I was going to stay in Hong Kong for Lunar New Year. After all, I hadn’t celebrated LNY with my family for many years. However, my mum and I decided to go visit my brother in Shanghai at the last minute. With only a few days left before LNY, most flights and trains leaving for Shanghai are already full so we opted to fly to Shanghai via Shenzhen, adding another 3-4 hours to the journey.
To my surprise, Shenzhen’s Bao’an (寶安) airport is very new and looks futuristic. I felt like I was walking into a launch station of inter-galactic flights. We are all used to fast food chains and cheap eateries at domestic airports in Europe and North America. Here at Bao’an domestic airport, there are many high-end designer brands popular in China and good restaurants to waste your time while you’re waiting for your flight.
Arriving at Shanghai Hongqiao (虹橋) airport was another surprise. Gone was the old rundown terminal building and in its place, a modern and traveller-friendly airport that you wouldn’t mind getting stuck at if your flight is delayed.
Shanghai is pretty quiet at this time of the year. One-third of the city’s mostly out-of-town workers went home for Lunar New Year, the other one-third left town for holidays and the remaining one-third who stayed didn’t need to deal with road congestion and crowded streets…except at Yu Garden (豫園).
The only reason I wanted to fight the crowds to go to Yu Garden was because I wanted to try Xiao Long Bao (小籠包) at the original maker of these delicious small meat buns, Nanxiang Steamed Bun Restaurant (南翔饅頭店). You can read about my other food adventures in Shanghai in this blog.
There are many shopping malls in Shanghai but my favourite is still Xintiandi (新天地), partly because it’s walking distance from where my brother lives. The area has grown since I last visited. There are many more restaurants and shops spread over several buildings.
Among the many mid-19th century Shikumen (石庫門) or stone gate houses in the former French concession, one stood out in particular because of a long line of Korean tourists waiting outside. This is the historical site of the provisional Government of the Republic of Korea (大韓民國臨時政府).
The bookstores near Fuzhou Road are still busy but they are carrying more merchandise and less books, like all other bookstores in the world. I managed to get a few Japanese magazines from the Foreign Languages Bookstore (上海外文書店). The magazines there are not wrapped so I was able to browse before I buy.
Since my last visit in 2009, Shanghai has changed for the better. The streets and trains are cleaner, the food is better and the locals are friendlier and more stylish. If you are a foodie like me, you can spend every single day going to a different restaurant and forget about the theme parks that the city is building to attract tourists.