Oriental Pearl Radio and TV Tower- Shanghai, China

Tower from the pedestrian walkway
Pearl close-up

Austin had two days off in a row, so we took a quick trip to Shanghai for the weekend to see what we could see and attend church in real-life (vs. via phone). We took the high speed train from Ningbo and it took about two hours. It was nice to see the Chinese countryside in between the cities, and to visit a different part of China. We were NOT prepared for how crowded Shanghai was on the weekend. WOW. I don’t think I have been around so many people in my entire life!

PEOPLE EVERYWHERE!

We chose to visit the Oriental Pearl tower first because it is a major landmark of Shanghai, and it had many different activities involved that I thought would be fun for everyone. Plus, it was 95 degrees outside with high humidity and I knew we did not want to be walking around too much outside until later on in the day. We stayed at the Grand Hyatt very close to the Pearl, so it was a sweltering but easy walk over to the tower. We opted for the 160 rmb tickets that covered the first and second sight seeing balls, and the Shanghai history museum in the basement. For 220 rmb, visitors can skip the terribly long line and get in a shorter line to go up to the smaller, higher third ball and have a guided tour of the views. We heard that although it was cool, it was not worth it because it was hard to see anything with the pollution. In hindsight and with the lines that we endured, the 220 rmb ticket would have been worth it! 

Last line around the bottom sphere to reach the elevator

The first line was outside the building. It wrapped around the building, and we thought, “OK, if this is the only line, it shouldn’t be that long!” Turns out, this was the first of three long lines we would wait in to get in the elevators up to the higher ball (263m). At this middle ball, there were two sightseeing levels and a revolving restaurant. Once we reached the ball, the crowds and lines did not get any better. We struggled to walk around to see the view with the toddler and stroller against the crowds. Landon loved looking at all the boats on the nearby river, and we enjoyed looking at views of The Bund across the river, the city, and our hotel and surrounding buildings! The Bund is the area of Shanghai where the foreign traders lived and set up shop back in the day, and so all the buildings are more European in style and all unique. It was a great area to explore- especially at night, but it was fun to see it from a bird’s eye view from the tower.

Boats and the Bund

Although the rooms were slightly air conditioned, we were overheated from all the people and lines and refreshed ourselves with an ice cream cone before descending by stairs to the lower, glass-bottomed viewing floor. We have visited the Willis (formerly Sears) tower in Chicago with its small glass bottomed viewing platforms. This, although at a lower level, put those little glass boxes to shame. The whole sphere had a wooden platform on the interior and all glass on the exterior of the sphere. So, you can view the streets and river below your feet anywhere in the 360 degree view. Landon loved the view from here and spent some time rolling around on the glass, disrupting others’ pictures and looking down to the streets below. There were many people on this floor who were too scared to venture onto the glass- they seemed really freaked out. We were some of the only Laowai (white people) there, so Landon got a lot of attention and pictures taken because of his blondish hair.

Our hotel is the pointy one in the middle
Glass bottom river views
Fun with mom on the glass

Checking out the streets below
Hamming it up for mom, dad, and all the other people taking pictures!
Beginning his roll…
So much to see down below!

I’m happy to say that after the first two viewing platforms- and waiting in a long line for the elevator down to the lower ball (90m), the crowds thinned out considerably. I think some people skipped the lower ball altogether and took the elevator back down to the ground. We came out of the elevator in the lower ball into an arcade, and of course Landon wanted to do car race video games. And of course, we did not put money in the machine and he had a wonderful time pretending to race cars. We cajoled him out of that area and down to an outdoor viewing area. From this level, we were able to see more as we were lower and out of some of the pollution. Landon again enjoyed watching boats, and with the breeze it actually felt cooler outside than inside the glass viewing area with all the people!

Outdoor viewing area with rope walls to keep us safe!

Walking around the viewing platform

The Beautiful Yellow Bus
Once we were done with this area, there was virtually no line to descend down to the ground floor. We went straight into the Shanghai history museum to learn more about Shanghai. The first room we came to had all sorts of vehicles, which really made Landon happy as he flitted from car to car. He came up to me and said, “Mommy, this is a beautiful yellow bus.” Of course, I had to offer to take his picture with the beautiful yellow bus! There were horse-drawn carriages, cable cars, and trolleys from all eras of vehicle travel in Shanghai. 
Restaurant set-up in the museum
From there we ventured upstairs and learned about Shanghai and surrounding farming communities of yesteryear. In order to teach us more about what life was like, the exhibits were set up with mannequins doing a variety of tasks- from working a cotton sorting machine, to spinning wool, to weaving, to planting crops. It was an accessible way to show what life was like- there were placards in Chinese and English, but you almost did not need them to imagine what things were like in China before technology and automobiles. At times, the mannequins were very real looking and bordered on creepy, but I thought the overall vibe was cool!
Chinese opera cosutmes
The museum had a similar set-up throughout, throwing us right into the streets of whatever era we were learning about. There were dioramas, holograms, and other exhibits to help us see more of what life was like for different time periods. One refreshing thing for Austin and I was that instead of running through the museum without stopping, Landon was genuinely interested in some of the exhibits. He would say, “Mommy, tell me about this one.” I would read the sign and paraphrase for him what we were looking at. Although it was exhausting at times, and sometimes there were no placards for me to tell him exactly what was going on, I appreciated that i was able to enjoy more of the exhibits without chasing around a toddler who had no interest in learning about Chinese history. 
Model of famous building in Shanghai

So, overall, I’m glad we visited the Oriental Pearl Tower. I don’t think we will ever visit it again. I would suggest either buying the more expensive ticket to beat the line, or do NOT visit on the weekend in the middle of the day. It was so crowded and the lines were so long that it took much more of our time than I would have liked and ended up being underwhelming for all the hype and crowds in the end. I am glad we took the time to visit the history museum, this was a major draw for me and gave us a little peek into what life was/is like for the Chinese. Our hotel room gave us similar views of Shanghai, so the main perk of the viewing area was the glass bottom. If you’re willing to brave the crowds and hordes of tourists, the tower is a good place to start exploring Shanghai from above!

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