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Food and a City of Contrasts
At the top of the Shanghai World Financial Center, tourists flock to the observation platform to see grand views of the city. Here’s a secret--a few floors down, in the same building, you can enjoy the identical vistas without the crowds. Take the elevator to the 87th floor, and walk into the Park Hyatt which is the highest hotel in the world. From this vantage you can have a wonderful meal and take in the incredible views overlooking Jin Mao Tower, which is Shanghai’s iconic landmark. Or, another option is to dine even higher if you go up to the 100 Century Avenue Restaurant on the 91st floor. You can take in the views from its three-story floor-to-ceiling windows. Shanghai lives up to its reputation as the “Paris of the Orient,” with some of the world’s finest cuisine. Many of the restaurants serving delicious international fare are located in the historic Bund area.
Some sites to take in while in Shanghai include: Shanghai 101; Oriental Pearl TV tower; YuYuan Garden and the Shanghai Zoo where one can see a live Panda (of interest if you’re not making the trip to Chengdu Panda Reserve). And, likely the most visited site in the city is “The Shanghai Bund”. While there are “bund” references in other cities, and the word itself means: “an embankment”. In Chinese port cities, the English term came to mean an embanked section along the shore. While there are other sites in the world, including India, China and Japan, with the term “bund” in them, whenever someone simply says “The Bund”, it is taken to reference the stretch of embanked riverfront in Shanghai.
History and the Bund
The Bund was made famous by Hong Kong singer Francis Yip and is considered a “must see” for every visitor to Shanghai. The Bund has more than 50 buildings and sports various architectural styles such as Romanesque, Gothic, Renaissance, Baroque, Neo-Classical, Beaux-Arts, and Art Deco. Shanghai has one of the richest collections of Art Deco buildings in the world. It has dozens of historical buildings along the Huangpu River that once housed many banks and trading houses from Britain, France, the US, Italy, Russia, Germany, Japan and the Netherlands. Previously, the consulates of Russia and Britain were also located in this area.
This was initially a British settlement; later on it became an International Settlement. A building boom at the end of 19th century and beginning of 20th century led to the Bund becoming a major financial hub of East Asia. The Bund lies north of the old, walled city of Shanghai and stretches one mile along the bank of the Huangpu River. It is centered on a stretch of the Zhongshan Road, which was named after Sun Yat-sen. This road is largely circular and formed the traditional boundary of Shanghai city "proper". The area is now much reduced due to the expansion of Zhongshan Road and in the 1990’s a tall levee was constructed to ward off flood waters and that high wall has dramatically changed the appearance of the Bund.
Shanghai is divided into Puxi (West), which is the original or old city and the Pudong (East) which came into existence in the last twenty years and serves as the financial district of the region. Shanghai is a city of great contrast with its unique blend of high rise and colonial style architectural buildings, especially in the Puxi area and around the famous Bund.
Ancient Town Highlights
There are a few ancient towns in the area of Shanghai that one can visit with relative ease. Doing so offers an extreme contrast with the modern skyscrapers and sleek urban life. Here there are narrow lanes, peculiar stones on the riverside and very old residences. It is a place where one can feel like you may have stepped back in time when you have only traveled a few miles.
Only 11 kilometers from Shanghai’s downtown center is the ancient water town of Zhujiajiao. It has a history of more than 1700 years and is known as ‘Pearl Stream’. It is the most well-preserved among the four ancient towns in Shanghai. Unique old bridges cross bubbling streams and small rivers are shaded by willow trees. Houses with courtyards comprise much of the scenery of this relaxing city area. One can visit the bustling, modern Bund and take in all the modern amenities in downtown Shanghai; then easily transfer from the hustle of the modern city to a world full of antiquity, leisure and tranquility.
Ke Zhi Yuan (Course Plant Garden)features imposing gardens as well as ancient homes built during the Ming and Qing Dynasties. Among the ancient architecture, Ke Zhi Yuan is the largest manorial garden in the town. The garden is commonly named 'Ma Family Garden' after a former host named Ma Wenqin. It is located on Xijin Street in the northern part of town. Ke Zhi Yuan features beautiful sightseeing as well as secluded surroundings. It consists mainly of: a large hall area; a man-made hill and a garden area. In the hill area, there is symbol, featuring a five-story building, which is on the top of a pavilion named ‘'Moon View Pavilion’.'
It is said that to visit Zhujiajaio without seeing the bridges means that you have not really been to Zhujiajiao at all. Bridges in the town are distinctive; most were built during Ming and Qing Dynasties. The old town is thoroughly connected by 36 delicate spans in different shapes and styles, including those made from wood, stone and marble.
Fangsheng Bridge (Setting-fish-free Bridge) is the longest, largest and tallest stone bridge, with five openings, some in Zhujiajiao itself and others within Shanghai proper. This bridge was built in 1571 and on it stands a stone tablet called Dragon Gate Stone, which is engraved with 8 coiling dragons encircling a shining pearl. On top of the bridge are 4 lifelike stone lions.
Lang Bridge (Veranda Bridge) also goes by the name Huimin Bridge and happens to be the only wooden bridge in the area. It is the most photographed bridge and has wooden bars on the two sides and upturned eaves. It is somewhat similar in looks as a narrow corridor that one takes along these ancient city streets.
North Street attracts Chinese tourists and foreign visitors. Its appeal comes from the fact that the ancient street is filled with ancient buildings from the Ming and Qing Dynasties. It’s only one kilometer long, so it is very doable to stroll this elegant and ancient street in an afternoon and shop in long established stores. You may cross the bridges you find along the way as you navigate many narrow lanes and streets of this section of town.