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[Nonstop to Shanghai] Part 2: The Lay of the Land

Shanghai, which literally means “City on the Sea,” lies on China’s central coast where the Yangtze River meets the Pacific Ocean in the East China Sea. Up until the early 1800s, Shanghai was just a small fishing village. But after the end of the first opium war in 1842, Shanghai was opened up to foreigners and the village quickly grew into a large city bustling with merchants from Great Britain, France, the United States and elsewhere. Shanghai became an important industrial and trading hub that attracted not only foreigners, but also Chinese migrant workers from other parts of the country. Today, over 24 million people live in Shanghai, making it China’s largest city by population.

One of the first things I like to do in a new place is get a feel for the lay of the land and I needed to see how big a city of 24 million people was. It had to be enormous. Then again, every place is enormous when you’re from an island that is just 212 square miles (549 km). These are a couple of places that helped me grasp the enormity of Shanghai.

Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibition Center
The Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibition Center is a six-story interactive museum dedicated entirely to Shanghai’s modernization and urban development. One of Shanghai’s best and most visited museums, the Urban Planning Exhibition Center documents the evolution of Shanghai through scale models, historical photographs, multimedia and interactive games and displays.

The crowning jewel of this museum is the immense scale model of the city center that literally takes up most of the floor space on the 6th floor. The model includes so much detail, you can pick out your hotel or your friend’s house. Just look at it:

Scale model of central Shanghai
Me, standing next to the immense scale model, for scale

There are a ton of other interesting displays in the Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibition Center, but even if there weren’t, that scale model of the city alone is worth visiting.

Oriental Pearl Tower
One of the most distinct landmarks in Shanghai, the Oriental Pearl Tower is a tv and radio tower that was built in 1994 and was at one time the tallest structure in China. Currently it is the 4th tallest tower in China and the 6th tallest in the world. The Oriental Pearl towers over the Huangpu river at 468m high (1,535 feet) and offers a 360-degree view of the city from its 3 observatory levels. For a small thrill, take a walk on the glass skywalk platform on the second observatory deck.

Shanghai Oriental Pearl Tower

There was a very long line at the entrance to the Pearl and it took some time to get up to the top but the sweeping views of the city and waterways below were totally worth it. Save yourself a bit of time and purchase tickets in advance online.

I’ll be posting more about the trip in a few days. If you have any questions about traveling to Shanghai from Guam, feel free to leave them in the comments and I’ll answer as best as I can. If you missed my first post on how to get a Chinese tourist visa in Guam, it’s over here.

Thanks for reading. You’re awesome.

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