One city – several worlds
West and East meet in the huge metropolis of Shanghai, where ancient buildings huddle in the shadow of impressive giants, skyscrapers. The streets of the city promenade are full of cars, but it is best to walk around the old town and the former French concession. Here, the futuristic Art Deco style is side by side with the traditional rows of stunted buildings – the Luntan areas, and tree-lined avenues of the former French concession transfer passers-by into a unique European atmosphere.
Shanghai’s architectural contrast is reflected in almost all aspects of the life of the city, where you can leave the international luxury boutique and immediately get to the century-old traditional pharmacy, eat a bowl of the famous Shanghai Yan Du Xian pork soup on the street corner or enjoy the latest world trends in a luxurious restaurant. This is a city of contrasts, the mixed and sometimes conflicting styles of which reflect its turbulent historical past.
Tunnel to the future or somewhere else
As for the ambiguous paths, one of the strangest attractions for tourists in the city is the “tunnel under the river”. It does not play a specific role, but this amazing attraction is one of the most popular among tourists, although here you will not see cityscapes or anything like that. Passengers go into tiny modern cars and fly through the tunnel, and at this time the walls blink with pulsating lights and sounds from strange and sometimes sinister sounds and recitations in English. It’s rare when someone wants to repeat the trip, but everyone at the end looks a little dizzy, a little scared and puzzled.
Now we will talk about the strange and amazing architectural structures of Shanghai because there is nothing unusual in the promenade and boutiques. This mind-blowing brainchild of British designers and Chinese architects as if descended from the architectural landscapes of the Dutch graphic artist Maurits Escher is full of eccentricity and looks rather ominous. It is called “Slaughterhouse” and is the last building of this design in the whole world. The characteristic construction of the building was specially designed to guide cattle to the slaughter site. The network of staircases, bridges and walkways flowing into each other is decorated with Art Deco ornaments, and all the windows face west to the sacred Buddhist lands, expressing the way of cattle to rebirth.
In China, the Shanghai is called 小资 ( jiaozi (xiǎozī) – ‘small capitalists’), so it is not surprising that you can buy almost anything in the city – from Prada clothes and accessories to pearls. A knowledgeable person may not fall into the tourist trap at the Hongqiao Pearl Market, but for most visitors, such an experience is worth being torn off as sticky. Like tea tasting, buying pearls is a fast-paced affair, you need to make a lot of effort, dig through a bunch of recommendations on the Internet and bargain to find something worthwhile. A shopping trip will relieve stress not only because of the shopping process itself, but also thanks to the vitality prevailing in old markets, traditional products and bright new design solutions.
Chinese window to the world
Historically, Shanghai has become the gateway between the West and the East, as well as a peculiar window of China into the outside world. However, this does not mean that in the virtual world this window is open to the West as wide. China’s Internet policy is one of the most stringent in the world: access to major global search engines, social networks, and many other resources is denied here. This is why travelers who want to share their impressions via Facebook or are hoping to find the best restaurant near the hotel on Google can hardly do this. Fortunately, there is a way around these locks. VPN services (or virtual private networks) create a secure tunnel through which you can freely and anonymously surf the Internet and gain access to your favorite resources.
Accordingly, installing a VPN before you leave on the device that you take with you is just as important as arranging travel insurance. If you postpone the installation until arriving in Shanghai, you will find that many VPN service websites are blocked, so downloading the client will be very problematic.
It is also very important to note that not all VPNs are currently able to bypass the Great Chinese firewall. Previously, Astrill VPN service did its job brilliantly until the authorities took additional security measures, and this negatively affected the performance of Astrill VPN. Currently, the best VPNs for China are Express VPN and NordVPN. Both provide a secure online environment. You can pay for a monthly subscription, so even if you do not need a VPN at home, you can install one of the clients specifically before traveling to China.
Best VPNs for Shanghai
When you successfully share your travel photos on Facebook with a VPN, you deserve a good cup of tea, and nowhere else in the world will you find a better choice than in the Tian Shan Tea City. Three floors of the royal abundance of all kinds of tastes and varieties (forget about Lipton tea and fruit flavors!), Where 150 independent sellers offer their goods. Tea in China is like wine in France: each leaf has its aroma and character, and you can try all this in the Tien Shan market.
At a special tasting table, visitors can take part in the elaborate gongfu tea ceremony., during which the leaves are thoroughly rinsed in various ways, and in the end, you can enjoy the drink itself. Like wine tasters, real connoisseurs sniff, shake, taste tea in small sips and condemn something to themselves. But connoisseurs consider tea collected by the lips of virgins to be a real gem among these tea treasures – and this is not a joke! This strange tradition has its legend, according to which the leaves, collected by the lips of a virgin, release fairies into the sky as soon as boiling water spills on them. They say that tea has a unique taste and aroma, as well as strong healing properties.
Dumplings on the table!
!Shanghai once had a reputation of a city with rude waiters bringing tin trays with monotonous traditional food, but nowhere you can taste dishes from around the world. French cuisine and fusion, outdoor restaurants, dishes of varying degrees of readiness – now in the city you can taste not only dumplings, although traditional cuisine is also very diverse and tasty. Eating is an important part of social life in China, such as on Yunnan Nan Lu Street, the main gastronomic street in Shanghai, where you can taste local goodies such as Xiao Long Bao, thin-filled steamed dumplings filled with from meat and meat broth.
Where to fall asleep and wake up?
The most popular apartments in Shanghai are located in the famous skyscrapers because it is from there that you can enjoy panoramic views of the city. Also, you can search for a place in the area of the former French concession, where there are original villas of the 1920s. If you are looking for traditional color and luxury, then your best choice is the Le Sun Chine Hotel, which has been restored and now appears in all its glory of the Art Deco style as a symbol of Shanghai’s chaotic cultural past. You can try a more traditional way of life at the Old House Hotel, where a minimum of furniture and all items are made in a traditional style. This is a unique place where there is much more charm than in faceless chain hotels.
Many say that if you want to get out of your comfort zone, then you need to try scuba diving or jump with a rope. If you want to forget where, in principle, the boundaries of your comfort zone go, you need to live in Shanghai. Of course, with a reliable VPN service, you can still access the usual resources in virtual reality through a secure connection, and this will provide stability in away. In Shanghai, there is such a mishmash of cultures, various dishes of world cuisine and crazy constructions that, when you leave the city, you will most likely forget where the top is and where the bottom is, not to mention where to go! So fasten your seatbelts, relax, drop all your cultural prejudices, and enjoy your trip to Shanghai!