“It was cold and foggy in Shanghai as I strolled through the 400-year-old Yuyuan Garden. I practically had this exquisite landscape to myself. The last time I was in Shanghai was to see the World Expo (in 2010). Its mob of tourists and humidity were a stark contrast to what I was experiencing today.
Discovering the Shanghai that was not about shopping malls and bargaining for fake brands was what I wanted to experience during this trip. After being transported to the period when Ming dynasty royalty strolled among the garden’s cherry blossoms, at a time when Shanghai was still enveloped by a bright, multi-hued blue sky, I took a cab to the Dongtailu antique market.
Most of the items sold here were reproductions, and unless you are a knowledgeable collector, don’t expect to land that rare Smithsonian-worthy artifact. After I bought a carved container for fighting crickets, which I plan to use as a pencil case, the man who sold me the item gave a warm smile and handed me Kaucim fortune-telling sticks. His worn booklet interpreted my fortune as, “Later you may get your wish.”
I thanked him and moved on to witness life behind the stalls. An elderly man played music on a classic Chinese instrument called erhu, and a crowd watched an old lady gamble against a young boy. People smiled and welcomed this curious traveler who joined in to see who would win the next round. This was Shanghai street life. I was in the middle of it, and I realized that the fortune sticks were right!”Grant Orbeta is a senior executive at a leading real estate development firm. He travels four times a year, and collects vintage watches and cameras. His images have appeared on nationalgeographic.com. Visit www.grantorbetaphotography.com for more photos from his travels.
- Best take-away was a stick or two of barbecued chicken feet and squid tentacles (if you’re adventurous) at the Nanjing Lu pedestrian street. Itís a great snack while strolling through the shops. More traditional delicacies like fruit preserves and roasted chestnuts can also be found along Nanjing Lu.
- Most interesting food I tried was the xiao long bao. This steamed dumpling sometimes called “soup dumpling” originated in Shanghai and holds a flavorful surprise of broth inside. Try it at the Nanxiang restaurant where it was supposedly invented, or at Din Tai Fung on the third floor of the Super Brand Mall which also has a magnificent view of The Bund.
- Worth flying for was the mix of old and new, the chance to see, taste and enjoy historic Shanghai and what it has become today’s symbol of modern China.