This time I went to Shanghai at short notice and wasn’t able to do a lot of planning; but we did achieve a reasonable amount and tried quite a number of interesting things.
There are many aspects to shanghai; you could experience both an old and new city at the same time. We stayed at an Airbnb accommodation in the middle of a shopping district. To give you a very quick reference, it’s right next to West Nanjing Rd Station (each red dot is a subway station). The we stayed around the blue line area, but that’s not the ENTIRE shopping street; the shopping district continues, pretty much almost all the way down past the last subway station before The Bund.
I’m pretty happy I stayed in that district, because it was just so convenient. Apart from the high end department store, it was also close to Sephora, Uniqlo, H&M and most importantly, what I’ll show you later, the amazing small local eateries.
Image Above: West Nanjing Road (shopping street) during the day
Image Above: West Nanjing Road (shopping street) at night
I have to say, one of the thing I look forward to the most when I go to China is the food. Chinese people are all ABOUT THE FOOD! And it’s fantastic! While there isn’t a really big coffee culture, I have to say it’s getting better. Let me introduce you to a few things that you HAVE to try in Shanghai.
Chinese Crepes. NOM NOM NOM! It’s a savoury crepe and people tend to have this with their soy milk as their breakfast. It cost $4 RMB and it’s oh so delicious. While there aren’t as many Chinese crepe makers as there are convenience stores, but there are still an abundance of them around.
I can eat this for breakfast, lunch and dinner, 7 days straight.
It’s hard to say what’s a “good” mini wonton place because it’s different taste for everyone, but I had the one above here and it was pretty packed when we went.
Thankfully, you don’t have to go far to get this Marble Egg, you can get it from most convenience stores. I think it’s everywhere because it’s something EVERY Shanghainese would eat, and it’s cheap and delicious. So naturally, it’s a favourite.
Sure, there are lots of other very traditional Shanghainese dishes, but you’d have to go to proper restaurants to try those and the list would be ENDLESS. But let me tell you one thing about typical Shanghainese food, specifically Shanghainese: There are a lot of bones and shells. You’ll see lots of mini snails, mini prawns, little crabs, boney chicken & duck. Like this dish:
This is not a delicacy, it’s a street food and can be ordered at restaurants. If you’ve never tried, I’d suggest to not attempt this without the help of a local. Mostly so that a local can show you which part can be eaten, and which can’t.
Considering we had limited time, I didn’t get to go to that many places, but I still got a chance to hit a few attractions. I won’t show you the typical stuff you’d find on TimeOut or Trip Advisor; these three places I’m going to show you are place you won’t think of going when you’re in Shanghai.
Feng Jing Old Town
About an hour and half outside of Shanghai city is a city called Feng Jing.
You can get there by bus and it’s a place most residents of Shanghai would know about, so you should get good directions when you’re lost.
It’s not one of those places you’d think of going if you’re not a local (I had to go with family), but I have to say I really enjoyed the atmosphere. It wasn’t full of tourists and people were more relaxed. I didn’t get a chance to walk the entire town, but it’s not small.
Considering I spent the first decade of my life in Shanghai, I couldn’t go pass these delicious Stinky Tofu.
Yes, I do think they are delicious.
Don’t worry, if stinky tofu is not your thing, you can find lots of other delicious and acceptable things to try.
People always say Chinese are bad drivers, because we do crazy things on the road. Well, I beg to differ; we’re just quick thinkers and very adaptable. I mean, look at this guy here, how else do you want him to move these enormous and awkward sized card boards?
Jing An Temple
If you REALLY want to feel what it’s like being a typical Chinese, then you should visit a popular temple like the Jing An Temple of Shanghai.
Going to the temple and say your prayers to the various Gods are no longer JUST a religious event, it’s now a Chinese culture.
When you do get a moment to breath through the smoke of incense, or the heat of all the people, look anywhere and you’d be able to admire the work of art around you.
I’ve been told that everything is handmade, and some of those things have been there for hundreds of years.
If you don’t have a tour guide with you, I’d say read up on some rules before going in.
Beside the usual rules at religious buildings, here are a 3 things I was told since very young:
1. You should never buy, or light up someone else’s incense for them.
Incense is an extension of someone’s respect for the Gods, so you should let that person show it themselves.
2. Don’t blow out the fire on the incense with your mouth. Do it with your hand.
I believe it’s dis respectable to blow it out with your mouth.
3. Don’t ever stand on the door ledges. NEVER. EVER.
I was never told the reason behind this one, but I’m going to guess that it’s probably to do bad luck.
Shanghai Antique Market
Anyone who knows me well knows that I have an unhealthy passion for antiques. I don’t know much, but I just really like looking at antique stuff.
So no doubt, with a few hours to spare, I HAD to check out the antique market in Shanghai.
Long story short, it’s not great as an antique market, but it’s a great place to get souvenirs if your friends are into this kind of stuff.
Everything is fake. Even that painting cost $5,000 RMB it’s a fake; but check it out anyway, you might find lots of things to take home for friends.
Unfortunately, I didn’t walk away with anything, but that was because luggage space was limited and I just did not have the energy to bargain.
If I did feel like bring things home, I’d probably go for one of these cars. While I wouldn’t say they are very “Chinese”, you are more likely to get a cheaper price here than anywhere else.
Or you could try one of these, but then not everyone is into the figurines.
So, that’s my 5 days loosely documented.
It’s hard for me to describe or recommend Shanghai; I spent my first decade there so there are a lot of things I still remember and love, yet I rarely go back and I hardly recognise some of areas I frequented but have been completely redeveloped.
Although I might not go back for a while, I definitely look forward to the next time I get to have some more mini wontons…
For other inspirations to travelling in China, check out these sites: