Maybe I should have actually planned my vacation.
November 5, 2007 12:36 PM   Subscribe

I'm off to Asia (Shanghai, Beijing, Hong Kong) and have done little to no prep work regarding places I want to check out. What are your suggestions for "can't miss" attractions/shopping/anything that I should check out while there?

I'm off to Asia and have done little to no prep work for the tourism bit of my visit (other than buying a Shanghai book that I don't really like). What do you consider the "can't miss" attractions/shopping/anything that I should check out during my weekends in Hong Kong and Beijing and 10 days in Shanghai? I'm your typical tourist, some of the things I'd like to see/do: shopping, people-watching, quirky things, architecture, art...

I did find the older questions about these three places, but there wasn't much Shanghai info outside of where to stay. I'd like your input on things to do, places to see, places to eat, shopping, etc... and I'm totally open to day trips from Shanghai. I won't have much time in HK and Beijing, so tips on major tourist destinations and hidden gems would be very welcome! As would off the beaten path type places for Shanghai, I'll be there for a while.

Thank you!

And if you happen to have suggestions to where I should exchange money in DC before I leave, that would be helpful, too.
posted by echo0720 to Travel & Transportation around Shanghai, China (8 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
After more than a decade living in China, I've still not managed to get anyone to pay me to visit Shanghai, but should that happy day arrive I would consult the Shanghaist blog for pointers - they have sections on shopping, recreation and going out.
I have always fancied a trip to the island monastery at Putuo Shan as well. Some day.
posted by Abiezer at 1:02 PM on November 5, 2007

Shanghai is awesome.

For day trips check out Hangzhou and Suzhou.

Stay one night in the Jin-Mao tower ($250 a night) one of (if not THE) tallest hotel in the world. And AWESOME beds/towels/bathrooms/views.

Check out the Pearl.

If there in February, Chinese New year is spectacular.

Stroll up and down the Bund, and Nanjing Dong Lu (Nanjing Road).

Maybe get a suit tailor made for you at the cloth market, go your first day and bring a picture of a suit you want, and they can usually do it in a week.

Also be sure to go to the Yuyuan Gardens and wait in line for the Nanxiang Dumpling House xiao long bao, or soup dumplings. The best in the city and worth the wait, or go early(1030am) and avoid the lines.

The Shanghai Museum is excellent.

Also find a place to get "hot pot", like Little Fat Sheep (or Pig, I forget the name) with some friends.

Try lots of different foods, and enjoy the wonderful people, good luck!
posted by Grither at 1:02 PM on November 5, 2007

Seconding everything that Grither said regarding Shanghai, along with these two caveats: if offered, skip the offers of either a "Traditional Chinese Tea Ceremony" or an invitation to view art by art-school students. Both are scams.

I regret not riding the maglev train, but it wasn't going to where I was staying and I was too tired to make an effort.

Nanjing Road rules, especially at night. As does The Bund. The after-hours light shows are really something to see.
posted by jquinby at 1:25 PM on November 5, 2007

Go to the Shangahi museum. Skip the tea ceremony. Get a foot massage. See the Jade Buddha, which is way better than it sounds.
posted by jjg at 3:37 PM on November 5, 2007

Don't miss Panjiayuan, the weekend antique market in Beijing. It is perfect if you are there on a weekend anyway. You don't need a guide, just know that even things that look very old are probably fakes. Still a fun experience. Another "cant' miss" is Forbidden Palace and Tiananmen, of course. Go out the north entrance of the palace and check out Jingshan park for a good view over the area.

In Shanghai, the Bund is a must see, like others have said, especially at night. In Hong Kong you have to take the tram up to Victoria Peak, for a breathtaking view of the city. Then do the Central Mid Level escalators for a weird experience. And of course Nathan Road is a must in Hong Kong for a "hustle and bustle" experience that makes HK feel like the most international city on earth.

The bottom line is that you have to be adventurous and willing to try anything to get the best out of traveling in China. Be open to trying new things and be open to talking to people. Have fun! I am jealous.
posted by gemmy at 3:43 PM on November 5, 2007

If you want to exchange your money, do it at an ATM after you get to China, either at the airport or one of the many ATMs you'll find around the city (Bank of China always works with foreign cards; ICBC usually works too).
posted by pravit at 3:59 PM on November 5, 2007

Hong Kong:

1. victoria peak
2. aviary at hong kong park
3. tsim tsa tsui at night to see the HK skyline
4. ride the star ferry [my favorite]
5. dim sum at the HK world trade center
6. temple street night market
7. nathan road shopping in kowloon
8. the girly bars in wan chai if you're adventurous
9. lan kwai fong bars
posted by Mr_Crazyhorse at 5:54 PM on November 5, 2007

I'd recommend picking up a copy of That's Beijing of That's Shanghai when you get there. Also, Time Out Beijing, or Time Out Shanghai. These sorts of English-language magazines have great tips for hot restaurants, movies, concerts and other live performances that will be in town while you're there.
Or go to an internet cafe and check out

Also, definitely try to hit up some parks while you're in China. They're scenic and a great opportunity to experience non-touristy life. In Bejing, I'd recommend Beihai Park which is easy to visit if you're planning on seeing the Forbidden City.

And if you do nothing else, buy a copy of the Lonely Planet's Guide to China.
posted by jsteffensen at 7:52 PM on November 5, 2007

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