Cruising the Huangpu River is a great way to absorb Shanghai’s signature heritage and contemporary sites. // © 2014 Thinkstock/ Liufuyu
Shanghai’s Huangpu River splices China’s most globalized city in half. On the west side is the grand row of heritage mansions known as the Bund and, on the opposite bank, is the futuristic skyline of Pudong. Cruising the river, especially on balmy summer nights, is a great way to absorb this constructive contrast of Shanghai’s signature heritage and contemporary sites.
Stretching 70 miles, the Huangpu is a tributary of the Yangtze River where it meets the East China Sea. The broad, brown ribbon of water is called “Mother River” due to its vital role in positioning Shanghai as a strategic trading port since the late 19th century.
The Huangpu buzzes with traffic day and night. Low coal-stacked barges contrast with neon-lit pleasure boats, while huge cruise ships anchor at Asia’s up-and-coming port destination. With characteristic Shanghai flamboyance, the river makes a dramatic hairpin loop around the Lujiazui financial district, yielding spectacular views of the skyline.
Multiple options enable clients to find their river legs. The most glamorous way to explore the Huangpu is onboard a luxury yacht. Mandarin Oriental Pudong, Shanghai, which opened on the Pudong riverfront in 2013, has partnered with the new Shanghai Metropolitan Marine Yacht Club. Guests staying in the hotel’s top suites can enjoy a complimentary sunset river cruise on a private yacht that departs from a wharf outside the hotel entrance. The excursion is complete with pre-cruise champagne and onboard butler service.
Outfitted with upholstered lower- and upper-deck lounges, the sleek white yachts are a new arrival to the Huangpu, and clients will feel the buzz of celebrity as they cruise past crowds of tourists, who wave excitedly while they stroll along the Bund at sunset.
Another popular sightseeing option is a riverboat cruise. A variety of neon-lit boats sail nightly between 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. from “16 Pu” (Shiliupu Wharf), which is a short stroll south of the Bund. Tickets can be purchased at the wave-shaped tourist wharf for approximately $16. Tours last around 50 minutes and sail past the Bund and the impressive Lujiazui skyline before looping seaward to visit the spectacular Yangpu Bridge, and then returning to dock.
A little-known Shanghai sightseeing bargain is the Puxi-Pudong ferry. Several cross-river ferries transport passengers and cyclists throughout the day between the Huangpu River’s east and west banks for less than 50 cents. The most popular route for tourists is between Jinling East Road Pier, opposite the No. 1 Bund building, and Dongchang Road Pier, which is within easy walking distance of Pudong’s glitzy shopping malls, restaurants and photogenic sky towers.
At the north end of the Bund, ferries carrying passengers and cyclists connect Gongping Road Pier and Taitongzhan Pier in Pudong at the entrance to Mandarin Oriental Pudong, Shanghai. Ferries depart every 15-20 minutes, and clients should head to the upstairs deck for the best views as the boat maneuvers between the commercial river traffic. It takes just a few minutes to reach the opposite bank, so have your camera poised for great shots of Shanghai’s cityscape.
Whatever the chosen mode of river travel, clients will enjoy a front-row view of Shanghai’s finest landmarks. Highlights include the grand stone-fronted buildings of the Bund, the triptych of futuristic Pudong skyscrapers, the iconic Oriental Pearl Tower, the century-old Garden Bridge and the 1907 Gutzlaff Signal Tower.
Complete the Huangpu River experience on the 30th-floor terrace of Char bar at Hotel Indigo, adjacent to Shiliupu Wharf, where clients can enjoy the entire Shanghai skyline with a well-mixed cocktail in hand.