Shanghai through a phone lens

Hello, and happy Monday! The last couple of weeks have a bit of a crazy ride, so let’s pick up where we left off, shall we? Continuing from last week’s recap of Beijing, Shanghai was explored in a similar manner where we only had a few hours to get acquainted with the city before running off. In this short amount of time, we headed to one of the most popular markets of Yu Yuan Street.

Yu Yuan marketplace
Within these markets is the Yu Yuan Garden, a gorgeous piece of history that completed construction in 1577. It blew my mind to see the condition of theses buildings – granted, many had been retouched since – and get a glimpse into the lives of those who once occupied them. Similar to the gates at the Forbidden City, there were an exhaustive number of rooms to explore and we only got through a handful of them before running off to explore the next location.

Yu Yuan Garden
Thankfully, our next location was literally right next to the Yu Yuan Garden. We ventured into the Yu Yuan Street marketplace for a snack and to check out some of the Shanghai street vendors. If you’ve been reading this blog since the good ‘ol days, you might recall my love of street markets from the 2011 visits to Hong Kong’s markets and the Chatuchak Weekend Market in Bangkok.

Yu Yuan street market
The biggest difference for me at the Yu Yuan’s marketplace vs the other markets I’ve been to are the very distinct alleyways and shop walls compared to the collapsible booth styles in the other two markets. The size and density of the crowd was also quite intense, making it feel like swimming along with a sea of fish through every turn of a corner. If you didn’t keep pace with those around you’d, there’s a good chance you’d trip behind someone else.

xiao long bao in Shanghai
Of course, my favourite thing about any marketplace is the food! There were a handful of food stalls on Yu Yuan St, but I had my eye on the prize for some fresh, hot, xiao long baos. If you’re unfamiliar with xiao long bao, they’re essentially steamed dumplings filled with a mixture of meat (typically pork) and delicious fatty broth. You’re supposed to eat them by puncturing a small hole at the top/side and letting the soup cool off a bit before devouring the dumpling. The biggest mistake that people make when eating these dumplings for the first time is letting all the soup drip out. On top of getting a steamer full of regular sized dumplings, we also each got an extra large-sized dumpling that came with a straw! So yummy!

Shanghai skyline

The night was capped off with a ferry ride across The Bund, which provided a gorgeous view of the Shanghai skyline. Couldn’t have asked for a better day of exploring a new city!

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A day in Beijing

Hello from Asia! Last week, I spent a few days in Beijing and made absolutely no plans before hopping on the 10+ hour plane ride over. For context, I only found out that I would be heading to China a couple weeks before getting on the plane, so everything was done on a whim. Having no time (or desire, to be honest) to plan anything, saying that I was a little unprepared is a bit of an understatement.

View from outside the airplane window

The biggest Pro Tip that I got before leaving was to write my hotel address out in Chinese. Hallelujah for this advice because I’m almost 100% positive I would’ve never ended up at the hotel if I had to say the address aloud myself! The language barrier for someone who doesn’t speak the native tongue and traveling to Beijing proved to be quite a real challenge as soon as I deplaned.

If there was ever one regret from my childhood, it would be the fact that I didn’t continue to expand my Mandarin diction or practice speaking it after almost a decade of classes. The most frustrating part is that I can understand when someone else speaks to me in Mandarin, but I have a really hard time finding the vocabulary to respond back– not to mention having a really, really, really awful accent whenever attempting to speak. And so, many minutes of playing charades for directions ensued on this day of adventures.

With less than 12 hours to do touristy things, click through to read about the Bucket List attractions that were at the top of my priorities: The Forbidden City and The Great Wall.

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