I will briefly tell you about a day spent in the Puxi side of Shanghai, which means “The City Above the Sea,” places to go there, and activities you can partake in:
09:00 – We are having breakfast. We see that the honorable people of China are having noodles, egg rolls, sticky rice, and dumplings, even for breakfast. The dumplings are served within steaming baskets and are much larger than the dumplings that we know. The Shanghai dumplings are called Xiaolongbao and generally contain pork, so if you don’t eat pork check before digging in. We chose to have noodles. I should tell you a little more about the Shanghai cuisine: The cuisine is also called “Hu” and dishes in general have soy sauce and sugar in them. Besides the meats marinated in wine, the frequent use of seafood is another very prominent feature. In Shanghai cuisine, in which many meats and vegetables are steamed, ribs named Di Shui Dong and oysters are among the most consumed and loved dishes, so if you chance upon them, I advise you to at least give them a try.
11:00 – We head out by taxi. If you plan to take taxis, I advise you to have the names of the places you will be going written in Chinese on paper or saved on your phone because it is really hard to communicate with the drivers (I must say that communicating with anyone in Shanghai is pretty difficult). Also if you are able to, agree upon a price before getting in the taxi or ask the driver to turn on the meter. Otherwise, they may ask for a higher fare than the normal amount – there is no need to pay more than necessary. Of course you don’t need to use taxis; the city has close to a thousand bus routes and a very useful subway infrastructure. I also advise you to download the “Explore Shanghai” app on your phone. The app, which displays the subway routes map of the city, also works offline. Plus, it is available in English.
11:30 – We arrive at Xintiandi. In this district, which is closed to traffic, you can find “Shikumen” style structures, interesting statues, cafés, restaurants, and stores where you can do some shopping. Xintiandi, which is a hotspot for tourists and students especially on the weekends, means “New Heaven and Earth” and is also the area where the Communist Party of China’s first congress took place. If you visit the Museum of the First National Congress of the Chinese Communist Party, which doesn’t charge an entrance fee, you can see photos and objects from the recent history of China and even an exhibit portraying the congress with waxwork statues.
13:15 – Our next stop, Yu yuan, isn’t too far off so we decide to walk there. While walking, we notice a deafening noise around us. We realize that the noise is coming from the cicadas in the trees. We see that the cicadas are also sold in tiny cages made of bamboo (we don’t know what the buyers do with them). While walking in the streets where the people are spread in front of their houses/stores with umbrellas or hand fans, we find some antique stores. In these stores you can find tea sets, toys, vases, and paintings. Few things attract our interest, but maybe due to us not knowing any Chinese the shop owners don’t attend to us. We accept our fate and head on out.
14:15 – We finally arrive at Yu Yuan. You have to pay a small fee to enter this garden, which means “Garden of Happiness.” Inside, we find various types of flowers and trees, tea houses, souvenir shops, exhibits, and statues. In order to reach Yu Yuan we cross a stone bridge in the shape of a zigzag. It is said that the bridge is built this way because, according to a belief in China, while evil souls can follow straight paths they lose their way on uneven paths. While crossing the bridge you can see small pools in the water, orange colored fish, and turtles. In the proximity of Yu Yuan is the City God Temple, which you may visit if you wish. Souvenir shops, restaurants such as Jade Shanghai, cafés, and pharmacies are located around the ground and due to the popularity of the district all of them are full of tourists. You can even find a sweetshop selling Turkish ice cream. I don’t know whether real Turkish ice cream is being sold – frankly I did not care to find out; probably because I witnessed red beans being added to the sundaes…
17:30 – We are at Bund, the waterfront where you can see the glorious skyscrapers of Shanghai. The side of the city named Pudong with almost 4,000 skyscrapers, lies in front of us in all its glory. These buildings which include the World Trade Center, Oriental Pearl TV Tower, Jin Mao Tower and the Shanghai Tower (which is currently being constructed) are beautifully lit if you go there at night. However, they are so high that during the fall and winter they are sometimes shrouded in cloud and you may not get to see the last few stories. You may visit Huangpu Park or take a look at the Shanghai People Yingxiong Memorial Tower while near the waterfront.
20:00 – We head up Nanjing Road. You can find everything that you can possibly want while shopping in this famous avenue, which is closed to traffic except for the parallel intersecting avenues. Some of the most famous hotels of the city are located here. Many restaurants offering various cuisines including Turkish and Arabian can also be found here. If you don’t wish to eat at the stands on the side streets and avenues – which is completely understandable – you can have dinner at a restaurant that you like the look of. We chose to dine at a Uyghur restaurant called “Yershari” and left satisfied with our choice. People selling toy helicopters, sellers going past you with roller skates, sellers appearing out of nowhere who ask you if you want bags or watches, tourists taking a whole tour of the avenue in small buses, people walking around with shopping bags, families coming out of Madame Tussauds, and people looking for a restaurant or some place for a drink… You can find people from all walks of life in this avenue which attracts 1 million tourists every day.
Before you visit Shanghai;
The rock band Chinese Football has produced some pretty decent songs. I would advise you to follow them.
“Shanghai Triad” which was released in 1995 and directed by Zhang Yimou who also directed “Hero” and “House of the Flying Daggers, ” is a film adapted from Bi Feiyu’s novel which shows the Shanghai of the 1930s and stars the beautiful Gong Li.
“Death of a Red Heroine” written by the Shanghainese Qiu Xiaolong, tells the story of Chen Cao, a detective who takes the case of a woman found dead on the Baili Channel in Shanghai. This is a novel which may pique your interest even if you don’t enjoy the crime fiction – if you like the genre you are luckier, because Cao’s story has turned into a quite popular series.