Shanghai, China’s largest city, visually and culturally represents the relationship between China and the West. Although that history may be tainted with war and oppression, the results of this arrangement can be seen in the architecture and local culture of this city. An example of this is the qipao (cheongsam), the tight-fitting Chinese dress we are all familiar with. Its modern form was born in Shanghai, influenced by Western styles, and it exhibited a new fashionable style of clothing for local Chinese. Many Chinese today still view Shanghaies as displaying more cultural openness and as having experienced globalization on a greater scale.
Architecturally, The Bund is a visually impressive example of the aforementioned West’s interaction with China. On one side of the Huangpu River are old and beautiful colonial buildings, including great consulates and exquisite hotels. At night, gazing across the river to the other side, you see an impressive display of modern China; bright and colorful neon lights illuminating tightly packed skyscrapers, a truly mesmerizing image. The sites don’t stop there. This crossing of cultures can also be seen at Xintiandi and Tianzifang (Old French Concession), fantastic modern shopping areas housed in both old, colonial buildings and beautiful, new constructions with Chinese aesthetics. Yuyuan Gardens are another must-see, providing a chance to relax around traditional Chinese architecture and the stunning rock and lake gardens that Chinese landscapers shape so well. The city’s museums and galleries are also plentiful, including exhibitions from the long list of China’s own history to Jewish heritage.
As a result, Shanghai is a lively and splendid city with plenty to do, from one sunrise all the way through to the next. A characteristic of its local food is a balanced sweetness, although you can find cuisine from all over the globe. Cocktails are everywhere, and you can take a tasty, inebriated tour of the city’s stylish hangouts to discover your favorite. All this makes for an exciting sensory experience.
Shanghai’s location also makes for a great launching pad to discover the nearby Water Towns of Tongli, Zhouzhuang, Zhujiajiao, alluring locations where the local waterways are used as alleys, much similar to Venice. Gondolas take visitors around on the meandering rivers through low-rise towns and under arched step-bridges.