In all my travels, China is the closest I have ever come to feeling completely at home while simultaneously getting the impression that I’ve never been anywhere quite like this before. The history, the people, the noise, the pollution, the hoards, and variety in cuisine are astonishingly familiar. You’re probably visiting Shanghai for the Formula 1 Chinese Grand Prix (7th -9th April 2017) but we hope you’ll stay a while, at least a week, longer. Here’s our renowned Eat, See & Do for this showcase capital.
Roasted chestnuts and chicken dumplings. One of the best places to chow down is Old City. Much of Shanghai’s city has been glossed over by concrete and glass, wide roads and beautiful gardens so to get a taste of Old China, visit Yuyaun Garden/ Old City. Here is where all your ideas of China, built primarily on the back of movies like The 36th Chamber of Shaolin and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, are brought to life. Yu Garden in the Old City is considered one of the finest examples of Chinese gardens and was established in the Ming Dynasty as a private garden for high-ranking officials. Spanning 2 hectares, the garden can be walked in about 60- 90 minutes and the various halls are built in the Suzhou style, and showcase lacquer furniture so famous in China, elaborate bonsai and ponds swirling with goldfish. Enough about the architecture, what about the eats, you ask? Well next to Yu Garden you’ll probably notice a long queue of about a 100 people. They are standing in line for the famous Nanxiang dumplings- the signature steamed soup dumplings. Vegetarians beware because it’s unlikely anything here is vegetarian at all.
After lunch, head opposite Yu Garden for tea at Shanghai’s most venerable teahouse built in 1784 and part of the Old City. Cross a small bridge to experience the ritual of Chinese afternoon tea. While entry is free, a sampling will cost you RMB 100 each. Try the flowering jasmine tea, which consists of a dried leaf ball that blooms into a flower when hot water is poured onto it. Not a fan of tea, how about fried sparrow or jellied pigs feet?
Shanghai is a riddle of contradictions, much like Delhi, and Dong Tai Road Antique Market will take you back to Chandni Chowk. You will find everything from stalls that boast 80-year-old teapots to Cultural Revolution memorabilia that includes the infamous Little Red book- compilation of Chairman Mao’s revolutionary quotations, that they’ll try to sell you for RMB 1,000 and which you can get for RMB 50; no market visit is complete without being hustled.
Get a massage, preferably from Green Massage in Xintiandi where your feet will be guided through dimly lit corridors as you arrive at an antechamber lit golden by a suspended chandelier. Start with a foot massage; it will have you crying for mercy but you’ll fell like you’re walking on puffs of cotton the next day.
For more details on visiting Shanghai, check out Reshma’s blog where you’ll learn more about jellied pigs feet.