Nanxiang Old Town

Live in Shanghai and looking for something new you haven’t done before? Looking for classic Chinese culture but don’t want to leave the city? Head up to Nanxiang. Nanxiang is one of the four great ancient towns of Shanghai and a place that’s been totally off my radar for the past 2 years here. You can conveniently sample the staples of Chinese culture all within a few blocks. Nanxiang has a classical Ming Dynasty Garden , one of the largest temples in Shanghai , a newly built ancient town , and just happens to be the home of the famous Shanghai “Little Dragon” dumpling (小笼包). Foodies rejoice!

Nanxiang is located in the northwestern Jiading suburb and has its own metro stop. A 15 minute walk or a quick bus/taxi ride will get you into the heart of things.

First we stopped into Guyi Garden (古猗园)which was first constructed some 500 odd years ago in the Ming Dynasty. This was the most impressive garden in Shanghai for me , it easily beats the famous central town Yu Gardens. It was a very nice way to relax and enjoy the beautiful fall weather we’ve been having. Not many foreigners make it out this way so anyone stopping in will definitely give the locals something to gossip about. During our time the Othsmansus trees were in full bloom and the entire park was pervaded with a sweet smell. I couldn’t help but breathing in deeply and making satisfied noises. So much better than the usual city smell! While this is a very nice garden , those looking for the best of the best should take the quick train ride to Suzhou ( a city renowned for its gardens) . Those of us not looking to leave the city can take the trip here.

The park even has a few black swans and an interesting human man tourist person trying to squawk and gain the birds’ attention. This man may be seasonal but keep an eye out. He is freakin’ hilarious.

After enjoying the serene , verdant environment , it was time to search out the ancient town. It’s a quick walk away, and upon arrival the ancient town was under going construction. The town has been a seat of civilization for the past 1500 years but it was time to make things spiffy. China has enough history to be able to construct new ancient towns. My girlfriend and I often have a laugh at this , ” China , building ancient water towns in modern times”. Techically this is a water town with its running canals but as a water town it can’t hold a match up to any of the others I’ve been too around Shanghai. Don’t come here for the canals (go to Zhujiajiao for that) but do come for the XiaoLong Dumplings. There are a good two streets devoted to the dumplings (Guyiyuanlu) as well as numerous within the small “ancient town” center. We stopped in a store to grab some homemade peanut sesame brittle and when we asked the owner where the best dumplings were at, he kindly recommended next door. (Hmmm, go figure. Kickbacks).

We devoured two bamboo steaming baskets worth of shrimp and crab roe dumplings while sipping our cups of tea.

YESSS.

After this it was too late to visit the temple and the other garden in the area but one of these lazy weekends I’ll definitely make the trip again. I’ve been enough temples throughout China so they don’t have that first time in Asia awe to them anymore. It will be interesting to come back once construction is finished to see how things turned out.

Construction

While it was just yesterday I was extolling the virtues of the city and how I eat better than all of my friends back at home, but now I being hit by one of big city life’s negative aspects , construction.

Living in the city you can’t get away from noise . It seems worse living in a city like Shanghai. A city caught in the violent, chaotic, spasms of self-improvement and development. Not content after building up the world’s longest subway system by miles (errr by kilometers ) but committed to doubling that. Not satisfied with the 20 year buildup of Pudong’s skyline from farmland to a world-class view, and now currently building the world’s second tallest building. Sometimes you get unlucky and your apartment is situated next to a metro construction site. (Good luck sleeping for the next 10 months!) Sometimes it’s just a two week stint to replace the ageing piping under the street. My last apartment matched the former situation, and my current apartment runs with the latter.

It appears the workers are under some pressure to get things done as last night they were burning the midnight oil (as well as the 1am , 2am , 3am, 4am , 5am, 6am, 7am…..) Seriously the entire night I was hearing jackhammers , metal plates moving , and other heavy equipment as I drifted in and out of bizarre construction induced dreams.

I think (hope) the worst of it is over. Love it or hate it , we gotta live with it! At least my noise tolerance has gone up as well as my maximum sleep decibel allowance! Woo hoo!

Old & New

Shanghai is a city in the throes of rapid destruction, rebirth , and change. Show someone the city from 20 years ago and the city of today and its virtually unrecognizable. Skyscrapers pop-up , new metro lines spread under the ground like earthworms digging, the old is demolished , and the new sprouts up. The pace of change here is incredible. The subway line I take to work was put in 6 months before I moved here and now a new line is being constructed even closer to my house. I can’t even imagine the city in 10 more years.

I was just doing some bike riding along the Suzhou Creek on Guangfu road (光复路) and took a couple of photos I thought really illustrated the old and new of SH. Another great place to witness this is in Old Town. Where you see the old style Shanghai with the new style Pudong skyline soaring overhead. I would have photos but my camera died yesterday.

Unfortunately I have problems with posting single photos on here but check out the gallery!