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Chongming Island Is Hosting the National Flower Expo. Is It Worth a Visit?

There's only one way to find out...
2021-06-04 18:00:00
Photos: Brandon McGhee

So there’s this giant flower expo happening on Chongming island until July 2. It’s a national affair that happens every four years, with different parts of the country bidding to host. Sort of like how countries do for the Olympics, or the up-coming European soccer thing.

It’s massive. There are 180 outdoor gardens, and 64 indoor exhibitions. They’ve locked down nearly 10sqkm for it, and planted 470,000sqm of seeds. This is the tenth edition.

Anyway, what’s there to see?

Well, flowers. Lots of them. And a good bit of nature too. The expo is broken into two parts, the north and south parks. The southern end is actually Dongping National Forest Park, and a nice slice o’ nature at its finest. Treed walkways, rivers, patriotic opera boomed over speakers, and some places for lunch – which, as you’ll find out further down, may be crucial. They’ve put a few extra bits in there, like an exhibition of paintings, and this giant straw ox.

But generally, the main attractions are happening up north.

There you’ll find the main exhibition centres. The first place you’ll see is actually shaped like a giant peony flower if seen from above. But they don’t let you fly drones in the park so you’ll have to take our word for it. You can walk on the roof and get a view of the other exhibition centres. Inside there are small natural history displays showing the various stages of a plant’s life, and a desert and jungle garden.

There are also gardens. Miles of them. Gardens that go on forever. With every sort of flower you can imagine. In almost every arrangement. I guess this would also be the right time to mention that it could become a two-day job to try and see it all, and so the folks at the 10th China Flower Expo have prepared accommodation for over 300. There’s a whole app for it called Zhu Chongming (住崇明), but it’s a bit confusing - you might be better off just booking something through whatever platform you’d normally use.

So as I was saying, it goes on foreeeevverr. Like trudge till the souls of your feet bleed forever. And most of it is just neatly arranged flower beds like you’ve seem ‘em before. Probably the only bit that of anything out of the ordinary is the flower arranging section. That’s in the exhibition centre you can see from atop the giant peony building.

If horticulture is your thing, you’ll probably get some major kicks out of this.

In here, each province of China competes to see who can put on the gnarliest flower show. They don’t stop at flowers either. Anhui is doing some pretty radical things with bonsai trees. It smells lovely, and it’s a real extravaganza of colour. If horticulture is your thing, you’ll probably get some major kicks out of this.

But that’s just it, if horticulture is your thing. Let’s not forget that the flower expo is on Chongming island. That’s quite a hike to get to. They’ve added a lot of public transport routes especially for the expo, including ferries. We’ve put a full guide of that at the bottom of the article.

Lunch options are also pretty limited. There isn’t much to eat except the same microwaved meal of meat, veg and rice being flogged from ubiquitous orange food vans. You’ll be able to find a few snacks at the onsite Alldays, but other than that it’s slim pickings. Your best bet is to to pack a picnic, or head to the south park's BBQ set-up where you can buy sets of skewers and rent a grill for few hundred rmb. It's a short walk from the main gate. If you find yourself in Jumanji, then you've gone too far.

So is worth going?

Yeh, it could be. But you’d better be real into flowers. If you’re the sort of person that complains about having to go to Pudong to renew a visa, or uses words like "radical" to describe bonsai trees, I doubt this is for you. Anyone with a green thumb, or a family that might get a kick out of this kinda thing - or perhaps a man just looking to send his girlfriend or wife on a lovely trip while he kicks back at home with a cold domestic beer and some European soccer - should put this on their radar.

Entrance is 120rmb, and you’ll need your passport.


How to get there

There's a few options how to get there and make it a day-trip:

Take a Didi.

The cheapest options on Didi cost about 400-500rmb one way. This includes the 100rmb toll booth fee to cross the bridge onto Chongming island. It also considers that you are leaving from Xuhui. The trip should take you 1.5-2 hours depending on traffic. For the address, open this listing, scan the WeChat QR code with WeChat to open the SmartShanghai MiniProgram, then click the "Call Didi" button.

Use the Expo transport.

Via the WeChat miniprogram 花博交通 you can book shuttle busses, regular busses, and ferries to the expo:

  • Shuttle busses – These leave from outside the city centre 7am-7pm. They cost 20rmb and take about 1-2 hours to reach the expo in good traffic depending on where you set off from. When you choose your set off point, you’ll see instructions on how to find the right bus from the nearest metro writing in orange Chinese. The nearest to the city centre is probably Longyang Lu, a few blocks south of Century Park.
  • Public service busses – These run from all over Shanghai, including the city centre, from 7am-7pm. They cost 30rmb. The duration of your trip will depends on where you leave from but it will be a minimum of 1-2 hours. The first option leaves from People’s Square. You’ll see instructions on how to find the right bus in orange Chinese: use exit 9, turn right and take busses 451 or 454 at the nearby bus station.
  • Ferries – Ferries between the expo and Wusong or Shidiaokou. The first ferry sails at 8.15am, and the last sails at 5.45pm. You can take a bus to the ferry port from Shuichan Lu metro on Line 3. There are fast boats that take about two hours (18rmb), and slow boats that take about three hours (16rmb). They take you to direct to the expo. You need to be on a bus that leaves Shuichan Lu metro station about an 1–1.5 hours before your ferry is schedule to sail.
  • Parking – There are car parks there if you want to drive yourself. You’ll have to book a parking space in advance. It’s mandatory. You can do that on the 4th option as mentioned above. The car park closes at 6.30pm.


Want some flower options closer to the city center? Check out our run down of Shanghai's flower markets.