Weekend in Shanghai

We took the red eye into Shanghai on Friday night, arriving before dawn on Saturday. Or what passed for dawn anyway, since it was overcast and foggy the entire day.

It was too early to check into the hotel, so we just deposited our bags and went searching for eateries already open for breakfast. Our first stop was this hole in the wall that served up famous soup dumplings, so famous that at other times, the wait can be almost two hours long and around the block. But at 7am, we were customers number 6. The dumplings were steaming hot, delicately wrapped in silky thin skins, and bursting with soup.

The edge of our hunger worn off a little, we then wandered across the road to another cafe, this time for pan-fried baos and also filled with juicy soup. What a treat.

We then strolled through People’s Please (上海人民公园相亲角) where anxious parents with yet unmarried children were already out in force, their umbrellas tacked with written advertisements touting the age, height, weight, and income prospects of their progeny neatly lining the footpaths of the park.

Looking at the advertisements though, I couldn’t help but feel that the parents had unreasonable expectations. just mentions of statistics and material aspects, none on their hobbies or interests. Parents of boys wanted girls at least 1.63m in height, while parent of girls wanted boys at least a year, but not more than 5, older than their daughters. The children had to have similar education standards, be earning the same range in salary, and preferably their own apartment. I guess Shanghainese are tall, but I can’t believe that every single girl was listed as at least 1.6m, and no guy below 1.7m.

Taichi session at People’s Park
Jing An Temple amidst the skyscrapers and the glittering shopping malls

Other highlights:

  • We walked all over PuXi on Saturday, down West Nanjing Road and popped into Jing An temple, an oasis in the midst of all the towering skyscrapers and glittering malls
  • Walked by Soong Ching Ling’s house, and her husband’s Sun Yat Sen’s old residence, but sadly did not manage to make it inside
  • Visited the French Concession, and grabbed some utterly flaky and yummy pastries at Bake and Spice, a hangout haven for the expats who packed the place on a lazy Saturday afternoon
  • Hit up several awesome cocktail lounges, the highlight being Sober Company. Their coffee negroni was spot on, as was their HK tea buttered rum. But the absolute standout was the food – the foie gras mapo tofu was positively inspired. I’m just drooling at the thought of it again.
  • Went to the top of Shanghai Tower. At 632m, it towered over the rest of the city. It was a very foggy – or smoggy? – day though, so we didn’t have the clearest views.
  • Walked the super cool roundabout pedestrian walkway in front of the Oriental Pearl Tower
The Shanghai Bund
The very foggy view from the top of Shanghai Tower

Other impressions:

  • This great firewall of China is quite frustrating, but thank goodness that I could continue to use Google products like maps and hangouts while on roaming. But I have to admit that at many points I was like, just collect my information already and let me browse freely.
  • I’m still quite overwhelmed by how much the city has changed since I last visited. I spent a night 10 years ago, on the eastern side, and didn’t really get much of a chance to explore. And the time before that was almost 20 years ago, when the city was a lot flatter, grungier, and toilets stinkier. But Shanghai today is thriving, hip and clean. We loved wandering around the different neighborhoods, taking in the different architectural influences from the Russian, English, French, Dutch, and melding it all into a blend that is distinctly Shanghainese. I love it. There’s so much character.
  • The toilets deserve a separate mention of their own – all the ones I went to were super modern and clean, even cleaner than some of the places I’ve been to in Singapore. What a far cry from just a few years ago when I visited say Xinjiang, but I guess that’s a different part of China and may as well be in a different world.

The Shanghai Oriental Pearl Tower and the coolest roundabout pedestrian overhead crossing

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