We signed up for a Viking River Cruise on the Yangtze River that started and ended in Shanghai. Exactly how long this trip was can't really be said, because there are various ways to count the days. I think the cruise itself was 8 1/2 days and then we added extra days in Shanghai. On our first and last days in China, Viking put us up for two nights, one pre-cruise and one night post cruise. We decided we wanted to add a couple days (actually nights since the first day was getting there) pre-cruise. Viking offered a choice between the Westin Bund Center Hotel and a JW Marriott. After reviewing the reviews, we decided on the Marriott, so I called Marriott reservations and told them we would be at their hotel for 3 nights as part of a Viking cruise, and we wanted to add two nights before the first Viking night. Marriott said, no problem, just pay Marriott $100 a night more than you pay for your Viking nights. That was clearly a rip off, but the reservations people wouldn't budge, so I emailed the hotel directly. Got the same answer. Westin, on the other hand was delighted to sell us a room for more nights at the Viking price, which was better than anything available on the Internet (at the time, Westin Hotels were not owned by Marriott). As things turned out, the Westin was a better choice regardless of price because it was more centrally located to the top sights than is the Marriott (Do you want to try to guess why we have only stayed at one Marriott in 12 years since then?).
We took the 300 mph maglev train from the airport to Shanghai and then a taxi from the maglev in town station to the hotel. The maglev ride is remarkably smoother than the EU's high speed (typically 180 mph) trains.
When we checked into our hotel room on the 22nd floor and looked out our window. We could see about 3 blocks through the smog. As it turned out, that was a good day.
Our guide book indicated we were close to four major sights, the bazaar, a classic 400 year old Chinese water garden next door to the bazaar, the Bund, and the main shopping street. The bazaar and garden were closest, so That's was our first stop. In refreshing my memory for this trip, I double checked some things on the Internet and it seems the Bazaar is no longer known as the Bazaar. It's now the Shanghai New Town Plaza.
Leaving the hotel, at the end of the block, we had our first encounter with the thrilling adventure known as crossing a street at an intersection with a traffic light in China-- everybody goes all at the same time, cars, pedestrians, motor cycles, mopeds, trucks, and drunks and in all different directions. . After waiting and watching for one complete light cycle. we joined the mob. Somehow, usually nobody dies.
For dinner, our guide book recommended Uncle Ho's Restaurant, which was just around the coroner from the Westin Hotel, so off we went for dinner. Being fond of Dim Sum, we asked if we could have Dim Sum for dinner-- no problem. We saw Shanghai Dumplings on the menu. Not knowing what those were, we ordered them, and returned to Uncle Ho's on all remaining nights of our time in Shanghai to eat Shanghai Dumplings. Think of a Shanghai Dumpling as a wonton in soup that is filled with a different flavored soup. The trick is to get it in your mouth before the skin breaks.
Next morning, following an impressive breakfast buffet featuring both Western and Chinese dishes. , we walked down to the Bund and followed the River for a ways, visiting some of the remaining grand 19th C banks built by the British Christian capitalists who introduced opium into then drug free China to fatten the profits of the East India Company.
We arbitrarily picked a restaurant on Nanjing Pedestrian Street for lunch (I have no recollection of what we had), then we went shopping to experience Shanghai's 5th Ave. Later in the afternoon, we stopped for ice cream, returned to the hotel to freshen up, and then went to see the rest of the Bazaar. And back to Uncle Ho's for dinner and more Shanghai Dumplings.
Our Viking tour officially started, with a bus trip to some attractive nearby villages, a nice Chinese lunch at a local restaurant somewhere, and a visit to a silk factory. The day ended near dark in Nanjing where we embarked fro the river cruise.
After a morning tour of Chongqing, we flew back to Shanghai and returned to the Westin until departing for home the next morning. Uncle Ho's for dinner with three folks we met on the cruise. When we discovered none of them had visited the Bazaar. After dinner, we took them to the Bazaar. The professional photographer was in seventh heaven, taxing both photos and videos. I noticed that although we were surrounded with great architecture, he took very short videos instead of panning the larger view, so I asked why. He said, "TV commercials only show a scene fro six seconds. Short clips sell, feature length movies don't. "
One afternoon, when we returned to our hotel room, the smog was so thick that we could not see the end of the block across the street. In our 15 days in China, the only time we had sunshie instead of smog shrouded sun was when we went up a mountain, 6,000 ft. above the river.
Uncle Ho's seems to no longer be with us, but find a restaurant that serves Shanghai Dumplings and give them a try.
As usual, the tour delivered us to the Shanghai Airport with a lot of time to kill before our flight. If you have airport lounge privileges, the Shanghai Airport has one of the nicest lounges we have come across. By local time, we arrived in San Francisco almost before we left.
Other tips on this trip:
Shop till you drop in Shanghai local market. Get unforgettable shopping experience in most popular local markets: Fabric market, Tea market, off brand market, antique market, etc. Taste 3 different kind of tea and recognize what it is. Seek out a bargain or pick up some unique souvenirs in off brand, antique market.
Save hours researching attractions and navigating public transport by having a driver to take you to Shanghai's best sites. Highlights include The Yuyuan Garden, taking part in a tea ceremony, a dim sum lunch, visiting the French Concession, and The Bund.