Walking through the small alleyways and residential areas of Old Town, you get a glimpse of life in Shanghai as we passed tonnes of street vendors, "DVD" stores and markets selling live chickens. After a 15min walk we had reached Cheng Huang Miao, it’s the ultimate tourist "trap" where you have Chinese temples filled with souvenir stores to cater for us tourists (really good if you want cheap souvenirs). The buildings are quite beautiful with the pavilions, gilded alcoves and dragons hanging off the roofs. The complex is immensely huge with small laneways lined with food stalls, drink stalls and $1 shops, making it easy to get distracted and lost (it took us several visits to figure out how to get in and get out without ending up on the other side of town).
When we visited the bazaar, they were preparing to celebrate the Dragon Boat Festival so the place was especially boisterous with drums banging, cultural performances and colourful displays of dragon boats and of course a Haibao to keep it modern. Oh, DO NOT come here on a weekend, the crowds are insane – once you get inside the complex, you’ll never be able to get out… also beware of strangers who pull you aside and shove a business card covered with photos of designer goods in your face – they don’t know that "no" means "no".
We usually came here for a quick snack from the food stalls. At first I could not stand the place as it reeked of Stinky Tofu and I was of course scared of getting sick and weren’t sure if it was "safe" enough to eat from here so we started easy with Portugese Egg Tarts and Bubble Tea. Bill was more adventurous and ate Beef Skewers and Soft Shell Crab. I did however, have a few Giant Xiao Long Bao, sucking the juicy goodness from inside and discarding the thick skin… kind of a waste really, but it was way too thick and dry for me to eat. Besides food stalls, there are tonnes of quirky stores if you look carefully: we stumbled across "Fashion Lane" within Cheng Huang Miao with vintage retro stores and an anime shop woohoo! We also saw many stores selling tea leaves and one store dedicated solely to walking canes.
It’s an interesting place to get lost in, if you have the patience and can tolerate the crowds.
Dragon Boat Festival
Dragon Boat Festival
Giant Xiao Long Bao
Fried Soft Shell Crab
Portugese Egg Tarts
Retro Chairman Mao
Cheng Huang Miao at night
The Bund Center, our apartment from one of the gates at Cheng Huang Miao