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YU GARDEN AND BAZAAR

Rather than going to Expo, we decided to spend today sightseeing in Shanghai. Saturdays are very busy at Expo, and we hoped that this would result in smaller crowds at other tourist spots. While perhaps a bit less crowded than usual, the Yu Garden Bazaar was still packed with people.

Yu Garden Bazaar - Shanghai - decorated for 2010 Expo

This area is one of the most beautiful, and touristy, areas of Shanghai. A maze of buildings form alleys and plazas that are filled with shops selling everything from junk to fine jewelry.

Food stalls and restaurants are spread all over the bazaar, including the famous Nanxiang Bun Shop (Nanxiang Mantou Dian ) that sells Shanghai-style soup buns. These are steamed buns that are filled with soup and usually pork, although other fillings are used. Outside China, these are usually called soup dumplings, but they are considered a bun rather than a dumpling.

Yu Garden Bazaar - Shanghai - food

Prices at most places in the bazaar are very negotiable. If you ask for a discount, they will come down a little bit, telling you that this is the "special price." This is the real starting point. The customer is then expected to make an offer, and the merchant will usually come down a bit more. This can go back and forth many times before agreeing on a price.

Probably the best way to get the lowest price is to haggle for a bit, and then politely start to walk away saying you will think about it. This will often prompt them to toss out the lowest price they will take in a last ditch effort to salvage the sale. Of course they know this tactic, but they also know you can just take your business elsewhere.

Yu Garden Bazaar - Shanghai

Another tactic that can save you time and money is to learn to negotiate in Chinese. You only need to learn a few phrases and of course numbers, but merchants respond very well to a foreigner at least making an attempt. Sometimes they will get very excited and start asking questions in Chinese, but usually nothing too complicated. Most likely they will ask where you are from, and if you can understand and respond, this will really go over big. Still, even if you don't speak a word of Chinese and the merchant doesn't speak a word of English (unlikely here), this will not at all prevent them from being able to sell you something.

If you ask how much something costs in English, they will often type a number on a calculator and turn it around to show you. You can then take the calculator and enter what you are willing to pay. This will go back and forth with hand waving and head shaking to indicate how close you are to striking a deal. When you see a number you like, you can simply say "okay" and nod your head. They will know exactly what you mean.

Yu Garden Bazaar - Shanghai

Although the merchants here should have change, when dealing with street hawkers, do not hand them a 100 yuan bill for an item costing 85 yuan. Once they have your money in their hand, they will consider the deal done. Customers typically hold out money as an offer, and if the seller takes it, that is considered acceptance of the offer. So make sure you always carry a variety of denominations if you plan to buy stuff from people on the street.

We wound our way through the bazaar to Yu Garden. It was established in 1559 by Pan Yunduan for his parents to relax in during their old age. It is only about 5 acres total, but it feels much bigger because it is divided into several scenic areas and courtyards.

Yu Garden Shanghai - courtyard

In contrast to the hussle and bussle outside in the bazaar, the Yu Garden itself is quite serene. Some parts of the garden are still crowded, and an occasional large tour group walks through, but there are plenty of places where you can relax in relative solitude.

Yu Garden Shanghai - Pavilion

After leaving Yu Garden, we went to lunch. We had Orange Chicken, Beef with Peppers and Onions, Shrimp with Peas, Fried Pork Cutlets, Stir-fried Vegetables, some traditional Chinese pastries, and rice. The pork cutlet was topped with what looked and tasted like an aioli. It was very good, but it didn't really seem Chinese. If anyone knows what that is, let me know. Everything tasted great, and once again there was way more food than we could possibly eat.

lunch Shanghai

 

XINTIANDI

Our guide suggested that we visit a pedestrian-only shopping, dining, and entertainment district called Xintiandi. This area is made up of traditional Shanghai residences called shikumen, that have been converted for retail use. Shikumen are unique to Shanghai, and are a blend of Chinese and Western architecture. The name shikumen means "stone gate," and they are two or three-story structures with a courtyard created by enclosing an area in front of the house with a wall.

Xintiandi - narrow lane

Xintiandi is best known for its nightlife, but even in the afternoon, it was very busy. Xintiandi means "New Heaven and Earth," and this is one of the trendiest places in all of Shanghai. I almost hate to use the word "trendy" because for many people it has negative connotations. This isn't some cheesy tourist trap. This is a place for the locals and expatriates alike to hang out. In fact, Xintiandi is sometimes even called "the city's living room."

Xintiandi - Plaza

 

SHANGHAI URBAN PLANNING EXHIBITION CENTER

Next we visited the Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibition Center. The main attraction here is their giant scale model of Shanghai. This model has been updated with the 2010 Expo Shanghai area, and it also includes models of buildings that are planned to be built or are already under construction. In the time it takes visitors to walk around and get a good look of the model, it cycles between day and night, so visitors can see this model in both states.

model of Shanghai at the Urban Planning Museum

The giant models takes up almost the entire third floor of this massive building. The fourth floor focuses on Shanghai's future, with models and renderings of planned development, including Shanghai's airports and railway stations. There is also a large opening in the center where visitors can get a bird's eye view of the city's model below.

The second floor takes visitors on a tour of Old Shanghai. It traces Shanghai's transformation from a small fishing village to a major metropolis. One particularly interesting exhibit features models of the evolution of housing in Shanghai. It starts with simple huts and progresses counterclockwise until finally ending with modern high-rise apartments.

model of Expo at the Shanghai Urban Planning Museum

The first floor mostly contains the entrance, a gift shop, and plenty of open space to accommodate large groups of tourists. Although we didn't see it, there is also a basement that has restaurants and shops. There is also a cafe and art gallery on the fifth floor, which we also didn't visit.

Next we returned to our hotel. I was a bit tired, so I ordered room service. Oddly enough, the hotel's room service menu didn't have much in the way of Chinese food. It had a few Chinese dishes, but it mostly contained a rather nice selection of Western and Asian dishes. I ordered Indian Butter Chicken and Thai-style Chicken Satay with peanut sauce.

butter chicken

They were both very good. Neither of these dishes is known for being particularly spicy, but I still would have liked a bit more heat. The Chicken Satay was served as an appetizer, and the Butter Chicken came with rice and plain roti. 

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