The Bund, Shanghai

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The Bund, Shanghai, China @2015
The Bund, Shanghai, China @2015
The Bund is probably Shanghai’s most popular tourist destination. Its row of historical buildings lined the western bank of Huangpu River, opposite the downtown area of Pudong. Architecturally fascinating, these buildings and the waterfront area have long been the undisputed symbol of Shanghai.


“The Shanghai Bund has dozens of historical buildings, lining the Huangpu River, that once housed numerous banks and trading houses from the United Kingdom, France, the United States, Italy, Russia, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands and Belgium, as well as the consulates of Russia and Britain…” (Source, Wikipedia: The Bund)

 

Brief exploration of The Bund (Sept-2015)

I’ve never been to Shanghai.

Earlier in the year, when I was purchasing discounted air tickets to Chengdu (Sichuan, China), it came with a 3-hours transit in Pudong Airport (Shanghai). Seeing the opportunity, I promptly jumped at the chance to extend the transit and spend a day exploring this intriguing and vibrant city.

 

Arrival at Pudong Airport

The overnight flight into Pudong Airport was uneventful. It landed early morning as scheduled and the immigration/customs clearance was quick and without a hitch. After collecting the luggage, I trudged into the arrival hall looking for my transfer to downtown Shanghai. I’ve made a reservation at a hotel, which is within walking distance to The Bund.

There are a number of ways for arriving passengers to travel to downtown Shanghai, namely: metro (line2), airport buses, taxi and Maglev train. In particular, I was informed by my hotel that a taxi ride (metered) from the airport to downtown would typically take 45 minutes and cost ~180RMB.

However, in order to entertain my boy who is in tow, I decided on the most high-tech mode available: the Maglev train.

 

Maglev Train (Wikipedia)

Maglev train, Shanghai @2015
Maglev train, Shanghai @2015

The word Maglev is the acronym of “Magnetic Levitation“. It essentially means the train is using a magnetic field to levitate on the tracks to achieve minimal friction and higher travelling speed. Sounds cool? It definitely is to my boy.

Here’s the spoiler. As impressive as it sounds, the Shanghai Maglev train network seems more of an expensive technology showcase (at least to me) than an economical or practical way of transporting the masses. When I was taking it, I counted no more than 15 passengers on the ENTIRE train.

The train network “incidentally” has only 2 stations: the terminal stations of Pudong Airport and Longyang Station. The track distance between the terminal stations is 30km. Depending on the time of the day, the maximum train speed varies from ~300km/hr to ~430km/hr. Consequently, journey time could range from 7-8 minutes.

Tickets cost 50RMB for one-way and 80RMB for a round-trip. Note that for round-trip tickets, the return leg must be performed within 7 days. Children below a certain height travel for free (similar to Shanghai’s metro network).

Once at Longyang Station, passengers heading towards downtown could switch to Shanghai Metro‘s Line#2. For passengers heading to The Bund, alight at Line#2 Nanjing East Road Station (map), which is 6 stops (~17 minutes) from Longyang Station.

With the assistance of the ever-helpful airport directory, I found the airport’s Maglev station. Purchasing the train tickets was a breeze; perhaps the almost deserted state of the station helps. For the first time in my memory, I was asked to send my bags thru an x-ray machine before being allowed into a train station; something which I would learn to get used to in other China metro stations.

After boarding the waiting train, I immediately noticed how empty it was even at that morning rush hour period. If only my flight into Pudong was that empty.

Almost empty Maglev Train, Shanghai @2015
Almost empty Maglev Train, Shanghai @2015

 

It didn’t take long for me to realise that in every cabin, there are LED display panels at each end of the cabin to show the time and current speed of the train. A welcomed feature for passengers of a Maglev train I guess.

After a few minutes of waiting, the train started to move off from the station, much to our delight.

The train starts to gain speed soon after. It must have been a rather exhilarating experience looking at the train speed rocketing on the LED display panel while the views outside the window start to reduce into a blur.

 

It merely took 2-3 minutes to reach the maximum speed of 301km/hr for my trip.

Max speed 301km/hr, Maglev Train. Shanghai @2015
Max speed 301km/hr, Maglev Train. Shanghai @2015

 

Before I have time to get comfortable in my seat, the train was starting to slow down in anticipation of reaching the terminal of Longyang Station. The entire journey lasted merely ~8 minutes, as expected.

Longyang Station, Shanghai, China @2015
Longyang Station, Shanghai, China @2015

Upon reaching Longyang Station, all that is required of me (to head downtown) is a simple switch to Shanghai Metro’s Line#2. Sadly, I walked straight into the massive commuter jam of morning rush hour Shanghai.

Longyang is a transfer station for 3 lines of Shanghai Metro. Consequently, it is jam-packed with commuters during rush hours; especially for Line#2 as it serves the downtown area. Getting caught in this crowd is no joke, and I wouldn’t recommend anyone travelling with many luggage, infants or extremely young children to try it. You would be better off hailing a cab directly from the airport.

Seeing the crowd, I tried to hail a cab outside Longyang Station. However, the lady cab driver was kind enough to advise me against taking her cab into downtown; the normally 30 minutes trip would take at least an hour or two due to the morning traffic in the area.

With no other options, I trudged back to Longyang Station and joined the mass of commuters taking Line#2 into downtown.

 

Nanjing East Road Station

Nanjing Road is probably the most famous shopping street in downtown Shanghai.

“Nanjing Road is the world’s longest shopping district, around 5.5km long, and attracts over 1 million visitors daily” (Source, Wikipedia: Nanjing Road)

Of the entire Nanjing Road, a 1.2km section (from Xizang Middle Road to Henan Middle Road) is converted into a pedestrian street. Nanjing East Road Station is located on the eastern end of this pedestrian street. The Bund would be an easy 10 minutes walk eastward from the station.

By now, I was feeling the hangover from the overnight flight. Though I’m hopelessly surrounded by shopping malls on all sides, the indulgence would have to wait. The call now is to check-in to my hotel (which is a short walk away) for a much-needed nap.

 

The Bund

After a refreshing noon-time nap in the comfort of my hotel room, I proceed to scout for a quick-lunch at one of the malls adjacent to Nanjing East Road Station. Next on the agenda would be the main objective of my trip: exploring The Bund.

The walk from Nanjing East Road Station to The Bund is easy peasy; just follow Nanjing East Road heading east. After a few traffic junctions, I came to the famous Peace Hotel.

Peace Hotel, The Bund, Shanghai @2015
Night view of Peace Hotel, The Bund, Shanghai @2015

Right across the street of Peace Hotel would be the northern section of The Bund. Specifically, the open space here facing Peace Hotel is known as Chen Yi Square. The bronze statue of Chen Yi (Shanghai’s first communist mayor) stands here.

 

A short flight of stairs up from Chen Yi Square would lead to the scenic waterfront promenade, where the full-blown beauty of The Bund would come into direct view.

The Bund, Shanghai, China @2015
The Bund, Shanghai, China @2015

 

Approximately 1.5km in length, The Bund is on the western bank of Huangpu River and stretches from Waibaidu Bridge in the north, to Nanpu Bridge further south.

“The Bund houses 52 buildings of various architectural styles, generally Eclecticist, but with some buildings displaying predominantly Romanesque Revival, Gothic Revival, Renaissance Revival, Baroque Revival, Neo-Classical or Beaux-Arts styles, and a number in Art Deco style.” (Source, Wikipedia: The Bund)

 

Across the Huangpu River, The Bund offers unblocked panoramic views of the magnificence of downtown Pudong. Downtown Pudong houses the Lujiazui Finance and Trade Zone and Shanghai Stock Exchange, which is a symbol of the financial might of the Chinese economy.

This postcard view of Pudong is dominated by the superstructure quartet of Oriental Pearl TowerJin Mao TowerShanghai World Financial Center and Shanghai Tower.

Skyscrapers of downtown Pudong, Shanghai, China @2015
Skyscrapers of downtown Pudong, Shanghai, China @2015

 

There is a “Bund Sightseeing Tunnel” that links The Bund to the opposite side of the river at Pudong. From what I’ve read online, it seems little more than an expensive and elaborate train ride (3-5 minutes) filled with special light/sound effects.

Once on the Pudong side of the river, one can view the entire bund area via visiting the Oriental Pearl Tower Observatory or the Shanghai World Financial Center Observatory.

Due to time constraint, I decided against exploring the Pudong side of the river and instead commit my limited time to snapping photos at The Bund. By then, the entire stretch of waterfront promenade was filled with camera-toting locals and tourist (most equipped with tripods) jousting for space along the railings.

In fact, for the few hours I was there, I noted at least a dozen of newlyweds having their wedding photos taken at a particular spot on a wide wooden platform slightly north of Chen Yi Square (see pic below).

Time flies when you’ve a camera on hand and there are great views all around. A couple of dozen shots later, I realised it was getting late and I had been there for 2-3 hours. It was time to call it a day and attend to my growling stomach. This would mark the end of my Shanghai exploration; my flight to Chengdu would await me tomorrow morning.

 

Afterthoughts

Though I was not able to spend much time exploring Shanghai, my brief rendezvous with this vibrant and dynamic city certainly leaves me impressed. It has been many years since I visited a Tier-1 city in China and it has left me wanting more.

The Bund, in particular, was hugely impressive and interesting. I was only able to scratch the surface of it. Given more time, it would be great to be able to explore the surrounding areas and experience the view from one of the observatories in Pudong. Definitely a place that should be high on the list for every visitor to Shanghai.

 

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