Coming from a western city, mainland China appears very astonishing and surprising because of the huge cultural difference. However, after few days of conditioning you can appreciate the country and start an exceptional tour of history, especially in its two main cities: Shanghai and Beijing.
Shanghai, Chinese economic capital and most populated city, doesn’t have so much to offer in term of museums and cultural activities for a tour of China; its main interest is the highlight of the country’s evolution through the impressive expansion of the new district, Pudong. Modern buildings with stunning design, rise of most renowned western brands, huge luxury malls and plenty of five-star hotels, it perfectly embodies the Chinese awakening and the contrast with Puxi district – historical center – is quite seizing.
Don’t be afraid, History and tours lovers will be satisfied thanks to the several temples – especially Jing’An Temple and Jade Buddha Temple – with amazing statues and ancient ornaments, the typical neighborhoods such as the French Concession and its European-style villas or Yu Garden and its Chinese-ancestral buildings, the Bund with the view over Pudong’s skyline and of course some interesting museums, like the former residence of Mao Zhedong.
The overall mood of the city is nice and actually quite similar to large western cities such as New York – well, avoiding the pollution and the internet restrictions.. – even if green spaces are rare and the traffic jam REALLY crazy.
Historical and cultural capital of the country, Beijing is obviously THE place to stay – at least of couple of days – during a tour of China. Main monuments and world-renowned sceneries are truly impressive and worth the visit: Tian’anmen square, the great Forbidden City – where you can easily spend 1 full day inside – and the China Great Wall at Mutianyu of the 3 main places you must see before leaving. They will give you a new perspective of the country and its millenary culture.
On the other hand, Beijing is also extending its 21h century activities through perpetual constructs – with the CCTV “iceberg” Tower as symbol – trying to attract company headoffices in the region ; of course, Olympic Games in 2012 made a great improvement for the city visibility and still contributes to attract millions of tourists each year.
Compared to Shanghai, Beijing offers much more points of interest for tourists and green spaces. Luxury malls are still numerous and the road traffic quite intensive, but the city map is really different – based on right angle streets – so the overall seems more convenient for short trips.
Trip in May 2015