus, letting us get from one major district to another for easy access.
Something about Shanghai that left us fascinated was the juxtaposition of the old and the new, with heritage buildings in the French Concession, to the glorious modernity of ultra hip Xintiandi shopping centre. A place brimming with life and culture, we were left fascinated by the hunger we felt from this city of dreams, with sleek art, good coffee, secret speakeasies and the hope of change, and becoming something, someone in this city.
By the end of our trip, Shanghai was a place we’d thoroughly fallen in love with, somewhere we’d be happy to come back to again and again. In our short time here, we covered a lot of ground thanks to Changi Recommends’ Flexi Pass, but there’s still so much to discover in this city of secrets, with layers and layers of history, culture and people, and you can be sure that we’ll be back again before we know it.
For more information on Changi Recommends and to plan your trip with them, visit their website here. With the school holidays just having started, Changi Recommends is also offering all customers a special deal this June, with up to $100 off your bookings with the following codes: