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Where East Meets West: Shanghai

Where East Meets West: Shanghai

By Maria Freeman

An old lady passes you by on the road, her basket filled with fresh vegetables, while businessmen jostle you aside with their briefcases in a mad rush to get to work. It probably doesn't get stranger than this, but this is Shanghai, what do you expect?

If all you've ever heard about China is from the news, then this city may come as a shock. The largest city in the Middle Kingdom, Shanghai is a jumble of East and West, freedom and restriction, a strange collection of cultures (American Business, European Fashion and Chinese Tradition), which confuse first time visitors, but entice many to come back. You can start walking down one street filled with humble residential apartments with laundry hanging out the windows to dry, then turn a corner and be faced with the hippest dance club in town.

So, if you have limited time, how can you get the best of both worlds in this cosmopolitan city? Here are some of the must-sees, must dos and must-experiences in Shanghai.

Maglev train

You've just stepped off a very long flight and want nothing more than to just check into your room and lie down. Want to get into the city in less than 10 minutes?  Not even the best taxi driver can compete with the Maglev Train. Developed by German-based Transrapid, the trains reach a top speed of 300 kilometers per hour in less than 2 minutes. Dubbed as the 'Fastest Train in the World' you'll be rocketing towards Shanghai's city center and be there faster than you can say 'Xie xie ni' (that's Mandarin for 'thank you'.)

Pudong

Even if you're not here on business (over 50% over Shanghai's visitors are), then a visit to Pudong's dizzying skyline. All the buildings seem to be competing to be the best, tallest and largest of them all and you'll have a tough time deciding where to go. Oriental Pearl Tower's iconic purple sphere is Asia's tallest tower and has 15 observation levels and a revolving restaurant and gives visitors a magnificent 360 degree view of Shanghai (best at night). If you're superstitious, then the Jin Mao Building, then this 88-storey building is for you (8 is lucky in Chinese numerology.) This gothic-inspired, spire-like tower boasts office spaces, a hotel, a shopping mall, an entertainment complex as well as the 'world's tallest post office.' Right next door is the Shanghai World Financial Center, and is, at 1,614.2 ft, the tallest building in China. After many setbacks, it was completed after 11 years and is just 4 feet behind the world's tallest building, the Taipei 101 in Taiwan.

Shopping in Shanghai

Paris, New York, Milan…Shanghai? This city is set to be the next fashion capital, with multinational luxury brands flocking here to cater to the newly affluent sector of the market.  Don't leave home without your credit cards, as you stroll down Nanjing West Road and Huaihai Road where you'll find shops such as Dior, Prada, Armani and Chanel. If your tastes are not quite there yet,  Huaihai Road in the lovely French Concession district has some moderately priced brands (including international cheap chic retailer H & M) that fit anyone's budget.

Shanghai acrobats

A visit to China wouldn't be complete without some form of entertainment, and the Shanghai Acrobatic Troupe is the best there is. The group performs at the Shanghai Center Theatre, and dazzles audiences with their high-flying antics, from umbrella tossing to knife throwing and traditional acts like hoop diving and chair balancing. People of all ages will enjoy this show and be amazed at the amazing feats these skilled artists perform.

These are just some of the things you can do in Shanghai - this city has some of the best restaurants, markets, amazing sights and activities all in one place. So, whatever your interest and wherever you come from, Shanghai has it all. And with the rapid developments happening in this fast-paced city, if they don't have it, then they surely will in the near future.

You can also check out our guide to the Trans Siberian

Biography

Maria Freeman is a self-appointed world traveler and professional hostel guest. After freeing herself from a fate worse than death (i.e. desk job) she left San Francisco to go see the world. She has spent 6 weeks backpacking through Southeast Asia; she also traveled for 3 months in Europe, and went to 7 countries, 26 cities, received 2 marriage proposals and tried to speak 5 1/2 languages. For any backpacking trip, she brings only 5 outfits, 2 pairs of shoes, 3 pairs of underwear, but never leaves home without  her multi-socket hairdryer.

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