By Idries Abdur-Rahman, M.D., FACOG

 

Everybody knows that I get that itch every few months and I just have to pack my bags, dust off my passport, and hit the road. This time around I wanted to explore Shanghai, China’s city on the Huangpu River and it’s capital capital (i.e. where all the money is!). Now, if I was going to go back to China, there was no way that I was going to take the direct, boring route. Nope, I wanted to try out United’s new Polaris Business Class, which meant I had to fly through San Francisco to guarantee a flight on a Boeing 777-300, the only plane in the fleet to uniformly have the new Polaris seats. If you want to check out my journey on United from Chicago to San Francisco to Beijing and Air China from Beijing to Shanghai, I’ll be adding that next week.

I wanted to make the most of my 72 hours in Shanghai, this meant being on the go from sun up to sun down every day. This is what I did and if you find yourself in the city on the Huangpu, here are some suggestions:

 

#1). Enjoy a beautiful sunrise with a good cup of coffee:

Yeah, my time was kind of short but you have to take a breath, sip a nice cup of coffee and just enjoy the view for at least a few minutes every day. So, that’s just what I did as I opened the drapes and enjoyed the view from my suite at the Doubletree Shanghai-Pudong. I think the smog actually made for a decent picture.

 

#2). Check out Shanghai’s Temples:

Most people don’t necessarily think of temples when they think of Shanghai but there are actually a ton of temples throughout the city. With only three days, my temple hopping would be limited but I did have time to check out the Jing’an temple.

 

The Jing’an temple was initially built during the 3rd century and it was relocated to its current location during the Song Dynasty.

 

There was a huge incense burner in the courtyard which gave the grounds a pleasant, fragrant smell.

 

Jing’an has had an interesting history. The temple was actually converted into a plastics factory during China’s Cultural Revolution. It was subsequently destroyed by a fire in 1972 and renovated back into a temple in 1983 at which time it was designated a protected national site.

 

There was the constant clanking of coins hitting metal as worshippers threw money at this shrine. The act is supposed to please the God of Wealth. Too bad I only had bills, that’s probably why I’m still broke!!

 

The worshippers clad in modesty gowns indicated the way to the prayer halls.

 

There were multiple prayer halls and…

 

I have to be honest in saying that I felt a bit odd playing tourist in people’s house of worship.

 

Even though my time was brief, I’m glad I visited the Jing’an temple. It was the perfect way to stimulate the senses.

 

#3). People Watching at the Bund:

Next up was The Bund (aka the Waitan). The Bund is probably Shanghai’s most recognizable location. Don’t ask me why I took a picture of this police bus at the Bund, I guess I liked the contrast of the English and Chinese characters. If you didn’t know, Jingcha is the word for police.

 

The Bund is a long waterfront walking path where all walks of life stroll together. Laborers walk alongside…

 

tourists, who like me, keep stopping to take pictures of the beautiful Shanghai skyline.

 

The backdrop of The Bund is also very popular with Chinese newlyweds who come to take their wedding photos.

 

Given the color of the wedding gowns, you would be forgiven for thinking this was the same couple but who says guys don’t pay attention. This second bride is wearing an off the shoulder gown (I bet Tim Gunn would be proud of me!). Many Chinese women wear red gowns as it is a symbol of good luck and happiness.

 

And for good measure, here is one last couple at The Bund. This bride is wearing a traditional western white gown.

 

#4). Huangpu River Cruise:

 

I couldn’t leave The Bund and the Huangpu River before enjoying a quick river cruise.

 

The best views of Shanghai’s famous skyline are seen either from the sea or high above the city from one of the many observation decks.

 

Don’t even ask me what this says, I just spied the brightly colored letters from the boat and I thought they looked nice. If anyone can translate, I would love to know what I’m reading.

 

#5). Enjoy the Architecture:

Shanghai is definitely a town for architecture buffs. Between the traditional Chinese architecture, the temples, the sculptures and artwork that dot the city and of course, the skyscrapers, your camera will be working overtime. I had to check out the 88-story Jin Mao Tower

 

And you can’t go to the Jin Mao Tower without checking out the observation deck at the top of the 88th floor.

 

Even with the blanket of smog, these are some of the best views of Shanghai.

 

The Shanghai Tower, adjacent to the Jin Mao tower, was my favorite skyscraper. It almost looks like the building is twisting gracefully in the wind.

 

And the Shanghai World Financial Center rounds out the beautiful trio. I think this shot symbolizes the best of Shanghai’s modern architecture.

 

The most unique building in Shanghai has to be the Oriental Pearl Radio and Television Tower. Its color and design remind me of something you would see in Disney World’s Tomorrowland. To boot, it was a great landmark, no matter where I walked, as long as I could see the TV tower, I knew which way to go.

 

The monument to the People’s Heroes is located along the Huangpu River. It was built to commemorate those who lost their lives in the name of revolution.

 

The winner for the best bridge goes to the Nanpu Bridge. Nanpu crosses the Huangpu River, linking the Pudong neighborhood where I was staying, with central Shanghai. Pretty cool by day but…

 

totally cool by night!

 

This was my favorite piece of street art. It felt like a piece of tranquility literally sitting in the middle of the bustling city. I searched and searched but I couldn’t find his name so I decided to name him Chillin’ Bubba.

 

6). Just walk the streets:

This is where my wife and I disagree on how to travel. I like to just put on my gym shoes and start walking. She, on the other hand, is convinced that I am going to either get kidnapped or killed just wandering aimlessly. And, that is why I left her at home. Motorbikes are pretty ubiquitous in Asia and Shanghai is no exception.

 

I think the flags say it all, you are definitely in China.

 

The Shanghai Grand Theater, at the northern tip of People’s Square, is Shanghai’s largest theater and home of the Shanghai Opera House Company.

 

I just found this to be so ironic. Phone booths are basically a thing of the past in the US. Here in Shanghai, however, they are alive and well but with a nice modern twist, WiFi. How’s that for a little old and a little new?

 

I have to give Shanghai kudos, it is a well-signed city and signage is often in English as well.

 

Is this Holland or China? I guess the popularity of bicycles in China is a collective mia culpa given their massive overall pollution contribution.

 

I soon found myself on Nanjing Road, Shanghai’s retail hub.

 

7). Stumble upon a public dance party:

 

I went to Nanjing Road looking for a little retail therapy and I stumbled upon a full-blown dance party. Sometimes the crowd would join in and…

 

sometimes the professional dancers would have the stage all to themselves.

 

I only intended to stay for a few minutes but…

 

I quickly got lost in the colors,…

 

and the dancing, and…

 

the music.

 

There are a ton of reasons why I love to travel, and this moment embodied so many of them.

 

The beauty of travel is not only seeing new sights, tasting new tastes and smelling new smells.

 

No, the beauty of travel is, if only for a few moments, becoming part of something bigger than yourself and if only for a few moments realizing that…

 

people are more than just a monolith, more than just a generic headline in the news. People are more alike than we are different and we all just want to healthy, happy and fulfilled.

 

Hope you enjoyed my journey through Shanghai. Don’t forget to look at my video journey as well.

 

And if you want to experience the Polaris Buisness Class experience (and the contrast of a packed Air China flight in Economy Class), be sure to check back next week!