After some relaxing days visiting pandas and enjoying food in Chengdu, we flew to one of the largest cities in the world, Shanghai. In 1843, the harbor of Shanghai fist opened up for foreign trade along with 4 other ports following the Treaty of Nanking after the first Opium War. Since then, the city stayed under international influence and became a hub of foreign companies and lucrative jobs. Personally, I know a few friends from Taiwan and the US moving to Shanghai, though not for long term.
We visited the Bund twice, once during the day and once at night. One afternoon, we walked from a large electronics mall (looking for power converters) along the river to the Bund. While walking through different neighborhoods, I saw quite different ways of living compared to the fancy high-rises in the busy parts of Shanghai.
Several famous buildings compose the skyline from the Bund. One of the most iconic is Oriental Pearl Tower (東方明珠), a TV tower with an observation deck. 14 years ago, I saw this tower for the first time from a boat ride during my high school class trip. The number of buildings and the economic growth of this city certainly has skyrocketed over these years.
From the Bund, we took a subway ride to Lujiazui (陸家嘴) across the Huangpu river, to be on the same side as the skyline. From this prosperous financial center with many shopping malls, we walked on the sky bridge near the subway station and observed all the giant buildings of all sorts of shapes, taken back by its economic progress.
Starbucks Reserve Factory
Starbucks is a luxurious brand in China. There are only 5 Starbucks Reserve Roasteries in the world as of writing, Shanghai hosting one of them. The only other Starbucks roastery we had been to is in Seattle. The interior is pretty similar to the one in Seattle, and same as the menu. Luckily we got seats at the counter, we observed the coffee roaster machine handling batches of beans and transported to the pipeline while sipping our coffee. The experience is not too different from the one in Seattle, but we can always use a coffee break to energize ourselves for more walks.
This historic neighborhood in French Concession is named after John Ferguson from the US, who spent a long time in China for cultural and political purposes in the late Qing dynasty. We walked around the area, streets were calm and shaded by trees. Here we enjoyed a cup of latte at % Arabica coffee shop from Kyoto, and visited the former residence of Ba Jin on a whim. On the way to subway, we had lunch at a delicious local noodle shop Yi Mian Chun Feng (一麵春風).
Tian Zi Fang（田子坊）
We spent about an hour in this young and artsy neighborhood, after grabbing refreshing juice at Hey Tea across the street. Tian Zi Fang is a somewhat enclosed area, with alley ways full of artsy shops and food stands. Here we tried some long french fries, and walked around the streets, window shopping with plants everywhere.
Walking around Nanjing Road（南京路步行街）
One of the ten most famous pedestrian streets in the country, Nanjing Road was the earliest commercial street after Shanghai opened up its sea ports. This pedestrian street is lined up with all sorts of shops and department stores. We also saw people hanging out, sitting on the benches in the middle of this wide street. Before dinner time, we walked into a few malls just for fun.
This garden was founded by the Pan family in 1559, an official in the Ming dynasty, and went through many owners after the family went down. Since the first Opium War in 1840, the garden had been ransacked and damaged throughout several wars and revolutions. Nowadays, the garden has been a popular attraction and we were shoulder to shoulder with the crowd almost anywhere in the garden. The area is commercialized with countless shops. A part of the garden is an old Daoist temple, Cheng Huang temple, where we saw people praying like in Taiwan.
One of the four biggest temples in Shanghai, the earliest record of this Buddhist temple dated back to around 1700 years ago in San Guo Era before the Tang dynasty. Most of the damages and changes had been from wars and cultural revolution, the first one started in 1860. We did not go in the temple, but observed its golden architecture from a coffee shop with a rooftop.
Shanghainese cuisine is heavily influenced by neighbor provinces. Dumplings might be the most popular, with variations like pan fried buns and soup dumplings. Most of the food we had in Shanghai were from small food vendors or casual mom and pop restaurants, and the most memorable of the whole trip.
Located on a lively street near our hotel, we came here on our first night. We had one order of soup dumplings and two dumpling soup, and all were delicious.
We were frequent customers to this pan fried bun chain in Shanghai and Hangzhou area. The buns had all the tasty attributes: thin and slightly crispy dough, rich fillings, and pan fried in greasiness. My favorites were shrimp and pork ones, and we had these buns for breakfast and snacks a few times.
Another must eat dish for me is Shanghai vegetable rice. The vegetables (usually bok choy) and Chinese sausage pieces with rice cooked in a wok is one of my favorite dishes. This restaurant is a hole in the wall kind of place, that seemed to have been there for a while. The ambience is quite old fashioned, with a TV on the wall. We seemed to be the only tourists, surrounded by local workers and students. The portion of vegetable rice was huge, as they had a pile of them in the storefront. The pan fried buns were tasty as well. Our whole dinner for two cost 31 RMB.
Family style restaurant
I found ourselves checking out family style restaurants in every city during our trip. Especially this time in Shanghai, we met up with my former coworker David who lived in Shanghai at the time. Even though his Chinese was already so fluent during his time back at Quizlet in San Francisco, he kept taking Chinese courses to further improve it to the next level. We had a great time catching up, laughing at the name of one dish “Fisherman’s hat” with steamed buns and pan fried ground meat in the middle.
Similar to previous cities, we picked an apartment style hotel with laundry facility. We stayed at Green Court Apartment, and liked it a lot. The room was huge and equipped with small kitchen and patio with a view. On our first night, a robot came to our room to welcome us with two cans of soda!
Shanghai has grown at such a rapid pace, easy to tell from its skyline. Yet in the alleyways and off the busy areas, I saw many more traditional ways of living and small businesses. I kept wondering how the city might look like the next time I visit. Below is our itinerary in Shanghai and Hangzhou, and here are some lists of places. If you are planning on visiting China for the first time, this post might be helpful.