A Journey Beyond Sight and Sound in Shanghai

The Bund Sightseeing Tunnel

By Brian Spencer

The other night I asked a friend if, during his visit to Shanghai, he had also taken a ride through the Bund Sightseeing Tunnel. He reflexively looked down in shame, as if a dark secret long buried in his distant past had finally caught up with him, and quietly muttered “Yes, I did, and… (raising his head)… it was awesome.”

There’s no shame in saying so, my friend, and there’s no shame in agreeing with him. Well, maybe there is, but then it depends on your point of view and, specifically, your sense of humor.


“If you’re really that desperate to have a lousy tourist experience than just stand on the corner with a camera and an open map. Pain will find you.” – TripAdvisor user pompui

“The tunnel is really rather sad.” – TripAdvisor user timefit


The Bund Sightseeing Tunnel, by impish Act of God, currently ranks as one of the top-five tourist attractions in Shanghai in terms of total annual visitors. Perhaps this simply speaks to a prime location on The Bund promenade, or to the sprawling city’s relative lack of activities that would categorically fall on a traditional sightseeing map (a topic I recently touched on in regards to Bangkok). Or, maybe, it goes to show how unprepared uninformed well-meaning tourists can easily be duped in their ravenous pursuit to be entertained.

Whatever the reason, Shanghai has built it — not in 1973, as I would have guessed, but rather in 2000 — and they have come, even if most never return.


“This is a result of bad 1980 Chinese style. A slow moving sub-see train going through a tunnel with stupid, stupid, childish light show.” – TripAdvisor user Torben A

“We thought there would be a nice light show, but it turns out that the tunnel pushed the envelope for tackiness and schmaltz.” – TripAdvisor user Hongdemao


The headline description is that the Bund Sightseeing Tunnel is a short cable-car ride under the Huangpu River that connects Puxi on the west with Pudong on the east. There are no pedestrian walkways or bridges in this area to get from one side of the river to the other, so the only other options are ferry and taxi.  In that sense, you might say the tunnel is convenient, if not expensive: 50 RMB for a one-way journey, 70 RMB roundtrip. For comparison, going by taxi will be less than half that cost, while ferry rides are comparative pocket change.

The Bund Sightseeing Tunnel, however, is more than mere means of transportation — it is, according to Tunnel sales director Zhang Bin, a harrowing journey that begins not on The Bund or in Pudong, but among the stars:

“The story is about going from space into the core of the Earth and out again. We couldn’t show the dirty Huangpu, so we went for something bigger and better. It’s the only tunnel like it in the world.”

The Bund Sightseeing Tunnel in Shanghai

Here’s what bigger and better means at the Bund Sightseeing Tunnel:

You board a small, windowed cable car. The car sputters into motion and begins its crawl down a two-track tunnel lined with flashing LCD lights which double as lo-tech eye candy and epilepsy exam. The chatter of a Mandarin-speaking narrator is occasionally broken by an English narrator booming phrases like “Nascent magma!” and “Heaven and hell!” and “Meteor shower!”

Lights continue flashing, epileptic seizures ensue or they don’t, the car moves past three mildly terrifying airdancers planted between the two tracks — terrifying as in why are their fucking airdancer clowns down here? — and then, all of roughly three minutes having passed, you disembark, chuckling, or perhaps cursing if you splurged on the roundtrip ticket. Like at any proper tourist trap, the exit is through the gift shop, past a creepy, ’80s-style basement arcade.


“Don’t fall for the tourist trap stands selling dolls made in your likeness. It was expensive, didn’t look like my kids and worst of all, the heads fell off once they dried.” – TripAdvisor user Sue L

“Can not compare to any rides by Disney or Six Flags. Sucks.” – TripAdvisor user Lise G


Don’t be embarassed to admit it — you know this sounds amazing.

The Bund Sightseeing Tunnel is located at 300 Zhongshan Dong Yi Lu, near Nanjing Dong Lu, at The Bund promenade. One-way tickets cost 50 RMB; roundtrip 70 RMB.

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