By Zolzaya Erdenebileg
The Bund (外滩 wàitān) is a symbol of Shanghai’s cosmopolitan and international personality. It is a must-see for visitors to Shanghai, but besides strolling the promenade, what is there to actually do? To make your visit to one of Shanghai’s most popular tourist attractions memorable, consider one of the following.
1) Morning Exercise
The Bund is not all shopping and renovated buildings with the latest designer goods. Wake up early enough (shoot for 7-8 am), and you’ll be able to catch some of the locals keeping fit through a myriad of different exercises. Chinese seniors are especially notorious for their active lifestyles. In the morning hours, you will be able to find large groups practicing tai chi. Others will be jogging, stretching, flying kites or working on their kungfu.
The Bund overlooks the Huangpu River to gaze upon massive and gleaming financial towers in Pudong. This image is emblematic of Shanghai’s modernity. By association, it has become a symbol for China itself. So it is no wonder that any self-respecting Shanghai travel guidebook will laud the Bund.
Indeed, one of the first things that travellers do when they arrive in Shanghai is head on over to the Bund (which generally refers to the main downtown river embankment) and get their pictures taken, with the future of China shining behind them. You can get one of the many photo stalls to take a professional shot (“a little to the left! Now more to the right! Gaze up into the lens!”) for about 30 to 40 RMB. Or you could just settle for the amateur photo, and ask a passerby to take one for you.
Bottom line: The distinctively Western architecture found along the Bund manifests Shanghai’s history, while the Pudong side glimpses to the future. At night, the number of tourists often surges, but so will the neon lights and glitz, giving way to fabulous pictures of China’s cosmopolitan side.
3) Huangpu River Cruise
Want to really take in the views? Consider taking a Huangpu River Cruise. For about 40- 100 RMB, these ships will take you up and down the Huangpu and finally back to The Bund. Some are more luxurious and offer air conditioning and a bar, among other things. Some ships will also give explanations of the sights over loudspeaker in both English and Mandarin.
Bottom line: Offerings vary, so you can find a duration, time, and price suitable for you. It is better to go when it is warm (during the spring, summer and fall months) so you can enjoy the views from the outer deck. The trip usually takes about an hour to an hour and a half, and tickets can be bought from a booth along the Bund Promenade.
4) The Bund Sightseeing Tunnel
The Bund Sightseeing Tunnel is a popular tourist attraction, although not often its favorite. It is, however, a good option if you have children and if you want to cross the river without taking a taxi. Instead of displaying the river itself, the tunnel offers a lights experience as visitors cross the river. The tunnel’s special effects are often described as “trippy.”
Bottom line: Guests ride 646.7 meters from The Bund to Lujiazui in Pudong, next to the Oriental Pearl Tower. They are seated inside automated cars with 360-degree views as multicolored lights play in the tunnel, and sounds accompany the colors. The whole trip takes about 3 minutes, and is meant to depict a trip to the Earth’s core.
Ah, Shanghai, the “Paris of the East”! Or is it the “New York of the Orient”? Either way, like Paris and New York, Shanghai has some prime shopping opportunities. And The Bund does not fail in this respect. A great number of designer brands are dotted along the Bund including, Giorgio Armani, Dolce & Gabbana, Cartier, Patek Philippe, Ermenegildo Zegna, Prada, Ralph Lauren and many more high-end, well-known stores. It’s not all foreign brands, however. A number of domestic brand shops offer anything from handcrafted silk slippers to porcelain tableware and antique woods. Bund18 and Three on the Bund are some examples of developments that offer a classy shopping experience.
Bottom line: Not enough? Just turn onto Nanjing East Road and find a controlled explosion of stores. You can find Burberry, Nike, United Colors of Benetton, H&M, Forever 21, including Chinese stores and stalls selling scarves, fresh flowers, tea eggs, bootleg CDs and DVDs and much, much more.
To get beyond the typical Shanghai tourist experience, check out UnTour Shanghai’s range of delicious food tours