They say you can judge how exciting an Asian city will be by what the local cycle riders manage to carry on their two tiny wheels. If you were to judge Shanghai using this method then I promise you that you won’t be disappointed.
During the two years that I lived there with my husband and two small children we saw a whole host of weird and wonderful things defying gravity by balancing on a bike, including piles of polystyrene, an enormous plastic penguin and even a kitchen sink!
With a five hour flight time from KL, it is not inaccessible for a long weekend away. If you’re put off going to China because of the language barrier, don’t be deterred. When we arrived we barely spoke a word of Chinese but with the help of a smart phone, some friendly locals and wildly exaggerated hand signals we managed to make our way around.
What do with kids in Shanghai?
No trip to Shanghai is complete without a walk down the Huangpu River embankment, known as The Bund. Perhaps this is the most well known tourist attraction the city has to offer. You cannot leave without having your photo taken with the iconic skyline as the backdrop. Whilst the sight of the Pearl Tower, Bottle Opener and Shanghai Tower buildings are impressive during the day, they are even more special when lit up at night. I never got bored of this view, but be warned the lights go out at 11pm sharp!
Whilst the view from the ground is memorable if you are not scared of heights and you are blessed with clear skies then you may want to consider a trip up The Shanghai Tower. The tower that is a 632 metre building stands as the second highest building in the world, but offers the highest viewing deck located on the 121st floor. As well as enjoying an ear popping ride in the world’s fastest elevator to take in amazing views, you can also write and send postcards to loved ones from the highest post box!
In stark contrast to the skyscrapers of modern Shanghai is Yu Gardens. Founded between 1559 and 1577 the gardens are one of the few places in the city where you can still experience Shanghai from a time gone by. The gardens are not huge and were not designed with coach loads of tourists in mind so you may want to get there quite early. The gardens are surrounded by lots of souvenir and snack stalls.
My daughter loved the soupy dumplings on offer which came in either crab or pork flavour. If you would like to try the pork variety, don’t be ashamed to make pig noises as not only will this work, but you will never see the vendors ever again!
If you’re looking for a heart warming experience then pay a mid morning visit to pretty much any park in Shanghai and you will be rewarded with groups of performing pensioners. My particular favourite to see old ladies belting out a tune or swinging their hips to ‘Livin la vida loca’ was Fuxing Park, situated near the French Concession area.
But if it is green space you are craving or even just to reclaim some of your personal space then I would recommend a trip to Century Park where you can also rent bikes or a boat.
When you’ve had your fill of nature at Century Park, just a brisk walk away with older kids or a quick cab ride for those with littler legs is The Science and Technology Museum. This interactive museum kept our children entertained on many a rainy day. They didn’t seem to mind that some of the cross eyed stuffed animals had seen better days as they were too excited about the computing, robotics and hands on exhibits in Rainbow Land.
There is a saying in Shanghai that everything can be faked except your mother. So if you are prepared to haggle and are in the market to bag a bargain there is no where better in the city to put this saying to the test than A.P.Plaza Fashion and Gifts Market. The market that is conveniently situated underneath the Science and Technology Museum is the place to go for everything from fake fashion and footwear to gadgets you didn’t even know you needed until you got there. There is even an optician who can provide you with ‘designer’ glasses in just over an hour. As a general rule you can get purchases knocked down by 50 to 75% so don’t be afraid to ask for their best price or to tell them it’s ‘Tai gui le!’ – too expensive. If this isn’t successful at reducing the price it will generally raise a smile.
If you have the time energy and enough yuan left in your pocket you may want to spend the day at Disneyland. You can hop on Line 11 of the Shanghai Metro and be rewarded with plenty of princesses and photo opportunities. A word of warning though: you may want to pack some snacks as the food on offer is far from magical. On a positive note, the Pirates of the Caribbean ride is meant to be worth the wait in line.
How to get around in Shanghai
Taxis are cheap and easy to flag down, unless it’s raining, when competition to flag a cab becomes fierce and only the most fearless and ruthless are successful. If it does rain, then I strongly suggest you either buy an umbrella and start walking or use the Metro which is clean and straightforward to work out, as the place names are written using the English alphabet as well as Chinese symbols.
I found www.smartshanghai.com helped me out on numerous occasions when I was looking for an address in Chinese to show a taxi driver or to find out which was the nearest Metro stop to a tourist attraction.
I would highly recommend a trip to Shanghai for anyone that is looking for adventure rather than a relaxing holiday. If you are prepared to not be in control of every situation due to the language barrier then you will be rewarded with a very memorable trip.