Shanghai 2014

So during my last trip here to Taiwan, I took a little 5 day journey to Shanghai to visit my uncle and cousin. I figured that since I had all these pictures from that trip, but never shared a little with you all about that experience, now is as good a time to do it.

If there’s anything I took away from my trip to Shanghai it’s that it’s a pretty cool city and that I’d like to go back and explore it further. People also aren’t exaggerating when they say it’s a city that’s boomed and has become very international. There’s a Taiwanese neighborhood, a British one, a Korean one, etc. On a Sunday evening, walking around the Xin Tian Di area, which is rife with upscale shopping malls and luxury hotels, you see pretty much people from every corner of the world. And this is all pretty amazing considering that just a mere 20 years ago, Shanghai was still mostly farmland and relatively closed off to the rest of the world.

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Christmas tree made of lights!

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Morning walks in parks 🙂

Since we didn’t have much time in the city, my mom and I decided to hit up just two tourist sights and call it a trip. Luckily, my cousin took on a night drive of the city during our first night so we got to see the Shanghai skyline at night, which is breathtaking. Don’t even ask me to compare it to Paris though, because I wouldn’t be able to give a good answer as to which I prefer. One is very modern and big city, the other romantic and quaint – both are beautiful in their own ways.

My mom and I decided to check out Tian Zi Fang (田子坊), a little arts and crafts area renovated from a residential area in the French Concession area of Shanghai. It’s a quaint little enclave, with little boutiques and tea shops showcasing some local artists. Unlike most parts of Shanghai, it’s still old-fashioned, maintaining its 1930’s architecture. In there, there are shops that sell your usual tourist souvenirs, as well as hand crafted items, and traditional Chinese snacks!

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Tang hu ru – one of my favorite childhood snacks! It’s a type of pear dipped in syrup, which forms a hard shell around the fruit. Think of it as a fruit and sugar kebab. It’s now more commonly made with tomatoes and strawberries.

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Cute little hanging garden!

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We also decided to check out the Liu Li Glass Museum, which happened to be showcasing French glass artists as a celebration of the 50 year anniversary of diplomacy between China and France, as well as Loretta Chang’s pâte en verre pieces. Loretta Chang was a Taiwanese actress who after quitting the film industry, decided to follow her passion of glass art. She is well known for her poured glass depictions of the Buddha and of various Chinese symbols, such as the zodiac animals and lotus flowers.

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French glass artists exhibition

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My favorite piece by French artists Aurélie Abadie and Sauques Samuel.

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Pâte en verre flower by Loretta Chang

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Beautiful poured glass lotus flowers by Loretta Chang

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Guang Yin (Thousand eyes and arms). One of Loretta Chang’s most famous pieces, it was broken during an earthquake in Taiwan during its construction. In 2000 she completed this piece, which is 160cm tall, 60cm taller than the one that broke!

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The pâte en verre piece that gained Loretta Chang fame in the glass art community.

So what did I eat in Shanghai? I have to say I was a little disappointed by the food scene. It seemed like due to the modernization of the city, most of the food were imports and to me, a traveler who prefers to try local, grandma cuisines, uninteresting. Like I said, I think for me to have had that type of food experience, I needed to have spent more time there, wandering around the less touristy areas to find those grandmas.

I did, however, have 2 wonderful Shanghai-nese (is that what it’s called?) meals. The first my cousin took us to and because we were so hungry after traveling, I forgot to take pictures before digging in! It’s a small little restaurant called Jian Guo 328 (建国328小馆) near the Jia Shan Lu metro stop that serves traditional Shanghai food. I highly recommend the braised pork belly (because who doesn’t love pork belly) and a vegetable dish called “xīn tài ran,” which literally translates into “too soft-hearted.” It’s a specific leafy green that is supposedly only cultivated in China and, you guessed it, is in the shape of a heart and when cooked, it wilts, thus the name. It has a sweet flavor and is unlike any cooked leafy green I’ve ever tasted before. You just have to try it. Read more about this delicious locale from TimeOut Shanghai.

The second memorable dining experience was at Shanghai Min, a restaurant my uncle frequents for business dinners and events. It started as just a small restaurant with a few tables and now has 65 locations in China, Hong Kong, and Macau. The drunken chicken (chicken braised in alcohol) was pungent yet sweet, which is what I love most about drunken chicken. My uncle also introduced us to “shí yú” a specific Chinese fish caught in the YangTze river that is only available during the winter time. It was so tender and fresh, probably one of the best fish I’ve ever had. The special thing about this fish is that its scales are edible! Unfortunately, I have no idea what this fish is called in English, but if you’re ever in Shanghai during the winter months, just ask for “shí yú” and they’ll know what you’ll talking about! Be prepared though, this fish is considered a delicacy, so therefore its price reflects that.

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A bit of our meal (from bottom L going clockwise): bean curd dish, lotus root and sticky rice, pumpkin and corn, watermelon slices, and DRUNKEN CHICKEN!

Although it was a short trip, I had a great time just walking around, enjoying the parks and holiday decorations throughout certain parts of the city. I can’t wait to go back for a vacation, to explore the city in more detail as I BARELY scratched the surface this time.

If you’ve been to Shanghai, what were some of your favorite things to do/eat?

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