This morning I arrived in Shanghai – by some reckonings the world’s largest city. My travels began early the previous morning, with dangerous gusts around Cork Airport making hard work of our take-off.  After a short stop-over in Heathrow, a Boeing 777 took us across the Russian Steppes and Mongolia, touching down in Shanghai at 9.30 am Sunday morning. It’s my first time in China and only one of my first times in Asia proper.

Flying in, the area under the flight path reminded me of the Netherlands, with its cloudy weather, reclaimed land, wind turbines and man-made canals. It’s all brand new, with many roads, bridges and buildings under construction. The airport is shiny and enormous – the terminal building itself seems to stretch to infinity in both directions. A motorway brings you straight into the city centre and driving in you get an appreciation of the huge number of people living in Shanghai. Large apartment blocks cover the landscape as far as the eye can see. It’s an impressive sight.

Shanghai Motorway 1

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A number of huge skyscrapers dominate the cityscape, the largest of which, the Shanghai Tower, is being built at the moment. It will top out at 630 metres, making it the second tallest skyscraper in the world. Construction is due to complete in 2015.

After a brief rest in the hotel, we took a taxi to Yuyuan Bazaar and Gardens. The garden itself is delightful – full of nooks and crannies, steps going nowhere and tiny footbridges. The pools are full of colourful koi carp. A pity it’s too early to see the trees in blossom.

The bazaar was a bombardment of sounds, smells and sights. Everywhere there were people – lots of families and children. Despite the fact that we didn’t have a clue where we were or what we were doing, somehow we managed to visit the Temple of the City Gods, do some tea-tasting and see the lanterns light up as the Chinese New Year ceremonies come to a close. We even got our photos taken by some teenagers, clearly impressed to have come across quaint looking foreigners.

Yu Bazaar 1