It was our last day in China and we were approaching the end of our express trip across Beijing (Days 1, 2, 3), Xian (Days 4 and 5) and Shanghai (Day 6). We left the Astor House hotel late morning, after checking out. We were catching a late flight out of Shanghai, so we left our luggage at the Astor House Hotel, and booked a taxi to take us to the airport later in the evening.
We went to explore Nanjing Road East, the first shopping street in Shanghai, dating back to 1845.
Today, it is a shopping mecca, with everything ranging from Apple and Gap to everyday groceries. I particularly enjoyed visiting the tea counter in several shops. selecting numerous samples of tea to take home.
We next headed to the Oriental Pearl TV tower, in Pudong, on the other side of the Huangpu river. It is easy to get there using the underground metro; the tower is at Luiju station on the No. 2 underground line, one stop from East Nanjing underground station. The underground system is similar to those of Xian and Beijing, with security checks at entrances and self-service ticket machines. The only bit of complication was that my ticket would not work at the exit gate; but a quick stop at the manned ticket booth, the staff were able to sort it all out.
You can also cross the river using the ferry service departing from the bund, or there is the bund sight-seeing tunnel that goes under the river. But both these options are more expensive and slower compared to the underground.
We spent a bit of time walking around the river bank in Pudong. From here, you can see the Puxi skyline, with all its colonial buildings. Compared to the previous day, it was cloudy and misty, so visibility was not at its best.
Oriental Pearl TV Tower
We next headed to the Oriental Pearl TV tower. The tower is 468 meters tall and is the the 4th highest tower in Asia and the 6th highest tower in the World. The main features of the tower are 3 spheres (known as the bottom ball, upper ball and the space capsule), 3 gigantic columns holding the spheres. The bottom ball is at a height of 90m above ground, the upper ball is 263m above ground and the space capsule is 350m above ground. There is also a museum at it’s basement.
You have a choice of 3 tickets for the Pearl TV tower. A ticket covering entry to all three spheres, plus the Museum costs 220 Yuan. A ticket covering the bottom ball and the upper ball and the museum costs 160 Yuan and visiting the museum only costs 35 Yuan. We had been told that the tallest and the smallest sphere did not offer much in the way of sight-seeing, so we decided to go for the second option and buy the 160 Yuan ticket.
Entrance to the tower is at the ground level. The facility is designed to take you from the ground floor straight to the top. Then you start at the top, and work your way down to the basement, visit the museum and exit (you guessed it) via the gift shops.
We visited on a Friday afternoon in November, and there was only a 10 minute queue for entry, but you could tell that it would get very busy during peak periods.
There are several lifts available to take you to the top, and it is pot luck which one you get. We were lucky to get the glass lift, which we were told was one of the first wholly glass lifts in the World. This lift takes you half-way up, where you have to disembark and queue up for the next lift to the upper ball.
Views from the upper call are spectacular. You can walk around and get a full 360 degree view of Shanghai, including Puxi, Pudong and the Huangpau river. I took many photos, and below are a few of my favourites.
The upper ball also have a lower level, where there is an outside glass corridor. You can walk on the glass floor here, but it is not for the faint hearted!
We got on to the upper ball about 3 pm in the afternoon, and spent a couple of hours there. One hour is ample for this sphere, but as it was getting close to dusk, we wanted to stay on to see the city lights. This turned out to be a great decision as the night time view of the city was more amazing than the day time. Again, a few of my favourite photos below.
We then headed down to the bottom ball at 90 meters above ground. On this level there an arcade games complex and a cinema, but entry to these cost extra.
There is also an outside walkway (which is free) and you can get much closer look at some of the buildings from here.
Exit from this level is via a 4-D show on the future of Shanghai. You stand on a travelator taking you past a curved screen, that shows a feature of what Shanghai would look like in the future. To me, apart from the city views, this was the best bit of the tower visit.
Next we went to the ground floor and the museum. The museum tells you the story of the history of Shanghai, from the Ming dynasty to the present day.
The museum was very interesting and informative, but unfortunately we didn’t have a lot of time left for the museum as we had spent most of the time at the top, and we had to get back to the hotel to catch our taxi to the airport.
Tips for Visiting the Oriental Peal TV Tower
- Try to visit at dusk to capture both day time and night-time views of Shanghai. Failing this, my recommendation would be to visit the tower at night, at the cityscape is far more vibrant.
- If you have to kill time until it is close to the evening, visit the museum first. The ticket counter staff told us that we had to go to the top and work our way down. But as far as we could see, there is nothing stopping you visiting the museum first in the basement, then heading up to the first floor to take the elevator to the top. I wish we had done this, as it would have meant that we didn’t have to rush the museum at the end.
- Don’t miss the bottom ball. Once you are on your way down, it is possible to go straight from the upper ball to the basement, missing the bottom ball, and we saw many people doing this. But the bottom ball is worth stopping by for the outside walkway and the 4-D feature.
We reversed our journey in the morning to get back to the hotel, and was in East Nanjing road within half an hour. The hotel had booked the taxi for us to the airport. Our ride to the airport from the hotel was smooth and uneventful and costed us 250 RMB.
My flight was late at night, and as I sat in the departure lounge, I noted a few last tips for navigating your way across the Shanghai Pudong airport:
- At the airport, you need to go through check in as per usual and then through China exit immigration. Remember to fill in your exit form before queuing. I saw so many people queuing without filling in the form only to be sent back once they got to the immigration officer.
- Airport shops are not 24 hours. The last ones close by about 11 p.m. So if you are catching a late flight out, don’t rely on the airport shops for last-minute souvenirs.
- Finally, be weary of people offering to help you navigate the airport and pretending to work there. Shanghai Pudong airport it is no different to any other airport and can be navigated with the same ease. Official information points are also available and are clearly marked.
Reflections: Today was the last day of our express trip across China. It has been only seven days, but we had seen and done so much, that it felt a lot longer. As I left, I knew one thing for sure. We had only scratch the surface this amazing country with this trip and I could not wait to be back.
Tune in next week for my next post about organising a first time visit to China.