Shanghai at Night

I’d like to say my first impression of China was a good one. I had imagined Shanghai as exciting, pretty and cosmopolitan. Just the name “Shanghai” speaks to me of old glamour, mystery and intrigue. Sadly, after an excruciatingly long 48-hour boat ride from Osaka, I was not so pleased to rest my eyes on this:

Shanghai at Noon

Smog. A huge cloud of it blanketing the city with humid, grimy air. I spent two full days there and the entire time I felt like I was suffocating. After just one city block of wlaking I’d be out of breath, my clothes felt stiff with dirt, sweat and dust. You know those little smoker’s lounges in the airport, where the air is heavy with brown toxins? That is what the entire city of Shanghai felt like.

Maybe I overreacted. After all, while Shanghai may be the largest city in China, it doesn’t even making it into the top 10 for most polluted (I shudder to think of what living in Lifen, China is like). But it’s pretty bad, especially if your body isn’t used to it. I miss clean air. And, to hop on my little soapbox, it really is a short-sighted shame that China is literally destroying it’s cities, people and ecosystem all for the sake of economic expansion.

So, I was feeling kind of down about my first stop in China, until I met Sasha.Sasha, the bright writer behind mind behind On Ur Way Travel and a guest poster here, teaches English in Shanghai and was happy to show me around the city. In addition to my first amazing chinese meal, she showed me around Shanghai after dark , which is a whole new world.

At night brilliant electricity courses and crackles through the buildings of Shanghai, lighting the city up like a Christmas tree. The buildings of Pudong (Shanghai’s business center) sparkle like brilliant ornaments while glittering ferry boats float up and down the river Bund.

With the smog hidden under the cover of nightfall, it’s easy to forget the pollution problem. It’s easy to forget you are in China at all, here finally was the cosmopolitan city I’d been expecting, full of tourists and locals enjoying a pleasant night out in glittering Shanghai.

I have a feeling China is not going to be the easiest country to love; with it’s harsh grey, smoky exterior. I think with some patience though there are glimmering jewels to be unearthed here.

About The Author

32 thoughts on “Shanghai at Night”

  1. Those are some great night pictures, Steph! Shanghai doesn’t even seem real… I had no idea the smog was so bad there though. You’re right, it’s very sad. Hopefully China gets with the program soon.

    Keep up the great blogging. I live vicariously through you at my cubicle 🙂

  2. Wow, and I thought LA was smoggy. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such thick pollution hanging in the air. Although, come to think of it, I remember when I was in London, every time I blew my nose, what came out was black–so it had to have been pretty smoggy there, too. Kind of makes you wonder what that does to people’s life expectancy. Beautiful night shots, though.

  3. It’s not like that all the time (at least in my experience). When I there for a week in July the skis were clear and the visibility near infinite.


    1. Smog is supposed to get better in warm weather, so I imagine summer is probably the best time of year to visit for that reason.

  4. The Bund at night is gorgeous. I agree with you on the smog–I kept trying to take pics from my friend’s balcony when I was there, and they all looked smoky.

  5. China is a country you either love or hate. I really liked Shanghai, ESPECIALLY compared to Beijing, but for all the reasons you listed it’s tough. Once you get away from the big two cities, and get out into China – you’ll fall in love with it and it’s challenges. I REALLY suggest Chengdu and Kunming in the south west. The food will BLOW your mind, and it’s what you’d actually expect China to be. The overnight trains are so, so good too (but bring your own snacks).

    1. Yeah I’m out in Xi’an now and while it’s still kind of grossly polluted, it’s definitely better. And the food! the food makes everything worthwhile.

  6. Kind of throws a new twist onto the old “like night and day” phrase, doesn’t it?

    It is indeed a shame that China’s big cities are so ridiculously polluted. The cities themselves are pretty astounding, as your nighttime photos prove. Shanghai has some awesome buildings (like the Oriental Pearl tower, and that one that looks like it has a lotus flower sitting on top of it), but it’s so hard to appreciate them through the thick smog that usually shrouds the city during the daytime.

    When I was in China, we had one day in Shanghai that actually wasn’t half bad. The sun was shining, and you could actually see patches of blue in the sky! It was such a welcome change. It’s just a pity that most days aren’t like that.

    1. My second day in Shanghai, at the expo- was much better weather wise, but it is SUCH a dissapointment to see great cities hidden under a coat of soot.

  7. Lead, lead, lead, It’s everywhere!!! 😛 Glad I got to show you the nicer side of Shanghai!!! 🙂 and get to feature in all my glory with my mouth wide open!!! haha

  8. I was walking around Kuala Lumpur last night and taking in the smell of exhaust and diesel fuel and thought in some weird way it added to the experience … having to breath it every day would be an entirely different scenario.

    Interesting to see the difference in the pictures you selected from night to day … stunning at night!

    On another note, your font appears to be a bit mucked up.

    Safe travels!

  9. Wow, you got some fantastic shots of the city at nighttime. It looks like a totally different place compared to daytime. It is a shame to see countries and cities just flat out not caring about the horrible pollution problems it has. They’ll be forced to care at some point, but it will most likely be too late for some. Sounds like you’re having a great time. Can’t wait to read more. Keep having a blast!

    1. Thanks! Everywhere I go in China I just have to shake my head at the way they ignore such a major eco-problem. Definitely going to come to a head at some point.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top