Though we try to hit as many offbeat tourist sites as we can when we travel, we always encounter those places that are a must visit. If you go to Paris, you have to see The Louvre. In Rome, St. Peter's Basilica. New York, the Empire State Building. And so on.
So in Shanghai, that would include the Oriental Pearl TV Tower, which is where we visited on the late afternoon of our final day in Shanghai. It's the highest tower in Asia and the third highest in the world and is part of the city's famous skyline, which at night looks like something out of the film “Blade Runner.” And it sits squarely in the center of a shopping complex that is jaw-droopingly vast, connected largely by a series of elevated walkways that attract visitors from all over the world — but especially the Chinese hinterlands (which explains why, for the first time in our week-long stay, we attracted a number of stares).
The tower, which is 468 meters in height, isn't particularly easy to enter. First, we decided to pay the full price (about $36 apiece) to get full access, including going up to the highest point, which is called the “Space Capsule.” Then we stood in a series of lines that rivaled those at Disneyland for twists and turns, not to mention wait. When we finally were squeezed into an elevator, we headed up — only to transfer to a second lift, which finally deposited us at an enclosed viewing platform that offers a stunning 360-degree view not just of the city but of the entire surrounding area.
By the time we arrived, it was past sunset. And the sky, though clearer than it had been in days, was still hazy. Even so, the sight was impressive (as you can tell from the above photo). We made the circle, snapping photos (including the obligatory selfies), and then headed to another elevator up to the “Space Capsule,” which turned out to be just another, higher but smaller area with another 360-degree view.
The most impressive spot to me sits on a lower level, where you can step out on clear sections that make it seem as if you are ready to fall hundred of meters to the street. I took one step — and that was enough.
Then we began the lengthy stand-in-line exercise of heading down. If you decide to add the Oriental Pearl TV Tower to your list of Shanghai tourist activities, make sure to leave plenty of time. And unless you have a private driver, walk or take the subway away from the area to avoid cabbies who will try to rip you off (two told us that they would take us only if we agreed to pay “at least 300 yuan,” or about $48, which is not only unethical but illegal — but that's supply and demand for you).
I found myself wishing for one of those flying cars that Deckard drove in “Blade Runner.” We'd have been back to our hotel in minutes.