Visiting Shanghai was a completely different experience from Beijing. If you’re looking to explore China’s culture and history, Beijing is the place for you. If you’re seeking more of a city feel that involves perusing busy streets and alleyways offering quality knock-off goods at every corner, Shanghai is it.
Although I’ve had some bizarre moments in Shanghai — which I will delve into in a later post — this city is really what gives me fond memories of China as a whole.
After a nearly three-hour flight from Beijing in the late afternoon of May 13, 2012, all my classmates and I could really look forward to was getting to our hotel to unpack, eat and get some sleep. A charter bus drove us about an hour from the airport to our hotel, and despite the rain, the view out the window was unlike anything I had ever seen: Massive skyscrapers decorated with giant Chinese characters hovered over our bus, making us seem like nothing but minuscule ants.
Upon arrival at our hotel, we unloaded and got ready for dinner at a nearby mall followed by a quick stop at the Bund, Shanghai’s renowned waterfront area that overlooks the city skyline.
The subway ride to central Shanghai, where the Bund is located, was a quick one that took less than 15 minutes to get to. Walking through the city with the rain lightly tapping on our umbrellas reminded me of what it must’ve felt like to walk through rainy New York City or Tokyo, even though I had never been to either cities.
As we approached the Bund, the view literally took my breath away: The mist from the rain created a soft glow of colorful lights reflected from European-style buildings that towered behind the Huangpu River. Until this day, I can’t forget the warm and fuzzy feeling I got from this image.
My first impression of Shanghai was perfect, to say the least.
I had never set foot in an international news agency until I went to China, so as a wide-eyed journalism student, having the opportunity to visit the Bloomberg Shanghai bureau was beyond thrilling!
We were fortunate to speak with a bureau editor as well as a broadcast reporter who both thoroughly discussed the ins and outs of foreign reporting in China. From what I learned, reporting in a country that’s so restrictive of its media seems like no easy feat — not only do journalists have to overcome language barriers, but they also face an extremely controlling government that keeps tight reins on the news media to avoid potential subversion of authority figures.
After visiting Bloomberg, I developed a newfound respect for international reporters, especially in a country as strict as this one.
Oriental Pearl Tower
Bloomberg was conveniently located next to the Oriental Pearl Tower, a TV tower with distinct colorful spheres that bring to mind a futuristic space module. Standing at 1,535 feet opposite the Bund, the structure is the tallest TV tower in Asia and the third highest in the world. So undoubtedly, going to the top was a priority if we wanted to see sweeping views of the city.
Being at the top of the Oriental Pearl Tower was an exhilarating, yet gratifying experience: Standing on clear glass, thousands of feet up in the air didn’t exactly feel safe, but at the same time, the spectacular views of the city took away all my fears. Skyscrapers lined along the Huangpu River stretched on farther than the eye could see. I even saw construction of the Shanghai Tower, slated to be Asia’s tallest building.
The more I familiarized myself with Shanghai, the more impressed I was. It almost seemed like the city was growing and modernizing right before my eyes; I’m almost positive my next visit here will be a brand new experience altogether.