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.

Shanghai’s “Mountain” – SheShan

I have been itching to travel somewhere , to get out of Shanghai for a weekend , but the double whammy of trying to making sure I have enough RMB to have fun in Vietnam and stupid weekend errands have kept me within a couple of blocks radius of my house for the blessed 2 day break. (no further West than Shanghai Brewery , no further East than XinTianDi , no further South than Zhaojiabang Rd , and no further North than HuaiHaiZhong Rd. )

The combination of frugalness and convenience led to SheShan (佘山) or She’s (not the same as English – shhuuuuhh-) Mountain. Frugalness liking the free entrance and convenience liking the appropriately named SheShan Metro Stop. Mountain is more of a misnomer really , as it stands a towering 90 (18% of Shanghai’s current tallest building -Shanghai World Financial Center-) meters over the surrounding alluvial plains. I thought it was the highest natural elevation in Shanghai until a Google search gave that to the 130 meter tall peak of the uninhabited island Dajinshan.

We visited the Eastern and Western parts of the SheShan Forest Park area. There is more to do in the surrounding environs with several high-class hotel resorts , a golf course, and the adjacent Happy Valley Amusement Park. With those things all costing the big bucks , we stuck to the park.

Waiting in a huge line for a death trap? Ehhhhhhh.

I had visited the Eastern part of the park with the Flying Dutchman , Pan, waaay back in the distant mists of 2 years ago , but it was time to head back.

The Eastern part of the park is one of the closest places to nature as you can get in Shanghai. It is a peaceful , easy, stroll through bamboo thickets to get to the peak. There are several good places for grabbing a peak at the outlying countryside. There is even Fragrant Buddha Spring brought to you by Pepsi-Cola©!

Nothing says Zen like crappy speakers blasting “relaxing” music and an ice-cold can of PEPSI©!
Wanna be a big-bellied Buddha? Two words. Sugar calories!

All jokes aside, the Eastern part of the park is really nice.

On to the West!

It starts out bizarrely enough , with a free ticket given to you at the booth which you then have to scan through the turnstiles to enter. This is where the previous post came from.

Another strange thing about this part of the park is the Roman Catholic Basilica chilling on the very peak alongside a Jesuit Astronomy Observatory. Apparently this church was one of the most important in Asia in the early 1900s with pilgrims from all across Asia visiting. The church was heavily damaged during the Cultural Revolution but has since been restored , and is now an active Church. Visitation is free.

The Observatory, on the other hand , costs a measly 12 rmb (little under $2USD) for admission. The museum is totally not worth it but the view from the top of the Observatory is. I was incredibly surprised to spot the Shanghai World Financial Center along with the JinMao Tower (current 2 tallest buildings in Shanghai) from the top! These buildings are approximately 35 kilometers away!

All-in-all it’s a great trip if you live in Shanghai and need to break the monotony of concrete with some bamboo. It’s definitely not a come to Shanghai just to see it attraction but if you spend enough time here you should see it.

Being out the burbs of Shanghai there aren’t too many foreigners and that leads to some funny things.

Funny things kids said

1. (In Chinese) Whoooaa! I see a foreigner!
2. (In English after he pretended to shotgun blast his dad off a ledge) Headshot!
3. (No Language) A shocked lingering quadruple take stare.