Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Seeing Shanghai

If I were to start my time in Shanghai all over again, I would have taken a tour of the city the first month I lived here.  If you are new, bus tours are an affordable way to get your bearings.  If you are a veteran, they help you see the city with fresh eyes.

After we moved to our new apartment last summer, I noticed there were many tour busses that cruised my neighborhood.  One year later, I decided to hop on and explore!

The two tour busses that cruise my hood are the China Spring Tour bus company and the Big Bus Company.

If you are low on cash, and want to see the city, then perhaps the China Spring Tour Bus is for you.  For 50 RMB, you can get a 48-hour bus pass around the city.  Some of the busses are equipped with headphone jacks that broadcast a tour in Chinese, English, Japanese, Korean, French, Spanish, and German.   Keep in mind that the same folks who bring us Spring Airlines run this tour, so if you are looking for an individualized tour, this may not be the tour for you. 

For the most part, the double decker busses were quite comfy.
Tourists can plug in their complementary headphones and listen to the tour. 

While the tour had some fun facts, the soundtrack would keep jumping around so we never got the full story on all of the stops.  Also, if the narration stopped, Kenny G would blare through the earphones.  I found that not all of the busses had narrated tours. 
The ticket allowed us to hop on and off whenever we wanted, however sometimes it took us upwards of 45 minutes to catch a connecting bus.  This tour is best for those with flexible schedules. 
Despite the minor annoyances, the tour was a great way to cruise around town.
If you are willing to spring a little more cash, I would recommend taking Big Bus Tours.  For 100 RMB, you can get a 48-hour hop on hop off ticket around the city.  Like Spring Bus Tours, they have headphone jacks that broadcast tours in a variety of languages.  Unlike Spring Bus Tours, their audio commentary was continuous and extremely informative.  While they have fewer routes than Spring, they do stop at many of the same sites. 

We had a lot of fun on our Big Bus tour.
We traveled during the week when the busses were much less crowded.
The upper deck allowed us to take shots we normally wouldn't have captured on a traditional tour.
Sit in the front seat on the top of the bus for the best views.

Fortunately, the Big Bus tour had interesting, uninterrupted narration during the tour.  It was also significantly easier to transfer bus lines.  Our longest wait for a connecting bus was 20 min.
If you are more of a thrill seeker, and have a little money to burn, I HIGHLY recommend seeing Shanghai by sidecar.

My favorite tour of  Shanghai was a sidecar tour of the French Concession with Shanghai Insiders.  For 1500 RMB+, tourists are whisked around the city in the sidecar of a 1931 BMW motorcycle. 

Before the ride, tourists complete a brief questionnaire.  The tour guide creates an itinerary based on the responses.

My tour guide Tomas picked me up at the Andaz Hotel, and whisked me around the French Concession and Old Town for two hours.
At first I was a little nervous riding so close to the ground.  By the end of the tour, I didn't want to get out of the side car. 
For a little extra, travelers can rent go pro cameras, purchase champagne, have special magnets made for the outside of the sidecar, and purchase insurance.  I decided to splurge for the Tattinger which I drank in a quiet courtyard outside a tiny art gallery.  I enjoyed sipping and looking at the paintings! 
I really enjoyed cruising around town!
I indicated that I enjoyed art museums and photography, so Tomas took me to a little art gallery hidden in the French Concession.  We also stopped at the Music Conservatory, and a little inn tucked away on Fenyang Lu.  We finished the tour with a ride around Old Town.

When we were finished, Tomas dropped me off at my apartment. While the bike tour was a little pricey, it was well worth the money.  Happy exploring!

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