Astor House Hotel (aka Pujiang Hotel)
We started the day by exploring our home in Shanghai, the Astor House Hotel (Also known as the Pujiang Hotel). Dating back to 1846, it is one of the oldest hotels in Shanghai. It started life as the Richard’s Hotel and went through many transformations. Built in a colonial style, in its hey day Astor House hosted many celebrities visiting Shanghai.
Today, it is one of the preserved buildings on the Bund. It is somewhat dwarfed by surrounding skyscrapers, but it is still a very good location, and still carries much of the old school glamour.
The lobby and the hallways of the hotel are adorned with many historical items from the hotel. Rooms where celebrities have stayed in are marked with plaques. You can stay in one of these “Celebrity Rooms”, but these will cost you extra.
The peacock hall where breakfast is served is another superb room. In days past, this was a premier location in Shanghai for glamorous balls.
After exploring the hotel we headed to the Yu garden. It’s about half an hour walk from the hotel, but we decided to take a taxi, and the hotel arranged one easily for us. Rate cards for taxis are available from reception. The journey to Yu garden cost 20 Yuan (about £2.50), so not expensive at all.
The Yu Garden (also sometimes called the Yuyuan Garden) is an extensive Chinese garden in the middle of Shanghai. It was first built in the mid 1500s by Pan Yunduan, governor of Sichuan. The garden stayed in the family for several generations before passing into the ownership of the local public.
In its long existence, the garden survived many historical events, such as the First Opium War, Taiping Rebellion and World War II. The garden was opened to the public in 1961 and declared a national monument in 1982.
Entry to the garden is in the middle of the Shanghai bazaar near the nine bridge. It is well sign posted and not difficult to find, but you will have to weave through the shoppers in the bazaar. You need to buy tickets for entry which cost 40 Yuan per person.
It was a bright sunny day, and perfect for exploring this wonderful garden made of water, rocks and trees spreading over 5 acres. When you enter the garden, the hustle and bustle of the outside dies instantly.
Pick up a leaflet as you enter the garden. This will guide you through the garden and its numerous archways, pavilions and streams. Or ditch the maps and choose to get lost, either-way, you are sure to enjoy your time here.
The following are photos of a few of my favourite features.
The Dragon Wall: A high wall surrounding most of the garden, shielding it from the modern city outside. The top of the wall is shaped like a dragon and you can trace the wall from its head to tail.
400 year old Ginko tree: The garden is full of trees, but the most striking is this 400 year old Ginko tree.
Archways: Many archways located around the garden, and they are all shaped like flowerpots, leaves, or trees.
Jade Rock: This is one of the main attractions in the garden. It is a naturally forming, very large jade rock.
Sun bathing tortoises: The photo below says it all, I think.
Pavilions: There are many pavilions dotted around the garden. They are meant to be used for meetings, as a study, or simply to sit and admire the rockeries and the water. My favourite was this stone boat pavilion – a wooden pavilion shaped like a boat, both inside and outside.
Theatre: There is a small theatre that is a smaller version of the three tier theatre we saw at the Summer Palace in Beijing. Most people seem to miss this part as it is tucked away in the corner near the garden exit.
Tips for Visiting Yu Garden
- Allow 3 to 4 hours for your visit
- Take your time, follow the map or choose to wander around and get lost in the garden.
- Don’t forget the last part of the garden, with the extended rockery and the Chinese Opera Theatre near the exit.
- There is no food or water to be purchased inside, so bring some snacks and water.
After the Yu garden, we walked around the surrounding bazaar. There were many souvenir shops, and good bargains to be had, but you have to haggle really hard.
Afterwards, we walked back to the hotel via the Bund. The daylight view of the Bund was impressive, but not nearly as much as the night-time view.
We also saw many wedding couples taking photos by the Bund.
Shanghai Acrobatics Show
In the evening, we went to a performance by the Shanghai Acrobatics troupe at the Shanghai Centre theatre.
Vast majority of the audience were tourists, just like us. The theatre was only about half full for the performance.
The show was about 2 hours long and consisted of dozen or so acts, a mix of traditional acrobatics, contemporary dance and magic. Some of the acts were truly phenomenal, but overall I found the show to be a tad underwhelming. Don’t get me wrong, I thought it was well worth the cost of the £30 ticket, and a nice way to spend an evening, but if I had to give something a miss, this would be it.
Reflections: After spending most of the previous day sitting still, it was great to walk around Shanghai and the Yu Garden. The Yu garden was impressive and relaxing at the same time, and the Acrobatics show was a great way to spend an evening.