Huangpu River

The Huangpu River (literally "Yellow Bank River") is a 97km long river in China flowing through Shanghai.

Huangpu River used to be one branch of the Suzhou River. However, it has become the largest river in Shanghai, and Suzhou River became its branch.

It is an average of 400 meters wide and 9 meters deep. Shanghai gets most of its drinking water from Huangpu, which thus plays an important part for the metropolis. It divides the city into two regions: Pudong (east) and Puxi (west).

The Bund in Shanghai is located along the river.

Huangpu River used to be one branch of the Suzhou River. However, it has become the largest river in Shanghai, and Suzhou River became its branch.

Essentials

There are several ways to tour the Huangpu River. If you have time, a 3-hour (60km/37-mile) voyage along the Huangpu to the mouth of the Yangzi River and back allows for the most leisurely and complete appreciation of the river. There are also shorter river cruises (1-2 hr.) that ply the main waterfront area between the two suspension bridges, Yangpu Qiao in the north and Nanpu Qiao in the south, and an even shorter (30-min.) cruise from Pudong.

Several boat companies offer cruises, but the main one is the Shanghai Huangpu River Cruise Company (Shanghai Pujiang Youlan), at Zhongshan Dong Er Lu 219 (tel. 021/6374-4461 or 021/6329-9992; www.pjrivercruise.com), located on the southern end of the Bund Promenade; there's another office further north at Zhongshan Dong Er Lu 153. They have a daily full 3-hr afternoon cruise (2-5pm) with the possibility of a full morning cruise during the summer. Prices for this cruise start out at ¥50 ($6.25) and top out at ¥100 ($13), with the best ticket offering the most comfortable seats on the top deck, the best views, and drinks and snacks. As well, there are hour-long cruises (¥25-¥35/$3-$4.50) every day at 9:30am, 10:45am, 1pm, 2:30pm, 3:15pm, 4pm, and 4:30pm. This company also offers a nightly hour-long cruise from the Bund to the Yangpu Bridge (7 and 8:30pm). Prices range from ¥35 to ¥70 ($4.30-$9). Cruise schedules vary depending on the season, and on weekends additional cruises are sometimes added, so check ahead. Tickets can be purchased at the above offices or through your hotel desk.

Cruising the Huangpu

Between the stately colonial edifices along the Bund, the glittering skyscrapers on the eastern shore of Pudong, and the unceasing river traffic, there is plenty to keep your eyes from ever resting. Even on overcast days (the norm in Shanghai), the single greatest piece of eye candy as your boat pulls away is undoubtedly still the granite offices, banks, consulates, and hotels that comprise the Bund. Sadly for purists these days, however, the Peace Hotel with its stunning green pyramid roof and the Customs House with its big clock tower no longer have your undivided attention but have to compete with the towering 21st-century space-age skyscrapers that have sprouted in the background. Up close, though, the grandeur of the Bund is still undeniable.

As the ship heads north, downstream, it passes Huangpu Park across from the Peace Hotel, still considered by many to be the loveliest piece of architecture in Shanghai. Others prefer the architectural perfection of the Jin Mao Tower on the opposite shore; it's certainly hard to take your eyes off the Jin Mao as it tapers majestically upwards. Also on the Pudong shore are the can't-miss Oriental Pearl Tower, the Shanghai International Convention Center with its twin glass globes, and a slew of hotels, offices, and malls of the Lujiazui Financial Area.

Back on the western shore, north of Huangpu Park is Suzhou Creek (Suzhou He), formerly called the Wusong River. Originating in Tai Hu (Lake Tai), the 120km-long (72-mile) river was once much busier than the Huangpu, but silting in the lower reaches eventually diminished water traffic. The creek is spanned by Waibaidu Bridge, which once linked the American concession in the north (today's Hongkou District) and the British concession south of the creek. Eighteen meters (60 ft.) wide, with two 51m-long (171-ft.) spans, this bridge has seen all forms of traffic, from rickshaws to trams to motorcars. Elderly Shanghainese still recall the days of the Japanese occupation when they had to bow to Japanese sentries guarding the bridge and seek special permission to cross.

North of the Suzhou Creek hugging the west shore are the old "go-downs" or warehouses of the many foreign trading firms. This area, known as Hongkou District, and the district to the east, Yangpu District, have been marked for rapid development after Pudong, though new modern towers (all no more than 3 years old) have already started to stake out the skyline. Less than a mile farther on is the International Passenger Terminal, where cruise ships from Japan tie up. The Huangpu River jogs east at this point on its way to the Shanghai shipyards, where cranes and derricks load and unload the daily logjam of freighters from the world's other shipping giants (United States, Japan, Russia, Norway). Eventually, all of this waterfront will be developed into a series of marinas and a combination of industrial and recreational areas.

Before the Huangpu slowly begins to curve northward again, you'll pass the English castle-style Yangshupu Water Plant originally built by the British in 1882. The Yangpu Cable Bridge, like the Nanpu Cable Bridge to the south, is one of the largest such structures in the world. Boasting the longest span in the world, some 602m (1,975 ft.), the Yangpu Bridge is considered the world's first "slant-stretched" bridge. Its total length is about 7.6km (4 3/4 miles), and 50,000 vehicles pass over its six lanes daily.

What overwhelms river passengers even more than the long industrial shoreline is the traffic slinking up and down the waterway from the flotilla of river barges to the large rusting hulls of cargo ships. The Huangpu is, on the average, just 183m (600 ft.) wide, but more than 2,000 oceangoing ships compete with the 20,000 barges, fishing junks, and rowboats that ply the Huangpu every year. As the river curves north, you'll pass the small island, Fuxing Dao, which is to be developed into an ecological and recreational theme park.

The Huangpu eventually empties into the mighty Yangzi River at Wusong Kou, where the water during high tide turns three distinct colors, marking the confluence of the Yangzi (yellow), the Huangpu (gray), and the South China Sea (green). Before this, there's an ancient Wusong Fort, from which the Chinese fought the British in 1842. The passenger terminal (Wusong Passenger Terminal; tel. 021/5657-5500) for Yangzi River cruises is also here. This marks the end of Shanghai's little river and the beginning of China's largest one. As your tour boat pivots slowly back into the narrowing passageway of the Huangpu, you can look forward to a return trip that should be more relaxed.

Quick Cruise from Pudong

A brief (30-min.) but dramatic cruise along the Huangpu can be picked up on the Pudong side of the river. The cruise won't get you far, only upriver to the old Shiliupu Wharf and back,15 minutes each way, but the cityscapes on both sides will give you a sweeping perspective of Shanghai old and new.

Tickets for the Pudong cruise can be purchased at the Oriental Pearl TV Tower ticket booth or at a kiosk near the dock (Dongfang Mingzhu Youlan Matou; tel. 021/5879-1888) on Fenghe Lu. To reach the dock, walk along the northwest side of the TV Tower grounds on Fenghe Lu, past the Insect Museum and the twin-globed Convention Center, straight on to the right-hand side of the sail-shaped pavilion on the river shore. Departures are at 10am, 11am, noon, 2pm, 3pm, and 4pm (more may be added during peak times); tickets are ¥50 to ¥70 ($6.25-$8.75). Night cruises depart at 7, 8, and 9pm from May to October.

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