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When I visited Shanghai in June I didn't take my laptop with me because I knew if I did I would sit in the hotel working in the evening so instead I took a Hello Kittty exercise book. This was where I jotted down all my notes about the city. Looking back at all the squiggles I can see that the skyscrapers definitely had an impact on me especially the Oriental Pearl Radio and TV Tower. This is a beauty.
When I first saw the stylish tower shining on the Pudong skyline I thought I had seen it before but couldn't remember where exactly. I asked my husband about it but he hadn't a clue, he just muttered something that sounded like James Bond. Well, he was actually correct for once because the blue eyed Daniel Craig was in Shanghai filming the film, Skyfall which was released in October of this year. He must have been there at the same time as we were. What a missed opportunity. However, I had seen the tower in another film and now, as I write, it has just clicked. The film is Mission Impossible 3 starring Tom Cruise. It just shows you how these city skyline symbols stick with you forever.
Work on the tower started in 1990 and was completed in 1994. Like so many other buildings constructed at the same time it has become a symbol of Shanghai's renaissance. It isn't liked by everyone but I can't honestly see what there isn't too like about it. It is a lot of fun to look at especially at night when it is illuminated. The best view of the tower is from The Bund on the opposite side of the River Huangpu. It is even spectacular in daylight and although it has been overshadowed by more recent high rise buildings this is still by far the most iconic building in Shanghai.
In the spring of 2010 the city had a series of electric thunderstorms which caused a fire on top of the antenna. Luckily, firemen were able to extinguish the flames but definitely not a job for the fainthearted with the tower standing at 468 metres tall.
Looking at the tower from a distance you see a specific image of a radio tower but when you are inside the tower the images created by the coloured glass spheres and crystal baubles are so different. It is as if you are enclosed in a huge glass ball and when you look down you see smaller glass pearls, falling down and down, until they create one huge sphere which eventually floats to earth and lands on a green plateau.
Wherever you go in Pudong this tower will always be there whichever way you look but my advice is not just to look and stare but to go inside. Altogether there are three viewing levels; top, medium and lower platforms. Each level has something different to offer so it depends if you have a good head for heights and want to go 350 metres high into the Space Module. Here you get a great view of Shanghai's skyline but you can't really see the Bund and its amazing buildings from this height. The middle platform which is split into two levels, one at 267 metres and the other at 259 metres both have viewing platforms with shops and toilet facilities. There is a fancy revolving restaurant situated on the higher level. I didn't go to the restaurant as it looked expensive and wasn't sure if I wanted to eat a bowl of Chop Suey at that height. I managed to look at the views of Shanghai and they are spectacular although the day we visited there was low cloud. Not sure if this was weather related or to do with the pollution from the city's traffic. The lower sphere is a lot of fun and not as high which suited me fine not being crazy about heights. On this level there is a roller coaster. Hang on to your hats! It's fast, colourful and makes you feel a bit queasy but I wouldn't have missed the experience for anything. I felt like I was 12 years old again on the Big Dipper in Southport.
In the basement of the TV tower is the Shanghai History Museum. This is very interesting once you get through the ticket queues. I will tell you more about the museum in another review.
Pudong is an area of Shanghai that is full of iconic buildings - the Pearl Oriental TV and Radio Tower is one of them, if not the most iconic. You'll have a job to miss it but don't leave Shanghai without going inside. It's a pearl!
Opening times of the viewing spheres are: 8am until 10pm.
Nearest Metro Station: Luijiazui Road.