On the first day of our Shanghai trip, we visited Yuyuan Garden 豫园, a classical Chinese garden located right in the heart of Shanghai’s Old City. It was first built in the Ming Dynasty, and now its one of the remaining few old attractions in Shanghai. But claiming to visit Yuyuan is a misnomer, as we only had our share of time in the bazaar surrounding the actual garden.
Walking in Yuyuan’s bazaar is akin to walking a maze of small streets, both sides exemplified by the wooden carvings and patterns representative of a dynastic era. Be prepared to be lost, not because it’s tough to navigate, but by being simply in awe by the variety of items offered. On one hand, listen to the storekeeper of a flute collection shop playing a celebratory tune befitting of a new lunar year. Or be dazzled by the light reflected from displays of exquisite glass sculpture on another.
Besides, Yuyuan’s bazaar is home to a wide variety of local street snacks. Sniffing in the smell of these freshly steamed snacks is enough to whet your appetite twice-fold. In case you’re wondering what to eat, I’m telling you the one you definitely have to try - piping hot Xiaolongbaos from the authentic Nanxiang restaurant. Without going into extra details on how eating these hot little angels in a cold weather is pure orgasmic, be surprised that a basket of 16 only cost 20RMB!
But with great food comes a great queue, prepare to wait up to an hour for the slice of heaven. You can try a longer queue to have a seat in the actual restaurant on the 2nd and 3rd storey, but I suggest the time be well spent on touring the rest of Yuyuan. Of course, if you’re missing home amidst all these Chinese offerings, there is a familiar Starbucks in Yuyuan too. Yep, there’s where we took a break from the crowd.
Adjacent to Yuyuan, you would enter yet another stretch of old shophouses, albeit this time it feels different. This is the eastern end of Old Street 老街. Unlike the western end which is dominated by large stores with hundred-year old history, the eastern end keeps the characteristics of the old residences, fitted with wooden boards and swing doors.
Here, you would be able to find merchandise that may not be found elsewhere. To name a few, there are gramophone records, old books, paintings and even posters. This simple shop below selling bamboo gourds is one of such shops. The aged shopkeeper, busy inscribing some letters on a new bamboo gourd, was totally in a world of his own, ignoring the hustle & bustle of the world outside.
No doubt Yuyuan and Old Street is a little touristy with the high volume of foreigners, it is still the place you have to visit at least once in a tour around Shanghai. It contains the last few remnants of Shanghai’s past, making it an ideal place to discover what Shanghai is like in the old days. Of course, while shopping, do remember to haggle for cheaper prices, or you may be scammed into paying much higher prices.