While Beijing is the capital of China, full of culture and wonderful history, Shanghai is the modern, cosmopolitan and progressive counterpart.
Being the most populous city in the WORLD, before coming I had a few ideas on what it can be like – a big, sprawling metropolis with a lot of people.
Being there however, I realise how exciting a city Shanghai is, how promising a life there can be and how lucky are the people ensconced in its embrace.
ONE: AMAZING ARCHITECTURE
Shanghai’s iconic skyline was a feature of one of my projects at work a few years back and so it has always stuck with me as something quite special. I want to be able to see it in real life one day, and when I did, it was almost magical.
The Bund was a place that seem to be featured really heavily in few books I read when I was growing up – so I have romantic notions of this place. Haha. Being here I can imagine the heroines of my books, waiting for the arrival of their lovers.
Shanghai, aside from astounding modern architecture is also home to colonial style buildings.
Somehow I felt a bit like walking down streets of London, yet there’s a distinctly Chinese feel to the buildings that made them unique!
This straddling of new and old made Shanghai a very scenic city to walk around in – if not of course for the weather! Hehe.
Shanghai has no shortage of international brand names and believe me, the spending power is strong.
In the tree lined avenues of the French Concession Area (Xin Tian Di), big new brands like Tesla, DJI and some old ones like Gucci. Some mainstream ones like Uniqlo, Forever 21, Miniso, Innisfree and so much more! They have EVERYTHING.
Cards are more widely accepted here compared to Beijing, though people still gave me a look of surprise every time I take it out like I took out a vial of blood tainted with flesh eating bacteria. Like Beijing, they prefer cash and widely accept Wechat Pay or Alipay.
In saying that, I must tell you that this is still China.
Your phones still need VPN to access your favourite apps – Whatsapp, Telegram, Instagram, Facebook, and the whole Google Suite. During our stay in Shanghai, we bought local SIMs at the airport and chose the one that offer free VPN. They downloaded this one for us. Nothing works without VPN!
That said, Google Maps, an app I use all the time, don’t work well with the VPN on. However, the iPhone native app, Maps, works really well!
Furthermore, English is not widely spoken and you still need a translator app. I relied heavily on Google Translate which u can use without internet if you download the Chinese “module” haha.
THREE: CULTURE AND TRADITION
Culture and tradition intertwine together with the modernity and cosmopolitanism, giving Shanghai a really unique character.
Qibao, is an ancient water town within Shanghai, accessible with a short subway ride to station Qibao. The station is in a mall, and you need to exit and make your way to the town less than 10 minutes away.
It was snowing that day and our walk took longer pasal….. sibuk begambar haha.
I love this place! So beautiful. I don’t know if it’s because of the snow falling, or if it;s because of the awesome mood everyone was in – I just love it here! There’s a lot of food stalls, souvenirs and many more here.
FOUR: AFFORDABLE BUT HIGH END
Shanghai is also a city of contrasts. You can choose high end luxuries of course, but there are also cheap options and both are easily available.
Just some examples:
Instead of going on a Huangpu River Cruise, opt for a ferry ride to from The Bund to Pudong on the west bank.
Or for breakfast have some halal soupy noodles which are certainly cheaper than these New York style salmon and cream cheese bagel.
Or hey! Opt for a FamilyMart dinner (so cheap!) instead of a lovely Italian spread over at Wolfgang Puck’s.
Choose what is important to you.
Oh yes. The addiction is real. I absolutely want to come back!
I think Shanghai is a great hub city to explore other cities in China! Next on my list:
- Xi’an (for the terracota army and the pyramids!),
- Chengdu (for the pandas),
- Gansu (for the Echoing Sound Mountain and Crescent Lake)…..
- …and MESTI I see the annual Ice Festival in Harbin!
As holders of the Bruneian Passport, we are exempted from applying for a visa to visit China (mainland) for tourism, business, visiting friends and relatives and stay up to 15 days.
Affordable stay, beautiful city, and a direct flight from Brunei on Royal Brunei 3x a week. What’s not to like?!
This article is Part 3 of my #MaurinainChina series. To read more:
- Part 1: Snow in Shanghai and Beijing under BND1000 (includes my budget and itinerary)
- Part 2: 5 Things About Beijing (plus a downloadable Ultimate Winter Packing List for your own winter trip!)