Whether you are seeking a fast-paced voyage of flashing lights and techno tunes or a leisurely, local-style escape, Shanghai is the city for you. The dichotomy between modernity and antiquity is the most obvious in Shanghai, where the government has launched a bid to clean up the city in preparation for the 2010 World Expo. With the impending expo comes an influx of cash for programs to beautify, modernize and streamline Shanghai while protecting and restoring local history and culture. More than any other place in China, Shanghai is a city moving in two directions simultaneously – a feat you can only understand once you experience it.
While Beijing may be the political capital of China, Shanghai is the unofficial spokesman. Beijing is a ‘no comment’ kind of city while Shanghai has the full exclusive on China’s present state and projected future. Shanghai offers the best of both worlds, you can stroll the historical Yu Gardens haggling with local salesmen and women on the same spot where, 100 years ago, the same activities were occurring.
You can then walk to the Bund, a boardwalk overlooking the city’s largest river, and meet with local food salesmen, jasmine and bamboo artists and tea salesmen little altered from the merchandise of the late 1800s. After strolling through the past you can jump in the psychedelic tunnel, an ode to everything modernity has to offer. A slow-moving carriage will tug you along under the river through a tunnel of flashing lights, techno music, graffiti, smoke and mirrors and the ever-impressive pop-out creatures. You emerge from the tunnel in Pudong, on the east bank of the river, at the base of the Shanghai TV tower overlooking a sea of high-rises and skyscrapers of intricate and picture-worthy designs. There is no greater way to see Shanghai, a city divided in half by a large river, but also by the ongoing tug-of-war between its fascinating past and its awe-inspiring future. Whether you want to see the old China or the new one, Shanghai is a must-see for anyone who counts himself a connoisseur of travel.
Photos courtesy of Lauren Johnson