Shanghai or Beijing

Jan 26th, 2005, 04:40 PM
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Shanghai or Beijing

We are going to China on a three week volunteer teaching program this summer. We are able to spend 4 days in either Shanghai or Beijing. Have been all over Europe, but this will be our first trip to Asia. We plan to take an extensive Asian excursion on our own in three years, so this is just to get our feet wet. Any ideas on which city may be a better choice for a first visit to China.
gpotvin is offline  
Jan 26th, 2005, 07:41 PM
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I recommend Beijing over Shanghai, not because I live here, but because if you only have four days, to come to China and not see the Great Wall and explore the hutongs would be a shame. Shanghai is great, but isn't going anywhere, whereas the hutongs of BJ will be gone three years from now (if not sooner!)
Bchen is offline  
Jan 26th, 2005, 07:41 PM
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Beijing, for sure. It has many more historic sites to see in Beijing than Shanghai, which is a basically a modern city. That is unless you really prefer to see new highrises than ancient palaces.
rkkwan is offline  
Jan 26th, 2005, 08:13 PM
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From someone who has visited both, and who has talked to many people about the stark differences between the two cities, there can be no doubt: Beijing-for a first visit. It's magnificent, and for such a hugely populated city, I never got the sense of being really too crowded-unlike Shanghai, where the heat, humidity, pollution and over-crowding can get to be quite oppressive. Beijing has really bad pollution, but because it's so spread out, it's somewhat easier to deal with its effects-I who have bad allergies, and who was there during the "dust storm" period in April, did not have too much trouble.

In terms of friendliness, again, Beijing. I was surprised how friendly people were there, those who did speak English, and even those who didn't-they would always try to help if they could. The Shainghainese are, in my experience, much less forthcoming, more-self-absorbed, not particularly interested in interacting with foreigners-this may be a result of historically having had so much more foreign influence in the city than the capital.

In terms of getting a sense of perspective on the country's history, however, Shainghai simply cannot offer those historical sites/monuments which lie in Beijing: the Forbidden City with its moat (partic. when it's all lit up at night-simply stunning) the Summer Palace with its lakes, numerous small pagodas, the dragon boats and ornately decorated walkways by the lake, as well as the Temple of Heaven. And then there's Tiananmen Sq.-the scene of such great tragedy and history-which today will be covered over by Chinese tourists who have been standing in line for hours waiting to get into Mao's Mausoleum.

There's nothing remotely like that in Shainghai -it's China's city of the future, reminiscent in my mind more of Hong Kong with its incredible night skyline than anything that is identifiably old China or historical. It has a wholly different vibe than Beijing-more mercantile in nature. Shainghai is a city you can see most anywhere in Asia, but it's Beijing and its monuments that hold the keys to its history, and give you, the tourist, a perspective into its soul.
Spygirl is offline  
Jan 27th, 2005, 12:09 AM
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Overall I agree with Spygirl, and faced with the choice I'd choose Beijing. However I wouldn't write Shanghai off completely. We found it a good city to walk around and explore - the Old Town, the nearby market streets, the French Concession area, which contains (apart from western style cafes and restaurants in case you get sick of Chinese cuisine) some intriguing reminders of China's recent history - the former residences of Dr Sun Yatsen and Zhou Enlai, as well as the site of the first congress of the Chinese Communist Party, all worth a visit. The national museum also is excellent. You can ignore the Flash Gordon stuff in Pudong, on the other side of the river, if you wish. I do agree though that Beijingers are friendlier, and it offers more opportunities for just strolling around and soaking up the atmosphere in a generally hassle-free way.
Neil_Oz is offline  
Jan 27th, 2005, 06:29 AM
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I have not been to Shanghai but my wife and I went to Beijing in March a couple of years back. I was quite surprised by Beijing and there was a lot to see and do there. I have posted a trip report with some pictures on my homepage Maybe you can find some useful information there

Stavanger, Norway
gard is offline  
Jan 27th, 2005, 02:56 PM
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We were in both cities for the first time in Asia in Nov. Beijing hands down for all the reasons given above! plus it was much easier to find drivers and guides (they did what we wanted to do only). The prices were much better too. You can do the site seeing own your own in Beijing easy enough, but we were there for a short time (2 1/2) days and were able to see much more with the driver and car. Go to the Temple of Heaven about 7am to see and meet the older Chinese. We visited with four different people. They invited us to join them and their group in their morning activites. It was a great experience. Our guide acted a translator for us. She was a college student from a rural area in southern China, her mother was a Dr.

If you go to Beijing, don't be afraid to go out to Badaling. You can do the trip in much less time and still have plenty of time on the wall! Many people are very negative this area of the wall. we didn' have time for any other place. Go onyour own in a taxi or with a driver. Leave about 7am (we went on a Sun) and there will be NO ONE there except the ticket takers, not even the venders! We had a great time exploring and have fabulous pictures of the enpty wall.

Shanghi is interesting as stated above, but the pollution is terrible and the crowds are oppressive. Go to Beijing first.
cwn is offline  
Jan 28th, 2005, 07:17 AM
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Wow! I have used this site so many times and am always amazed by the prompt and thoughtful responses. Thanks so much to all.
gpotvin is offline  
Jan 2nd, 2006, 01:21 PM
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We are planning a trip in April to China which would have included HK, BJ, X'ian,and Shanghai. After doing further research we are now thinking of just HK and Beijing and then going on to Japan. My family are not happy campers when it's hot and humid and the more research I do it seems like Shanghai will be exactly that, hot and humid. Plus, I've read that since they enacted the 26C law, all public places can be quite warm. Does anyone know about that? Anyhow, would love your advice.
reddd is offline  
Jan 2nd, 2006, 02:06 PM
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To add to the Beijing theme, I've listed a bunch of restaurants I loved while I was there which you can find at:

Beijing hands down!
luckykat is offline  
Jan 2nd, 2006, 02:19 PM
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reddd, I haven't been to Shanghai in April, but just checked and the climate seems very temperate, with an average temperature range of 11-18C. No data on humidity, but rainfall of 90mm for the month or 3mm per day on average. Where did you get your info?
Neil_Oz is offline  
Jan 2nd, 2006, 06:08 PM
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yep! another vote for Beijing. Great summaries from posters above.

BTW, went to Shanghai in June and found the weather to be a little warm but overall fine. So I think April is ok.
bkkmei is offline  
Jan 3rd, 2006, 09:55 PM
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I guess I would recommend Beijing as well if you have a short time to stay there.. Though thinking of not going to Shanghai..a little sad as well.. Maybe you can find out some info in In there, you can also find some other links about China.. Just share us when you return from this visit from China

freak_pat is offline  
Jan 3rd, 2006, 11:00 PM
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I loved both for different reasons..Shanghai is great for shopping, shopping, shopping, but I will never forget standing in Tiananmen
Square, climbing a Very small part of the Great Wall (gasp!) the Summer Palace, all a part of Bejing. If I really had to choose, Bejing would win hands down. Tho as a side note, one of my fav memories was in Nanjing at an open air puppy market! wish I could have taken all those fuzzy guys home!
daisy58 is offline  
Jan 4th, 2006, 11:34 AM
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We just got back from a 16 day trip to Beijing, Xi'an, Shanghai, Suzhou and Hong Kong. I will post a trip report at some point but if I were to choose between Beijing and Shanghai for only 4 days, I also agree with the other posts, Beijing for sure.
Not to write off Shanghai but Beijing has more historical sites to see and as long as you have everything written for you in Chinese, it is a very easy city to get around granted you take the advice from posters here who mention that Beijing is not really a "walkable" city. It is best to take taxis and the subway, which is really easy to use. Just get a good map from your hotel and the destinations written in Chinese and you'll be good to go.
2seeds is offline  
Jan 4th, 2006, 11:42 AM
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Since my wife loves to shop, shop, shop with an occasional cultural sight thrown in between I suspect when we head for China it will be Shanghai!
BillT is offline  
Jan 5th, 2006, 04:16 PM
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gpotvin: Spygirl puts it so well. Although I'm partial to Shanghai, if you only have 4 days, spend it in Beijing and you won't regret your decision. BTW, where are you teaching? Perhaps you could manage a couple of short side trips on the weekends.

BillT: If you have a week, do both Shanghai and Beijing, when DW sees the sights in Beijing, she'll give up some shopping time!
Shanghainese is offline  
Jan 6th, 2006, 04:20 AM
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Shanghainese: you don't know my wife- she lives to shop and if I can get her to focus on a temple, palace or other cultural sight for an hour or two I consider myself lucky. Hey I like to shop for things native to the country - so I'm not knocking shopping. After so many years I've come to know the formula that works best on these trips.
5 Star hotels, good restaurants, some sight seeing and a lot of shopping venues. I like Asia because the cost of everything is much lower than Europe- especially the shopping part. Lots of knockoffs as well!
BillT is offline  
Jan 6th, 2006, 08:06 AM
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gpotvin: Off the original subject, would you mind sharing who you arranged your program thru? I have a friend thinking about doing it too, thanks.
Shanghainese is offline  
May 11th, 2006, 06:23 PM
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Shanghainese: Sorry for the delay, I hadn't looked at this post in a long time. Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota has a program called Global Language Villages and they take 10-15 teams of teachers to China each summer. You don't need to be a teacher - I'm not - but you need to enjoy people. Cost is reasonable, about $2300, which includes airfare, food lodging and 4 days of touring in Beijing or Shanghai. Program is total immersion English, so you don't need to know Mandarin, but you may learn some.

Last year we were in Zibo, Shandong Province and this year we will be in Beijing the entire time.
gpotvin is offline  

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