Return to Shanghai: Miles of Walking

After Hong Kong I returned to Shanghai for another 2 weeks before heading back to Los Angeles. I spent my time there wandering around Shanghai by metro and on foot. If I haven’t mentioned it before, the Shanghai metro is extremely easy to navigate, and the crowds of people on the subway are manageable. My biggest pet peeve was that there are clearly marked lines on the station that tell you where to stand, so that when the train pulls up the people getting off won’t be blocked by masses of people. Of course, some Shanghainese people ignore these marks and stand right in front of the door, blocking the people getting off the train and preventing others (like me) patiently waiting in line. I know that in cities like New York (FYI: I lived there for 3.5 years), the subways don’t even have markings on the ground and getting on and off the subway is a mad free for all, but here in China they’re trying to create some sort of order to the chaos, and Chinese people just don’t understand the concept of a line. No one’s going to steal the train from you. If you miss this one there’s another train coming in about 5 minutes. I would know, I missed a train once.

I took line 10 (a newer line on the metro) to Xintiandi, which is a redeveloped shikumen area in the eastern part of Shanghai in what’s known as the French Concession. This area was in the list to be demolished, as the buildings, built in the shikumen style (mid-18th century stone buildings built closely together forming narrow alleyways), were crumbling from years of neglect. In comes an American developer, who sees this area for its beauty and decides to change it into a “lifestyle plaza.” Thus, the area’s buildings have become cafes, bars, nightclubs, and shops, mostly catering to young Shanghainese folk and expats. While I found the architecture to be charming (I loved the back alleyways), the stores and restaurants I thought were overpriced. I later came back to eat with my dad and 2 others at the famed DingTaiFeng (there’s one located near me in Los Angeles, I don’t think much of that one) and the food, while very good, was quite expensive. 4 chicken soups, 3 appetizers, a basket of the restaurant’s signature Xiao Long Bao, and  a dessert of red bean “xiaolongbao” set us back about $200. That’s a lot, especially for Shanghai. And especially because I can get the same meal in Los Angeles at my favorite Shanghainese restaurant for about $30.

Shikumen Alleyways

A Lovely Fountain in the Main "Street" in Xintiandi

Later, I ventured out of the area (Xintiandi is actually only 2 blocks) and headed north. I whimsically picked that direction by the way; it looked like it would have more things to do. Little did I know that I ended up on Huahai Lu, one of the busier shopping streets in Shanghai. The streets had the standard large department stores and Uniqlos lining the street, but it also had some designer brands scattered throughout. I saw the Cartier building, a large glass building that reminded me a little of the LV building in New York, and then, coincidentally, the LV store. I wasn’t in the mood to shop (it started raining), and so headed back to Xintiandi to take the metro home. Little did I know, after what I feel like had been a mile of walking, that Line 10 actually closes early. Watch out for that. I had to then make my way back to Huahai Lu, where the next station, on another line, would take me home. Needless to say I was upset, although I accidentally stumbled upon a lovely lake just slightly off the beaten path between Xintiandi and Huahai Lu.

You can't find this in Los Angeles.

Afterwards, I decided to go home. All in all, I think I walked about 3 or 4 miles that day. Needless to say my feet hurt. A lot.

Next: Day trip to Suzhou and Wuxi to visit my ancestral home.

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