Bill planning our next hectic day at the World Expo
Fried Shrimp in Szechuan sauce
Braised Tofu and Mushroom Claypot
lip smacking goodness
Bill really enjoyed eating the crayfish/crawfish/mini lobsters (in actual fact we don’t know what they are, they’re just really tasty) from Dai Mei Hot Pot so we headed back to the same area and found a restaurant next door with seemingly long queues. Curious, we peered inside and discovered FOMO restaurant (Huai Hai Lu) where their specialty was crayfish, each and every table had plates of crayfish!! Excitedly we asked to look at the menu – picture menu with english translation!! WOOHOO!! So we promptly grabbed a ticket number and waited for 30mins before being seated.
They weren’t the best I’ve ever had, (the best I’ve had are at Din Tai Fung or Crystal Jade where they are much much pricier). However, Nanxiang Steamed Restaurant displays many awards and is known as the "original" Xiao Long Bao, slightly overrated but still probably worth a visit for a tourist 😉 It also has an "Excellent" Food Safety Inspection rating which you would NOT expect to find at many places.
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.
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
On our first night in Shanghai, Bill was keen to have hot pot for dinner. So after getting to know the Huahai Shopping strip we walked into the first hot pot restaurant we came across.
Dai Mei (Huaihai Zhong Lu) restaurant is located on the second floor of the building, to get there you have to take an elevator up which meant there was no way for us to judge it and deem it "safe" enough to eat at… which made it a bit of a gamble. As we entered I was happy to find the restaurant was massive and busy (although they had packed tables wherever they could), it was quite clean and the ventilation must have been good because it wasn’t very steamy despite the number of hotpots boiling.
I don’t think that we were fully aware we weren’t in Australia anymore until we sat down at Dai Mei and looked at the menu, we immediately thought "Shit, the whole menu is in Chinese… there’s no pictures … there’s no English … and there’s no pinyin …how the hell are we going to order". Luckily Bill managed to call over a newbie waitress who had the patience to explain to us how to order and ticked the portions of each dish for us. Dai Mei has a system of pre-paying before any food is served so once we had chosen our orders, we paid at the register and collected our drinks, went back and waited for our food at the table.
Boy, was this place cheap – our total cost for dinner was 65RMB ($15) including a 2L Pepsi, beef rolls, lamb rolls, tofu, bean curd noodles, enoki mushrooms, oyster mushrooms, beef and fish balls, spinach, green vegies, chinese cabbage sauces and watermelon. We also ordered a tray of crawfish (this was advertised separately and had a picture woohoo!) The food came almost immediately after paying and we started cooking and eating to our heart’s content. It involves A LOT of sweating but it was so enjoyable and even more satisfying because it was so cheap XP We came here for dinner after a day at the expo because it’s open till late – we ordered basically the same things but with orange juice instead.
Shanghai really is the epitome of contrast – where modern meets traditional.
It was a long drive from the airport to the French Concession, and as we traveled on super efficient highways I began to realize we had arrived in this hugely vast hyper-modern city and I was stunned with the sheer amount of skyscrapers lining the horizon. I guess I forgot about Shanghai’s population of 20million.
First impressions of Shanghai as we explored the fast paced city one tree lined street at a time, you notice buildings have an old charm to them, everyone drives like a mad man, people can sell virtually anything on the street from fake wallets to stinky tofu and cyclists and pedestrians greatly outnumber cars. The city is shockingly fast paced that there seems to be a Hermes being built on every corner and you can see progress each time you walk past a construction site. Something I was not expecting was the streets are extremely clean – for the whole three weeks we were there we did not see a single roach or rat. Ironically, although the streets are so clean, the people are in the bad habit of spitting everywhere. The probable reason why the streets are so clean is at the end of the day they hose down the whole street with really high pressured hoses – no water restrictions there. Some other differences? They have countdowns on their traffic lights for cars and pedestrians!! And when you’re turning left, you have to be in the most right lane… weird huh?
The very traditional
2 seconds before pedestrians are run over
Bills’ grandpa lives in the French Concession area and lives in the old Shikumen style buildings. The entrance is separated from the street by a large gate and the lane is lined with small courtyards where residents grow their own herbs, park their bicycles and hang their laundry. I think the building is made out of stone and houses 5 families with a communal kitchen and communal bathrooms. We frequented the area so often we were able to explore and get lost in the French Concession which led us to gorgeous hidden lanes and pretty boutiques.
We were also lucky enough to have an apartment on the Bund, THE promenade of Shanghai. Our view from our bed was so freaking amazing I can’t begin to describe what it felt like falling asleep to the view. It is very futuristic and kind of quirky with the Oriental Pearl Tower, spiky Jinmao tower, the Aurora tower which lights up "I heart SH" and the funny tower that looks like a bottle opener you hang on your key chain. We were lucky enough that they had finished three years of renovations here, but this also meant ALOT of people were also visiting the Bund, with street performers, food stalls and hoards of people lining up for a photo op, it was hard to get a nice photo of the skyline.
The Bund at night is gorgeous!!!! The elegant colonial buildings along the whole street illuminates gold and all the buildings look so so grand and decadent and you realise where the "Paris of the East" comes from. Walking past all the buildings lining Zhongshan Lu, you can tell there is alot of history here that it’s overwhelming. It’s also reflected at the end of the road where Huangpu Park meet the People’s Monument. There’s nothing quite like this here.
I never thought that I would fall in love with China, but within weeks I had fallen in love with Shanghai.
Next time baby I want to stay at the Waldorf Astoria 😉