Old Town Shanghai

On Sunday I did (for the second time) a walking tour of “Old Town” Shanghai that’s in the Shanghai Lonely Planet, the area south and west of Yuyuan (Yu Gardens) where the only real remains of old lane homes exists. I’m not sure there’s any formal definition of what Old Town here is but the streets of the most interest in the area are Dongtai Lu, part of Renmin Lu, West Fangban Lu, Wenmiao Lu and Dajing Lu. It’s my favorite part of Shanghai, it feels full of energy and locals just doing their business and some parts of it are actually quiet, unlike most other places.

I started near Yuyuan on Fangban Zhonglu where are plenty of tourists to see the gardens and quickly escaped the area as quickly as possible. However, since it’s Chinese New Year (or Spring Festival as it’s officially translated) next weekend, so there were plenty of vendors out selling red things that were intricate and beautiful to look at.


As you walk from Fangban Lu to Dajing Lu, there are plenty of little alleys that lead to peoples homes and sometimes shops such as bike repair men or shoeshine men. There are often little water spigots facing the street from the homes, too, often making for cool pictures. Scenes like the ones below are typical of the area and of the area’s charm as well. It feels really down to earth and disconnected from the megalopolis that is the rest of Shanghai.


On Dajing Lu lives an active fish and meat market. You can see things being hung up to cure or dry. In the picture on the left below, you can a person’s laundry hung right next to some hide-type-of-thing. The bins on the other picture contain live fish, crab, lobsters, etc.


On Dongtai Lu is an “antiques” market selling memorabilia from the days of Mao and the Ming and Qing dynasties. I’ve been told that a lot of the goods here are manufactured fakes specifically for the market. It’s an amazingly quiet street and makes a really pleasant stroll. The picture on the bottom says something of “down with America” along with the bottom and something else equally inflammatory to Japan, Germany and France in the middle. If somebody can read Traditional Chinese well, I’d appreciate a translation.


Along Tibet Road (can’t remember the name in Chinese, Xi something Lu), there’s a pets market that sells ridiculously cute dogs and cats, plus turtles, crickets, grasshoppers and other animals. The picture on the right has a few cats and rabbits in the same cage, which was a bit unusual.


And lastly, on Wenmiao Road is an Confucian temple that is lost in a swarm of vendors selling DVDs, jewelry, and snacks. You can see on the left part of the temple plus some vendors and on the right is a snack I bought for 4 RMB ($0.50). It’s a fried bread and noodle patty that’s folded in half with an scrambled egg wedged between the two half’s. It was a delicious cholesterol bomb!


Generally there are people all over selling these tasty treats, including the roasted yam pictured below. It turns out they roast them on those metal canisters and it’s possible that the canisters were at some point chemical containers, so roll the dice if you decide to buy one. Tasty all the same.