In 2014 travel industry analysts invented a word for the urban dictionary – Bleisure. It was reported then that the world of travel was seeing a trend on the horizon of business travellers doing the unthinkable, mixing business with leisure and thereby committing to bleisure. Business travel is now seen more of an incentive to employees where they can extend a day or even few hours before their departure. What is the fun of travelling the world on business if you cannot enjoy the culture and vibe of the destinations ? I have had the opportunity to bleisure too and given that there is very little time on our hands it’s important to optimise every minute to our advantage. Most of us travel on business to most prominent cities in the world and each one of them has a cultural side to its existence that you can soak in a day. Shanghai is one such vibrant city of the East. I had only a day and an evening to explore this beautiful city during my bleisure trip and here is how you can make the most of your 24 hours in Shanghai. Shanghai is divided into two very distinct boroughs – Pudong, the futuristic, fashionable, fast lane and glamourous sister of Puxi – the vintage, charming and warm of the two. They are divided by a meandering muddy Huangpu river that is framed by an embankment.
The Bund & Pearl Tower
The embankment along the Huangpu river on Pudong side has the best hotels, restaurants and luxury stores waiting for you to plunge in retail therapy. It is where people gather for stroll or morning walks or just hang around by the riverside chatting up. If you wish to get a vibe of Shanghai this is the spot to blend in with the city’s tourists and locals alike. The Bund is an electric sight to view from the river or Puxi during the evening when all the glitz and glamour of Pudong shines through. Standing tall amidst the many gigantic buildings is the purple light Pearl Tower – the iconic identity of Shanghai’s skyline. Take a tour of the tower and marvel at the view it offers. Take the obligatory city scape photograph while at the Tower.
Yu Gardens & Markets
Probably my favourite place in Shanghai’s old district of Puxi, this 500-year-old Garden home was built during the Ming dynasty by Pans Yuduan for his parents to retire. It took almost quarter of a century to be built and by the time it was completed elderly couple had passed away. The rich owner suffered many financial crisis owing to this expensive project, however today it is a sanctuary for a quiet leisurely time during the morning or afternoon strolling through the many alcoves and ponds. The design and architecture of the garden estate home has lush curtains drooping down with fragrant plants and chirping birds over it. The winding pathways along the large waterbody connects the main house and the surrounding halls decorated with centuries-old furniture, artefacts and dragon walls. The charm of pavilions over the ponds (that had the largest school of carps I had seen) and surrounded by rockeries tempted me to stay a bit longer but since I had a day at my disposal I had to carry on from my lovely time at the gardens. The premise has a thriving market scene with many eateries and popular restaurants. It gets very busy during weekends and it’s best to cover it during the morning when the tourists are just trickling in.
Tea House & Museums
Huxin Pavilion at the Yuyuan Garden is a good stopover for some Chinese traditional tea experience and across the street near the garden premise are many tea shops and museum where had a quick class in the art of tea drinking in China. There were so many different types of teas available and each had a medicinal benefit. I had a good shopping experience and bought myself some loose oolong tea, some chopsticks and tea crockery and trinkets. Tea drinking is serious business in China and you must take this opportunity to learn and understand this aspect of their culture.
After going around the city’s old and quaint neighbourhoods of Qibao, I stopped over at this extremely plush and fashion-forward neighbourhood – French Concession. This is a cluster of artsy neighbourhoods with low-rise houses, villas, paved paths and leafy surroundings across the streets. The best boutiques, couture labels and stores are lined up in this part of Puxi. Xintiandi in the French Concession is where you will have a great shopping experience or just look around this historic and vintage design corner. There are many dining spots and al fresco cafes in this part of the neighbourhood if you are looking for a stopover.
Huangpu River Cruise
I boarded the Huangpu River Cruise after my tour and it was worth the wait to conclude the tour. The sauntering pace of the cruise along the river gives you enough time to take in all the sights of the city. The architecture on either bank are stark in their differences and reminds you loosely of the Brooklyn-Manhattan relationship. While on the cruise the city compels you to think about how this agricultural piece of land in a tiny village of China transformed into the world’s most popular cities within two decades .
Shanghai is a bustling international city which also translates to great foodie experience and how could the foodie in me just sit back and not indulge in the temptation that the city had to offer? While at the Yuyuan Gardens apart from the tea houses you will come across the most famous dumpling restaurant of the city – Nanxiang Steamed Bun Restaurant. Beware there is a long queue to get in and it’s always buzzing with locals and tourists for the best steamed bun experience.
The Pearl Tower’s revolving restaurant – Oriental Pearl Xuan Zhuang is another star attraction to conclude your evening with a sparkling view of the city’s electric nightlife. Flair Bar at The Ritz-Carlton Hotel is a rooftop bar and restaurant with the best possible views of the Pearl tower and city skyline not to mention the riverside. Mint in Puxi and Dublin Exchange in Pudong are some of the nightlife spots to unwind the day’s tour before heading for dinner. Shang-Xi is one of the top favourites for an authentic dinner.
Hotels to stay