Even though November traditionally is a quite dull month I remember my past Novembers in Shanghai as having quite a few beautiful late-autumn days... So, here's 5 things I'd Do & Enjoy if I was in Shanghai this November!Read More
Our amazing trip From Shanghai to North Sichuan and Gansu came to an end when we reached our last stop: Beijing. China's capital, political and historical center. This time I was super excited to go here in late summer and to be accompanied with the love of my life with whom I could discover some alternative wonders of Beijing!
Here's our 5 New Things To Discover in a Weekend in Beijing:Read More
Last weekend we did something I wish we'd done a long time ago - because then I'd have done it several times since. We went to Bihai Jinsha - known as the best quality beach near Shanghai and if you translate the name you get something like "Bluish green sea, Golden sand".Read More
This week Leon's friend Craig is visiting from New Zealand. Or stopping by that is. He's doing the "big move" we all dream about: Quit his job, bought a one-way ticket to Europe and heading there for traveling and work. Not too much planned, only a stop over in dear Shanghai and Milan as the first Euro destination. Super exciting!
This week he's been out & about exploring all of Shanghai's famous pearls and hidden gems and Friday me & him planned a little get-away to see something out of the city. Water-towns are almost a must-see when you visit China and Shanghai is surrounded by a number of these cute ancient canal towns. I've previous visited Suzhou (read more here) and the tiny Qibao which is actually a part of Shanghai and can be reached by metro (read more here).
Friday morning we decided Zhujiajiao Water Town as our destination - the over 1,700 years old water town on the outskirts of Shanghai. According to China Travel Guide Zhujiajiao is the best preserved water town so close to Shanghai and is often referred to as 'Pearl Stream'.
Getting from Shanghai to Zhujiajiao
It supposedly takes approximately 1.5 hours to reach Zhujiajiao with bus from Shanghai and you can find a list of buses and bus-stops directions here. Remember you always have to add the time it takes to get to the station or bus-stop, buy tickets and wait for the next available bus. Often I find that traveling out of Shanghai always takes much more time than calculated. So because Zhujiajiao is only about 50km away we decided to jump in a taxi and in this way we reached Zhujiajiao Ancient Town in just 50 minutes. We paid 190 RMB where the bus is under 10RMB/ticket.
As all roads seem to lead to Shanghai we decided to find Zhujiajiao Bus Station going back and we got on a bus within 2 minutes and pain on board. Too Easy. But the trip back took approximately 2.5 hours and we still had to get back home from the station so I really feel the money on a taxi is worth it at least one of the ways - the local bus can be an experience you don't want to totally miss out on as well =)
Zhujiajiao ancient town is a super cute place with several unique bridges allowing you to cross the canal and explore the different parts. The endless rows of willow trees makes the village super lush and fresh!
The village is known for once being a vibrant and prosperous little trading town but today it's super tranquil and life almost seems to stand still. You will find lots of the typical small shops where you can buy souvenirs, local food specialties and: lots of cra* (excuse my language). You also find several spots along the canals where you can eat lunch - take your time to find a good outside spot if the weather is nice and I recommend a late lunch (after 1.30pm) to avoid the big lunch crowds.
Oh Zhujiajiao also has a big Starbucks. Yes, this a good sign that this water town is not a hidden wonder waiting to be found by you. It's super super popular and I've heard you should avoid weekends or just be very very patient. As with all popular spots in China, the crowds of (Chinese) tourists can make especially nature experience super unpleasant.
Apart from the cute bridges of different styles Zhujiajiao has the cute Kezhi garden, the old post office and don't forget to visit Yuanjin Buddhist Temple and have your fortune told. Both me and Craig will be blessed with "family up" and "life happy" so we left Zhujiajiao very reassured!
It's weekend in Shanghai but more than a regular weekend: it's Qingming Festival.Read More
Before we headed to Suzhou last weekend I knew two things about this historical city: silk & canals. Suzhou is known as being a prosperous city and I've learned that this is due to these two factors. A greater Canal Construction many many years ago allowed Suzhou to start exporting silk to many provinces and since then Suzhou has been known for wealth and silk. This is also the reason for its rather sophisticated reputation which through time has been well-kept and which is also one of the reasons you will find some of the most beautiful Chinese Gardens in Suzhou. For example the beautiful Humble Garden.
We traveled from Shanghai on Saturday morning from Hongqiao Train station. You can also take trains from Shanghai Station but we live right at Line 10 which makes it super easy to reach Hongqiao within 30 min from leaving our door.
Though we travel quite often we did a real beginner's mistake and didn't book tickets in advantage. This resulted in an almost 2h waiting in Hongqiao because there where no available seats... China has a lot of people so therefore there is a lot of departures to most destination, but to repeat: China has a lot of people so bookbookbookbook #lessonlearned
(The "expat" travel agency C-trip is the one we most often use to book flight tickets in and out of China and I have used them for hotels couple of times as well. They now offer train tickets as well and delivers to your door or office!)
Tourists for a day in Suzhou
Despite our little delay and hang-out in Hongqiao we quickly arrived in Suzhou (less than 1h from Shanghai) and was welcomed by sunshine at the beautiful open square at Suzhou Station. From here we crossed the river and walked by Renmin Road towards the Beita Bao'en Pagaoda which also serves as a buddhist Monastry.
The Pagodao is situated in a small garden where you pay approx. RMB 25 to get in and to climb the 9 stories - a total of 76m. It's super old and super cute. The coolest thing is that you from the top stories can get a 360 degrees view of Suzhou and really get a feel for new Suzhou vs. old Suzhou.
From the Pagoda we walked left at Xibeijie and reached the popular area around Dongbei Pedestrian Street hosting Suzhou Museum, Suzhou Garden Museum, the Humble Garden and lots of souvenir shops.
Suzhou Museum was packed and due to the length of the queue outside and our limited time we skipped it. I am not a big museum'er buuut I've read lots of recommendations for this museum. Oh well it's always good to have something to come back to in Suzhou.
The Humble Garden (see photo on top of page) located just after Suzhou Museum is said to be one of the most beautiful Chinese Gardens and if the weather is nice it's definitely worth the entrance fee of approx. RMB 75. You can easily spend a couple of hours in here strolling around and exploring traditional Chinese garden style.
Continuing at the Pedestrian Street we reached the famous Pingjiang street and if you turn right you can follow the street with the canal on your right side. During the Song dynasty Suzhou was also called Pingjiang and this road is named hereafter. It is renowned for its ancient city style as well as the canal street hosting all sorts of cafes, vendors and snack stalls.
Though quite crowded this is such a nice street with lots of different snacks to try, lots of different things to look at and all sorts of souvenirs to buy in all sorts of qualities (christmas coming uuuup). We ended up not being thaaaaat hungry when we reached Alley Sunshine Cafe which I had recommended for a lunch/snack stop but we still enjoyed a delicious latte in this charming and very unique cafe. It's definitely worth a visit though I can't tell you whether the food experience is worth it to!
On Pingjiang street we even found a Danish Baker, owned by the Danish Baking Shifu Lars and as they happened to celebrate their 1 years anniversary with cake-sale we happened to buy 5 different desserts for later including traditional Danish Ris a la mande (Rice pudding cream dessert thingy we have for christmas in DK)! YUM.
We topped our weekend get-away off with a stay in a nicer hotel where we ordered roomservice and watched movies. We usually don't care too much about accommodation and mostly choose simpler options when we travel around in China but sometimes it's really nice to wake up in luxury settings, take a morning swim before indulging in a massive breakfast buffet. We asked for a late check-out in order to chill a couple of hours in the hotel with books and studies before returning to Shanghai super relaxed and re-vitalized.
I could have spend another day in Suzhou so I'll definitely return to visit Suzhou Museum and explore a bit more. Such a perfect destination for a shorter Shanghai-getaway!
What's your next get-away? Any recommendations - let me know (contact me here) and don't forget to subscrbie to Shanghaihabits for more travel inspiration:
Suzhou Creek is just a 10 minutes bike ride away from my home in the French Consession and I love to go here for a run or an evening walk. Especially on a day like today where I had plenty of time for outdoor activities and where the air feels so fresh, the sky is blue and the temperature has dropped to more running-friendly degrees.
I lock my bike at the Creek in the Jing'an-end and if I have a good leg-day like today I run all the way to the Bund and back. There is something really spectacular about running by the creek as it gets broader and broader and suddenly the Pudong Skyline shows behind bridges and buildings. Before you know of it the creek runs into Huangpu River and you are being stopped by a Chinese tourist for a photo together at the Bund.
If you're not sure how to get to the creek or where to start you can check out my route and map here. Or just grab your trainers, head to the creek and start running along the tracks on both sides of the water.
I love running by water and I literally feel like I've been on a little morning get-away from busy Shanghai every time I do this mission.
The past week I've had 2 friends visiting me here in Shanghai and we've had so much on the program. Anne and me went to Huangshan for a hiking trip and just as we returned to Shanghai Lilya arrived. Lilya flew in from Taiwan without a visa as China has the 72h rule saying that you can stop over for 72 hours without a visa. As far as I know the only demand is that the airport/country you come from is different from the one you travel to after - so it's actually a prober stop-over. So with 72 hours in Shanghai I had to choose carefully what to show and what to do.
The list of places to show in Shanghai is endless so for me personally the most important thing to show is Shanghai's incredible contrasts: Old vs. New. Traditional vs. Modern. Rich vs. Poor. Over-the-top vs. Simple. I love spending an afternoon walking around in my local area in the French Concession, chatting with the locals in my lane house, eating street noodles and then continuing the evening with a visit to the bund e.g. for a drink at the fancy Hotel Indigo's Char Bar which has the most incredible view over Shanghai (in my opinion).
I really wanted to show Anne and Lilya a little bit of a different China than Shanghai but with our tight schedule a 2-3 hour trip a nice water town such as Zhujiajiao, Tongli or Luzhi just seemed too long. Then I remembered that my friend Janie had once posted a really nice picture of Qibao Old Town on her Instagram. And that this place is only a short subway ride away.
It's line 9 to Qibao st. and it took us 25 minutes to get there from the centre of the French Concession. Don't get disappointed when you walk out of Exit 2 and are being met by a big shopping mall and a Starbucks (yes you are still in Shanghai) just turn right and you'll see one of the brown attraction signs with "Qibao Old Town" and directions.
Qibao Zhen which is the traditional Chinese name literally means The Seven Treasures Town and the old town is named after the temple you can also find here. The peaceful temple is RMB 5 and definitely worth a visit after a stroll through the touristed small paths and bridges hosting shops, vendors and restaurants. Maybe you will meet the happy monk Frank from Taiwan, if so remember to say hi from me.
I've heard Qibao is really famous for "hong shao rou" (red braised pork) but as a veggie I didn't have the full experience of that part.
Enoy Qibao with or without visitors - it's so worth half a day trip!
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I've heard soooo many and soooo great things about Huangshan or Yellow Mountain. So when my friend Anne came to China to visit me and we wanted to take a trip out of Shanghai Huangshan was the first place that came to my mind.
The close to 2000 m tall mountain is located in Anhui province near the city Tunxi which nowadays has been renamed Huangshan. From Shanghai to Huangshan city you can travel by flight (1 hour), by bus (6 hours) or by night train (12 hours).
Remember to buy tickets in advance as they sell out. We wanted to go by night train in order to arrive as early as possible at the mountain but when we went to the Station 2 days before departure "sleeper" tickets were sold out (they still had seats left but 12 hours of sitting before a hiking adventure doesn't sound optimal to me). Instead we went with the bus option and bought our one-way tickets as returns have to be bought in Huangshan. They were RMB 132 for a single.
All three transportation options include a transfer to a smaller bus (or taxi) in Huangshan city to go to the ctiy Tangkou which is located at the foot of the mountain - a 1 hour trip. From Tangkou Station an official park bus will take you the last 15-20 minutes to the "entrance" of the mountain where you pay the Entrance of RMB 200 (on a student visa? Bring your student card and save RMB 160) and either start your hike OR jump into a cable car (East side: Yungu Cable Car. West side: Yuping Cable Car).
East Steps or West Steps
You need to know wether you want to climb the East side or the West side before you board the last park bus. It's said that the West side is the most challenging which is rewarded as it is also the most beautiful. We chose to hike up the West Steps because our hotel Yupinglou Hotel was located on this side of the mountain. In order to see both sides we took the East side down the next morning and I can definitely recommend that you one way or the other see especially the top- and last part of the West side. Absolutely stunning. I can also recommend you to buy a tourist map in Tangkou (sold lots of places) and have some locals point your hotel and recommended route out.
Our Huangshan Adventure
We took the bus from Shanghai Long Distance Bus Station (close to Shanghai Railway Station on line 1) at 7.50 and arrived in Huangshan city at 13.40. 10 minutes after arrival we boarded a mini bus towards Tangkou (RMB 17 and tickets are purchased on the bus). This is a 1 hour trip through amazingly green landscape.
After a 10-15 minutes wait where we studied a tourist map we jumped on a Park Bus towards the entrance to the West Steps (RMB 19).
We started walking at 15.40 and arrived at our hotel at 18.10 just before it got dark. Our ascend was a rainy one so we were hiking in a pretty solid pace and limited our stops and breaks. Still it was absolutely beautiful. Green, lush and mysterious.
The East route was quite steep and as with most mountains in China it is stairs all the way. The path is sometimes very narrow and I can imagine that on busy days (weekends and national holidays) where Huangshan is taken over by Chinese tour groups with yelling guides the hiking experience can really be an uncomfortable one. You can say we were a bit unlucky with our weather especially for the sunset Tuesday morning which was hardly there (it just got light no sight of the sun) but as I mentioned it was a beeeeeautiful hike and at many points we literally felt like we had the mountains for ourselves which is a very very rare experience at this popular mountain.
Rise & Shine
Even though the weather forecast did warn us about the non-existing sunrise we still got up at 5 on Tuesday morning to give it a chance at 5.36 (the hotels will know the exact time for sunrise) and as it got light we started hiking the last part to the Lotus Peak which is the highest point. Around 7-8 we reached the peak and some places serving breakfast. Beihai Hotel serves a big breakfast buffet and you can just rock up and pay around RMB 150. We decided to continue the Chinese traveling experience as well as simple hiking living and chose a nearby place that served a RMB 30 very simple Chinese Breakfast.
After breakfast we started hiking down the East Steps and after a few hours we reached the entrance. Here we found thousands of Chinese tourists queuing for the Yungu Cable Car and that really made me realize how lucky we had been with our itinerary. I have been warned by friends about the hourlong queuing for the cable cars as well as the Chinese tourist nightmare that can ruin your Huangshan experience so my biggest recommendation is to plan to go here in the weekdays. My next biggest is to hike up the West side but it depends where your hotel is and how long time you have to reach it before it gets dark.
We easily found the empty Park bus (as we managed to get down so early) and in Tangkou we jumped straight into a mini bus towards Huangshan city. In Huangshan we only had to wait 20 minutes before we found ourself on a bus back to Shanghai. When we arrived in Huangshan on Monday we forgot to buy the return tickets to Shanghai which gave us more flexibility if we wanted to stay on the mountain another night to do some of the extra hikes on the top (especially Xihai which is a 2-3 our hike down a gorge and back to the top is said to be absolutely amazing) but on the other hand it gave us some uncertainty as we didn't know if we could actually get back to Shanghai this day. Our back-up plan was to visit one of the smaller villages around Huangshan which is said to be a real local and real China experience. Due to our wet hike we were still partly soaked so we couldn't think of anything but getting back to Shanghai and civilization.
Hiking Huangshan was such an intense experience - especially our 2 hour hike on Tuesday morning where we felt alone in the world with the magnificent mountain and breathtaking nature. Weather-wise we could have been luckier but we enjoyed the hike a lot and really appreciate how we had such a lonesome hike. It's a tough hike on the numberless amount of stairs and you will be soar for days (which is pretty cool as it reminds you of your amazing effort & amazing experience). I can definitely recommend a visit here and especially a hiking adventure as oppose to a queuing/cable car visit.
Let me know if you have any questions about hiking Huangshan & have an awsome time! Don't forget to bring healthy energetic snacks & don't forget to subscribe to Shanghaihabits
I have discovered some great running routes in Shanghai. Some with open spaces, some with greens, some with a water view and some which include all three.
What I have been missing is a running route which motivates and supports me to run longer distances. I am very much a 5k runner. With that I mean that 5k is my base and my comfort zone. It seems like I can always run 5k and it seems like I have a hard time motivating myself to run longer than that. When I reach 5k I'm like "sweet, time for yoga". But I often think about getting into running longer distances again. Maybe do my first marathon here in Asia - have you heard about the half-marathon in Cambodia through the renowned Angkor Wat? It's in December this year and It sounds aaaaamazing. But it just seems so difficult - I almost feel feel like saying impossible to train for a marathon in Shanghai.
Willpower & Century Park
Then the other week I remembered my friend Lars. Lars is a super-runner and a very inspiring person if you like running. In 2012 he ran the Great Wall Marathon. Oh yes 42.195 km and 5,164 steps on the Great Wall and a run that puts participants physical ability to the test. No problem for Lars' physical ability. Later the same year he joined the Sky Marathon and with over 300 other stair-running enthusiasts he conquered the 100 floors of the World Financial Center in Shanghai. In 2012 I had just moved to Shanghai and I was so fascinated about Lars' commitment and running ability. His secret? Willpower & Century Park.
Century Park is located in Pudong east of Lujiazui and it is the largest park in Shanghai. It is a bit of a mission to get there but this Saturday I decided to see if the mission is worth it.
Saturday morning Me and my friend Anne who is visiting me these weeks enjoyed one of my home-made green smoothies, we put on our running gear and we went with the subway to Century Park. It's Line 2 and you either get off at Shanghai Science & Technology Museum or Century Park. When you are D.O.N.E jumb in a taxi and it's a RMB 25 ride back to Puxi Centre.
Out at Century Park you can run on the running track around the whole park with lots of other running enthusiasts or you can pay RMB 10 to get access into the park and it's many paths, it's green fields, it's big lake and it's small tivoli.
Century Park and it's outside area is fresh, open, green and biiiiiiig. So you can definitely get your marathon training started in Shanghai by doing a couple of weekly missions to Century Park.
Bonus? A Century Park mission almost feels like a small Shanghai get-away so why not try that and skip the hung-over brunch for a change. An after running brunch just taste so much better.
Have a lovely Sunday in rainy'ish Shanghai and don't forget to subscribe to receive other running tips & healthy stuff
A very good reason to do less outside activities when living in the middle of Shanghai is the air quality, the lack of green areas and the unescapable big city buzz. Especially when you are use to being able to run by the beach, in the forest and close to nature in general, running in Shanghai seems very unappealing. Well, I have decided that even though the conditions here are not perfect my physical condition shall remain the same. This includes running which have been one of my main ways to stay in shape for years.
What I have discovered is that Shanghai is truly a totally different city in the early mornings. A run, a walk or a bike ride before 7 is so awesome. In the early mornings the air is much cleaner, the traffic is limited and the parks are bustling with Chinese people doing all sorts of activities (and I mean all sorts). Taking a run through for example Jing'an, Xiangyang or Fuxing park is such an experience: It seems like all the locals meet to play feather ball, do Tai Chi, dance, brush their teeth (in their pyjamas of course), walk their dogs or give their birds some fresh air... Yes that is actually a perfectly normal activity in Shanghai. So grab you bird cage, go to the nearest park, hang it in a tree and just hang out with the other bird owners while your bird gets some fresh air... Or do as I like to do: grab your running shoes and get out and play with the locals as early as possible.
It is truly fascinating and not least motivating that no matter the age so many locals seem to stay so active. And apart from being such a healthy habit to start your day with being active it is sooo interesting to se what the locals are up to today!
A Little Guide to Shanghai's Parks
- Fuxing Park: My favorite! Why?
- Fuxing Park is a 10-15 minutes run away from my home on Shaanxi Lu
- Fuxing Park is big enough for a 10-15 minutes run inside the park before returning home
- Fuxing Park has big green area in the middle where I can do stretches, yoga or my favorite (actually not): Squats
- Xiangyang Park
- Xiangyang Park is very small but a great green stop if you're doing a run in the streets of the French Concession. I sometimes run by Xiangyang Park on my way to Jing'an Park to do some loops and push ups on the benches
- Jing'an Park
- like Jing'an park though it's not as big as Fuxing Park. A run here is always very interesting and the pictures below are all from this park. The streets around the Park and the Jing'an Kerry Center area are big, open and not too busy in the early mornings. Compared to the small busy streets around Fuxing Park this is so much nicer for a combined city-park run
- Jing'an Sculpture Park
- Though currently being renovated this park is an interesting run with some interesting sculptures. It is a little further north in Jing'an and in an area I wouldn't come across if I didn't run to the park or sometimes run/bike to Suzhou Creek (which is another favorite running destination of mine)
- Xujiahui Park
- Big, open and though busy it is great as a running destination. It is a little inconvenient for me in terms of running to this park in the mornings so I personally don't use this park for morning runs
Find your local running destination in Shanghai
Running in the morning has to be easy and accessible so the reasons for "not to go" are minimized. We all know how valid these excuses seem when the alarm rings at too early o'clock. Still, even when I have had a bad sleep and I feel so-so, actually getting up for even just a small run to awaken my body & mind makes a huge positive impact on the rest of my day.
Shanghai has many smaller and bigger parks - go explore and find your own convenient spot and running route. In this way you can easier make morning runs a habit of your own!
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One of our favorite spots for running, playing, doing yoga & other activities is Xuhui Waterfront. Never heard of it? Neither had I before one morning were we decided to run from our home to the Bund and instead of heading towards the West Bund where we have another favorite running route (check this one out here) we just ran in a straight line through Xuhui.
We ended up at the water as planned but were surprised to find what seems like a newly renovated waterfront. I love this spot because you get open space, a great water-view and fresh air (if the air quality is okay on that given day). Another great Shanghai Escape!
You can do a great run from your home to here and then enjoy the area while you do your push ups, jumps or headstands. Another option which I prefer in order to avoid running in the busy streets of Shanghai to get here is to jump on my bike to the Bund and do my 5k run at the water. Or do as my boyfriend and get up suuuuper early (he prefers 5.30) and you are almost able to run in empty streets which is a pretty cool experience to - Shanghai definitely seems like a different city in the early hours!
Xuhui Waterfront is worth a visit - great for a weekend stroll as well.
Check our route (the Black Line) on the above map and click here to find an interactive google map where you can see more details and make your own route.
Shanghai felt so refreshing this weekend. It was like the light rain both cleaned and cooled down the streets. Saturday I jumped on my bike (and remembered to put on my new biking helmet - better safe than sorry in these crazy streets) and headed to Suzhou Creek north of Jing an to check out the running. I loved it! Such a great little "escape" from the crowded streets and such a great run by the water.
I'll share my route with you so you can get out there and attack the streets of Shanghai in your own running shoes (:
Suzhou Creek Route
On a large part of the Suzhou creek path it is not actually possible to run by the water. This is one reason why I like to take my bike there and also because I'm so tired of running in the busy streets to get there. I bike to the creek by heading north on Shaanxi Lu, I turn right at Anyuan Lu so I pass the Jade Buddha Tempel just before I reach the creek. I bike a long it for a few kilometers and when I reach the Jiuzi Park area I lock my bike and helmet to a bench and run from there. The Park area is quite easy to recognize as it looks very new with wooden paths, benches and a running track.
From here you can run at the water on both sides of the creek - different bridges allow you to cross. You can actually run all the way to the Bund though not with a water view the whole way.
Check the route (the Black Line) on the above map and click here to find an interactive google map where you can see more details and make your own route.
Have fun out there and don't forget to Share, Subscribe & Shine!