Shanghai’s lighted skyline can
be viewed from a river cruise.
The old American saying of Paul Revere, “One if by land, two if by
sea,” applies to touring the many sights of Shanghai.
Take one all-encompassing land tour of Shanghai for a good
overview, or two Huangpu River cruises for a completely different
look at the city and its commerce. The river cruises do not
disappoint. Sample one in the morning and one at night to get the
best perspective of Shanghai life and to truly understand this
major river artery that gives Shanghai its economic lifeblood.
The fun begins with the daytime cruise. For those with limited
time, the half-hour Huangpu River Quick Tour for $7 to $10 will do
the job, taking in the requisite Bund and Pudong sights. While this
isn’t an expensive tour by American standards, the
“bang-for-the-buck” impact will delight your customers in being
able to see the many views of Shanghai that are missed via land
Of the short and long tours ranging from one to three hours, my
favorite is the three-hour, early-morning Shanghai to Wu Song Kou
Tour. There is much to see. I observed barges loaded with salt, and
ships stockpiled with raw goods ply the river currents. The size of
ocean-bound cargo ships dwarf the 21,000-plus smaller cruise boats
and skiffs, freight barges and junks that use the river each year.
There is also breathtaking suspense, as locals in smaller rowboats
and skiffs weave dangerously close to larger ships and barges.
While most of the boat’s passengers seem content to take in the
sights indoors through the boat’s large picture windows, I
preferred to move around the various outdoor decks to catch the
best views of the barges and cargo holds and to switch from port or
starboard, depending on what was coming our way.
Clients can take a boat like
this one for a Huangpu cruise.
The Shanghai shipping docks are responsible for over 30 percent of
China’s world trade each year, and you can see cranes unloading
goods from around the world. They are also the staging area for
much of the river trade with Wuhan, Nanjing and other ports along
the Yangtze River corridor. While dock action takes place around
the clock, daytime, when weather allows, offers the best
photography. Have cameras ready for the historic shipyards, where
ships are still being built to handle China’s massive exports. The
area around Suzhou Creek is known as Hongkou District and is slated
to be developed within the next few years. You won’t see cruise
ships in the upper reaches of the Huangpu, but you will see them
docked at the International Passenger Terminal, with most hailing
At Wu Song Kou, the first part of the tour ends, but not before
a visit to the confluence of the Huangpu with the Yangtze, where
three currents merge and mix at high tide. Clients can identify the
San Jia Shui, or the outflow and inflow of currents that create a
kaleidoscope of different colors of Huangpu gray, East China Sea
green and Yangtze reddish-brown.
On the return, the boat will cruise close to the Bund, the
historical cornerstone from which the city merges with the
futuristic skyline to the west. The Bund aptly deserves its moniker
of “museum of international architecture.” Another can’t-miss
attraction is the Jin Mao Tower, with its 88 floors above ground
and three below, for now at least the highest building in China.
Its rival for height is the Oriental Pearl TV Tower, the largest
tower in Asia and third highest in the world. The two glass globes
with world maps etched onto them near the tower are part of the
Shanghai Convention Center and its ever-bustling Lujiazui financial
district. Keep an eye open for hints of the past interspersed with
the new Shanghai by way of street vendors and old rickshaws near
the Waibaidu Bridge.
A cruiser’s view of the Bund
The tour allows a duck’s view of some of the world’s largest cable
bridges; the Yangpu and Nanpu.
The night river tour is for the light show, and Shanghai does it
right. While the commercialism of some of the neon lights may be a
distraction for some, I found it superb. Expect the entire sides of
skyscrapers to resemble large LCD screens. The alternating images
of words, advertisements, animals and birds and waterfalls,
combined with the light shows from other buildings, can produce a
medley of flashing lights and entertainment that exceeds any
After the cruise, I walked over to the Oriental Pearl TV Tower
and took an elevator to the top. I highly recommend seeing Shanghai
lights from the observation platform, which offers an eagle’s
Agents can add cruise tickets to most existing city tours.
Clients can also book them on their own during their free time or
through any hotel concierge. Cruise departures occur throughout the
day and early evening. Most tour departures are centrally located
near the Oriental Pearl TV Tower and convention center, or near the
Bund Promenade. Costs range from $8 to $15, with the best tickets
offering the prime seats on the ship’s top deck and including
snacks and beverages.
Shanghai Huangpu River Cruise Company
Shanghai Oriental Leisure Company
Shanghai Scenery Cruise Company