Monday, May 17, 2010

Top 10 Cities in the World - 8 Shanghai


Having been to China's big three cities of Beijing, Hong Kong and Shanghai, all of which might make my top ten, I opted for the latter. Shanghai is the most vibrant city in the world, and one day I can even see it taking over from New York as the world's unofficial capital city and economic centre.

Shanghai has a youthful population of 14 million, many of whom seem to be out walking on the streets, especially on the humid summer nights. It is a mix of old, like the Taoist temples, quite old, like the pre-war waterfront buildings on the Bund, new, like the dirty 1960s apartment blocks which cover much of the city, and ultra-modern, like the futuristic syscrapers sprouting up ever higher in Pudong to create a Chinese Manhattan in what was until recently farmland.

The city sprawls across the low-lying land of the Yangtze delta, with the Hunagpu River, a branch of the Yangtze, separating the Bund and the old city from the new city of Pudong on the east bank. The Bund is perhaps the most famous waterfront in the world and for many it is the classic image of Shanghai. The row of imposing Art Deco and Neo-Classical buildings on the west bank of the Huangpu constituted the administrative centre of what was for a time, in the 1920s and 30s, the busiest port in Asia. On warm summer nights, thousands of promenaders, many of whom, when I was there, seemed to selling fake Rolexes, throng the Bund, and take river cruises which offer spectacular views of the illuminated buildings. The way the city is booming, I'm sure it won't be long before those Rolexes are real ones like those worn in the chic, upmarket bars and restaurants of Xintiandi. The favourite destination for most foreign visitors, however is the Yuyuan temple gardens and bazaar. Built in 1559 during the reign of the Ming emperor Jiajing, it is famous for its classical Chinese architectural marvels, including the Big Rockery and the wonderfully named Hall of an Emerald Touch of Spring. As you wander round the gardens in summer, looking down at the golden carp in the ponds, the noise of the thousands of crickets in the bushes is deafening.




  1. Ian, I find this so interesting. Most of China is still hidden or unexplored territory for us in the in the West. How can I know nothing of a city of 14 million?! Thanks for opening my eyes.

  2. That top photo is amazing! We are in the middle of a huge thunderstorm here and I fear the power will go out any second! Lights are flashing....I can't wait to read your post on Marrakech - finally somewhere I've been! This blog should be your book!

  3. Thanks for this quick visit to Shanghai. I would like to go there someday.

  4. I've been to Shanghai, Nanjing, Huang Shan, Nanjing, Hangzhou, Suzhou. I would love to visit other cities in China. I love China :)


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