Despite the dreadful Shanghai weather, my roommate and I decided it was time to venture out of our heated apartment and explore an area of Shanghai other than our comfortable college town. Bagged grapes and camera in hand, we boarded the newly renovated metro about 2 min from our apartment and rode it about 20 minutes towards the center of Shanghai to an area called Qipu Lu, aka Cheap Street.
While attempting to navigate our way out of the metro station, we stumbled into a Chinese flea market where an army of unrelenting salesmen, all trying to sell the same variety of poorly knocked-off Gucci and Prada handbags greeted us (or just my whiteness) with open arms. Li Qian, my Chinese roommate warned us to refrain from speaking English during our Qipu Lu adventures, but news flash, I’m pretty sure speaking Chinese won’t convince anyone that I’m a local. About a hundred bu yaos later and we finally escaped the maze of endless knock offs and emerged into what I would consider your stereotypical image of China.
Though I’ve been in this country for a few weeks now, I haven’t really felt the true China vibes I was anticipating until now. Vibrant red lanterns lined the streets that could really be described with only one word: chaos. Sorry, China, but there is nothing I hate more than navigating the crowded streets of Shanghai. In a city of 22 million, I guess it’s understandable that people walk through the streets as if they are trying to escape a burning building. But come on, a little common courtesy would be nice. Something to get used to, I suppose.
After a sampling of some delicious street food (Sophie nommed on grilled octopus legs while I took the safer route of watermelon), we decided to walk aimlessly and explore the area. Mesmerized by our surroundings, we unknowingly stumbled into a lively food market where locals haggled in loud Shanghainese over foods I never knew were actually edible. We passed pools of live fish, turtles, and crustaceans that were sure to be on someones dinner table that night. After eyeing all of my options, I opted for a one kuai fried eggplant skewer dripping with spicy sauce, lo mein noodles, and some random pastry thing. There are no words for Chinese street food. It’s just too good.
After wandering the market, we turned a corner where we entered the local hutong, or just your average Chinese slum. We wandered the narrow, antiquated alleys for a bit when we encountered a horrible stench that signified the public toilet. We then turned the next corner and instantly traveled 20 years into the future where we approached a brand new skyscraper. That’s China for ya.
Exhausted from the combination of yuck weather, fullness, and hours of walking, we finally found our way back to the metro. Lessons of the day: Chinese street food is my weakness. Survival of the fittest when walking the streets of Shanghai. Always carry an umbrella.
Considering its 2:30 am, it’s time to check out. Bai frayndz.