Check out the largest outdoor ice-skating rink in Shanghai
Skating in the snow can almost never be experienced naturally in the city but it gets close to true life at North Bund during the Shanghai International Ice Festival.
The location is the city's largest outdoor ice-skating rink which reopened in December 2021 at Sinar Mas Plaza, also known as White Magnolia Plaza.
With the countdown started to the Beijing Winter Olympics, the ice rink has suddenly become a hot attraction.
With 1,200 square meters of ice for you to glide, jump and fall your way around on, the rink itself is a highlight in the winter of the city.
Maybe it won't be as perfect as the indoor skating option, but the outdoor experience and the view is incomparable, especially at night when the skyline of Lujiazui is lit up.
How to get involved in outdoor-skating even as a beginner? I checked it out on January 6.
First of all, basic skating equipment such as skates and protection gear is included in the ticket, so you don't need to bring them.
Inside an easily found bubble tent beside the rink are benches and lockers for you to access the skating equipment. Staff will help you to choose the right ice skates and guide you to put on the protectors that are really useful for beginners. Walkers and instructors are also available on site.
It was my first time to skate on real ice, and difficult to stand on the skates.
"Be careful when you first enter the ice, hold the balustrade, get used to the feeling of wearing skates," said my instructor Yang Sen.
"Then try to bend your knees, stay low if you don't want to fall down, that really helps. It becomes much easier to keep your balance."
But falling down is always easier the first time than gliding, just like the kids around me.
The skates they provide are recreational ones, made out of plastic, and the blade edge is not sharp. So they won't hurt when you fall down, do figure skating jumps or acrobatic movements.
Yang gave me some advice to glide forward – the easy way is to wobble like a penguin, but the best way is push your skates to the side.
"The skates should not be too close, or too far apart. It's better to keep one skate a little bit in front of the other. Don't forget your arms, they can save you from falling many times," he said. "Almost every beginner can complete his/her first glide after half-an-hour practice."
I eventually got used to the skates after falling down dozens of times. And I found there's no one good at it here. You'll have a lot of crashes with your skating friends and still get some fun out of it.
Alternatively you can rent a cute dolphin- shaped walker (50 yuan/US$7.84) that allows one kid to sit on it.
As a useful tip, if it is your first time to skate, you'd better start at 9am in the morning or 3pm in the afternoon, just after the staff smooth out the ice. And due to the warm weather, the ice surface won't be perfect for skating in the early afternoon from noon to 3pm.
Compared to indoor ice-skating rinks, the outside one is cold, wet and with an irregular surface.
At the same time, whether you're a wobbly beginner, or able to zip around in artful figure eights, there are few things more exciting than lacing up your skates and gliding across the ice outdoors, especially in Shanghai, a city where it rarely snows.
The Oriental Pearl TV Tower and the whole Lujiazui skyline are lit up at 6pm, turning the ice rink into a winter fairyland shrouded in splendid music and light.
The Sinar Mas Plaza twinkles while the unique lights are falling on the skaters.
The snow maker is working, the children are excited to have a snowball fight, and the girls are busy taking snapshots and videos for their social media feeds.
It reminded me of north China which becomes a world of ice and snow every winter.
It's the third occasion of the reopening of the huge ice-skating rink at North Bund. Its interactive light shows and ice shows will debut during the coming Spring Festival.
The interactive screen will be operating during the winter vacation period (starting from January 14), allowing skaters to watch their movements on screen and providing games for children.
Good to know before you go:
The rink will be open through February 28, and operating times and prices vary, with each session lasting 90 minutes.
On weekends and during the winter vacation period (January 14 to February 16, excluding Spring Festival holiday), the rink is open from 9am-10pm (149 yuan). During Spring Festival (January 31 to February 6), the price is 219 yuan. On weekdays until January 13 and then after the winter school holiday period (from February 17) the hours are 9am-6pm (99 yuan) during the day and 6-10pm at night (119 yuan).
Tickets include rental of skates and protection gear but, due to safety regulations, kids under 4, seniors over 65, and children under 1.1m are not permitted to take part.
The address is 501 Dongdaming Road, Hongkou District.