By KERRY TINGA
A young girl in braids sits on a stone bench on the edge of an ancient waterway. Travelers have sailed on these canals for thousands of years under the shade of old willow trees. The river is marked by classic arch stone bridges that create a perfect circle with their reflection in the water. She wears a traditional hanfu in baby blue, while on her feet are mint green high-top Converse.
To many travelers, the curiosity of modern China is its blend of the traditional, mystical beauty of the Far East and its swift adaptation to Western sensibilities in the 21st century. Yet in Shanghai, we find centuries-old cosmopolitan unlike any other—a flourishing global city before there even was such a term. Between all the hot pots is a melting pot of world cultures with Chinese characteristics.
With Cebu Pacific, the magical city of Shanghai, less than four hours away from Manila, is the setting for a unique escape that is neither quite East nor West, but a world of its own making. The perfect blend of modern comforts and monumental sights from a rich and varied history, it offers something for everyone.
The young girl watches row boats, along the canals of the ancient water town of Zhujiajiao, bring travelers from the dock toward the Yuanjin Temple. Stone paths and bridges leading back to the entrance of this picturesque village are filled with vendors offering tempting local delicacies and treats. Beautifully preserved, it is a step back in time and space to an old world China of emperors, dynasties, and a quiet agricultural Shanghai.
Traveling east, toward the center of the city, Shanghai’s colorful history begins to unfold.
By the Ming dynasty, the Old City of Shanghai was formerly defined and quickly flourished. An extensive classical Chinese garden expanse, Yuyuan Garden, maintains that majestic harmony between man and nature in the heart of the metropolis. Over four centuries old, the beautifully landscaped Suzhou-styled garden is neighbored by a lively bazaar filled with local and international snacks and finds for an engaging afternoon.
The shikumen houses of Tianzifang, in the French Concession of the Old City, are inspired by the terrace houses of Europe, with an infusion of traditional Chinese elements for a beautiful and unique architectural style. The shikumen history is intertwined with Shanghai’s, originally built to meet the rise of provincial migrants attracted to the opportunities of the vibrant city. They continue to reflect contemporary Shanghai as today’s Tianzifang, and the nearby Xintiandi, are a renovated labyrinth of lilong alleys filled with curio shops, delicious restaurants, and hip bars that could easily fill a traveler’s day.
The Bund on Zhongshan Road gives a glimpse of the old, colonial world of Shanghai, a flourishing meeting point between the East and the West. Impressive European style buildings of the early 20th century are sprinkled throughout the International Settlements and Concessions of Huangpu District.
Its glass floor observation corridor sits more than 250 meters above ground. Finding myself back in the clouds not long after my Cebu Pacific flight, I was half struck with fear, half with amazement by the vantage point it offers. Across me was The Bund and the impressive classical style buildings, below me I could see the bustling roads of Pudong.
As night falls, the Huangpu River is framed by the dramatically lit façades of Shanghai’s most remarkable buildings—skyscrapers to one side, the colonial world to the other. An evening river cruise is the perfect way to take it all in—an idyllic and romantic night for solo travelers, groups of families and friends, as well as lovers, both young and old, falling in love with this city.
This breathtaking experience can easily be yours with Cebu Pacific’s direct flights to Shanghai—a city of many intertwining cultures and influences throughout its long history that is still being written, with new places to explore and experiences to encounter with every visit.
WHAT TO EAT AND DRINK: (1) The city is filled with delicious hotpots, including the extremely popular, Hai Di Lao, known for its service-oriented experience, including a “noodle ribbon dance” for entertainment; (2) The home of xiao long bao, authentic steamed soup dumplings can be found along most streets; and (3) The Lelecha creamy, cheese tea craze does not seem to be going away with rich, fresh, fruity flavors like strawberry and mango.
WHERE TO GO WITH THE FAMILY: (1) “The ERA Intersection of Time” show is not a circus in the traditional sense, but a breathtaking spectacle that blends the ancient art of Chinese acrobatics, once performed in imperial courts, and modern technology; (2) Shanghai Disneyland is for the whole family, with rides and a retail experience to fill an entire day with fun; and (3) themed restaurants like the Coca-Cola buffet at the Oriental Pearl Tower, the Hello Kitty Hotpot, and the Gudetama Restaurant, are delicious and entertaining for the young and young-at-heart.
Cebu Pacific offers daily flights between Manila-Shanghai, with the lowest year-round base fares starting at P5,888. The Cebu-Shanghai route, which was launched last April 16 has flights six times a week, from Mondays to Saturdays. Cebu Pacific also began Manila-Shenzhen operations last July 1. This is Cebu Pacific’s fifth destination in China. www.cebupacificair.com | Instagram: @cebupacificair