For our year-end vacation this year, we decided to visit the cosmopolitan city of Shanghai, as well as the neighbouring cities of Hangzhou and Suzhou. We wanted to visit these cities at a time when China is on the transitional path towards consolidating her position as a world power. It should be interesting to experience the dynamics and developments of this transition.
Today was the official start of our China vacation. I was feeling excited on the cab as we made our way to Changi Airport. After checking in, we grabbed a quick bite at KFC before boarding the plane. We were flying overnight with Cathay Airlines and transiting via Hong Kong. Four hours later, I woke up in Hong Kong for the transit. After another two-hours flight, we arrived dreary-eyed at Shanghai Pudong airport.
Shanghai Maglev Train
After crossing the immigration checkpoint, we made our way to the Maglev ticketing counter to buy our return train tickets between Longyang metro station and the Pudong International Airport metro station.
We bought the “Ordinary Return Tickets” which are valid for seven days. We got a 20% discount on our tickets (originally 80RMB) because we were buying the tickets on the day we arrived in Shanghai. The bullet train comes in 20 minutes intervals so we boarded the train very shortly after. The cabins were mostly empty and we pretty much got to choose to sit anywhere within our cabin! And we were glad we did not splurge on the “VIP” seats (160RMB) because our seats were not much different.
Seven minutes later, we were at Longyang metro station, 30km away! Why so fast? Because the bullet train travels at speeds of up to 430km/h.
You can check out this site for more details on the Maglev tickets.
Also check out the Shanghai Subway Map.
Sofitel Shanghai Hyland
From Longyang Road metro station, it was a short thirty minutes ride to East Nanjing Road metro station on Line 2 (green line). From Exit 4, we walked five minutes to the first hotel of our Shanghai trip, Sofitel Shanghai Hyland. See this map for directions.
Check-in was prompt and professional, and the hotel room was decent-sized and comfortable.
After getting a much-needed bath, we made our way to the first tourist destination of our China trip, Zhujiajiao 朱家角.
Many tourists lament about the lack of authentic Chinese culture in the cosmopolitan city of Shanghai.
However, located on the outskirts of Shanghai, is a 1700 years old ancient water town with stone arch bridges and historical buildings.
This is the rustic town of Zhujiajiao 朱家角, with a tiny population of 60,000. Literally translated, the name of the town means “Zhu’s family corner”.
How to go Zhujiajiao
To reach this ancient water town, we took a train ride to Dashijie metro station on Line 8 (blue line), exited from Exit 3, and walked to the bus stop at 10 Pu An Road 普安路10号. See this map to get a clearer idea. Below is the landmark at the bus stop.
Landmark at Pu An Road bus stop
From there, we took the bus line Huzhu Gaosu Kuaixian 沪朱高速快线. The bus comes every 30 minutes and the trip costs just 12 RMB. You pay by metro card or in cash to the bus conductor after boarding. There are a total of six stops, and Zhujiajiao is at the last stop. The trip takes about an hour.
Huzhu Gaosu Kuaixian 沪朱高速快线 bus to Zhujiajiao. Trip takes about an hour.
The bus ride was definitely worth it.
Walking along the streets of the water town, it almost felt like we had been transported to ancient China. There were many historical stone bridges and Qing Dynasty style buildings, and numerous rivers running through the water town. We saw several cafes along the riverbanks, with customers inside enjoying a cuppa while admiring the river view. It was hard to believe such a tranquil place existed just an hour away from the hectic city life of Shanghai.
Time seemed to slow down here.
We bought onion pancakes from one of the street vendors.
Man, it tasted good!
The pancake was crispy and warm, and not too oily. And it cost just 1.50RMB! The locals probably loved it as well because the person queuing in front of me actually bought twenty.
There are pig trotters stalls everywhere in Zhujiajiao.
We bought a pork rice dumpling and pig trotter from one stall named 银杏树阿婆粽. The dumpling was slightly oily and a little bland. The pig trotter, however, saved the day. The meat was tender and fresh, and the fats seemed to melt in my mouth.
Pork Rice Dumplings
Other food stuff on sale at 银杏树阿婆粽
Zhujiajiao also happens to be a great place to café-hop.
There are many quaint cafes located along the riverbanks, with the standard offerings of “tea, coffee and beer”. Unfortunately, we had to rush to catch the bus back to Shanghai, but I can imagine it must be great to chill out in one of the cafes along the riverbank.
We left Zhujiajiao at about 5pm, arriving back in Shanghai at 6pm. We took the metro to Xintiandi station on Line 10 (purple line), to visit the affluent district of Xintiandi 新天地.
This is the heavily gentrified district of the French Concession, an area that was ruled by the French between 1849 and 1946.
It is now home to the Chinese elites and top executive expats, and is the most expensive place to live in China. The place is popular with tourists because it has many art galleries, cafes, and restaurants.
Simply Thai 天泰餐厅 at Xintiandi
We were famished after our trip to Zhujiajiao and went for dinner at a popular Thai restaurant: Simply Thai.
The restaurant serves classic Thai food in a casual and convivial environment.
When we were there, the place was packed with both locals and expats, chatting gaily over dinner.
We ordered the Tom Yam Seafood Soup (50RMB), Wok Fried Squid with Tom Yum Paste (68RMB), and Soft Shell Crab with Pork Floss (RMB68). Overall, the food passed muster, with our favourite dish being the Tom Yam soup. The feisty soup was spicy with a rich fragrance, and the fresh seafood complimented the soup base nicely. Service was prompt too, despite the restaurant being packed.
Simply Thai Xintiandi
Address: 159 Madang Road (Corner of Xingye Road)
Telephone Contact: +8621 6431 1134
Opening Hours: Sun to Thurs, 11am – 12am. Fri and Sat, 11am – 1am
Directions to Simply Thai Xintiandi
From Exit 6 of Xintiandi metro station on Line 10 (purple line), walk for about five minutes along Madang Road 马当路. Click here to see the map.
For their other branches, visit www.simplythegroup.com
Tom Yam Seafood Soup (50RMB)
Soft Shell Crab with Pork Floss (RMB68)
Wok Fried Squid with Tom Yum Paste (68RMB)
After dinner, we strolled along the streets of Xintiandi. Because we were visiting in November, the weather was great.
We had an enjoyable walk in the cool night air while admiring the beautiful night view of this former French Concession district.
Plane trees along Xintiandi
East Nanjing Walking Street 南京步行街
We decided to do some quick shopping / sightseeing along East Nanjing Walking Street before settling for the night. This vibrant street is right outside East Nanjing Road metro station on Line 2 (green line).
It felt like we were in the golden days of 1930s Shanghai, the “old Shanghai” image typically depicted in movies and literature.
The shopping malls are housed in colonial-style buildings, lining both sides of the entire stretch of road.
The road was packed with locals and tourists, and tourist trams ran along the road.
You can get a ride on one of these trams for 5RMB if your legs are too sore from all the shopping.
There were many street vendors who tried to sell us toys. Even though they were a little annoying, they backed off after we ignored them. Sadly, we also saw several homeless people and beggars, a sign of Shanghai’s worsening income equality amidst its rapid globalization.
Tram ride along East Nanjing Walking Street for just 5RMB
Finally, we headed back to our comfortable room in Sofitel for a good night’s rest. We had not had a proper sleep since our overnight flight 24 hours ago!
This article is part of our completely free and fantastic Ultimate Shanghai Travel Guide. Why spend days researching when all your holiday information is simply a click away? 🙂
Shanghai Day One Itinerary
|7am||Flight from Singapore to Shanghai|
|8am||Flight from Singapore to Shanghai|
|9am||Flight from Singapore to Shanghai|
|10am||Touch down at Shanghai Pudong Airport|
|11am||Maglev bullet train to Longyang Road metro station. Metro to East Nanjing Road metro station|
|12pm||Check in at Sofitel Shanghai Hyland|
|1pm||One Hour Bus Ride to Zhujiajiao|
|5pm||One Hour Bus Ride to Shanghai|
|6pm||Dinner at Simply Thai Xintiandi
|9pm||Tour East Nanjing Walking Street|
|10pm||Return to Hotel|