Oriental Pearl Tower Shanghai, China

The Oriental Pearl Tower OPT in Shanghai, China, is a television broadcast tower that is also a public tourist attraction.DSC07555

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In July 2016, I went with a group of people on a university trip, to visit the OPT. We got there around 3:30pm. It was the middle of summer and super hot. We spend around almost an hour waiting outside, the line went all the way around the OPT. Some people ended up leaving. When the actual entry to the OPT was in sight, we were relieved. Our group got our picture taken as they do in many tourist attractions, and then to my disappointment although understandable, that the line continued inside. The line was compacted into zig zag barricades.IMG_3496.JPG

In the end we waited from day to night, almost 3 hours (2 hours and 50 something minutes). Originally we were going to meet back down on the ground outside at around 6:30pm (we didn’t get in till then). It didn’t bother me much because I wanted to see the night scenery. From such high up, there really isn’t much to see except city scenery.

A few reasons why the wait was so long:
-July is school holiday time in China
-There were security bag checks inside and only 2 of them for the hundreds and hundreds of tourists
-There are heaps of people in China. HEAPS. Just search up “Golden Week China” online and be warned not to visit China as a tourist during Golden Week (around October 1)out.

So when we finally got up there, I had the opportunity to see the daylight scenery as well as night scenery. I stayed there till about 9 or 9:30pm.

Once we passed the security check, there was another line to one of several lifts. Being a circular layout, the lifts were in the center of the building and everyone lined up around the circumference of the circle, which is also lined with shops. Click here and here for a short video of the interior (filmed without a tripod while waiting so it’s shaky… just telling you in advance).DSC07566

After finally getting to the top, the view wasn’t so clear. This is what you will pretty much see unless it is a super clear day (preferably not in summer where the humidity is high. See how humidity affected night shots in my other post on the Bund or Waitan)DSC07588

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In this picture you can see the circular pedestrian walkway beneath the OPT which is raised above the road below. There were a lot of people strolling on this bridge and taking photos at night.DSC07586

For night photos, see below.

What you do here:
We went up to 263m, it had 360 degree views, minus the metal structures blocking some views. At the top, there are extensive 360 degree views of the city and the Huang Pu River, so people mainly come here to the top for the views and if you are into photography, photography of the city. Click here for a video of the observation level, here for views out during the day from the observation level, here for a (very shaky, gimbal-less and noisy so with incomplete narration) video tour of the inside of the top floor, where I show you the views, walk around the entire deck, and show you the souvenirs sold there.

There was a glass bottomed observation deck (259m) that only allowed people to enter when others leave, ie another line. I was lucky enough to get in without much waiting, probably because of the time. Click here for a video taken from the glass bottomed observation deck.

Apart from the views, there are also restaurants and shops on the lower entry floors as mentioned above, and a gaming level.

A note for photographers:
The tickets are sold depending on what you want access to. You can see the city around the OPT from the top sphere (the more spheres you want access to, the higher the ticket price). I would say this is a good vantage point for photography except that the structures outside the glass blocks the windows a bit, the glare of the glass might be a problem, and fog/smog/pollution might affect the clarity. So for photographers who are keen to come to the top, here is what I recommend:

-Plan your visit on  a clear day. Go soon after a big rainfall (the entire almost 20 days I was there, there was only 1 big rainfall. Actually there was only 1 time it rained.) What you see at ground level, prepare for an even more obscured view at the top if it is a summer and humid day.

-Prepare your equipment before you go so it is ready to go in case you want to leave at a moment’s notice. Bring appropriate equipment (lens, flexible lens hood, tripod …)

Here are some pictures (not post processed) that I took without a tripod, with an ordinary point and shoot:

What a difference night fall and bright city lights make.DSC07598

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This is the same Huang Pu river that you could almost not see through the haze during the day above:DSC07626

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This photo was taken from the glass bottomed observation deck below:DSC07621

There are different lifts for going up and down. The lift going back down takes you to the gaming level (98m) where you need to change to a new lift to continue going down.

DSC07660When I finally left the OPT, I ended up on the circular walkway. This picture taken from the circular overhead walkway around the tower. Click here for a short video taken from the walkway. The walkway is flat and easily navigated with wheelchairs and prams. However to get to street level you need to take the escalator, I don’t recall if there are lifts. Anyone that knows, please leave a comment.

Facilities:
The top sphere/level I first went to had toilets, a gift kiosk, a small information pictorial showing the the construction of the OPT over time, a free phone recharge place (no lockers, the cables are exposed so you need to stay there), pay to use binoculars and a small seating area.

The gift kiosk sold metal models of the OPT, post cards and crystal/glass models as wells as Chinese fans and other typical tourist souvenirs. There is a postal service so you can buy the postcard and send it from there, which is the ‘highest postal service in China’. However living overseas to China, the stamp fee was more than the postcard and ordinary post stamp itself, so I just brought the post card home with me in my luggage.

Note: This high up, the cell phone reception is not good, I had 1 voice call and it was not good. I did manage to receive and send 1 text when the voice call didn’t work.

Wheel friendliness:
There were signs that showed wheelchair friendly lifts and access. However the actual practical accessibility might not be so easy (but not impossible) overall. I have seen wheelchairs in the first level I went to, the path is circular and flat.

When we changed for lifts at the gaming level, we had to go down 1 flight of stairs however I am pretty sure there is a special restricted access lift for wheeled vehicles, like prams and wheelchairs. (Anyone that knows, leave a comment)

Also the observation deck had steps, you step down onto the circular wrap around observation deck from the inside. There are staff on the observation deck trying to sell photos and lots of people.

Recommended stay:
You might be able to get a few good pictures if you have good photography equipment and are lucky it is on a really clear day, if so, as long as you need. Because of the number of people there especially on the observation deck and the long wait, I decided to stay 3 hours. However there might be less people in months other  than July and October’s Golden Week. Also we went on a weekday (12th of July 2016) and there were still that many people. Just sayin’.

Personally I feel there is not much to do at this attraction other than to see the scenery from high up and take photos. If you have seen elevated scenery before (at other towers, or just anywhere) or are not interested in photography, you might not find this to be that special.

Ticket price:
The prices vary according to the level you want to go to, or the number of spheres you want to access. Click here for their official website. As a general guide, access to both spheres plus the space capsule and the exhibition hall cost around ¥220 per person, both spheres and the exhibition hall is ¥160, and ¥35 for the exhibition hall only without access to the tower. (Current as time of posting) The exhibition hall is on the ground floor and I feel, if you bothered to come all this way and line up, why go to the exhibition hall only? Can’t comment on the exhibition hall as I didn’t go.

Also the prices on their website is in Chinese Hanyu only, and it says ticket prices at ticket window prevails, so it could be updated at any time.

Something to note:
If you are a solo traveler like I was (I got completely separated from my group which I did not mind, since everywhere I go, I travel solo anyway and already decided to stay till 9pm), in my experience, people weren’t so willing to take photos for me. The people that did help were the tourists so I’d suggest you go for them, because in China, there are cases of purposely making someone liable for real/fake damage, so I suspect this is the case, as they are afraid they will break my camera and I (speaking Chinese) would blame them for it and make them pay. I actually had people say they don’t know how to use my camera or that they’ll break it. Maybe if you don’t speak Chinese, you’ll get a different response. Let us know if you had a different experience asking people to take photos for you in China, in the comments.

Getting here:
The closest metro stop is Liujizui, but we came by coach. Click here for a locality map that shows where’s what, and here for my guide to the metro in Shanghai. If you have already been here and have extra tips for us, I’d appreciate it if you could leave some in the comments for future travellers!

Click here for more things to do and see in Shanghai, or if you are ready to come visit Shanghai, try these affiliate links (what are affiliate links?)

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