After almost 10 days in China – split between Beijing and Xian, D and I were ready for a break. Don’t get us wrong, there was plenty to see and do in both Beijing and Xian but overall we felt overwhelemd by the two cities and generally didn’t get a great vibe from them.
We had Couchsurfed in both cities and without being centrally located found ourselves having to figure out the buses, of which we never knew exactly where to get off and struggled to communicate with drivers and passengers alike. Add in the pollution levels and it’s just impossible to even get a breathe of fresh air.
With slightly over a week in China, we were already worn out.
So when we finally arrived via night train to Shanghai we instantly felt refreshed. Shanghai felt unlike the other cities in China and though it has a population of over 20 million, it was really a breathe of fresh air for us.
We were initially planning on staying in a hotel in Shanghai but eventually settled on couchsurfing with an American expat family who live in a beautiful, centrally-located apartment. Upon arrival, we were able to take showers (a luxury in and of itself) with amazing water pressure (even more of a luxury) and come back to life.
Cleaned up, we were ready to explore the city.
Wait a minute – is that English on the signs!?! With signs like these I knew getting around the city would not be a problem.
And once we got to the Bund and gazed at the alien-esque uber modern skyline across the river we really were impressed. What is this city? This western yet alien lookalive smack dab in the middle of coastal China.
All I can say is I like it.
Strolling through the side streets you wouldn’t even be able to tell you were in China (in fact, our Beijing couchsurfer indicated that Shanghai was not even really “China”). With small boutique shops, designer brand name conglomerates, and streets lined with romantic lanterns, you wouldn’t be able to tell you weren’t in a Western city. At this point in our travels this was exactly what I needed.
Something familiar. Something that resembled home.
Yet I digress.
The best part about Shanghai - the dumplings. I liked them too…a lot.
Following Lonely Planet’s recommendation, we headed to Nanxiang Steamed Bun Restaurant. With a long line out front I knew we were at the right place. For a decent portion of dumplings we only paid 20 yuan (the equivalent of $3). The star of these dumplings is not the filling or the dough though, it’s the juices inside. Either from the fatty pork or water added to the filling, once the dumplings are steamed there is a delicious steamy hot juice hidden right inside that light pocket of heaven.
Be careful not to tear the dumpling as you grab at it with your chopsticks so as not to let all the liquid seep out.
Served with a vinegary sauce they make for a perfect mid afternoon snack or lunch.
Through the window of Nanxiang Steamed Bun Restaurant you can even see the kitchen staff working at lightning speed to get all the dumplings ready.
Overall we highly enjoyed our 3 day stay in Shanghai and it was exactly what we needed at the time. Truly the perfect way to break up our stay in the other Chinese cities. If you’re going to be flying around Asia, check out singapore airlines business class.