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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Shanghai: French Consession, Tianzifang, & Pudong - 4.12.11

  • Duolun Lu Cultural Street(多倫路文化街)
  • Soong Ching-Ling's Former Residence (宋慶齡故居)
  • Tianzifang (田子坊)
  • Shanghai World Financial Center (上海環球金融中心)
Washing my face this morning, I realized for sure that water in our hotel had a funny smell.  I didn't know if it was only in our hotel or if it was the water quality of Shanghai in general.

On the 26th floor at the hotel restaurant having the breakfast buffet, the food and even the coffee tasted a little off to me, like we were eating artificial flavor substitutes rather than the real thing.  All the news about the notorious tainted milk and toxic food in China clouded our heads in a way that we really could not enjoy the buffet that much.  Both H & I were hungry without appetites.

Taking the elevator out of the hotel, I smelled cigarette and blurred it out,  "Did someone just smoke a cigarette in the elevator?"  I looked over to this middle aged Asian guy who was standing next to us.  Surely enough, he was hiding a cigarette in one hand.  I looked at him with disbelief shaking my head.  Once we got out of the elevator, he actually gave the cigarette to the hotel staff member in the lobby to throw it out.

We took the metro to our first stop, Duolun Lu.  However, it was on our way to Duolun Lu on Hengbin road that I found most fascinating.  Hengbin road was a quiet residential street without all the shops and traffic.  I had a glance of how people in Shanghai live: laundry was hanging out of the windows to air dry; outdoor markets with people eating noodles for breakfast, vendors carefully carving out the pineapple to preserve most meat possible.... This is the side of Shanghai that felt real and endearing.

Next, we were on to Soong Ching-Ling's Former Residence.  Soong Ching-Ling was the widow of the founding father of the Republic of China. This was the villa that she lived in from 1948 to 1963.  The villa was simply decorated and the garden was an amazing oasis in the city. The villa was in the heart of French Concession, which housed a lot of beautiful European style villas.

Before our next stop, we had lunch at a Shanghain noodle shop on the way.  The stewed pork, one of the signature shanghai dishes, was pretty good, but the noodles were only mediocre. 

Tianzifang was a mix of residential and commercial houses that had the fascinating traditional Shanghai shikumen architecture with intricate alleyways.

Walking in the maze-like alleyways with the old brick walls on both sides and entangled wires over my head, I was fascinated.  There were interesting shops, galleries, restaurants, outdoor cafes and bars.  An unexpected turn later, some old ladies were walking out of their houses with bikes parked by the front doors.

There was even an outdoor bar selling an Austrian winter drink, Gluehwein (hot spiced red wine).  Of course we had to stop for a drink despite that it was spring time in Shanghai.  We lingered at Tianzifang for most of the afternoon before we headed back to our hotel.

Before we headed out again in the evening, we had a small bite to eat in the food court at the mall by the hotel since neither one of us were hungry for a big meal.  Yang's fried dumpling was a chain eatery in Shanghai that was recommended by my Chinese tour book.  They were cheap and delicious!  I loved the crispy skin and the sesame on top.  The dumplings were juicy and flavorful.  They were better than the Xiaolongbo we had the day before and cost a fraction of the price.

After the fried dumplings, we headed to Pudong, the modern 21st century Shanghai with all the iconic skyscrapers. On the big avenues, there were street vendors selling souvenirs to the tourists.  I saw a vendor selling kites and thought it would be a great gift for our nephew.  I asked the vendor how much it was, and pulled out money to pay for one.  Then it occurred to us that one should always haggle when shopping in China!  The thought was further confirmed when the vendor offered discounted price if we buy two.  Well, now we definitely felt like fools.

SWFC (Shanghai World Financial Center) not only was the second tallest building in the world, it had the world's tallest observation deck on the 100th floor at  474 m (1,555 ft) height.   It was also a beautiful building in design.

Before coming to Shanghai, many people had told us that Shanghai made Manhattan looked like a village.  Standing on the 100th floor observation deck, I understood exactly what they meant.


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