Shanghai’s Skyline: The Bund
This is Part 3 of my Christmas in Hong Kong series! If you’d like to start from the beginning, you can click here!:
Ok, now on to the blog!
Shanghai’s Skyline: The Bund
Christmas in Hong Kong: Part 3
Recap: It was 7:00PM. I had just arrived to my AirBNB in Shanghai after a day of trying to get into it, and I had until 10:30PM to explore Shanghai as much as I could. Three and a half hours to see Shanghai before the subways closed.
I only had enough time for one location, and the choice was easy. It had to be “The Bund.” The Huangpu River cuts across Shanghai, so that you can peer from the park side of the river onto the business side, which is full of beautiful lights and architecture. If I only had enough time for one nighttime shoot, it had to be this.
I gave myself 15 minutes to sleep, packed my backpack for a nighttime adventure, and left the apartment. I entered the subway again, and was instantly captivated by all the different merchandise for sale in the underground shops. Especially popular were these retro looking jars of what I can only imagine were skincare products. I thought they would make an amazing gift or keepsake.
On the subway ride to “the Bund” I did some hardcore people watching. I spend a lot of time traveling the subways of Seoul on a daily basis, so I’m used to watching people and looking at their styles. But when I’m on the subway in foreign countries, people watching isn’t to pass the time, it’s the main attraction.
There isn’t a better chance to see normal people living their everyday lives in a foreign country than on a subway. I love seeing the vast range of people, the styles unique to that country, the ways they talk and act with each other, and comparing them in my mind to the other countries I’ve been to.
England was the most quiet train I’ve ever been on. More quiet than a library. Korea always has couples snuggling and grandmas chatting loudly while everyone else whispers. Chicago smells like pee. If I had to describe this Shanghai subway… The people were much more casual and chatty than in Korea. In Korea, looking around a subway is sometimes like looking at a fashion show. In that regard China reminded me much more of Chicago. Just normal people, living their lives. Every time I visit a new country I realize a little more how weird and special Korea is. (You can check out some Korean subway fashion in my post, “Seoul Street Style: Gangnam, Fall 2017.”)
Once I exited the subway, my heart skipped a beat. I was no longer in a boring suburb, I was in a bright, bustling, downtown metropolis. There was music, people chatting, shopping, food, a children’s trolly, and so many lights.
I didn’t know what I wanted to do first, eat, shop, or film, but I knew before all of that I needed one thing: Coffee. I was exhausted.
There are two stores that I MUST visit in every country: Starbucks & McDonald’s. You may think it’s a waste to go to such American brands in a foreign country, but it’s so fun seeing how they adopt their brands to various cultures. In Italy McCafe is not simply a coffee or latte on the menu, IT’S A CAFE! A full cafe with lots of pastries, paninis, and sweets, completely separate from normal McDonald’s. In Korea, Starbucks has Jeju tea lattes and sweet corn frapuccinos! I spotted a Starbucks right off the main street, and made a beeline towards it.
I thought nothing could get better than Korean Starbucks at Christmas time, but turns out they have some tough competition in China. Shanghai’s Christmas collection was filled with gingerbread men, circus elephants, and foxes. I wanted something so badly. They even had teddy bears!
I got myself a “love latte,” and when it was ready there was a note in English, “Happy New Year!” written in Sharpie with a heart. I immediately set up my latte for some photos when the baristas called me back, so that they could write, “Welcome to Shanghai :),” on the sleeve. They were so incredibly friendly and kind, it reminded me of the kind baristas that had helped me find my AirBNB. I was quickly falling in love with the people of Shanghai.
Exiting the Starbucks, sipping on my latte, I started walking towards the Bund.
The first thing that I saw peaking over the rooftops was Shanghai’s Oriental Pearl Radio & TV Tower. In the night sky it was an enormous dome dancing in rainbow LED lights, and so much bigger than I had anticipated! As I grew closer, more beautiful buildings came into view, until I was at the riverbank. I went up the stairs to see the river, and it took my breath away. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing with my own eyes. A shining, rainbow mix of architecture, animation, and reflections.
I was having trouble taking in the view from the other side of the river, but what made it even more shocking was the stark contrast of both sides of the river. Across the river I felt like I was looking 100 years into the future. But on my side of the river, I felt like I was looking 100 years into the past. There was a beautiful clock tower, and architecture so classical I almost felt like I was in Chicago or Europe. As I was watching the beautiful LED lights across the river, the old clock tower began to chime out a tune. The icing on the cake was that this tune was no “London Bridge,” but a decidedly Chinese tune, although I don’t know what. Future, past, Asia, Europe, this was the most confusing and beautiful menagerie of cultures and times I had ever seen.
I did my best to take as much footage and pictures as I could using my selfie-stick and iPad. The selfie-stick photos turned out rather trash, but I still had a great time. It was my first time vlogging a trip alone so I felt very awkward, but seeing the skyline I wanted so much to share it with someone, so I imagined all my friends and family inside the camera, and did my best to share the experience.
I gave a tour of the Bund and talked all about it, but oh my goodness, I didn’t realize the selfie-stick cut off the audio on my phone! I have a bunch of footage of me walking around talking, and no audio. You live you learn!
By the time I was done touring the Bund it was already getting late, and I had to head home. Although I hadn’t had a proper meal, I had eaten so many snacks by that time that I wasn’t actually hungry. I took the subway back, bought some water for the morning, and finally, finally, went to bed. The bed was so soft and there were a million pillows. I knocked out instantly.
I’ve gone to sleep in Shanghai, but only for a few hours. It’s time to go to Hong Kong! Are you up for the trip? Can I wake up for the trip?!
Find out next week in:
It turns out the Bund was even more fascinating than it looked. The side that I was on, with the classical Western architecture, actually looked that way because it used to be part of a British settlement in the 19th Century! The beautiful clock tower was actually the Shanghai Custom House. The song that it plays is, “The East is Red,” the de facto anthem from China’s 1960’s Cultural Revolution, whose melody originated in a folk song. The area across the river is the Pudong district, and was only built in the 1990’s. Since then, that area has become the financial center of China.
For more information on the Bund you can visit Trip Advisor here:
or check out the Google Map of the Bund here:
Have you visited Shanghai or China? Is it on your bucket list? Let me know in the comments down below!
Until next week,