Exploring Shanghai: from the museum to the hot pot

Shanghai Museum

Our first full day In Shanghai kicked off with a large dose of Chinese culture--a trip to the Shanghai Museum. Centrally located in People's Square, this ancient Chinese art museum contained exhibitions ranging from jade, to porcelain, to calligraphy and even traditional furniture. We wandered the floors until our feet just couldn't take it anymore and left to find Nanjing Road, a bustling pedestrian walkway extending from our hotel to Huangpu River. 

Nanjing Road

One thing you have to understand about Nanjing Road is that it's insane. Hundreds and hundreds of people walk along this pathway all day long to shop, eat or just take in the sights. We walked along and eventually our hunger and exhaustion got the best of us so we stopped in a side restaurant with outdoor seating. We ordered two massive beers, some egg rolls, and people watched for a while. Crowds and crowds of people passed by as we sat, sipped our beers and took in the scenery. 

Once we were fully rejuvenated from beer and egg rolls, my dad and I strolled to the end of the Nanjing Road (I was only slightly hit by one motorcycle, which is actually pretty impressive when they are whizzing past from every direction) where we arrived at the Bund. 

The Bund & Shanghai Old Town

Along the Huangpu River, an elevated walkway known as the Bund acts as a scenic pedestrian freeway. Visitors can stroll along the water with a beautiful view of Shanghai's tallest sky scrapers to one side of the river and historic Western architecture dating back to turn of the century on the other. It's a stunning contrast. Per Frommer's suggestion, we got a rooftop table at M on the Bund for some afternoon tea, wine and cheese. The sun came out and we sat and relaxed, watching boats travel along the river. Soaking in Shanghai from above the Bund was definitely a unique experience, which made me realize in the moment how unbelievably fortunate I am to be spending a week on vacation in China with my dad. 

The rest of the day was a blur of waking and trying not to get hit by cars and motorcycles. We made our way over to Yu Yuan (Yu Garden), a classical Chinese garden, followed by a visit to Shanghai Old Town, a seemingly preserved section of old Shanghai, complete with traditional Chinese architecture and endless opportunities to buy cheap souvenirs. Feeling adventurous, my dad purchased some deep fried shrimp in dough from an Old Town vendor, which happens to be one of my favorite dim sum dishes. The lady hands us the shrimp, fresh out of the oil, and my dad eagerly takes a big bite... Little did we know that the ENTIRE shrimp was nestled in the fried dough--legs, skin, eyeballs, extremely sharp carapace and all (yes we had to Yahoo! shrimp anatomy to find out what the hell that pointy thing was). It's sufficient to say we didn't eat the rest of our little deep fried crustaceans. 

Hot pot please 

Another meal on my "must eat in Shanghai" list was hot pot. In case you haven't had it before, hot pot can be best described as shabu-shabu with boiling hot chili oil instead of boiling water. So, for dinner we went to a nearby hot pot restaurant called Hai Di Lao; this was one of my favorite meals in China thus far. 

Nobody in the restaurant spoke English, but we managed to order a half non spicy seafood hotpot and half super spicy chili oil hot pot, with thinly sliced bacon, beef and noodles to cook as our meal. We carefully dipped meat slices in the boiling liquid, then dipped that into little bowls of sesame seeds, peanut butter, soy sauce, chives, sesame oil and chili oil that we concocted ourselves at the restaurant's DIY bar. Hai Di Lao cleverly provided us with touch screen plastic baggies for our phones (to prevent splashing oil from damaging them), red aprons and even a hair tie for me. I don't want to think about the hot pot accidents that must a have happened in the past to promote this level of hot pot caution. 

The meal was topped off with sunflower seeds and green tea. My dad was chugging beer and attending to his runny nose, exclaiming how spicy the meal was, but I had to disagree. Maybe it was my half Asian genes, maybe it was the fact that I strategically avoided the floating red chilis, but I honestly didn't think the heat level was too painful. Note to self: find a hot pot restaurant when I return to New York City.