Traci and I began our free day at the hotel's extensive breakfast buffet. There were traditional Western breakfast items as well as Chinese offerings. Despite complaining of being tired of Chinese food at this point in the trip, I found myself choosing Chinese food at the breakfast buffet each morning in Shanghai. I enjoyed fried rice, lo mein, dumplings, and a variety of chicken dishes. I also loved the juices at this buffet. In addition to orange juice and grapefruit juice, there were other flavors such as kiwi and guava.
We went online to look up the top attractions in Shanghai. Trying to figure out how to spend our free day in Shanghai was quite a challenge. This was not because of a lack of things to see and do in the city. It was because the itinerary of the city tour we would be doing the next day would be taking us to most of the top attractions we were seeing online. In the end, Traci and I decided to do one of our tour guide's recommendations, e.g., to view the city from the top floors of one of its mega skyscrapers. I checked with the concierge at our hotel to find out how to get to our destination by subway. The closest subway station was about three blocks away.
Our walk to the station was our first view of Shanghai during the day. There was no doubt we were in a commercial area. There were billboards and name-brand stores everywhere we turned. In the midst of all this modernism however, we walked past a majestic Buddhist temple (Jing An Temple) that was built in the late 1800's. It was a mild, sunny day with a light breeze which felt great. The people tended to dress more fashionable in Shanghai than in other cities - especially the women. The sidewalks were not super crowded but we had to step aside a few times because someone was riding their moped on the sidewalk. The vehicle traffic on the streets actually looked tame in Shanghai.I was starting to second-guess my decision to decline the bicycle tour.
Even though our guide had told us the previous day that Shanghainese are used to seeing foreigners due to a sizable expat presence in the city, Traci and I still got a few stares and we occasionally noticed people taking pictures. Although there were not many, we did notice more white people and black people during our time in Shanghai.
The subway station was packed with people. It was actually a Chinese holiday so I guess people were taking advantage of their day off. I was happy to see the ticket kiosks were the same type we learned to use in Hong Kong. We were able to use the touch screen to get tickets quickly and be on our way. I would have hated to be trying to figure out how to use the kiosk while we had a line of people behind us.
The subway train was jam packed. The cool thing about this ride was looking out of the window while the train was speeding down the tracks. There were video screens on the walls of the tunnels that played videos in-sync with the train's movement. No matter which window you looked through, it appeared as if it was one video screen. That was some amazing engineering!
There were two other super tall buildings in walking distance from our destination. One was the Shanghai Tower. At 2,073 feet, it is the second tallest building in the world. We were told that the top floors were not yet open to the public. The other building was the Oriental Pearl Tower. It looks like two beach balls on a vertical rod. We were told that it is very popular with the Chinese tourists and that there is sometimes more than an hour wait to take the elevator to the top.
Oriental Pearl Tower
We chose to visit the Shanghai World Financial Center (SWFC) which we were told is somehow associated with the Park Hyatt hotel. I never saw a Park Hyatt sign. The SWFC looks like a huge bottle opener or a building with a handle on it. It is 1,614 feet tall. The reason we chose this building over the others was because our tour guide mentioned during our ride from the airport the previous night that there were glass floors at the top. That sounded scary but for some reason we wanted to put my fear of heights to the test. Traci and I purchased a ticket package that allowed us to visit the 94th, 97th, and 100th floors. There were staff members inside the dark building leading us to the correct locations and elevators based on our tickets.
It was a clear, sunny day that afforded us amazing views from each floor. It was not only because of the views of the city below and the river that cut through it but also because of the views of the nearby skyscrapers. At each of the three floors we visited, there were opportunities to spend your money whether it was souvenirs, professional photos, or coin-operated telescopes. As for the glass floors, they were not so impressive or scary. I'm not sure that was their purpose. They were smaller than I expected. The 100th floor is the bottom of the 'building handle'. There is a glass floor skywalk that provides a view of the top of the 97th floor.
Traci and I spent quite a while exploring the top floors of the SWFC before taking the elevator back down to street level. We spent some time wandering the area. There is a network pedestrian bridges that allow you to get around on foot without ever having to deal with vehicle traffic. Of course these pedestrian bridges lead in and out of shopping malls. Traci and I walked around in two of these malls. The first was a typical mall. The second one seemed to have only high-end designer brands stores - Gucci, Versace, Louis Vuitton, etc.
For dinner that evening, Traci and I took advantage of our free day to eat something other than Chinese food. There were many types of restaurants just outside our hotel. We chose to share a 12-inch pepperoni pizza at Pizza Marzano. It hit the spot. I had an interesting soft drink to go along with my meal - lychee and rose soda. It was good. I could really taste the rose in the drink.
After dinner, Traci had a craving for ice cream. We walked two blocks and came across the golden arches of McDonald's. Even though there was no line at the counter, we waited in line to use the kiosks to place our order. Using the kiosks would help us avoid the language barrier; however, one of the other customers in the restaurant offered to translate for us at the counter instead of us having to wait in the kiosk line. His kindness was representative of the kind, helpful people we encountered during our stay in Shanghai.
We hurried back to the hotel so that we could get changed and meet our group in the lobby at 7 PM. Our entertainment for the night was the Shanghai Acrobatic Show. This was an optional show not included in our trip package and thus there was an admission price that converted to approximately $50 per person. We actually had to pre-pay for the show via our Marathon Tours representative before arriving in Shanghai. I was surprised that credit cards were not accepted for the show. As a result, I had to use an ATM to get the local currency when we disembarked from the river cruise in Yichang. Up until then, I normally did currency exchanges for petty cash at our hotels.
The theater was located on the fourth floor of our hotel. We had already seen a Chinese acrobat show in Beijing but this one in Shanghai was on a whole other level. The stunts, the balance, and strength displays were mind-blowing!
By the way, during that evening, we chatted with some of our group members who did the bike tour. They said it was scary riding through the traffic but they really enjoyed the sightseeing. Continue...