Video: A Time-Lapse Tour Of Shanghai

Rob Whitworth’s time-lapses are always a cut above. His unique tracking and morphing shots draw you into a city’s routine and accurately sketch its character. His panning and zooming give the sensation of flying around a city and dropping in on its denizens for a look around at ground level before taking to the air again.

He’s applied his time-lapse talent to other Asian cities before, notably Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and Hoi An, Vietnam, but this is his first video from China. Shanghai makes for a particularly apropos canvas. Its rapid development in the past few decades has draped a curtain of skyscrapers and high-rise apartment towers on a frame of traditional longtang alleys and lanes.

A cursory look at Shanghai would show the snarled motorways and brightly lit commercial towers of Pudong. However, Whitworth takes care to contrast the city’s frenetic development with its more human character: a flower vendor navigating traffic, her cart piled high with bouquets and potted plants; Shanghainese preparing and munching on the city’s famous dumplings; and even a brief flyby of the city’s fledgling Moganshan art district.

International Budget Guide 2013: Shanghai, China

Asia has long been the budget traveler’s playground, and the good news is that despite its rapid modernization, Shanghai continues to offer tremendous value for the money.

As most cities around the world put the brakes on new developments because of economic woes, Shanghai is bucking the trend by building and growing at a dizzying pace. Blink and another skyscraper has shot up, or a new museum has opened, or another mega-mall has taken shape.

Those traveling to the Chinese city this year can take advantage of two huge state-run art galleries, which have just opened their doors (free to the public) on the former World Expo grounds. In fact, the whole site is currently being transformed into a mixed-use district with shops, hotels and elevated gardens designed to draw crowds. Other updated draw cards include the Shanghai First Food Store, which is an entire mall dedicated to – you guessed it – food. The store has just reopened after a major renovation and sells snacks, candy and all the unusual dried meat one could possibly want. Visitors to the city can also bear witness to the rise of the burgeoning Shanghai Tower, which will be the second tallest building in the world when it’s complete.

For budget travelers who want to visit Shanghai, now is the time. While China at large offers excellent value, their booming economy means that costs will be rising fast. A thriving middle class with more disposable income on their hands is slowly pushing costs up. What’s more, the government has been reviewing admission prices for major tourist sites and is getting ready to raise entrance fees – in some cases, ticket prices will more than double.


Visit the China Art Palace and the Power Station of Art. The site of the 2010 Shanghai Expo has been undergoing a makeover, with some of the pavilions transforming into museums. One of two huge state-run art galleries that opened at the end of last year is the China Art Palace, which was built in the striking, lacquered shell of the China Pavilion building. The massive gallery houses works by famous Chinese artists as well as a number of international exhibitions. Entry is free.

Another Expo building – which was originally a thermal power plant constructed more than 100 years ago – has been transformed into the Power Station of Art. The gallery is the first state-run contemporary art museum in China and so far, exhibitions have included the Shanghai Biennale and a collection of surrealist works. An Andy Warhol showcase is also planned for this year. Museum entry is free, except for special exhibitions.

Get a foot massage. Visiting a massage parlor is as much of a routine in the Chinese lifestyle as visiting a restaurant. Groups of friends and even colleagues will head to a parlor for a joint session of foot rubs accompanied by free snacks and entertainment, including music and DVDs. Despite their popularity, travelers are often hesitant to try out the ultra-cheap locales for fear they’ll be disreputable or less than sanitary. Thankfully, a new breed of bright, clean venues – including the Taipan Foot Massage & Spa – have sprung up all over the city, offering the same indulgent massages in a serene and safe atmosphere. It’s heaven for sore feet after a long day of sightseeing. Services start at around $10 and go up to $30 for a 90-minute foot, leg, and shoulder massage including free food and drink. 370 Dagu Road, Jingan District.

Indulge in street food. A trip to Shanghai wouldn’t be complete without a taste test of some of the many culinary delights on offer throughout the city’s streets. Treats to try include man tou (steamed buns filled with meat or vegetables), cong you bing (pancake with shallots), ci fan (a ball of rice stuffed with fried bread, vegetables, or meat), and egg tarts (a popular local desert with a custardy flavor). Street food ranges in price from 1-6 yuan (16 cents – $1) per serving. Try out Wujiang Road, South Yunnan Road, or Huanghe Road near People’s Square for some of the best spots.

Take a cruise on the Bund. Shanghai’s skyline is developing at a phenomenal pace with new skyscrapers shooting up every year, particularly in the Pudong district. These architecturally unusual buildings are best viewed when they are lit up at night, leading most travelers to head for a rooftop bar to scope out the view. However, the cost of drinks at a typical sky deck can quickly add up, so a much more budget friendly way to take in the skyline is to go on a cruise. Boats run along the Huang Pu River and The Bund – the waterway that runs through the city – giving passengers an excellent vantage point to take in all the new developments. The cruises are a great value at around $6, with tickets available from the booths at the southern end of the Bund promenade.


Captain Hostel. If you want bang for your buck in an excellent location, it’s hard to look past this hostel located straight across the street from the Bund. The well-situated building is within easy walking distance of the shops on Nanjing Road and offers good access to the metro. The hostel itself is ship themed, with portholes galore in the cabin-like dorms. But more importantly, it’s clean, air conditioned and offers guests free Wi-Fi. There’s also a rooftop bar with dramatic city views. From 60 yuan ($10) for a dorm bed. 37 Fuzhou Lu.

Shanghai City Central Youth Hostel (Utels). Located about 4 miles from the city center, this hostel is somewhat away from the action, however the nearby metro station means there’s still easy access to all the sights. Guests can choose from a range of room types including doubles, singles and dorms. The hostel also boasts a bar with a pool table, games, and budget-friendly drinks. Rates include free breakfast and Wi-Fi. From 50 yuan ($8) for a dorm bed. 300 Wuning Rd, Putuo District.

Jin Jiang Inn (Shanghai East Huaihai Road). Jin Jiang is the largest hotel group in China with around 400 hotels across the major cities. The chain of hotels caters mostly to businessmen, but they’re great for travelers looking for a no-frills private room that’s clean and functional. This particular hotel is centrally located in Shanghai and has great access to the metro. From 300 yuan ($50) for a double. 293 Yunnan Nan Lu.


Hai Di Lao. This hot pot restaurant is part of a chain that goes to great lengths to entertain diners. A meal here usually entails quite a wait, but diners are treated to neck massages, manicures, snacks, and board games until their table is ready. Once seated, choose from a large selection of meats and vegetables to cook in your own pot of flavorful broth. Save some room for the gongfu mian, hand-pulled noodles that the chefs twirl dramatically right at your table. The restaurant is open 24 hours and has menus in Chinese and English. Food is priced per meat or vegetable selection, but a filling meal including alcohol will cost around $10-15. The restaurant has several locations, including 3/F, 1068 Beijing Lu near Jiangning Lu.

Di Shui Dong. Located in the French concession district, this restaurant dishes up Hunan style cuisine, a type of food best described as hot and spicy. The restaurant serves a huge variety of dishes including fried meats, seasoned vegetables and hot peppers, but it’s the flavorful ribs that locals and expats keep coming back for. Just be warned that some of the spicier dishes are eye-wateringly hot. The staff doesn’t speak much English but the menu is bilingual. Portions are large and around $10 a main. 2/F, 56 Maoming Nan Lu.

Tokyo Food Court. If you’re exploring the area near Xintiandi but don’t want to eat at one of the pricier restaurants in the entertainment district, this underground food court is a good budget option for dining. Located under the HSBC Bank and Cartier store, you’ll find a plethora of menu choices including sushi, pizza and pasta dishes. There’s also plenty of local cuisine, including noodle bowls and dumplings. For a Shanghai specialty, try the xiao long bao – dumplings with soup and meat in them. Bite a hole in one end of the pastry and slurp out the liquid before eating the rest of the dumpling. A main here will cost around 35 yuan ($5).

Getting Around

Shanghai is very walkable with many pedestrian streets and atmospheric neighborhoods, however the city’s size means that you will need some transport when covering larger distances.

The metro system, which is comprised of 13 lines, is fast and surprisingly easy to navigate. The trains are air-conditioned and clean, and station announcements are made in English as well as Chinese. Fares depend on distance, but most tourist centers can be accessed for around 3-5 yuan (50-80 cents). You can purchase tickets from the vending machines in the stations, which display information in English.

Taxis are an affordable alternative, even for budget travelers. For example, a trip between Xintiandi (a popular shopping and entertainment district) and the Bund might cost around 20 yuan (a little over $3).

Shanghai has two airports. A taxi from downtown to Pudong Airport will set you back about 150 yuan (approx $25) while a trip to Hongqiao Airport will cost roughly 70 yuan ($11). Another option if you’re traveling to Pudong Airport is to take the Maglev, or high-speed train. Racing along at 268 mph, it’s one of the fastest trains in the world. Tickets start at 40 yuan for the whirlwind seven-minute ride.

When To Go

Shanghai can feel oppressively hot in the summer. Temperatures in the high 90s (F), soaring humidity levels and city pollution combine to leave you feeling like you’re being smothered under a blanket. Summer is also the peak tourist season, so hotel rates will be higher. However, Shanghai is pleasant to visit any other time of year. The coldest months tend to be January and February when overnight temps can hover just above freezing and daytime temperatures reach 45 F.


Shanghai is generally quite safe compared to other large cities, but given the massive crowds everywhere, it’s important to keep an eye on your belongings. You should also be careful when crossing the street, as cars won’t always yield to pedestrians – even at crossings with walk signs.

The biggest threat to travelers involves being caught up in a scam. Watch out for so-called “students” inviting you to see their art shows before scamming you into purchasing expensive paintings. Also, don’t accept invitations to “tea ceremonies” – these involve elaborate drinking rituals at the end of which you’ll be stuck with a huge bill. As a general principle, it’s a good idea not to accept any kinds of solicitations on the streets as more often than not they involve some sort of scam.

[Photo credit: Mike Behnken]

Photo Of The Day: The Shanghai Tower Rises

Today’s Photo Of The Day comes from Lawrence Wang, who captured this astounding image of the Shanghai Tower currently under construction. After its completion, the Shanghai Tower will be the tallest building in China and second tallest building in the world, after the almighty Burj Khalifa. This image perfectly captures the chaotic landscape of Shanghai, dominated by glass, steel and concrete.

Pudong, the district of Shanghai that the tower resides in, is a central financial hub of China and has undergone an extraordinary amount of development in the past two decades. Going from nothing but grass and trees to having some of the tallest buildings in the world. It is nothing short of spectacular and indicative of the economic progress that China has seen in the modern age.

As always, if you have a great photo you’d like to share with us, upload them to our Gadling Flickr Pool and it may be selected as our Photo Of The Day.

[Photo credit: Lawrence Wang]

Sofitel Luxury Hotels hotel signs new Shanghai hotel

Shanghai is becoming quite the envy of hoteliers. Just this week, the Ritz-Carlton opened its second Shanghai property, The Ritz-Carlton Shanghai, Pudong, and earlier this year The Peninsula Shanghai opened its doors to China travelers. Both hotels come just in time for the flood of tourists descending on Shanghai for the World Expo 2010. Now comes word another luxury hotel group is hot on the heels of Shanghai hoteliers.

Sofitel Luxury Hotels announced it signed a new flagship hotel in Shanghai – Sofitel Shanghai Jing’an – which will open early 2011.

This will be the fourth Sofitel in Shanghai and will be located in the center of the city. The Sofitel Shanghai Jing’an will stand at the intersection of Beijing Road and Jiangning Road, steps away from the famous Nanjing Road and near the museums and the Shanghai convention center.

The future Sofitel Shanghai Jing’an will occupy 32 of the building’s 61 floors, offering 515 rooms, 82 of them suites, on levels 29 through 54. Guests will have the option of dining in the Lobby Lounge or one of two restaurant. The top level, on the 55th floor, will feature a bar with views of both the east and west of the city.

We want to know what you think: With all the luxury hotels opening in Shanghai, is Shanghai the new jewel of China?

Hotel Exclusive: The Ritz-Carlton Shanghai, Pudong

The fog settled heavily on this particular night in Shanghai. I was told the view from the 58th floor of the Ritz-Carlton Shanghai, Pudong was of The Bund, but the dense fog provided a different view. ‪I thought, this is what heaven must be like — surrounded by clouds, with just a saxophonist, a glass of red wine and a comfortable lounge chair.‬

Located across the Huangpu River and offering (on a clear night) spectacular views of the famous Bund, the hotel opens June 21 to the world. I got a sneak peak at the luxury digs, including a cocktail on the open terrace of the tallest rooftop bar in Shanghai.

I stepped into the soon-to-be-open second Ritz-Carlton in Shanghai and felt like I had crossed the threshold into another universe. Flanked on either side by luxury retailers including Giorgio Armani and Louis Vuitton, the hotel accentuates luxury in a modern Mandarin-style shell. While the exterior of the hotel looks like another Shanghai skyscraper, the interior is a feast for the senses.

Crystal chandeliers set against gold and black walls create the mood as you walk into the lobby. After the guest services member greets you at the lobby-floor level, you’ll head to the 52nd floor for check-in (the hotel occupies the top 14 floors of the building). But there’s something enchanting about the scene as you ascend. Soft lighting against the dark walls of the interior compel you to touch just about anything in your reach. The “old-world glamour” interior in the modern building is enchanting and enticing, and it doesn’t disappoint. With interior designs by Richard Farnell, the Ritz-Carlton Shanghai, Pudong, sets a new standard in hotel decor: sensory enlightenment. If you steal a feel of the walls on your way up, you’ll be surprised at the textures that set the mood – from marble to velvet, the hotel is sleek and sexy (and somehow makes its guests feel the same way).

I arrived on the 52nd floor and was lured into the bright reception area by the sultry sounds of the saxophonist playing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”. White marble walls offset by deep red sofas and a black marble check-in desk officially welcome guests to the hotel. On the reception level are two restaurants: the Lobby Lounge and an open-kitchen full-service Italian restaurant, designed by the famous Super Potato Group. Both restaurants offer stunning views of Shanghai, but guests would be remiss if they missed an opportunity to sit at the ‘bartender’s table’ – a section of the Lobby Lounge set behind the bar in close proximity to all the action.

The Rooms
The 258 guest rooms offer standard rooms and suites ranging in size from 538-square-feet to 4,413-square-feet. Each deluxe room comes with Club Lounge access on the 49th floor and the amenities you’d expect from a luxury hotel including:

  • LCD-TV and Blu-ray disc player
  • The Ritz-Carlton signature linens and featherbeds
  • Electronic room control touch panels for controlling lighting, air conditioning, curtains and music/alarm clock preferences
  • Walk-in closet
  • High speed wireless and wired Internet access
  • Computer and fax hook-ups and dataport
  • iPod docking stations
  • In-room safe
  • Fully stocked honor bar

If you were tempted to touch the textured surfaces on your way to the room, now’s your chance to indulge in a sensory treat. The multi-textured theme carries on to the rooms, with simple wood furniture accented by geometric print carpet, pillows and throws. Standing wood murals representing old Shanghai are positioned perfectly behind modern chairs or love seats. The pièce de résistance of each bedroom, however, is the bathroom.

%Gallery-94485%The Bathrooms

Each guest room bathroom features a designer copper bath tub built for two, set against a dark mirrored wall and hidden by a thin curtain. While you can grab a quick shower before a day of touring or business, the decadent tubs are worthy of at least one soak during your stay. Each bathroom features premium bath essentials and TV screens (so you can relax while catching up on the day’s events), a lighted makeup mirror, hair dryer and terry robes.

The Restaurants

In addition to the Lobby Lounge and Scena Italian restaurant on the 52nd floor, the hotel also offers Jin Xuan, Cantonese traditional cuisine on level 53. There’s also a cigar lounge, exclusive champagne library, walk-in wine cellar and outdoor seating with grill. On the 58th floor, guests can take in the mesmerizing views or cuddle up near the fire at Flair Rooftop Restaurant and Bar (read on for more on Flair).

The Spa

Located on the 55th floor, the hotel’s spa will offer 11 treatments, and includes a VIP and doubles suite. The treatments range from standard massages to centuries-old healing techniques and relaxation methods. Even if you don’t opt for a treatment, it’s worth taking advantage of the spa’s serenity.

Designed wall-to-wall in shell and marble, the interior of the spa is a world away from the guestrooms. The white and gold walls set a tranquil mood – the most inviting of which is the seashell-shaped shower, which is the perfect hideaway for anyone needing a few moments of peace. A 24-hour fitness studio is adjacent to the spa for those wanting a work-out.

The Thrill

The top floor of the hotel in the IFC Tower is Flair Rooftop Restaurant and Bar. Located on the 58th level, the outside terrace is unequivocally the grande dame of this 58-story prize. On the inside, a restaurant and lounge area dressed in dark lights is accentuated by a fireplace and wine bar. The smaller upper level offers seating and sofas for a more intimate setting, while the main floor is perfect for groups. Take two steps past the bar through the sliding glass doors and you’ll enter an entirely other world.

The outdoor terrace is poised to become, in my opinion, one of the best rooftop bars in the world. As you walk toward the bar you’re surrounded by tall trees and ivy lit through soft lighting set inside the pathway. The white and taupe sofas in wicker and bamboo provide an elegant touch to an outdoor affair. Electric candles provide the ambiance on a dark night and in the midst of the fog, which was the scene on the night I was there, there’s a certain mystery in the air. You can’t see out or over the terrace, but you know somewhere past the dense condensation that hovers there is an entire city buzzing around you.

I settled back into my chair and sipped my Merlot as I watched the fog move around the bar. Even with a slight fear of heights, I felt perfectly content on top of the world. Just as I came to grip with my senses and the reality of sitting in the clouds, the fog started to dissipate and the iconic Pearl Tower glowed in the distance. For a few seconds the city’s color and life showed through, and then, just as quickly, the fog reappeared – a sign, I suspected, that my journey in the clouds wasn’t quite over.

The Bottom Line

Simply put: the hotel will take your breath away. The Ritz-Carlton has spent the past few years redefining its brand to appeal to modern travelers who appreciate beauty and true comfort; the newest member of the family, The Ritz-Carlton Shanghai, Pudong, is a proud representation of Shanghai culture and modern luxuries. If you’re visiting Shanghai as a tourist, on business, or for the World Expo, this hotel isn’t to be missed.