Since I was around 11, I have been seeing my father taking off to China at least twice in a year. I have always listened to him in awe about his travel stories of people he met there, their culture, their unique diet and how he adapted at times. Ever since, I have been intrigued by that very contrasting country which popularised Kung Fu to the world. Well, Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan and Po the panda blessed us with their part of the contribution (credit where credit’s due).
Though, plans to visit China together as a family never came through due to my father’s strict work schedule while there and/or our school. I remember that my father other than quirky teenage stuff and my favourite Chinese cakes (Craving. Right Now. YUM.), he always bought back Chinese green tea even before it got crazily commercial and he still does.
Trip to Shanghai was planned on a short notice and was more of a work trip than a leisure one. We did not really get to experience too many things but, took out time for a few that were possible around. Well I had one main motive, to spend time with my ex-Chinese flatmate and a very good friend from my Monaco days. The 1st day my husband took off for meetings during the day and I met up with my friend to spend some quality time and experience the city. How I missed her.
Shanghai is a truly magnificent city and I was really lucky to have spent a day with my local friend here. We started with getting us some lunch at one of the many cafès in the Old French concession which made it pretty hard for me to believe that we were still in Shanghai. Picture; narrow tree-lined avenues, trendy boutiques, quaint cafès, pleasantly old fashioned bars and charming tudor style houses for residents. If all of the above doesn’t feel like you have been transported to Europe I don’t know what else will.
I was awe-struck and place bought back so many european memories. I would have loved nothing but to spend the entire day there and reminded myself that I was in a new city and decided to save the nostalgia for later. We headed to get me a jacket as Shanghai was extremely chilly in the month of April and on our way we stopped by outside the Jing’an Temple and decided, maybe later, as I was truly freezing my arse off.
The Bund is indeed one of Shanghai’s most standout landmark. Walk on this striking curve of the city along the river, while catching up on each other’s life events from over the years made for a great way to bring in the evening. The Bund is situated on the Puxi side of Shanghai boasting stunning European buildings from their colonial era. These historic architectural buildings today houses scores of exclusive hotels, shops and bars.
Across the Huangpu river the present day view of the Pudong skyline can be enjoyed from the Bund. This skyline shows off the famous Oriental Pearl Tower (TV Tower), the Shanghai world financial centre and the glistering Jin Mao Tower. There’s also an exclusive Sight Seeing Tunnel 50Y that’ll take you to the Pudong side of the city from the Bund. This ride is pretty cool with all the lighting and artsy stuff in side the tunnel.
Into to evening we stuck around the Bund side and walked our way stopping at Chinese souvenir shops in Nanjing Lu or Nanjing Road. No matter, what you want to buy, whats your style and what’s your budget you will find it here. A busy shopping area with restaurants, street shops, street food stalls and massive malls within colonial buildings. I went crazy there at the beauty stores where many Korean brands like Innisfree and Etude House are way cheaper than in many other parts of the world.
I was hooked to the street style in Shanghai and especially in Nanjing Lu. Best place to go people watching without weirding out anybody. We ended the day with dinner at an authentic Chinese restaurant. I couldn’t picture consuming everything on the menu but my friend helped me translate all the ingredients so I could choose what all I wanted to try. Though the menu had english translation that weren’t of much help.
We went full Adam Richman (Man vs Food) and ordered seven dishes between the both of us to ‘try’. We were so full of dumplings, honey noodles, chilly crabs, pork, some Chinese greens, sweet lotus stems and tofu with wild mushrooms, even our table couldn’t accommodate all the dishes at once. Everything was so delicious and some required an acquired taste but was fun none the less. Being an indian I cannot possibly crave the taste of authentic Chinese food everyday but that one time I was mind blown and someday I can’t wait to go back for more. The perks of having a local friend in a new city.
One of the chilly evening’s there, my husband and I went out to the Bund and took in the dazzling evening skyline of Pudong and of course the ‘not so easy to miss’ striking un-Chinese view of the European architecture. Love the way historical buildings look when lit up after sun down. At the Bund one can easily find a synergy of both the time periods; on one side a glimpse of the past and other a look into the future.
Yuyang Garden and Market was one place I was really looking forward to visiting from the beginning. On a day off we paid a visit and my, I was impressed. Yuyang market place was pleasantly old school Chinese amongst all things modern and new in the city. The Chinese garden was beautifully landscaped from wherever we looked and it was felt serene amongst all that city hustle outside. Especially, in the evening when the place is beautifully lit up with decorated lights is truly a treat after the famous soupy dumplings there. The place is even more bustling with tourists and locals like wise for the food and shopping.
There are many local street food restaurants and stalls, if you can’t find the one for the special dumpling just look for a stall with the longest queue and spot people drinking out of a dumpling with a plastic straw. The shops at Yuyang for Chinese souvenirs and handicrafts, being a tourist destination everything thing is pricey but you can easily haggle and buy things for way cheaper if you have the skill. My favorite stores were the ones with all the Panda merchandise, everything was black and white and so adorable.
Keep in mind:
- Getting food for people not accustomed to the Chinese pallet in the city of Shanghai is not convenient, but, not that difficult. There are many famous fast food chains and restaurants serving away an array of international cuisines. But, I highly recommend vegetarians to do their research for restaurants and their menus or else rice is the only thing that will be edible in sight.
- Not everyone speaks english and is extremely difficult to converse with taxi driver here so it is best to be prepared before hand with a list of your destination and also their address translated in mandarin.
- In case of shopping, there are many themed markets and few of them we managed to visit;
- SHANGHAI’S HONGQIAO PEARL MARKET (A mall dedicated to only Pearl Jewellery)
- SHANGHAI INTERNATIONAL GLASSES MALL (An entire mall dedicated to getting Eye glasses and even the prescription ones)
- TIAN ZI FANG (Gifts and specialty)
- NANJING LU (Fakes brands at plaza 66 & street food)
On the last evening my friend recommended that we visit the a rooftop bar Vue – Hyatt on the Bund and enjoy a stunning, panoramic view of the city while downing endless cocktails before we headed for Singapore the next day.
Pictures below taken by me and my husband should help you picture the city a lot better.
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