Shanghai, China 上海

City Population: 23,019,148 | City Area: 2,448.1 sq mi (6,340.5 km2) | Population Density: 9,400/sq mi (3,600/km2) | Elevation: 13 ft (4 m)
Dates Visited: 1.27.13 – 3.07.13
Departure City: New Orleans, LA

One of the fastest developing cities in the world, Shanghai has enjoyed a long history as one of the largest and most prosperous cities in the Far East. With a diverse population of over 23 million (as of 2010), this major financial center was founded and thrives on the confluence of the east and the west. From classic Parisian buildings in Xintiandi (新天地) to the winding Chinese gardens at Jing’an (静安区), the Shanghai landscape reflects the longstanding influence of international trade.

The municipality is located on a peninsula jutting out on China’s eastern coast, between the Yangtze and Hangzhou Bay. Seated on the Yangtze River Delta, Shanghai became a major trading port, attracting the investment of European nations that would greatly shape and transform Shanghai’s culture, landscape, and status into one of the world’s most cosmopolitan financial centers.

The city is bisected by the Huangpu River (黄浦江) into two parts, Puxi, the historic city center lying west of the river, and Pudong, the new area of development to the east.

Leaving my journey around North America to live in Shanghai for six weeks was both unexpected and unplanned. When I booked my tickets on New Year’s Eve, I thought I would just stay in Shanghai for two weeks–a short detour from my main trip around the US. I had planned to fly back to New Orleans after two weeks to continue traveling across to the east coast for another two to three months.

After arriving in Shanghai, however, I decided to extend my stay to six weeks, putting the rest of my trip around eastern North America on indefinite hold. This was my first trip to China and I had no idea when I’d be back next. It’s been a whirlwind of activities: I stayed through the firework frenzy of Chinese New Years, traveled on high speed rail to the cities of Suzhou and Hangzhou, ate my fill of Chinese street food, but still feel, despite my six week sojourn, that I’ve barely scratched the surface of Shanghai. Now that I’m back in the States, it feels as if I only stayed a week in China’s most international and futuristic city.

I lived in Pudong on the east bank in a quiet area mostly inhabited by families and the elderly. To my delight, the neighborhood was incredibly walkable, surrounded by numerous shops and restaurants. The neighborhood wet market was across the street and bakeries and restaurants were lined up and down the block one street over. There were an abundance of parks, tree-lined streets, separated bike lanes; the metro station was only a 15-minute walk away (5 minutes by bicycle). The convenience and affordability of the location was unbeatable. Though Shanghai is similar in density and walkability to western cities such as New York City, San Francisco, Tokyo, and Toronto, Shanghai is the much more affordable option.

I took care of a couple plants in Shanghai.

My wheels in Shanghai:

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