Our Last Gasp of Spring Break in Shanghai

We were down to the wire for our spring break in mainland China, but we still managed to make the most of what little time we had left – come hell or high water. Check out our last few days in Shanghai below!

April 27, 2010

On Thursday we ventured to Old Town (a complete tourist trap, yes) in the southern part of the city. We wandered around, window shopped and bargained with the local souvenir sellers, and stood in line for the most famous Xiao long bao in Shanghai for one hour. No, I’m not kidding – I waited an hour for dumplings.  Xiao long bao are little dumplings filled with pork and pork broth, and you could either eat them in one big bite (the preferred method) or you could bite into one, slurp the broth out first then eat the rest of the dumpling. The wait was worth it though, so, so worth it, we each got a serving of sixteen dumplings for about $2 USD and they were the best Xiao long bao I have ever had; Shanghai invented them so theirs should be best.  We were so full by the end I felt ready to pop – it was fantastic!

The experts churning out thousands upon thousands of Xiao long bao for the hungry masses.

The experts churning out thousands upon thousands of Xiao long bao for the hungry masses.

Little steaming buns of sheer deliciousness.

Little steaming buns of sheer deliciousness.

When we got done in Old Town, Abby went back to the hostel (still feeling a little under the weather) and Jen, Ilaria and I walked around near Renmin Square and saw the Shanghai No. 1 Department Store (true name), Hualui Dept Store, and Shanghai No. 1 Food Store (really original in the English translations weren’t they?).

The stores were supposed to be famous for being the first of their kind in Shanghai, but honestly, they were just disappointing – bad fashion, tourist-grade prices – it looked like a bad department store in America from the 90’s. Very underwhelming overall.  By the time we got back to the hostel it was starting to rain, and then Ilaria caught Abby’s stomach flu bug. She was laid up for the rest of the night and the next day in bed, poor thing. I ended up playing mom that night and going out to get water, bread, fruit, and then a quick dinner for myself while the others stayed in the room being sick, recovering from sick or trying not to get sick. It was probably our lowest moment in Shanghai.

Do you think there's buried treasure somewhere in there?

Do you think there’s buried treasure somewhere in there?

By Friday it was just me and Jen. Cue music * bum, bum bum…and another one bites the dust.*  We made the most of it though. First, we attempted to go to the Chinese Sex and Culture Museum only to learn later that it was closed (probably in lieu of the Shanghai Expo which opened less than three weeks later), so we went to the biggest mall in Shanghai which was located conveniently nearby. After having lunch and cruising the mall for about a few hours Jen went back to the hostel feigning not feeling so hot, but I persevered and went to Qibao, another guidebook recommended tourist area. Shanghai was not going to beat me, by God! It was touristy, but all the tourists seemed to be Chinese, actually. I wandered up and down little alleyways where they were selling everything from jade bracelets to fans to lighters to anything with Mao’s picture on it (in Shanghai and not Beijing interestingly enough). Quite entertaining and I felt very grown-up walking around all on my own, the only Western face among a sea of Asians. I finally went back to the hostel around dusk and the girls were feeling up to eating a little, so we had a light dinner of bruschetta (our hostel was trying so hard to be European) downstairs.

This looks almost as good as my panda hat, I think.

This looks almost as good as my panda hat, I think.

Old Town Qibao in Shanghai. So quaint. I imagine this is what Shanghai looked like in the old days.

Old Town Qibao in Shanghai. So quaint. I imagine this is what Shanghai looked like in the old days.











On Saturday, everyone was beyond ready to come home to Hong Kong and civilization.  Our flight wasn’t due to leave Shanghai until 5:15 PM so we had all morning and early afternoon to kill. Therefore, we planned an excursion to the Dongqian Antique Market, conveniently near the French Concession. We went, we bargained, we boggled at so many souvenirs and antique-looking things (that were probably made a week ago), and then as we left we stumbled across a Thai festival taking place at a park across the street. I swear all the best things I found in Asia, I stumbled across by accident. The festival had all kinds of Thai food being served up, Thai arts and crafts, flowers, fresh fruits, and other handmade products. So that and our “safe” lunches of bread and sandwiches from Paul’s (no one but me was feeling more adventurous than that by this point in our trip, sadly) chewed up the rest of our afternoon in Shanghai.

Then, we went back to the hostel, got our bags, and took the long subway ride to the airport.  Jen and Abby took the super-fast Maglev train to the airport (30 km in eight minutes flat), but Ilaria and I decided to be cheap and we rode the regular subway all the way. By the end, Ilaria was getting nervous we’d be late and practically flew to the ticket check in window even though we still had over an hour before our flight departed. The flight back was just two hours to Shenzhen, but again they served us a hot meal (the US better step up its game if it wants to compete with the likes of Southern China Airways, seriously). We arrived in Shenzhen dead tired and not sure how to communicate to a taxi driver that we needed to get to the train station at Luo Hu to go home to Hong Kong, but lo and behold there appeared a bus service that would take us directly from Shenzhen back to Hong Kong! Alleluia! We jumped on it, rode the bus, went through immigration, rode the bus some more, and were eventually deposited in Mong Kok within walking distance of the MTR station. Bags and all we navigated our way there, made it to Choi Hung station, got on a mini bus to HKUST and arrived back on campus at 11 PM. Thank God!! We were absolutely destroyed by the end of this trip (as were all the exchange students I later learned once we all started getting together post-spring break to compare notes).

I cannot describe how happy I was to see a 7-11 store again. It was a great trip, but it was also amazing returning home (or what I considered home at that point in time anyway). I know this has been a long blog, but there was so much to tell, and I’m sure I still left out so much more. Anyway, I hope you all enjoyed it, and I wish you could have seen the things I saw in person.

Keep tuned in for the next installment!

A view of Shanghai from the ferry we took crossing the bund. Very nice.

A view of Shanghai from the ferry we took crossing the bund. Very nice.

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