A Day on the Shanghai Time Machine

Story and photos by Leslie Kim

Shanghai Leslie Kim 01

The idea of short trips always bothered me. I thought that in order to fully understand and appreciate a city or a region, one must stay longer than a couple of hours. However, after a day trip to Shanghai this past winter, I developed a new taste for the short, compact travel technique.

On New Year’s Eve, after a two-hour train ride from Hangzhou train station to Shanghai South Railway station, my 24-hour excursion in Shanghai officially started. My first stop was the Yuyuan Garden. The Chinese take pride in their many elaborate gardens, so visiting them is a must.

The first thing that came to my attention was a giant, sponge-like rock titled the “Exquisite Jade Rock.” I personally did not understand its beauty, but it is said that the builder of this garden, Pan Yundan, was particularly fond of these porous stones, as are many other Chinese.

After purchasing a stick of sugar-coated strawberries from a nearby vendor, I headed to the Nanjing Road. This long, wide road—only for pedestrians— reminded me of Fifth Avenue with the random trolleys that drive through the crowds. Walking down the busy commercial road filled with shoppers, I eventually arrived at the Bund, also called the Zhongshan Road.

Shanghai Leslie Kim 02

A high class department store near the modern Pudong Park makes a great shopping expedition.

The Bund is located on the western side of the Huangpu River, which is one of the main shipping routes in Shanghai. The Bund is a cross-section of old and new. On the Zhongshan Road, visitors can experience gothic and baroque style buildings, as well as the view of the new and modern skyscrapers, such as the Oriental Pearl TV Tower and the Jin Mao Tower across the river.

My stop was Pudong Park, on the opposite side of the Bund. If the Bund and the Yuyuan Garden represented the Shanghai of decades or even centuries ago, Pudong Park introduced the developing and modern Shanghai. It is surrounded by the Oriental Pearl TV Tower along with many up-scale department stores, restaurants and cafes. Even though China does not celebrate New Year on January 1, Pudong Park was filled with young couples, out to enjoy the western influence on the city. Adding to the celebratory atmosphere of the night, the windows of the Jin Mao Tower, the tallest building in China, had a light display that said “2008” and “Happy New Year” in Chinese.

Although there was not enough time to enjoy the typical “Shanghai life,” I was able to capture the meaning of the city. Shanghai is a perfect balance between old and new. Traveling in Shanghai was like getting on a time machine: going back and forth between the ancient gardens and villages to the modern skyscrapers. Shanghai does not forget the past, nor does it ignore innovation. This very attitude is the key to the city’s charm and success.

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