China has one of the most distinctive cultures in the entire globe. Over a billion people live there, mostly in the east coast, making it a vast nation. China is a nation of contrasts, with lively cities like Beijing, Shanghai, and Hong Kong living side by side with breathtaking mountains, valleys, rivers, and plains in the West and Southern areas. China is home to many different ethnicities, languages, and microcultures.
The only places I was able to visit were Shanghai, Wenzhou (an industrial city), Oubei (a tiny town nearby), and the mountainous regions surrounding it.
As opposed to a travel guide, this is more of a personal blog. China is a very large country, as I've already indicated, and I'm just covering a small fraction of it here. Shanghai is a city of skyscrapers and whether you climb up the Oriental Pearl or Shanghai World Financial Center, you can expect some eye-opening views. Alternatively, stroll down the waterside Bund for more great city scenery. We'll see what Shanghai offers to a tourist and first timer like me
Things to Know before you Go
Visa (for Indian Passport holders): For holders of Indian passports, a prior visa must be arranged. This can be done through Travel agents
Currency: China's currency is Chinese Yuan. 1 RMB ~ 11 INR
Best way to travel : Domestic flights are good and have connectivity throughout the country. Trains are superfast and has been developing ever since. Busses are ok for short distance travel. Driving is a bit difficult if you are a new timer, not recommended.
Accommodation : Hotels range from cheap to luxurious, and depends on the place you stay. Going into the regional area, your options are limited, so need to get bookings up front.
Language : Majority speak Mandarin and the nation has got multiple languages and dialects similar to India. People speak differently in the regions and a local couldn't even understand the context. English is widely understood with the younger kids, they learn it now as a mandatory language. You will also find a sizeable expat community, International students and English teachers in Shanghai
Food: The Chinese menu is the only one often offered by eateries. The majority of restaurants provide rice and noodles. You can see a variety of meat and sea food options. There are few vegetarian options. The tofu was excellent. If you are vegetarian and have ordered salad, that will definitely contain egg. Welcome to China!!
Water: Get bottled water, no questions asked!
Wifi & Mobile data: Mobile data is not cheap and so is the Wi-Fi. Most of the accommodation provides free Wi-Fi which is good. It is better to get a sim card with a data plan going into the regional area, coverage is not guarnateed though
Credit Cards and ATMs: It was easy paying by card in big restaurants and shops. You need to carry cash in case you are going to a street shop or travelling to the countryside.
Safety: Shanghai is a safe destination, petty thefts and pickpocketing happens in big city, so keep you passports & wallets safe. Always keep the Hotels' contact details separately in case you get lost. It is so hard to get back or find someone who can help you with English
Translator : Plenty of authorized tour guides, translators/interpreters are available in the city of Shanghai. If you are not sure or travelling solo, it is better to get some local guidance. They charge a moderate fee.
Best time to Visit
Check the Chinese holiday calendar to see when the two main national holidays in China, Spring Festival and Golden Week, fall in order to avoid Shanghai's busiest times.
It is recommended to avoid December-March, in terms of weather and people travelling domestic
Shanghai is located on the nation's east coast. If Beijing and Hong Kong are on your schedule, you must technically depart by air(to Hongkong) or take a bullet train to get to Beijing
How to get to Shanghai
Singapore, Malaysian, Air India and Cathay Pacific are the major airlines which fly into Shanghai Pudong Airport.
Updated 2022 August
Due to the pandemic, China has suspended has almost all inbound International flights. So there is no recent updates on the flight availability from Chennai to Shanghai
Shanghai can be see through different ways, the cheapest possible to the most luxurious ways.
Flights are of moderate to high cost and vary depending on the time of travel. Approx. economy return fares from Chennai will be 50,000~75000 INR per person
Accommodation in the Bund area (tourist friendly) ranges from 200 Yuan (from Indian rupees 2500), going up. It is one of the better places stay in the city.
Airbnb is plentiful in China and can be found in all the major cities though it’s much less common in rural areas. Prices range from 175-750 CNY (INR 2000~8000) depending on the the type of apartment.
Where to Stay
1. People's Square
Along with The Bund, I firmly believe that the area of People's Square is the ideal area in Shanghai for first-time tourists. The People's Square is essentially a large square and is regarded as the city's geographic centre.
The neighbourhood is extremely well connected to the rest of the city (particularly via subway), and it's full with fantastic shopping choices for all tastes, notably on Nanjing East Road, as well as innumerable restaurants and street food stalls - a dream for foodies! Shanghai Museum (located in the centre of the plaza), People's Park, Shanghai Grand Theatre, and other notable locations are only a few of the local landmarks.
2. The Bund
The Bund is actually a lovely waterfront location next to the Huangpu River where you can stroll and take in expansive city views. I believe it perfectly captures the charm of Shanghai because it is built in exquisite colonial style and faces the contemporary towers of Pudong.
In addition to serving as a fantastic starting point for visitors to Shanghai, this location is ideal for nightlife enthusiasts who want to party. You'll also find a tonne of stores, eateries, and bars here, so you won't ever get bored!
How to Travel around Shanghai
Click on the Image to Zoom
The enormous public transportation network in Shanghai has made moving around the city hassle-free. The Shanghai Metro is the most suggested means of transportation in Shanghai. Ticket prices range from CNY3 to CNY9 (US$0.45 to US$1.40), depending on the distance travelled. Alternatively, all Shanghai Metro stations sell One-Day Passes for CNY18 (US$2.80).
The bus system in Shanghai is larger than the Metro, and numerous lines continue to run after the Metro's closing hour. All buses have air conditioning, and the cost is CNY2 (US$0.30) every ride. Considering that most bus conductors do not speak English, you might want to have correct change ready for them. Once on board, the P.A. system announces stops in Mandarin, English, and Shanghainese.
In Shanghai, on-demand taxi services are reasonably priced and a practical way to move around, especially after-hours. Speaking with the taxi drivers may be daunting to some people. Having your destination's address in Chinese written down or visible on your phone before entering the vehicle is a wonderful idea. Get a member of the hotel staff to help you explain your destination to the driver if you're taking a cab from your Shanghai hotel.
Must See Places in Shanghai
1. The Bund
Almost every time you see something about Shanghai, the Bund is pictured. It is the city's most well-known landmark and the first item you should see when visiting. On the western bank of the Huangpu River (Puxi), there is a waterfront walkway called The Bund from which you can see the skyline on the other bank (Pudong). a stunning sight both day and night. The Russian and English consulates were originally housed in the colonial-style historical structures along The Bund, along with a number of banks and trading firms. I advise going to The Bund just before dusk to see the magnificent lighting-up of the skyscrapers that around the promenade.
2. East Nanjing Road
The most well-known shopping district in Shanghai is Nanjing Road. It is separated into East Nanjing Road, which connects the People's Square to the Bund, and West Nanjing Road, which is located west of the People's Square. A walk in the latter part, particularly at night when the lights are on, is worthwhile. There are local delicacies available to eat everywhere, and people are dancing in the streets.
3. Yu Yuan Garden
A highlight is definitely the Yu Yuan Garden with beautiful parks, a tea house in the middle of a lake and nice little streets for shopping or eating. You need to have a local person guiding you through the local area, otherwise ts hard for you to recognize what you are seeing and the importance.
4. Shanghai Museum in the People’s Square
The Shanghai Museum is worthwhile if you still have time for culture and history. It may be found in the southern section of People's Square. The cultural artefacts from previous dynasties are displayed on four storeys. Free admission is available, however you should arrive at 9:00 A.M. because the entrance line grew dramatically during the day. Again without a guided experience, you will be left wandering around without any valuable info.
Some where in near Oubei town (couldn't remember the name of the place)
1. People are so friendly and show extreme hospitality. I felt China is indeed a foreign place where going around on your own is the most difficult thing to do unlike the most of the tourist nations. You obviously need to have decent Mandarin abilities and driving experience in order to enter the regional area without a local guide. I'll be talking about some of my experiences in the hilly towns and villages.
2. The Food is different to the ones you will have in the city. It is hard for a first timer to differentiate the type of food, but with some local assistance you can identify it. They use more local stuffs, even the fishes are caught from the closely river and cooked fresh. Life is more laid back and most of them were not farming & fishing
3. Using Chop sticks for the first time
Indians are used to have food with their hands and to a certain extent forks & spoon. But Chopsticks, never before. It gives a good opportunity to embrace a new culture and learning something new. When you try to do something new and adopt a new culture, you can see how the local Chinese people are welcoming and hospitable.
4. Place where you can interact with the older generation, of course you need a translator
Being a foreigner, you get the immediate attention. I got the opportunity to interact with a few people, they have been living in the same village for ages and did not move into the cities. They offered me Tea and took a few photos. Then we moved on to a small hilly area, which was the highest point in the village. The only time we rested for an hour.
Conclusion & Our Recommendation
China still remains a mystery to me and wish to travel more into the regional areas to find out more about the country. next time I go, I'll be more equipped.
From the blogs I read, I find there are more International tourist visiting china and exploring the lesser know west and Northern regions. I would rate my experience as an eye opener, moving out of my comfort zone and also the acceptance to embrace new cultures.
Must Go Destinaton