Best 7 Days in Shanghai and Xitang Water Town

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First impressions of China

Feeling a little nervous, but also excited as we flew to China from Hanoi for a month of cultural exploration. China’s old and new history has always fascinated us and in three hours we would be there.

Shanghai has two international airports, Pudong and Hongqiao, and with a population of 24 million people, it is understandable.

Our arrival was at Pudong International Airport and it reminded us of Melbourne’s International airport.

Total chaos.

Once our bags finally arrived, the queue to leave seemed to stretch for miles.  We chatted to each other and nearby travellers to pass the time and eventually got through.

Related Post: Best of What to See in Vietnam

Related Post: How to See Beijing using the Metro

Airport Taxi or Fast Train into Shanghai

The Nanpu Spiral, Shanghai
The Nanpu Spiral, Shanghai

Two options to get into the city from the airport are:

  • A taxi will cost about USD22-25 and takes an hour depending on the time of day or if a weekend
  • Shanghai Maglev (Magnetic Levitation) fast train, costs about USD8-10, takes 8minutes

A unique experience would be to travel the Shanghai Maglev, the world’s fastest commercially operating train getting to speeds of 430 kph (268mph).  The 30km journey only takes 8 minutes and terminates at Longyang where you can connect to the subway system.

We took a taxi directly to our accommodation.

Rules of Engagement for Taxi Drivers in Shanghai

There are “rules of engagement” for taxi drivers in Shanghai.

They must say hello, use the meter and issue a receipt. Unfortunately, there was nothing about being awake at the wheel, staying in your lane and logging the coordinates into GPS.

Thankfully Jane and Brett who we were staying with, had sent us the address in Chinese characters to avoid us getting lost. We were also able to track the route on our MapsMe app to ensure the driver was going in the right direction.

And what is it like driving in Shanghai?

It was a Sunday, but the traffic was not as chaotic as Vietnam, there is order.

Cars stop at the lights, cars stay in their lanes (apart from our driver, he may be part Vietnamese) and there is a strong police presence on most corners once off the motorway.

The best part of the trip was the Nanpu Bridge Spiral where we went round and round and down to enter the next series freeway.

Quite a cool piece of road engineering.

Staying in Shanghai French Quarter

French Plane Trees in the French Concession
Shanghai French Quarter

After a warm welcome from our friends Brett and Jane, we set about planning our 15 days in and around Shanghai. The city of Shanghai is one of the must-see places in China for its colonial architecture and its modern architecture of The Bund.

And for some of the time, we would be staying in the French Quarter of Shanghai. This area was established in 1849 as a French settlement of 66 hectares, a premier residential area today.

With tree-lined streets and beautiful old homes, you definitely want to take a walk or stay in this area of Shanghai. It also has some of the best restaurants too. And delicious French bakeries.

With the weather here in May is cooler in the mid 20 deg Celsius, refreshing after the 35 deg plus temperatures of Vietnam. It’s time to layer up, especially in the evenings when the temperature drops below 20 deg Celcius.


Where has Google gone?

Arriving into China, one of the biggest things you will notice is:

  • no access to Google and Gmail
  • no access to Facebook and Instagram

You can use alternative search engines to Google such as “Bing”.

The solution, however, is to get access to an external VPN.  We used one and it operated well. But as things change quickly we suggest reading the reviews here VPN Mentor.

Tip: Create an alternative email before you enter China for not only family and friends, but organisations like your Bank.


Places and Things to Do in Shanghai

Depending on whether you only have 48 hours in Shanghai or you are planning to spend 7 days in Shanghai, here is a list of things to do, places to visit, and food to try when in Shanghai.

And check out the end of the post for day trips from Shanghai by fast train.

Places to explore

  • People’s Park
  • Shanghai Museum
  • Natural Museum of History
  • Jing’an Sculpture Park
  • Wujang Road
  • Nanjing Road
  • The Bund
  • Pudong Financial district

Local Foods and Bars

  • Shanghai Delicacy
  • Shanghai Pancake
  • Shanghainese food
  • Yongkang Lu
  • The Bund at night
  • French Concession
  • Vue Bar, Hyatt on the Bund

Spending time near Peoples Park, Shanghai

People’s Park is an easy walk from the French Quarter along the easy to navigate wide and clean streets.

We walked along past Yanzhong Park where for a change (after Vietnam) the footpaths are for pedestrians, with motorbikes parked neatly elsewhere.

The People’ s Park is a massive area covering the size of a racecourse (which it was until 1949) when horse racing and gambling was banned.

The park is alive with plenty of activity of card games amongst the men, an amusement park for little children, with paths and gardens to explore.

We love the Marriage Market where each weekend, people post marriage listings, Very unique.

Nearby you can visit …

1. Shanghai Grand Theatre

The Shanghai Grand Theatre
Shanghai Grand Theatre

2. Shanghai Museum

Ancient art history is on display at the Shanghai Museum. It’s free to enter and open every day from 9 am to 5 pm.

To learn more about the Best 7 Museums in Shanghai, click here.

3. Shanghai Natural History Museum in Jing’an Park

Jing'an - Sculpture Park
Shanghai Natural History Museum in Jing’an Park

The Museum is open Tuesday to Sunday from 8:50 am to 5:15 pm, and closed on Monday.

The entrance fee is 30 Yuan (USD5) for an adult and to get there, take Metro Line 13.

The museum has animal species, plant species and items from the Stone Age.

If you want to see the original Jing’an Temple built in 247AD of the Wu Dynasty, then you have a 2.7km walk. The temple is in the middle of a busy intersection.

4. Lanehouses on Wujiang Road

Best 7 Days in Shanghai
Lanehouses on Wujiang Road

Wujiang Road is filled with many restaurants and places to eat.

But it also has a small lane where you can find 1930s lane houses. The narrow lane is intriguing with household items hanging above the lane.

5. Shopping on Nanjing Road

Best 7 Days in Shanghai
Shopping on Nanjing Road

This largest pedestrian shopping area has large international brands, with some local boutique shops.

What was unexpected, was the number of hawkers approaching you to buy watches and handbags.

With them ignored, we could watch the street art, window shop and take a peek in the enormous M&M store.

M&M store.

At the end of the Nanjing Road, we come across Suzhou Creek, to walk along the river bank to The Bund.

Enjoy a Local Shanghai Delicacy

As the rain was threatening, we decided to locate the Natural Museum of History to shelter for a couple of hours, but of course, the smell of food got the better of us.

It was a small shop selling a local Shanghai delicacy, a Pork Dumpling filled with a broth.

Well, we only found out the pork bun had a broth when Maura bit into hers and ended up with broth all over her trousers. Ouch, it was hot.

They tasted so good. But we were still a little peckish when we found another Pork Bun stand. The old lady was concerned with our selection. Maura went safe with a chicken pork bun while Terry’s pork bun had chilli.

Yay, at last, we have spicy food we have missed since our time in Malaysia.

Related Post: Fabulous Foods of Ipoh, Malaysia.

Have Faith in the Locals

Local Deliveries

Unfortunately, Terry’s cell phone hit the pavement and smashed the screen, making our next priority is a new screen and a Chinese SIM card.

First repair quote was too steep so we chose another shop. Once the price was agreed, the man and the cellphone disappeared onto a motorbike and away up the street. His wife and child left behind to mind the shop we thought it should be ok?

With an hour to fill in, we went in search of the Natural Museum of History. With no technology to help and with some happy, local help, we found the museum to be was elusive.

Not to worry, getting lost is part of the journey as we took photos from a local bridge and explored some streets around the area.  An hour later we are back at the shop to collect the phone, newly repaired.

With our cell phone GPS back up and running we located the museum only to find it closed for repairs. Oh well, at least the garden surrounding the museum is filled with interesting sculptures.


More Amazing Places to See in Shanghai

1. Amazing Architecture of Pudong Financial District

Pudong Financial District

2. The Bund of Shanghai

The colonial buildings of the Bund is a spectacular must-see of Shanghai with views of the modern Pudong district on the other side of the Huangpu River.

While the river is one of the busiest ports with its constant movement of barges. A walk along the Huangpu River promenade has plenty of photo opportunities of the colonial buildings.

What was unusual was the number of bride and grooms having their photos taken. We counted 15 pairs. All we can think of is the sunny weather has them all out having pre/post wedding photos.

Bund of Shanghai


3. Lunch at Gucheng Park

Hungry and now close to 1 pm we walked through Gucheng Park finding an atmosphere like a China Town. We looked down a lane and the restaurant owner waved to us, wearing what looked like his mother’s apron, to come to take a seat.

We decided on a bowl of noodles (thickness of vermicelli) and some dumplings for CNY30 (USD4.50). Replenished we go in search of Yuan Gardens.

4. Yuan Gardens

Relax in the Yuan Gardens in Shanghai
Relax in the Yuan Gardens in Shanghai

Yuan Gardens is a small oasis in the middle of a large Chinese complex of old laneways and shops. Finding the entrance to Yuan Gardens has an entrance fee of CNY40 (USD6).

Inside the complex, the Residence has many buildings and water and rock gardens. It is so peaceful compared to the mayhem happening outside the walled area.

Once again we are amazed at the many facets of Shanghai.


Where to Find Local Foods and Bars

1. Try the Bars in Yongkang Lu

One night we went to a local bar area called Yongkang Lu for a unique Shanghai experience.

The street is residential, with a bar below each house offering drinks and food until 10 pm.

But after 10 pm the bar owner must take the bar inside. With the traffic closed off most of the time, the street was alive with tables spilling out onto the pavements, filled with many local expats and Chinese.

2. Shopping and Eating in Tanzifang

Shopping and Eating in Tanzifang

Tanzifang is one of the oldest areas in Shanghai with ancient laneways filled with local shops and restaurants.

Besides shopping, there are culinary delights. Look for a bakery making small sponge filled cakes with red bean paste. Eat one, they are so delicious, especially if they are straight out of the oven.

With so many small restaurants, we chose a small eatery on the corner. It is a relaxing way to sit and watch the world go by.

Shopping and Eating in Tanzifang

We even came back in the evening to experience the lights and enjoy another delicious meal.


Shanghai at Night

Best Places in Shanghai for restaurants and bars.

  • Vue Bar, Hyatt overlooking The Bund
  • Tanzifang
  • French Concession
  • Yongkang Lu

3. Drinks at the Vue Bar, Hyatt on The Bund

Shanghai at night

Travelling with only a 10kg backpack throughout Aisa, we are both a little light on clothing.

Luckily an earlier purchase for Terry has him sorted, and Maura had a choice from Jane’s wardrobe.

With the Uber booked, it’s off to the Vue Bar at the Hyatt on The Bund to view Shanghai at night.

Taking the window elevator to level 32, we enter the roof bar with a fantastic view of The Bund and Pudong business district.

Best 7 Days in Shanghai
Vue Bar at the Hyatt on The Bund

At 7 pm The Bund is lit up with lights on the buildings and along the river promenade.

Best 7 Days in Shanghai
Vue Bar at the Hyatt on The Bund


4. Have you Tried a Shanghai Pancake?

Best 7 Days in Shanghai
Shanghai Pancake

Rain is predicted today around 12 noon so we decided to head out for a walk around the French Quarter to see more of the French architecture.

We spy a queue of people at a food stall selling a local delicacy, the Shanghai pancake.

It is a large crepe covered with a cracked egg and red bean paste, sprinkled with chives and parsley, folded in half and spread with beef gravy, layering a thin sheet of what looked like pork crackling.

The crepe is folded lengthways, chopped in half and handed to you to put in a plastic bag, for sum total of CNY5 (USD 0.75c).


5. Tasting Shanghainese Food, French Concession

Shanghainese Food, French Concession

Our last night in Shanghai, we met Jane in the French Concession for a pre-dinner drink at Ginger Cafe for cocktails with a ginger element. Really interesting.

But first, we made a detour to the old British Consulate to take a quick peek at the building and gardens, declining the drinks menu prices.

We mentioned to Jane we would like to try some Shanghainese food which is sweeter and less spicy. We find a small family restaurant to sample a variety of dishes. Such delicious flavours.

Shanghai is an amazing city you need to visit.


Day Trip to Xitang (Water Town) from Shanghai

Xitang (Water Town)

Around Shanghai, there are a number of water towns that it is often referred to as a little Venice.

You have a choice of:

  • Suzhou
  • Wuzhen
  • Xitang

We chose Xitang on our return from Hangzhou to Shanghai as it was only 23 minutes by fast train to Shanghai. And it is also relatively easy to get to from the train station.

The closest train station to Xitang is Jiashan Nan station.

We found a locker to store our day packs and went to get the local bus which we had just missed by a few minutes. Arrh. The next bus was in 40 minutes at a cost of CNY2 per person.

Even though taxis are available, the taxi drivers try to offer a ride at an exorbitant fare to reach Xitang. Considering its only a half hour drive.

The city of Jiashan is known for its productivity so the smog is very heavy today. Forty minutes later we arrive at the entrance of Xitang water town scenic area.

Related Post: Three Stunning Days in Hangzhou

Entrance Fee to Xitang Water Town

Xitang (Water Town)

The cost to enter is CNY100 (USD15) per ticket giving access to the water town and various museums within the water town.

The lanes around the water town are filled with souvenir shops, eateries and karaoke bars. So it seems like karaoke must be popular with the local Chinese tourists.

Xitang (Water Town)

We decide to leave this area and find the small, quieter lanes near the water canals to take some photos. Here the old houses are well preserved, many with long corridors between buildings or lanes where local families live.

Xitang (Water Town)

Is Shanghai on your Bucket List?