Last week marked the end of my company’s summer course session, meaning that we all got a week off. Having five days to unwind, explore, and familiarize myself with more of Shanghai was a great opportunity to take advantage of.
Although I’ve only been working for a little over a month, the amount of learning and challenges that I have been going through had been wearing me down mentally, and while I can’t say I earned the week vacation more than my coworkers who put long hours in all summer, I definitely welcomed the change of pace.
Because I still didn’t have my passport back at the time (It was with my company for visa processing), my short vacation was restricted to Shanghai city limits- you still need a passport traveling within China.
After a day of rest, I went to a small water town in southwest Shanghai called Qibao. Me and one of my roommates took the metro and walked 10 minutes to our destination. While most of Shanghai has been pretty modern, Qibao is a historic town, with lots of old buildings (especially near the water). The architecture was truly something from what you’d imagine architecture in China might be like, and the atmosphere was just…quieter than what I’ve experienced so far.
Because the town is a popular tourist location, it was still pretty busy, but the ambient noise seemed a lot quieter, with no large roads for buses or cars to go through, we walked through narrow aisles, filled with stalls selling various types of merchandise, food, and other goods. We visited a small shrine/temple first, then made our way to the main area, browsing the shops for a bit.
While there, I ate a scallion pancake and onion-stuffed baked good that was pretty tasty, but extremely oily. There’s a lot of stalls in Shanghai in general that sell grilled meat on a stick, but I’ve heard that you shouldn’t eat street and seafood in summer, so I didn’t take that risk. Evidently, a lot of stalls got shut down a month or so before I arrived in Shanghai because they didn’t pass food safety standards here. Qibao was a charming area with historic sights, standard Shanghai food offerings, and interesting merchandise for sale. I would definitely recommend checking it out if you spend a lot of time in Shanghai.
Photos of Qibao:
The next day, we headed a little farther out, to the far west of Shanghai’s boundaries to a larger water town by the name of Zhujiajiao. The journey there was a bit longer (an hour by bus), but I’d say it was a much more interesting destination.
The first thing we did was visit a temple for the City God of Zhujiajiao. Evidently in China, most towns/cities have their own gods. While I’m fairly ignorant about the history of China’s religious culture, it was still an interesting place to visit because the temple was steeped in tradition and history of the town. Next on the agenda was a boat tour of the town, which took us from the side channel that we were on across the main river, then to another side channel which had more shops, cafes, and restaurants. While we walked around, I saw a few places where you could stick your feet into fish tanks and have them clean your feet. Maybe next time.
There were a lot more snack and food stalls than in Qibao, and I tried candied ginger, stinky tofu, and had a lunch of a simple bowl of noodles with some pork. Stinky tofu was a first for me (I’ve smelled it before but couldn’t muster up the courage to try it), and while it stunk to high heaven, it tasted exactly like what you would think fried tofu would taste like. The vendor offered chili sauce and a sesame seed sauce to go with it, which made the snack a lot more palatable, but I’m by no means a fan of it now. Most of the restaurants were right on the water, so you’re able to enjoy a meal or drink while admiring beautiful canal views. While the day was overcast, the scenery was still picturesque, and really gave you a taste of the more historic side of Shanghai.
The next day, I saw my first movie in Shanghai! It sucked! We saw Manchester by the Sea, because I wanted to see a Western movie and no others were out yet. During the summer months, China only shows Chinese-made movies, so that they don’t have to compete with summer blockbusters from Hollywood. The theater itself was nice, offering water included in the price of the ticket, and had comfortable chairs in the theater. I could at least recognize that the movie had good cinematography and acting, but I have never been more bored watching a movie in my life.
Friday was another rest day spent at home. I’m naturally introverted, so I’ll often feel the need to stay at home and play games, unwind, or just veg out, otherwise I feel burnt out emotionally and mentally. All in all, I’d say that this break has been as much of an adventure as it could’ve been, being restricted to Shanghai city limits, and I definitely look forward to experiencing more of China in the future.
But for now, it’s back to the grind.