We had read that the Yuyuan Gardens were a must see but they get very crowded on a weekend. So we went Monday morning thinking that it would be quiet, especially with the slightly overcast weather. It wasn’t. The streets around the gardens were chokers full of people and lined with souvenir stalls, people selling knock off watches and little food stalls. Inside the walled gardens they were not as busy as outside and even with the people you still found a sense of calm. Rather than big open gardens which I was expecting, they were instead a rabbit warren of waterways and gardens being split by traditional buildings and rocks. The gardens took 18 years to develop in 1559 in the Ming era and although we missed it, in spring apparently the magnolias are in bloom and are beautiful to see. The gardens really were breathtaking with scenes out of the movies. But our photos without people were very painstakingly waited upon.
We then caught the metro to the French Concession area where there were two separate areas that had been developed out of traditional long tang alleyway homes. The first one we visited was the upscale Xintiãndi. It was lovely and modern but wasn’t really our cup of tea. Filled with fancy restaurants, art galleries and clothing stores it felt really western. Upscale but with not a lot of character. I am sure if you lived here it would be a wonderful place to come, but for us looking for something different, not so much.
We walked then to the other section called Tiánzîfáng and it was so much more fun. The alleyways were filled with food stalls and little funky shops selling all manner of things. You just walked down two central alleyways and then branched off into these smaller ones when it took your fancy. It was vibrant and fun. Still very touristy but more kitschy than upscale. Well worth the trip around town to get there.
After a quick rest we were back out again in the streets looking for some dinner. We decided today that we would start picking one dish a day that was adventurous. Tonight we had red pork and sea cucumber. The pork was really great as usual and what we thought was the sea cucumber was fantastic. But we soon discovered that what we thought was sea cucumber was actually pickle. The actual sea cucumber (which we thought was pork rind) had the taste and consistency of rubber. Well our first attempt at new things didn’t go down so well but it can only go up from here!…….. Hopefully. S
The new and the old. Te Shanghai Tower in the background.
One of the streets around the gardens. We see the occasional Western tourist but we are definitely a minority.
One of the alleyways in Tiánzîfáng. As you can see the shops are at the bottom of houses.