Shanghai, situated on the banks of the Yangtze River Delta, is China's largest city. The city is one of the most important cultural, commercial, financial, industrial and communications centers of China. Because there were so many Concessions to western powers during the turn of the 20th century, at times the city has the feel of Paris or Montreal, while Tudor style buildings give a German flair, and the 1930s buildings put you in New York or Chicago.

Originally a sleepy fishing town, Shanghai became China's most important city by the start of the 20th century and was the center of popular culture, vice, intellectual discourse and political intrigue in Republican China. Shanghai once became the third largest financial centre in the world ranking after New York and London until its decline after the communist take-over in 1949. Now it is regaining its former status and is one of the fastest growing cities in the world. Because of Shanghai's status as the cultural and economic center of East Asia for the first half of the twentieth century, it is popularly seen as the birthplace of everything considered modern in China.

Shanghai architecture

The museum of urban planning in Shanghai

The Shanghai Museum of Urban Planning, despite the boring sounding name was actually one of the most interesting museums I have ever visited. It tells the story of Shanghai from its days as a fishing village to the current day. The highlight is a scale model of the whole of Shanghai as it will look in 2020 (with buildings not yet built in clear plastic). Its an amazing sight!

The 'tomorrows square' skyscraper Shanghai

Seen from Renmin Square (People's Square) this is the 'Tomorrow Square' skyscraper. Within the pointed apex is a giant sphere. This is just one example of the incredible modern architecture in Shanghai. The skyline is packed with beautiful buildings of every colour and description. If you are a fan of skyscrapers then Shanghai is the place for you!

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Pudong & the oriental pearl

The oriental pearl and Pudong

The tallest structure in China is the distinctive Oriental Pearl Tower. The distinctive design has been described as looking like a hypodermic needle with Christmas baubles. By day it the spheres are pink and gold, and by night they light up with scrolling designs and bright lights.

The pudong skyline in the light of dawn - photo by Clare Dillon

Clare took this beautiful shot of the Pudong skyline at dawn, from the window of our hotel room. The distinctive buildings of the space age Pudong skyline are an impressive sight at any time of day.

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Shanghai by night

The jinmao tower

The Jin Mao tower located near the Oriental Pearl is mainland China's tallest skyscraper, and ranks fifth in the world. The shape of the building is modeled on the tiered pagoda but also reminded me a lot of the Empire State Building. It is an amazing architectural feat, 421m high and capable of withstanding the strongest level of typhoon and earthquakes up to 6 on the Richter scale.

The fabulous view from the Cloud 9 bar - 88 floors above downtown Shanghai

On the 87th floor of the Jin Mao Tower, just below the observation deck (which is a massive 340m up!) is the Cloud 9 Cafe. An ultra sophisticated bar serving mouth watering tapas and incredible cocktails it was the top find of our trip. The minimum order charge was less than the cost of a trip up the neighboring Oriental Pearl tower and far better to see the stunning night time view with a cocktail in one hand and a camera in the other! If you ever go to Shanghai this is my top tip!

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Just for fun

A little peek into the lighter side of life within the Heriot-Watt Waves & Fields group.

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