Historically, Pudong (浦东, pŭdōng) – the district opposite the Bund on the east bank of the river – was known as the “wrong side of the Huangpu”; before 1949, the area was characterized by unemployed migrants, prostitution, murders and the most appalling living conditions in the city. It was here that bankrupt gamblers would “tiao huangpu”, commit suicide by drowning themselves in the river. Shanghai’s top gangster, Du Yuesheng, more commonly known as “Big-eared Du”, learned his trade growing up in this rough section of town. In 1990, however, fifteen years after China’s economic reforms started, it was finally decided to grant the status of Special Economic Zone (SEZ) to this large tract of mainly agricultural land, a decision which, more than any other, is now fuelling Shanghai’s rocket-like economic advance. The skyline has since been completely transformed from a stream of rice paddies into a sea of cranes, and ultimately a maze of skyscrapers that seemingly stretches east as far as the eye can see.
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World Financial Centre
The best views of the city are from the observation deck at the top of the 492m Shanghai World Financial Centre, China’s tallest building (at least until the neighbouring Shanghai Tower is complete). In contrast to nearby Jinmao Tower, its lines are simple: it’s just a tapering slab whose most distinctive feature is the hole in the top, and locals call it “the bottle opener”. That hole was originally meant to be circular, but was redesigned as an oblong when the mayor complained that it would look like a Japanese flag hovering over the city.
The entrance and ticket office is in the southwest side. The top level – the top bar of the bottle opener – features hardened glass tiles in the floor that allow you to look right down between your feet. Landmarks are pointed out in the booklet that comes with your ticket, and you can get a photo printed for ¥50. The view is at least as impressive at night.