To be honest, I was not really that excited to see Shanghai. I live in big and bustling Manila, so the thought of traveling to yet another big and bustling city didn't really appeal to me. It should have. Shanghai, being a first-world city and therefore, worlds away from my city, surprised me in more ways than one.
The city was clean. Roads and public infrastructure was top-notch. Traffic was completely tolerable. And the architecture, man, the architecture. It was unmistakably Shanghai. The morning after we arrived, we walked from our hotel to do some exploring and as soon as we turned one corner, there it was. The skyline that made Shanghai famous around the world.
This view of Shanghai's Pudong New Area can be had when you climb the elevated boardwalk known today as The Bund. The word "bund" (pronounced like "fund") comes from the Anglo-Indian word for embankment. The place is easy enough to get to. Get any map of Shanghai and running along the Huangpu River on the area around Zhongshan Road is The Bund.
The Huangpu River divides the city into two. On the one side is old turn-of-the-century colonial Shanghai. The other side is Shanghai's future--tall modern buildings playing host to the city's financial and commercial district. So you could say that the river not only divides the city physically, it also divides it historically. Old Shanghai on the western side of the river, new Shanghai on the east.
The city's old architecture can be traced back to the Shanghai International Settlement era which the British began in 1842. A few years onwards, the French and the Americans followed and established their ground by the river. Soon enough, Shanghai was playing host to a number of local and international banks, trading houses and even consulates and diplomatic missions.
Fast forward to the year 1990, plans of developing the land on the other side of the Huangpu were made public, giving rise to Shanghai's new district--the Pudong New Area. Over the years, the area has emerged as one of the most important finance and trade centers in the world.
This stark contrast in architecture is what primarily caught my attention. It is distinctly Shanghainese. And because of this quality, you instantly see the city's personality. The buildings, whether old and new, are amazing to behold. This was our first day in Shanghai and I would soon discover that this city had a lot more surprises up its sleeve.
* More photos in my Flickr set: China: Old and New Shanghai
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