Shanghai, once a seaside fishing village, is located on the Huangpu River where it flows into the Yangtze River estuary. It has a multicultural population of around 20 million people.
In the 1930s, the world's greatest houses of finance and commerce were situated in Shanghai. It had Asia's tallest buildings and more motor vehicles than the rest of China put together. It became a place of exploitation and vice with countless opium dens, gambling joints and brothels. American, French and Italian marines, British soldiers and Japanese "bluejackets" did their best to keep things under control.
In 1949, the Communists began eradicating slums, rehabilitating hundreds of thousands of opium addicts and stamping out child and slave labour.
By the 1990s, the central government was in full swing, inviting capitalists to invest in, and reinvent, the metropolis. It worked! By the mid-1900s, more than half the world's high-rise cranes loomed over Shanghai, hurtling the city towards reclaiming its economic powerhouse status.
Today, market restrictions have been lifted and Shanghai has embraced the forces of business with verve, and is evolving into a sophisticated and exciting city. It is as cosmopolitan as any European city and offers art, contemporary urban living and fine dining.
Shanghai might not have the history of Beijing or the sights of Xi'an, but it is buzzing with a new underground rail system; super-efficient highways that criss-cross the city and keep everything moving; as well as the world's most modern stock exchange.
The new airport copes with growing international traffic: there are two new giant bridges and Pudong, a new city within the city of Shanghai.
The Bund is a popular tourist destination. Beautiful for strolls, it runs along the western bank of the Huangpu, facing Pudong. It has dozens of wonderfully elegant old buildings, which once housed the financial and trading building of Great Britain, France, the United States, Russia, Germany, Japan, The Netherlands and Belgium. Russia and Britain had their consulates there, nearby the Shanghai Club and the Masonic Club.
The old stone buildings are in excellent condition and are beautifully lit at night. It is beautiful to stand on the Bund, with its gorgeous architecture, and look across the river to a skyline as modern as tomorrow. The Pearl Tower is like something from out of space and brightly lit skyscrapers act as business houses and apartments. Early mornings see hundreds of locals enjoying tai chi it's also a popular place for kite flying.
Shopping defies description in Shanghai. You'll find everything from designer-label clothes (genuine and pirated); jewellery (particularly pearls); leather goods; sporting goods; soft silk pyjamas; musical instruments; the very latest electronics; interesting things for the home and a whole lot more. Fortunately, new luggage is also easy to find!
Nanjing Road offers almost six kilometres of shops. Comfortable shoes are the go, and at it pays to start your day with plenty of empty shopping bags they are bound to be filled before too long.
A ride on the Maglev train is an absolute must. It runs between Longyang in Pudong to the international airport. The track is 30 kilometres long and it takes just seven minutes and 20 seconds to complete the journey. Top speed is 431km/h and it reaches 350km/h in only two minutes it's exhilarating to fly alongside the airport freeway with traffic seeming to be travelling at snail's pace.
Wander off the beaten track to Old Chinatown. You will see tiny houses crammed together, old men playing Mah Jong, little shops and smartly dressed school children.
Eating is an adventure in Shanghai. There are the ubiquitous street vendors; every western fast food restaurant and coffee house imaginable; little holes in the wall serving mysterious morsels and some pretty impressive European restaurants.
Meilongzhen Restaurant was established in 1938 and is possibly Shanghai's most famous restaurant. The building served as the Communist Party headquarters in the 1930s, and the traditional Chinese dining rooms have intricate woodwork, mahogany and marble furniture.
The menu has more than 80 seafood options, and the cuisine has evolved over time from strictly regional fare such as Mandarin fish to dishes incorporating the spices, vinegars, and chillies of Sichuan cooking, such as Sichuan duck and Meilongzhen special chicken served in small ceramic pots.
Renaissance Shanghai Yuyuan Hotel is near the famous Yu Garden and Old Town, the French Concession and Xintiandi. It's also only minutes from the Bund and other attractions. The hotel's 340 rooms and suites have wonderful views of the city and skyline.
The hotel has a business centre, four event rooms and banquet halls, a Club Lounge on the 17th floor and two restaurants. The Quan Spa features a Wellness Zone, pool, gym, juice bar and relaxation area.