China was just so big that I had to do a second part to explore even more of what the incredible country has to offer! If you haven’t yet read the first part, check it out here. What follows takes you through the mystical and forbidden, the future and ancient history. I bring you Shanghai and X’ain!
As a city with its roots in the colonial-era, ritual, and tradition, Shanghai has its head in the clouds and its mind in the future. It bears the proud title of the global financial hub, and is actually China’s biggest city. The city has its heart in The Bund, a beautiful promenade and waterway lined with colonial-era buildings. There is so much to do and explore here, but here are just a few of Shanghai’s highlights.
As with Hong Kong, Shanghai’s skyline will wow you. Without a doubt. Catch it lit up in a fading pink sunset from the skywalk observatory and you’ll have pictures that will have people in awe for the rest of your life. The Observatory and Skywalk give you a bird’s eye view of some of the most iconic buildings, including the World Finance Centre, and you can enjoy the view at any time of the day!
Another place for great pictures is the Bund, lined with buildings that look they’ve been pulled from the 1920s. People come from all over China to see what the fashionable people of Shanghai are wearing, and to find out hottest trends in fashion, music, food and so much more! Whether you’re there to find out what’s hot, watch people watching people or enjoy a stroll through 1925, the Bund is the place to be.
Not as if you’d expect anything less, this futuristic city has the world’s first magnetic-levitation train, in use from Shanghai Pudong International Airport to the Shanghai Metro station where passengers can continue to the city centre. With top speeds of 267mph, the mag-lev (Transrapid) is a perfect metaphor for Shanghai’s smooth and speedy travel into the future.
For lovers of art, 50 Moganshan Road is the heart of Shanghai’s creative world. Once abandoned warehouses now house Shanghai’s best collections of modern artwork, including work by Ding Yi and Zhou Tiehai, who you can see at work! Contemporary pieces from this area can sell for millions, and you can’t miss the opportunity to watch the artists at work.
Shanghai Museum next, an iconic landmark situated in the People’s Square, with one of the biggest collections of ancient Chinese artefacts in the whole of China. The museum gives out 8000 free tickets a day, so if you want the guarantee you can stop by or call to reserve for a visit. If you want to see ancient treasures still in circulation, make sure to check out Dongtai Road where you’ll find plenty of antiques and collectors shops with all manners of trinkets and trophies to bring home.
Lonely Planet calls Xi’an’s fabled past a double-edged sword. Fitting for a city whose main source of interest lies in tens of thousands of ancient stone warriors. Yes, the city of the Terracotta warriors from the Qin dynasty is what everyone wants to see, but little does everyone know, there’s more to proud Xi’an than just stone men.
As the symbol of the old line Xian, the Big Wild Goose Pagoda is your perfect first stop in the city, to see the ancient building and holy place for many Buddhists. Built in 652AD, the building is now over 210 feet, and ideal if you can climb the many winding stairs inside to look over the beautiful and peaceful city. And if you’re feeling adventurous find a trustworthy local to tell you why they believe the building has its unique name!
Next stop is Xi’an’s symbolic Bell Tower, built in the Ming dynasty of 1384, this is the grandest of its kind in the whole of China! Towering close to 130 feet, with huge bronze bells, the building covers over 1350 square metres and is surrounded by legend. One such tale regards a vast dragon that lived in the river stretching through the city and caused many earthquakes. They say that hundreds of blacksmiths and builders worked day and night to chain this dragon and keep him secure under the Bell Tower. From that day, Xi’an has never experienced an earthquake.
To the northwest of the Big Wild Goose Pagoda lies one of the largest history museums in China. Shaanxi History Museum houses over 370,000 relics, including many intricate statues, coins, pieces of armour, paintings and more. The museum gives away 4000 free tickets a day, but make sure to take your passport as they use this to register tickets for those overseas!
Of course, China’s wall is just so great it can’t help but be mentioned twice. Though Xi’an doesn’t highlight how close it is to the Great Wall of China, you can still visit the ruins, enjoying walk on or alongside it. Some parts of the wall are in disrepair as this area hasn’t been specifically designed for intrepid world explorers, so watch your step if you’re keen to risk the walk on top. Wherever you are in China, seeing the Great Wall by night is a unique experience that leaves you feeling calm and at peace.
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