Of Xiaolongbao and the Bund – a solo venture to Shanghai

Following our previous posts on interesting places to go for short trips, I’ve decided to share my own experience of a solo trip I made to Shanghai five weeks ago. What made this trip most exciting was how spontaneous it was – all my bookings were made within 72 hours of deciding to go to Shanghai! So for those who are getting too frustrated with school or work, do not rule out the possibility of going on a short trip to recharge yourself! Enough said about myself – as the old cliché goes, each picture speaks a thousand words, so I have put together a collection of the most meaningful photos I took on my trip:

1

One of the first things I did in Shanghai was to hunt for the Dr. Wine bar which I read about online. While the wine bar itself had excellent ambience and good alcohol, the process of getting there was itself gratifying. I took a 40-minute walk through a local neighborhood (which I later realized was on the edge of the French Concession, the area of Shanghai once designated for the French), looking at Shanghai’s iconic architecture, exploring indie shops and sampling local snacks along the way. And all these were within the first 3 hours of me landing in Shanghai.

2

First night of my trip, I visited the main business district in Shanghai. Interesting, given that not many tourists actually visit the CBD here in Singapore (whoops). But having ended an internship just days before, I found myself comparing Shanghai’s business district to what we have here – the air is probably a little more polluted, but the buildings are (at least slightly) more spaced out and there are more walking areas. The photo above is a panoramic view from an elevated walkway connecting the various buildings.

3

A trip to Shanghai without visiting the Bund would be a trip in vain. Yes, this is a cliché place to go to, but you probably won’t regret it. Some will choose to take the 200 rmb cruise across the Huangpu river to get here, but I took the cheaper alternative – a 2 rmb ferry which is used as a daily mode of transportation by the locals. Perhaps you miss out on the food, and comfortable seats, but you get an equally, if not better view of buildings and scenery on both sides of the river. Trust me, no one wants a seat anyway – everyone was jostling around for the best spots to take photos. People literally run to the ferry once the gates are open.

4

The Shanghai Museum is shaped like a 鼎 (ding), an ancient Chinese cauldron. Apart from the prominent design of its exterior, the museum is filled with numerous galleries of artefacts and art collections. It’s also a wonderful place for taking photos, or simply roaming around. The following photo is one of my favourites out of the hundred that I took during my four-hour visit.

Of course, holidays are never complete without good food. Deviating from the mainstream xiaolongbao, I tried out 小杨生煎(Yang Dumpling), which is somewhat like pan-fried xiaolongbao. Slightly crispy on the outside, with a delicious filling of soup and minced meat, It is something that I have not seen in Singapore yet. This is definitely something I cannot wait to taste again.

7

Visited 七宝水镇 (Qibao Water Town) on a cloudy Sunday morning, and it was an interesting twist from the relatively “modern” Shanghai that I had visited in the past three days. I also managed to snap some shots and sample some local snacks like haitanggao (a red bean-filled pastry) and even got my fortune told. For those who are looking for customized souvenirs, this is also a good place to scout around! Just remember to compare the prices before you make your purchase.

8

In a moment of spontaneity, I also ventured into this quaint-looking café in the old town and wrote a postcard to myself, to be delivered in December 2015. You can choose to write postcards to your friends, or even to yourself like what I did – great for those who would like to do some thinking or reflect over a latte.

9

On the second last day of my trip, I visited 豫园 (Yu Garden), one of the most iconic gardens in Shanghai. Despite the large number of visitors, the atmosphere remained peaceful and I managed to found several interesting spots, including a collapsed wall and artificial rock formations that I could actually enter and navigate in the dark. Pretty remarkable for an ancient garden located in the middle of the city.

10

Well I guess I could not resist the temptation to try one of the most famous xiaolongbao in Shanghai – 南翔小笼包 (Nanxiang xiaolongbao). There were two options – the regular xiaolongbao, and the larger soup dumpling that most tourists travel all the way for. My personal take is to try the soup dumpling for novelty, and eat the regular xiaolongbao to satisfy your palate. Also, if you have slightly more time to spare, abandon the takeaways and venture into the dine-in department on the second level. There, you will get to sit while waiting to be served and enjoy the scenery around Yu Garden.

11

Another area not to miss while visiting Shanghai would be 新天地(Xintiandi), where most tourists flock to see Shanghai’s famous Shikumen architecture. What makes Xintiandi worth visiting is its intersection between old and new Shanghai, exemplified through its North and South Blocks. Personally, I chose to soak in the atmosphere with a glass of sparkling wine and a good book, while people-watching at a bar in the middle of Xintiandi.

12

My final stop in Shanghai was 田子坊(Tianzifang), another enclave around two kilometres from Xintiandi. The many narrow streets in Tianzifang made it especially interesting to explore, since I never knew what shop or café would be around the corner. This is another good place if you are looking for art pieces, or shopping for small trinkets and accessories. And to end off this post, here are a few tips for those of you who are planning to make your first solo trips! I’m not too sure if they apply for everyone, but at least they worked for me.

  1. Be prepared for times that you might freak out (especially if you are the sort who might be afraid of the supernatural etc.). The first couple of nights I was alone in my hotel room, I kept the television on till 2am so that I would be less scared.
  2. Be spontaneous. Never be afraid to explore, as you never know what you’ll expect if you choose to take a random route/trail apart from the usual touristy ones.
  3. Above all though, safety comes first. I remember continuously checking my bag to make sure that my passport and wallet were still there, and checking the locks in my hotel room three times a night.
  4. Check out the various travel and mapping applications that are available – you will be relying on these, especially if you are going to somewhere for the first time.
  5. If it’s your first trip alone, you might prefer to choose a larger city where you face minimal language barriers. It will probably be a lot more dangerous (apart from the inconvenience, of course) if you are navigating yourself in a rural area or somewhere that you cannot understand 90% of what is being said around you.

I also leave you with this link (an article written by Sydney Kruljac) for those who might be interested in traveling alone or living abroad for a while: http://t.co/Wnu3lXcRgh

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One thought on “Of Xiaolongbao and the Bund – a solo venture to Shanghai

  1. Pingback: Of Xiaolongbao and the Bund – a solo venture to Shanghai | yolopanda.sg

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