This post is long over-due, but we feel like we still haven’t recovered from Golden Week yet. (For those I haven’t told yet: the first week in October is a national holiday in China). It started off as a relaxing holiday as we visited the Xintiandi district for the first time and went into the Tim Burton exhibit at Lafayette Arts & Design Centre, which was almost empty (of people), was a fantastic exhibition and had a lovely café on the top floor. We then discovered the Western restaurants in the “New World” food street. We had amazing cocktails and delicious steak tacos in the very stylish and atmospheric Vintage Element Fresh – highly recommended. We even came back to Xintiandi another day to try another restaurant and decided for Wolfgang Puck Bar & Grill, which seemed highly popular and which I’ve read about before. The food was great (we had salmon, chicken, sweet potato fries and mac’n cheese) but we felt that the atmosphere wasn’t the most inviting or cosy as the table was so wide we could barely have a private conversation. Would still come back for his famous pizza though!
At the beginning of the week we made plans to go to the Shanghai beach (yes, Shanghai apparently has a beach!) but contrary to the weather forecast, the weather wasn’t as great as expected and with the beach being quite far away (about 1.5 hours from our compound) we decided not to go. (If you’re reading this and have been there, please let us know if you would recommend it.)
Mid-week we had a look at our travel guide that we brought with us to Shanghai to see if there’s anything near us worth seeing and it highly recommends Qibao, which is only a 10-minute taxi ride from our compound. Spoiler: this was a big mistake. My Chinese colleagues have warned me beforehand that we should not go to any sightseeing places as it will be crowded with Chinese people. We arrived into Qibao which seemed like a ghetto-ish (but have seen worse) suburb of Shanghai with lots of dodgy little fake-brand shops. It took us a while to find the entrance to the famous Old town / Water town district and we should have then been warned by the long queue. As soon as we got into the narrow roads of the old town, there was no turning back, as it was so crowded that you were just being pushed along the pavements and towards the exit. In that moment, I hated China. Left and right of the streets there were lots of little knick-knack shops, but very bad quality and it didn’t seem worth it fighting your way out of the stream of people to go in there. All the streets were so smelly and the food stalls looked like they have never heard of food hygiene before. Relentless spitting. Needless to say we had a bad day, just went through it, he took some amusing short videos of me being trapped in the crowd of black haired tiny people, and then we left as soon as we saw the nearest exit. I don’t think we would come back to Qibao nor recommend it, not even if it was less crowded, due to the smell and unappealing shops.
At the end of the week, I really wanted to go to the Shanghai National History Museum, as it reminds me of when I first went to London. Outside of it is a cute sculpture park, the building’s architecture is in a really cool design with a waterfall in the inside, and the fare was really cheap. However, I think the museum is more suitable for children, as most explanations are quite simple and we got very tired quickly from looking at bones and stuffed animals.
The whole Golden Week we indulged in Western food (French cake, American taccos, German Laugenbrötchen, Greek souvlaki, …) and just had enough of Chinese food for a while, after we came here saying we would only eat Chinese (or at least Asian) food while we’re living in China.