Where old meets new in Shanghai

Where old meets new in Shanghai
By admin


THE BUND

How it all began

Before the 1840s, the area where the Bund is now located was a muddy, narrow lane surrounded by tall reeds. After Shanghai was established as a trading port in 1846 by the British, a street was paved and the riverside was reinforced, after which rows of commercial buildings were constructed, with the area becoming known as the UK concession. A building boom at the end of the 19th century and beginning of 20th century led to the Bund becoming a major financial hub of East Asia.

It was the centre of Shanghai's political, economic and cultural sphere, with its buildings housing the consulates of most countries and many banks, businesses and newspaper offices. But it is only in the last two decades that the Bund re-established itself as a significant financial district.

From 2008, a major reconfiguration of traffic flow along the Bund was carried out. After an almost three year upgrade, it was reopened to visitors in early 2010, with a new underground tunnel and large public squares among the improvements. The wide variety of architectural styles is what makes the Bund so fascinating for visitors, with these including Gothic, Baroque, Roman, Neo-Classical and Art-Deco.

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How to experience it

Allow yourself a good few hours to explore the Bund and grab a map so that you can see which building is which – take a peek inside some of the banks and hotels. Key buildings that are worth checking out include the former premises of both the Hong Kong & Shanghai Bank and the Peace Hotel, two key monuments that formed the backdrop for international life in the area before 1949. The oldest building is the Jin Jiang Hotel, which was built in 1906.

A good deal of Shanghai's more recent history is wrapped up the development of this waterfront area – and you can learn all about it at the Bund Historical Museum, located at the base of the Monument to the People's Heroes. An evening stroll along the waterfront is particularly enchanting as you get to see both the Bund and Pudong lit up in all their luminous glory.

And if you don't mind paying a bit of a premium, there are plenty of restaurants and bars from which to take in the views. Or take a cruise along the Huangpu River on one of the ferries that take visitors up and down the river. »

PUDONG

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How it all began

It's hard to believe that only 20 years ago, this most skyscraper-heavy district was mere farmland, with little more than a few warehouses and wharfs near the shore. In 1993, the Chinese government decided to set up a Special Economic Zone in Chuansha, creating the Pudong New Area.

The western tip of the Pudong district was designated as the Lujiazui Finance and Trade Zone, becoming the new financial hub of modern China. Several landmark buildings were constructed there to raise the image and awareness of the area.

In these parts, size matters. The Oriental Pearl TV Tower, with its eye-catching rocket shape and large pink spheres, rises to 468 metres , while the 88-storey Jinmao Tower, at 420 metres tall, was the tallest building in China until 2007. It was eclipsed by the 101-storey Shanghai World Financial Center with this edifice topping out at 492 metres. It's also referred to as The Corkscrew, as it looks a like a great big bottle opener, and is a mixed-use skyscraper consisting of offices, observation decks, ground-floor shopping malls and the Park Hyatt Shanghai. But the quest to be the tallest continues, with this structure to be vertically surpassed by the nearby 121-storey Shanghai Tower, which is due for completion in 2014 and projected to reach 632 metres in height.

How to experience it

There are some fairly impressive views of Shanghai to be had if you're willing to pay the entrance fee to take an elevator up to the top of one of Pudong's tallest buildings – including all of the aforementioned structures. Of course, the best place from which to take your panoramic photos of Pudong is across the river at the Bund, because once you're among all the skyscrapers, the only way you can really point your camera is up.

Email the Travel Weekly team at traveldesk@travelweekly.com.au

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