China – Shanghai, 24 July 2010

My parents wanted to see one of the ‘ancient’ tourist towns near Shanghai, and having heard that the more famous one, Zhou Zhuang was kinda crowded and overhyped, they opted for a nearer one, Zhu Jia Jiao. 珠家角

Zhu Jia Jiao is about one hour car ride from Shanghai, and it is kinda like Venice in China. There are old Qing stone houses surrounded little water ways, and bridges connect the different areas for passengers on foot. For about 30 yuan, you can hire a little boat that’ll take you from one end of the village to the other end of the village. The waterways sure are narrow!

Despite not being as famous as Zhou Zhuang, there were definitely a lot of tourists. Authenticity sells here, and so, various vendors were trying to advertise traditional medicines and other traditional foods that were sold in Zhu Jia Jiao in the past. The presence of tourism-driven endeavors is, however, very obvious here. There are plenty of signs advertising ‘sunset view’ or ‘water view’ in English. i guess it is trying to attract a Western backpacker crowd?

Included in the price of our entrance ticket, were some museums, so my brother and I decided to capitalize on that. We went to a medicinal hall, which had one of those ceiling-high, wall-wide medicine chests, where they pick out herbs for you based on a prescription. We also went to Qing dynasty post office, which I thought was pretty cool. It is always interesting to see pre-modern communication networks.

We left Zhu Jia Jiao before lunch, as my dad was not so convinced about the dining options in Zhu Jia Jiao, and preferred to go with city options. After lunch, my brother and I walked the French concession again. It does certainly have a very bourgeois feel to it. My mission this time was to find the Sun Yat-sen museum, since that’s a theme for a lot of my holidays in the Chinese world.

Sun Yat-sen’s museum, like Soong Ching Ling’s was set in a pretty villa. Having been to many, I guess sometimes, I don’t quite know what to get from new ones, since they repeat information. But oh well, fascination fulfilled!

After a long day of walking, we joined our parents for dinner at one of those fancy hotel buffets. Boy, was it expensive at over 300 RMB. China has certainly gotten much, much fancier and more expensive since I last lived in the Yangtze River region some five years ago!

Zhu Jia Jiao

Old Building, New Use – H&M in French Concession

Former Residence of Sun Yat-sen


China – Shanghai, 23 July 2010

The main reason why my family wanted to take this trip to Shanghai was because they wanted to visit the Shanghai World Expo 上海世博, and this was the main event for today. But after depositing us at the Shanghai World Expo, my parents decided we could go our own ways. Well, let’s just say I wasn’t that interested in the World Expo, as I am not a huge fan of queues, and it being a China event, queues were inevitable.

Anyway, I went into the Shanghai World Expo, thinking to myself that I will go to the one country that I might have the most trouble accessing in my world quest – Saudi Arabia. When I saw the line, I gave up. I think it will take less effort for me to get into the real Saudi Arabia than to spend that six hours in line to get in. I did go into the exhibition halls for the ‘smaller’ (in a geopolitical sense, not in an area sense) countries, like the Africa exhibition hall and the Oceania exhibition hall. It is kinda stereotypical, but part of me was just trying to justify the entrance fee. Anyway, after about two hours, I kinda gave up, and decided to explore the city of Shanghai instead, revisiting some old haunts, and seeing others that I didn’t get a chance to see in my previous trips.

First stop – Cheng Huang Miao 城隍庙 (Temple of the City God). I guess I went there first, because it was the last memorable place I went in one of my last trips to Shanghai. The changes were … jaw-dropping. It really hit home the point that China is changing fast (duh). The last time I went there was in 2005, when I went to Nanjing as an exchange student. Back then, it was busy and commercial, but not to this extent. This time, when I got off the cab, the first thing I saw were many shops in a big mall with Haagen Daaz and Marks & Spencer. It was really shocking for me. Anyway, the last time, I didn’t go into the temple itself, so this time round, I stepped in for a look.

After visiting the Temple of the City God, I decided visit the French Concession to look at the architecture of colonial Shanghai (sorry! – about the use of the world colonial). It does really give one the sense of Shanghai’s unique architecture, as it is a mishmash of Chinese architecture and Western colonial architecture. Sometimes, I do wonder why Singapore doesn’t keep as much of the colonial architecture as part of its heritage. I can understand the part about defining a new nation, but, well, I guess I also think that we don’t make things like we used to.

Another part of my trip involved me stuffing my face with my favourite dumpling shop – Da Niang dumpling 大娘水饺. I definitely went all out this time round, and went for 4 jin of dumplings, which equates to about 24 dumplings. I topped that off with a sliced beef vermicelli soup. It just reminds me of one of my favourite combos when I used to live in China. Over the course of five months, I think I ate more than 1000 dumplings. Impressive, eh? 🙂

That amount of food naturally induced a food coma. So, I took an evening nap, and waking at 10pm, I decided to take a walk along the Bund. This is perhaps the epitome of colonial architecture in Shanghai. To quote my cousin, who’s a trained architecture, the Bund is “a museum of architecture”. It is definitely one of my favourite stretches in Shanghai, and when the lights go up, it is simply spectacular. There is something about the city of Shanghai that enthralls me, and the song that runs through my head every time I am there is the very haunting Shanghai Night 夜上海 from the early-twentieth century. As I stroll along the streets of Shanghai with its beautiful architecture, the song just keeps playing on auto-repeat. Well, I will leave you pictures to let you see what I saw that captured my soul.

Dutch Exhibition in Shanghai Expo

Temple of City God

My favourite meal at Da Niang Dumpling

New Shanghai – Pudong

Shanghai Bund at Night

The Bund after Lights Out

China – Shanghai, 22 July 2010

We flew from Singapore to Shanghai in the morning, with an hour transit in Hong Kong. This left us with little time to do stuff, except have dinner, by the time we arrived in Shanghai.

We met my cousin for dinner at Jade Chinese Restaurant in Intercontinental Hotel, which served Cantonese and Shanghainese cuisine. I am under the impression that Central China (华中) is famous for its small dishes, and so, the food was appropriately small in its servings. The taste was very subtle. Not quite my kind of thing, but I am sure it has its attractions for people who have a finer palate than mine. Unfortunately, my favourite is the 红烧肉 (roasted pork?), which is really tasty, but extremely sinful, due to the layers of pork fat. Melts in the mouth, but I would advise one not to eat it too often.

The meal came up to about 500 RM (100 SGD / 75 USD) for 8 people. There were about 10 dishes.


Lotus Roots


Roasted pork?

Pan Fried Buns Stuffed with Minced Pork