Nowhere else in China the idea of modernity is so strong! Maybe because the modern buildings are everywhere, with remarkable diversity and architecture, maybe because nowhere else is so noticeable the contrast with traditional construction. Day or night, Shanghai is proud of its look.
A small - actually tiny - bar off Hengshan Lu, just north of Hengshan Lu metro station, Lily's Pub is a friendly place.
One lady behind the bar, always keen to try out her English, and the manager pops out every few minutes to see what is happening. Loud music (but often good....where do they get a karaoke DVD of Eric Clapton live?)
It's just ten spindly wooden tables, a rough wooden floor, and chronically uncomfortable stools and chairs.
It's nothing special, Lily's, but it is a friendly enough place for a glass of Tiger and a chat. As with many, many, many 'pubs' in China, you will possibly be the only person in all evening.
Chinese fast food...and soybean milk!
I ate at Yonghe King one lunchtime during a visit to Shanghai in May 2008.
There are numerous branches of this Chinese fast food chain in Shanghai – I visited the branch on the corner of Nanyang Road and Xikang Road, between Nanjing Road West and West Beijing Road, about 5-10 minutes walk from the Nanjing Road West metro station.
The sign on the front of the restaurant was in Mandarin, as were all the menus and posters on display in the windows. I only established the name of the restaurant thanks to a small “Yonghe King” logo on the bottom corner of the menus.
I entered the restaurant and there was a similar lack of English translations. The menus were exclusively in Mandarin and the waitress spoke no English. Great, this was exactly the kind of place I was looking for! I was determined to eat in at least one restaurant that didn’t make concessions for foreign tourists, and this place was to be it.
Behind the counter, menu boards displayed a dozen or so numbered dishes, each accompanied by a little picture and a description in Mandarin. The pictures were not large enough or clear enough to ascertain what each meal contained, but each was a similar combination of soup, rice or noodles, chicken, pork or beef, with various sauces and green vegetable leaves.
After a few minutes scrutinising the various options and realising that I might as well pick a random number, I decided to opt for:
Meal #2 - Cost: 16 Yuan / 1.20 GBP
- a bowl of thin clear soup containing pieces of pork (about a dozen pieces, which resembled sliced, skinless sausage meat), green chillies, celery and other green vegetables. The soup was piping hot and much tastier than its watery appearance suggested.
- a main dish consisting of pieces of chicken in a hot chilli sauce, with rice, red peppers, a fried egg and lots of green vegetable leaves. It was nothing special, but it was tasty enough, good quality and served hot. I realised how difficult it is to eat a fried egg with a pair of chopsticks!
Soybean Milk - Cost: 4 Yuan / 0.30 GBP
I actually ordered Coca Cola, or so I thought I had! Given the language barrier, I was neither surprised nor disappointed when a glass of white liquid appeared at my table. It looked like milk, but it didn’t taste quite like milk. In fact, it tasted like a watered down version of milk. I didn’t really know what it was, but it was ice cold and refreshing so I drank it. Having researched Yonghe King online during the course of writing this tip, I have learnt that the chain is famous for its soybean milk products, so I think it is a good bet that that is what I was drinking with my meal!
A popular Chinese fast food chain. My meal was pretty good considering it cost only 20 Yuan in total…and that I ordered blind!
Shanghai Science Museum
This is the brand new Shanghai Science and Technology Museum, the largest of its kind in Asia. It is also known for hosting the APEC meeting. Plan plenty of time when u go there. It's got so much to explore there. I spent more than 5 hours there last time and couldn't finish before it closed!
Paris of the East?
"5th year and counting...."
My first time I set foot in this land was in a hot and humid afternoon 5 years ago. It's funny how I'd be trying to write about it, 5 years later, in the same season.
Shanghai has been my home for the past few years. Most of the time, I was too busy with the taking care of the daily errands of life that I forget to appreciate or observe what's Shanghai like. Being a resident here myself, it's probably not fair for me write about it anymore. But maybe reflecting on how did I find it when I first arrived and how am I adapting 5 years later could be a start ;-)
The first culture shock I encountered was when the person who came after me while I was lining up in the subway counter, just pushed me over, and went straight to the counter. Apparently, he didn't have the concept of queueing! Then of course, there's the frequent sound of spitting on the road, or rushing to the opened elevator instead of letting the people inside come out first...The list could go on and on but I guess these are some of the Shanghai (or China) experience that makes it so special and memorable! ha..ha..
Shanghai does have its charms though...like how vibrant and lively the city is, every minute of the day. You can try doing this --- just sit by the street or in Starbucks and observe the passers-by...you can see how much 'life' goes by in front of you. Things happen and change at a very fast pace...like buidlings can be finished in a year's time. Did I say it's a 30-storey high one? There's so much going on day in and day out that you'll never get bored.
If you're a tourist in the city, I guess the must-see places would have to be The Bund, Pudong (Pearl Tower and Jinmao Tower), Yu Garden, French Concession Area and the endless shopping options. Even if the list looks a bit small, but SH is not really a touristy place indeed. It's more like a city that you should live in to fully appreciate it.