Good morning Shanghai, my second home. The scattered rays of sunlight that manage to penetrate through the thick smog don’t quite do justice to the city, a place better clothed in the sexy black of the night.
However, one of the best ways to spend the day in Shanghai is indoors, in one of our hundreds of shopping malls. Take a walk down West Nanjing Road, and reap the benefits of Shanghai’s international, commerical identity. The world’s finest brand names call Shanghai home, ranging from Tiffany Co. to Forever 21 to Salvatore Ferragamo. You bask in the dazzle of towering mannequins dressed in zipped jackets and tight dresses. The bright white lights of the stores tempt you forward as your brain begins dizzying calculations of cash reductions. When you find the perfect bargain, you leave the store, heart skipping along with your feet.
Soon the sun sets on Shanghai, painting the city in an orange glow that reminds you of hot ovens. As night settles and begins to blow through the streets, you head to the Bund. We boast some of the world’s tallest kitchen appliances in the Bund, one of Shanghai’s most popular destinations. Pictured below, I’d like to present the bottle opener (Shanghai World Financial Center), syringe (Jinmao Tower), and egg whisk (Shanghai Tower under construction), their added heights total to 1545 meters (or 5067 feet if that’s more your flavor.) The best time to stroll through the Bund is at night when the lights are all on, scintillating off the dark waters of the HuangPu River. Couples follow the strings of streetlights, and you’re also sure to see Mr. Zhu, the street vendor who exclusively sells light-up Minnie Mouse ears for the partygoers.
Though we’re most famously known for our iconic Bund nightlife, also featuring the Pearl Tower (what I see as a kabob lit up by disco lights), Shanghai boasts many artisan hotspots. The best one? Tianzifang. The narrow alleyway apartments that my parents grew up in were transformed into a labyrinth of shops. Right next to the handmade music boxes is a store that sells gramophones and a traditional recipe, fragrant rose hand cream. People move back and forth, shifting against each other to create a rollling sea. As you leave one store to move on to the next, you float along until your eye catches the satirical Mao t-shirts. Don’t leave without buying a few prints from the Hong Lee Shan photography shop. He’s traveled around China collecting shots of Bund sunsets, bustling street traffic, and monks drinking Coke…
After a day satisfying your inner bohemian at Tianzifang, stop by YuYuan garden for the Xiaolongbao (read: possibly the best dumplings the world has to offer.) These steamed delights are pockets of meaty, fragrant broth and your choice of pork, beef, crab, or shrimp. Take a small nibble and suck the soup out first! Otherwise, for our impatient eaters, beware a burnt tongue.
Here in China’s New York, change is tradition. When I leave Shanghai to return to West Hartford, Connecticut, my hometown, I delight in a respite from the blanketing heat and polluted air. I wait for the mountains of green and blue, dimensionless skies of New England. But when I come back to China for school, I can count on the municipal government to have finished yet another skyscraper.
In New England, I watch as I change and move away from my community. In Shanghai, I seem to be the only thing standing still.
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