Family visit V: Shanghai
The last stop in our China tour before going to Suzhou for the wedding was Shanghai. Our mini Shanghai adventure started in Duolun Cultural Street, which, to be honest, I had never heard of, but it was mentioned in the Lonely Planet guide so we went to have a look. Duolun Cultural Street is in Hongkou district and during the 1920s and 30s many writers and celebrities lived there. Now it is a pedestrian street where you can see the houses from that time and statues of the writes who used to live and meet there. There are also some antique bookstores and even an al fresco “free reading space” with books.
After a brief stroll we headed east, as I wanted to show my family one of Shanghai’s most peculiar buildings: the 1933 old abattoir. This building now houses shops, offices and cafés, and it has a very artsy feeling. The middle part is not freely accessible anymore because there is a escape room or something similar there now, but the first times I visited this building several years ago, that part was very creepy. The temperature was noticeably lower than in other parts of the building, and a friend said it was because of all the souls of the animals that were slaughtered there. From abattoir to hipster building, that is one interesting evolution!
From there we went to the Bund. After the usual gaping and picture taking, we crossed the river by ferry. This is the fastest, cheapest and most convenient way to cross to Pudong if you are in the Bund (to take the subway you need to go all the way back to Nanjing East Road). After having lunch in Ding Tai Fung we visited the Pearl Tower. I had never been inside before! At 180 RMB, the ticket is definitely expensive, but it is once in a lifetime experience. The glass floor is quite scary, though! I am not usually afraid of heights but it was very imposing. The day ended with a stroll around Tianzifang (old residential alleys which are now full of small shops and restaurants) and then back to the Bund to see the illuminated skyline.
The next day we visited the Yuyan bazaar. I had not been here in years! I always avoided it when I lived in Shanghai because it is very touristy and crowded. But in the morning of a weekday it was bearable. The bazaar and small malls are a bit like Taobao, as you can find anything there. Once, when I had just started working in Shanghai, I went there with my boss and another colleague to buy Christmas decorations for the office. There was a whole mall just for Christmas decorations, it was crazy! (And I hope it is seasonal, because I don’t think many people buy that kind of thing the rest of the year). In Yuyuan there is also a garden, but we did not visit it this time as it is basically the same as the gardens in Suzhou. I bought a dress in the bazaar and we visited the small City God Temple next to it. Our last meal in Shanghai was in one of the favourite restaurants: 外婆家 Grandma’s Home. This restaurant has several branches in Suzhou but I never go because there is always a ridiculously long line, as the food is good and cheap.
Our visit to Shanghai ended on a not too positive note when we tried to go to a bank to change Euros into RMB. We had the bad luck of finding a bank in the middle of the French Concession which seemingly had never exchanged money (even though they had the sign for money exchange). The teller examined the passports 300 times and made me fill the forms several times as she didn’t like how I wrote capital letters or couldn’t understand my numbers. After one hour she was still not done and I had to tell her to give me the Euros back as we needed to catch the train to Suzhou! My mum works in a bank and she was going crazy at the slowness and ineptitude of the teller. Luckily the next day in Suzhou they could change money fast and painlessly.
And that was our visit to Shanghai! The next and last stop of the tour was Suzhou, and I will tell you all about it in the next post.