With 23 million inhabitants, Shanghai has gone from 300 skyscrapers in 1996 to over 3000 today, and has become the showcase for China's economic achievement. This is shown by the success of the Shanghai World Exhibition in 2010. It is possible to go up The World Economic centre (nicknamed the Bottle Opener because of its iconic structure) for a meal or a cocktail and enjoy a 360° view of this spectacular city. The huge pedestrianised waterfront area named 'the Bund' is a must-see in Shanghai as it provides a brilliant unobstructed view of the famous Shanghai business district - truly a sight to behold. It is also lined with rows of barges and old foreign concessions dating back to the 1930s. Their authenticity contrasts greatly with the unparalleled modernity on the other side of the river.Gardens
One of the best ways to get away from the hustle and bustle of Chinese city life is to escape to its many traditional gardens. Often surrounded by skyscrapers but filled with the older generation gambling and playing traditional instruments, they are a pretty surreal experience.French Concessions
Established in 1846 as an international settlement, this part of Shanghai is wonderful to get lost in. Filled with French style boutique shops and chic bars, this area has (unsurprisingly) the feel of walking around Paris.Temples
Shanghai, like the rest of China has some fascinating Buddhist temples to get lost in. Jing'an Temple is one of the most famous and can be found on West Nanjing road amidst flourishing downtown Shanghai. A traditional temple shrouded in incense smoke surrounded by ultra-modern skyscrapers is a truly amazing spectacle.
To the north of Shanghai you can discover the riches that Jiangsu Province has to offer. Well worth a visit is Suzhou, once donned the 'Venice of China' by Marco Polo due to its extensive canal network. Also waiting to be explored before the unchecked spread of modernity sweeps away everything in its path is Nanjing and its spiritually important Purple Mountain. The area also boasts some impressive Lakes of which Lake Taihu, Wuxi and West Lake, Hangzhou are worth visiting. From Hangzhou you can reach on a 3 hour bus, a set of religious mountains where James Cameron got his inspiration for 2009 film Avatar - spectacular.
Make sure to be careful in Shanghai especially but throughout China too, of people trying to trick tourists. Young English-speaking Chinese will often approach tourists on the premise of practising their English, but shortly after will offer a visit to a 'tea house' at astronomical prices (several thousand yuan), a massage parlour or even a 'lady bar'. Once there, the bouncers won't leave you much choice in paying the bill! In short, organised racketeering. Similarly be careful about getting ripped off in the fake markets: these can often seem to tourists like the best places on earth because everything is so cheap, but walk around and gage prices before entering into a purchase and make sure you haggle well.Transport
Shanghai boasts a fabulously smooth and regular transport network. Within the large cities of China, transport runs like clockwork but as soon as you get into rural China it's a different story. Beware that it is impossible as a foreigner to book inter-city trains online as you won't have an ID card. Make sure you can get to the ticket offices a couple of days before you need to get a train as they book out early and you do not want to be forced to take a standing ticket.Language
The variation of Chinese spoken in these parts, like the majority of China is Mandarin. However most of the young people in Shanghai can speak some English so if you have a problem getting around, look for one of them. The older generation are keener to stick to tradition and keep English out as much as possible and therefore most speak barely a word. Try to pick up the basics here and don't be afraid of being laughed at!When to go? Spring and autumn are the best times to visit Shanghai as the winter here can get very cold and summer, very hot. It is unbearably 'sticky' in the city during the summer heat so try to get out and experience the beauty of rural China. Visa
It is necessary to get a visa to get into mainland China. The application process is quite strict and requires you to propose a plan for what you are going to do when you arrive. Be prepared to go to and from the embassy a few times to sort it out.
The Chinese also love exchanging personalised (business) cards upon meeting so you can use yours here too. Family names always precede first names and use of the latter is reserved for close members of the family. The Chinese often also exchange presents wrapped in bright red paper. Etiquette requires that the receiver does not open it before the giver, but later on. It is bad form to thank someone profusely. Our advice: if you feel inclined to offer a Chinese person a present, never choose a watch. The homonym of this word means "burial" in Cantonese. Similarly, items that cut (knives, etc) have a negative meaning, such as the end of a friendship.
The basis of all Chinese food is either rice or noodles, usually served with vegetables and sometimes a bit of meat. Look out too for tiaozes (delicious ravioli fried with vegetables). Dessert is not common. Be aware that local restaurants close quite early and the restaurants in large hotels are not necessarily the best places to eat authentic cuisine, despite the prices. At night, street vendors are often a great source of fresh, delicious and authentic food; skewers of vegetables, meat or seafood.
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