Huangpu Cruising

Shanghai’s river gives clients a unique perspective

By: Christopher Batin

Shanghai's skyline from a river cruise
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 tours.

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.

Huangpu cruise
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 from Japan.

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.

View of the Bund
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 fireworks display.

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 perspective.

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