July 8, 2015

Shanghai, China: Old City/Bazaar Shanghai; things to do + restaurant reviews

Old City/Bazaar Shanghai  

South of The Bund, by Shanghai Old Street/Shanghai Lao Jie. 

The city’s original core, the warren of narrow pedestrian-only lanes in the Old City/Bazaar Shanghai is lined with large reconstructed Ming and Qing dynasty buildings featuring ornate rooftops.  Many now hold food and souvenir stalls.  Farther from the core are tenements with laundry hanging over railings to dry, backstreet businesses, and a few temples.  At the western end of the street at Henan Lu, you can catch a taxi back to your hotel.

perimeter of Old City in Shanghai, China
perimeter of Old City in Shanghai, China


pedestrian street in Old City in Shanghai, China
pedestrian street in Old City in Shanghai, China


militaristas taking photo in Old City in Shanghai, China
militaristas taking photo in Old City in Shanghai, China


shop in Old City in Shanghai, China
shop in Old City in Shanghai, China


children enjoying peep show in Old City in Shanghai, China
children enjoying peep show in Old City in Shanghai, China


Sights

Yu Yuan/Yuyuan Garden  

132. Anren St., in the heart of Old City.  Daily 8:30am-4:30pm. 

Dating back 400 years to the Ming Dynasty, the famous Yu Yuan/Yuyuan Garden was built in 1559 by Pan Yunduan as a private garden for his parents.  It is said to be the most beautiful classical garden in China--more beautiful even than those in Suzhou.  "Yu" translates as "peace and health," and this garden is indeed a place of peace and comfort in the heart of busy Shanghai.  It is a large walled complex of tranquil gardens and traditional Chinese houses, with rock gardens, ponds, bridges, and pavilions, and, of course, it attracts plenty of tourists.  Fat golden Chinese carp and Japanese koi fish swim in a pond.  Try your luck at the wishing waterfall, where, after you find the four stone dragons hidden among the stones, the tradition is to throw a coin out onto them.  If your coin stays on the stone, your wish is granted; if it falls in the water, you’re out of luck. 

Just outside the garden to the north, The Bridge of Nine Turnings/Jiu Qu Qiao Bridge/Zigzag Bridge leads over a pond to the Huxinting Teahouse/Huxinting Chashe/Yeshi Tea House, a classic mid-lake pavilion that is the perfect place to stop for tea.  Service is inexpensive, but costs about twice as much upstairs as it does downstairs because of the view and more serene atmosphere. 

Yuyuan Garden in Old City in Shanghai, China
Yuyuan Garden in Old City in Shanghai, China


dragon detail in Yuyuan Garden in Old City in Shanghai, China
dragon detail in Yuyuan Garden in Old City in Shanghai, China


golden coi in Yuyuan Garden in Old City in Shanghai, China
golden coi in Yuyuan Garden in Old City in Shanghai, China


Shops
158 0091 3143.  

This shop is loaded with tea in tins.  I especially like these tins because the tops twist off and can be reused.  The tea is displayed so you can touch and smell samples, and clerks are helpful.  I also liked that teas are packaged in small containers that allow you to sample several kinds.  I selected Lapsangsouchong black tea and Big Red Robe oolong tea for my souvenirs.

Tea Garden shop in Old City in Shanghai, China
Tea Garden shop in Old City in Shanghai, China


tea display in Tea Garden shop in Old City in Shanghai, China
tea display in Tea Garden shop in Old City in Shanghai, China


Restaurants

Xinxiang steamed bun restaurant  

This is the town’s most famous place for Shanghai’s famous xiaolongbao steamed dumplings with crab meat.  I hear there is always a long line of people waiting to buy dumplings from the first-floor stall at Xinxiang restaurant (they then eat them on the street just like we would a hot dog).  If you want to sit down, go upstairs where you will pay a cashier twice as much for the privilege and you will also have to hover to secure your own seats.  When you are finally seated, a server delivers the goods and picks up your chit and check.  We waited on the second floor for about 20 minutes before some kind, already-seated Chinese people offered us two empty chairs at their table (like in Germany at a beer garden, it is customary to share tables here).  We then engaged in pleasant conversation via sign language.  For more menu choices, table service, and a view, head to the third floor where everything costs three times as much.  By the way, I didn’t detect the taste of crab meat in the buns. 

Shanghai dumplings at Xinxiang restaurant in Old City in Shanghai, China
Shanghai dumplings at Xinxiang restaurant in Old City in Shanghai, China


diners texting at Xinxiang restaurant in Old City in Shanghai, China
diners texting at Xinxiang restaurant in Old City in Shanghai, China


the bill at Xinxiang restaurant in Old City in Shanghai, China
the bill at Xinxiang restaurant in Old City in Shanghai, China


Shanghai dumplings with straws from street vendor in Old City in Shanghai, China
Shanghai dumplings with straws from street vendor in Old City
in Shanghai, China


Yu Garden Tea House  

133 YuYuan Old Street, in first block outside Yu Garden exit gate, 021-63264514. 

I knew we had to stop here for refreshment when I saw from the street below the second-floor table for two set out in the open on a tiny sheltered balcony.  I longed to sit there for a while and observe the activity below, which I was currently amid.  Once seated, I realized it was pretty much only hot tea that was on the menu, and since it was also a hot day I preferred to drink cold beer.  The solo beer choice on the menu was the equivalent of US$8, which is outrageous in these parts.  Times two that was US$16.  We got up to abandon ship, but were convinced to stay by an offer of two beers for US$8.  Still a ridiculous price, we decided to take it and did not regret this atmospheric break.  I learned that people generally come here for extensive tea tastings.  Instead of what we did, I would advise you to plan to drink beer elsewhere and come here for some tea tasting and tea purchasing because it is fairly-priced for that.  When you depart, ask for directions to the nearby Zigzag Bridge.

Yu Garden Tea House in Old City in Shanghai, China
Yu Garden Tea House in Old City in Shanghai, China


Top tea times around the world.

More tea times around the world.

More things to do in Shanghai.

Best souvenirs of China.

Travel articles to inspire and help you plan some spectacular local and foreign getaways.

images ©2015 Carole Terwilliger Meyers

16 comments:

  1. We once lived in Hong Kong for four years and never made it across the border into China. It was more difficult in those days. Your China posts make me think it's about time we finally went there.

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  2. The tea shop looks heavenly, although I'd not know which to choose. I got a kick out of the dim sum restaurant where the higher you go, the more it costs!

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    Replies
    1. Part of the fun with the tea is making a selection. It's a good idea to go for a free tasting, but be careful with that because I've heard about tea tasting ripoffs.

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  3. You can't beat a good China town, and one in China would be even better

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    1. Absolutely! I have a website page about my local Chinatown in San Francisco, http://berkeleyandbeyond.com/Northern-California/San-Francisco/Attractions/Historical-Sites/Chinatown/chinatown.html

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  4. I've never felt a great pull to visit China, but the city of Shanghai has always fascinated me. Your photos are excellent.

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  5. Very much enjoyed your photos and comments, which brought back some wonderful memories of our visits to Shanghai. Like you, we make a point of having xiaolongbao dumplings when we tour the area. thanks for a great post!

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  6. I've been to Beijing but not Shanghai yet. Its blend of ancient and modern really appeals to me, and your photos remind me I want to visit. What a great variety of tea!

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  7. Just how I remember the Shanghai I visited with two lady-friends several years ago! Love the descriptions.

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  8. I'm hoping to visit Shanghai next year. Your pictures are awesome and are motivating me to start planning my trip!

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  9. I was amazed at all the laundry hanging in front of apartments in Shanghai---which suddenly disappeared when we reached Beijing.

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    1. I wonder if they have different laws. I noticed it occurring mostly in lower apartment buildings in Shanghai.

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  10. That tea shop looks quite amazing, I don't know how you would make a decision there. Love the fashionista in the 2nd photo-she steals the show!

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    1. You do need a little time to decide on a tea! That fashionista was an attention-grabber. I'm not sure what was going on but I love the image. :)

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