Shanghai, China 2016A Stone Age settlement from 4000 years ago, Shanghai was taken over by several subsequent Chinese dynasties, which I am woefully unknowledgeable about.
It became a major trade point in 746 when coastal and inter-empire trade grew significantly. The value of the city being at the end of the Yangtzee river became astronomically important - so important that over the next thousand years, the Japanese, assorted European powers, and various pirate bands attacked and some actually took control. The controlling part was the Brits primarily. It became the birthplace of both the Communist and the Nationalist Chinese parties, but mostly remained exceptionally open and cosmopolitan due to hundreds of years of foreign influence. In the 1920s, the city was truly a gem of culture, entertainment, manufacturing, trade and tourism. Massive influxes of white Russian and European Jewish immigrants kept the population and attitude of the city diverse, leading to continued open and progressive mentalities.
WWII, which started in the early 1930s in China, lead to Shanghai being captured, occupied, and devastated.
After THAT war came a civil war between the Nationalist and the Communist parties, and it was the end of the road for the Nationalist army in 1949. Three large ships of troops tried to retreat by sea. One escaped to Taiwan, one to Hong Kong, and one to the bottom of the harbor.
Now a huge city of 24 million people, and the largest economic driver of the Chinese economic revolution, it continues to be a destination and marketplace for the world.
The ArrivalI flew into Pudong Shanghai International Airport, and had to transfer from terminal 1 to terminal 2. The only way to do this is to actually enter China through customs. Once you're in, you're in. No visa needed - no fuss, no muss. You can have your carry on bags stored (I'm sure searched while you're out and about...) at baggage storage as to not hinder your touring. Things were a little tense as they had just had a terrorist attack 2 days before I arrived in the terminal with a bomb on Aisle C.
Nanshi Old TownNanshi is an old market and town area, some of it supposedly going back to the 1300s. It's a tourist mecca if you can ignore so many vendors constantly offering their wares and asking what you want. I finally told them I was looking for an AK-47, and they left me alone then. Which in hindsight given the recent terrorist attack, probably wasn't super bright.
The CityThere are several parks and genuine areas of the city around, lots of street level commerce. You don't have to travel far from where you live to get what you need as a local. While I did walk a lot, it's not a very walkable city.
I still needed to check in for my flight, so I went to a nearby Westin and schmoozed the manager to get access to the business lounge. There I took care of some emails and my flights. I didn't want my cellular info flying all over China at that point in time.
SummaryI only had about 5 hours to kick around, so I saw limited parts of Shanghai. It's a massive city, and there are definitely concerns for Westerners behaving like they're still in the West. You cannot just say or do what you want here, and have to be cognizant of that fact. Political influences from your home countries can affect your treatment.
I do want to go back; there are 3 JW Marriotts here that I need to visit to check off my list, and tons of things to see and do - easily enough to fill a couple of weeks. When the world calms down on all fronts, I will return to experience all Shanghai has to offer.