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Shanghai from 863 feet (or 263 meters)

The city's skyline has mushroomed seemingly overnight and is marked by architectual marvels, including the Shanghai World Financial Center (with trapezoidal hole)

Travel writer Rudy Maxa once described Shanghai as “a city being born.” A view from the Shanghai Oriental Pearl Radio & TV Tower – the highest television tower in Asia – provided us with ample evidence for his assessment.

A city with a population approaching 20 million people, Shanghai is being groomed to overtake Hong Kong and is a symbol of the new China’s growth in the 21st Century.

The Rough Guide to Shanghai says that at one point a quarter of the world’s building cranes were in use here.

We took an elevator to the tower’s bi-level sightseeing area, located about 850 feet above the streets of Shanghai. From here we had 360-degree access to the city skyline and surrounding area, including a look down at boat traffic along the Huang Pu River.

Located within a glass ball, we had an opportunity stand on a clear floor (as you see in an accompanying picture) and actually step outside at this height.

This had been the best weather we’d had all week – including a clear sky and bright sunshine — but from the tower the air pollution still was prevalent.

Built in 1994 at a height of 1,535 feet, the Oriental Pearl Tower was the tallest structure in China until 2007, when the Shanghai World Financial Center was completed. It remains the third tallest TV tower in the world.

Thousands of high rise buildings and architectural marvels have gone up in the last two decades, although the historic structures in the Bund District across the river demonstrate how old meets new here.

Another view of Shanghai from about 350 feet (plus two feet)

For much of its history, Shanghai was an isolated fishing village. But that began to change in 1842, when the British opened a trading post here. The city grew and become known as the “Paris of the East” during the 1920s and 1930s. That part of the city’s history ended when the Japanese invaded during World War.

After the Communist Revolution, the city slept for 40 years, only to be awakened in 1990 when Chinese Premier Deng Xiaoping announced that the city was open for business.

In the lobby, you’ll find an excellent museum dedicated to the history of Shanghai’s urban development.

Like New York, this is a city that never sleeps.

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