My first trip to Shanghai was on a short solo sales jaunt 14 years ago, when I was much younger and very single. Since then I’ve been back numerous times for work and personal reasons, but this past weekend was the first time I went down with one of my kids in tow.
Last Thursday afternoon we took the high speed rail out Beijing South Station. We booked "second-class" seat tickets via CTrip for RMB 553 each (our 16-month-old baby rode for free). The train departed at 3pm and we rolled into Shanghai just a little after 8pm – it was a smooth and relatively comfortable ride overall – our son spent equal parts of the trip on our laps, on the floor between our seat and the seats to our front, crawling on the table in the diner car, grabbing at the hair of the unfortunate passenger seated in the row in front of us, pounding on the window, and asleep.
The next day the plan was for us to meet a family friend in the morning and then for father and son to tour around Shanghai while mom attended an event in Pudong for work. I’d done Shanghai as a tourist several times before, but I was glad to have this chance to have some solo time with my son and to give him some out-of-town sensory stimulation.
Our first stop was The Bund – a quick 15 minute cab ride away from our hotel in central Puxi. We arrived around 10:30am. It was already smotheringly hot and both my son and I were sweating buckets after just a few minutes and a couple of requisite photos taken from the waterside promenade.
At this point I was debating if my baby could actually stick it out in Shanghai’s late summer/early Autumn heat, but I figured we could pull it off as long as stuck in the shade and took plenty of AC and water breaks.
Using the essential Baidu Map app on my iPhone, my plan was to slowly make our way back to the hotel on foot (and pram) via the pedestrians-only walkway along Nanjing Donglu (南京东路). Running from The Bund through the heart of Puxi, this historic strip is similar to Wangfujing here in Beijing – ideal for window shopping and perfect for parents with prams as no cars are allowed on the main walkway (although you do have to make way for the many trolleys that run up and down the street and cross several intersections).
The walk through the pedestrian takes about half an hour in total, with plenty of stores and eateries to duck in for some shopping, refreshments and air conditioning along the way.
After finishing our stroll through Nanjing Donglu we crossed Xizang Zhonglu (西藏中路) to reach People’s Square (人民广场） and People’s Park (民族公园）. Since it was almost noon and my son was still sweating buckets I chose to skip the Square this time around and head straight for the shady trees of the park.
Like New York’s Central Park, People’s Park lies in the heart of Shanghai and offers a serene and lush retreat from the surrounding hustle and bustle. Best of all, it was nearly deserted this time around and I spent a good part of an hour slowly strolling through the park and hanging out by the lily ponds while my son took his usual late morning nap in the stroller.
After leaving the park it was time for a break – we stopped into Wagas (a great cafe with multiple branches in Shanghai and one location in Taikoo Li in Beijing) where I was able to feed my son his late morning formula while I sipped on an iced pomegranate and apple tea and an espresso.
We then made our way up Nanjing Xilu where I stopped into Marks and Spencer and Uniqlo’s China flagship store to look around for fall clothes for myself and the kids. By the time we were finished it was time to head back to the hotel for lunch – a quick fix at the original branch of Element Fresh in the Shanghai Centre across the street from our hotel – and my son’s afternoon nap.
Unfortunately my plan to take my son for a late afternoon stroll in the French Concession were literally washed out due to the flash thunderstorms that hit Shanghai later that afternoon – traffic and even the subway were completely paralyzed as a result, which also ruined our dinner plans with my wife that evening (she was supposed to meet us back at the hotel at 6pm but was not able to get a ride out of Pudong until 11:30pm). We’ll have to save that leg of the trip for next time – all the more reason to head back down.