Monday, July 5, 2010

Taikang Lu, A Hidden Oasis in Shanghai

Tiny Belgian bar in an alley between homes and shops

Don't feel too bad for me, with my sudden work trip to Shanghai. It seems I accomplished what I came for on the business side, but I actually spent very little time working. My friend Megan, who is currently living in Shanghai, gave me some tips on where to shop. I have been to Shanghai before, and shopped Hua Hai road and eaten in Xintiandi several times. I'd been to the Bund for National Day and Old Shanghai temple market for dumplings, video games and haggling. So I decided to take her wise suggestion and check out an area called Taikang Lu

The concierge wasn't too familiar with this area, but he helped me write the name in Chinese so I could show the taxi driver. Once the taxi dropped me off on the actual street called Taikang Lu I walked a bit in both directions to get my bearings. At first I was unsure what the fuss was about because I only saw a few stores. Then I noticed a small 4-foot break between two buildings. Beyond this opening I saw some small shop signs and tourists with cameras shuffling down the narrow alley. 


 I followed a group of young guys through a 2 foot wide alley trustingly. Sure enough, the narrow alley between homes opened onto an oasis of cafes and bars. I was glad I waited to find lunch here instead of the hotel, but I was starving. I wandered just a bit further before settling on an Asian-Italian cafe to read my book and eat. After lunch I explored this whole complex, going in circles and getting lost amongst the shops. The alleys create a maze, and I got stuck in a holding pattern coming across the same shops several times. It took hours to figure out how to get to the other corners, where I found more shops, as well as elderly people preparing their dinners behind open windows. The neighborhood is a strange mix of long-time residents going about their lives, artists creating their art, restaurants, shopping, and throngs of tourists taking pictures of it all. 

Shanghai noodle soup. Everything in China comes with pork somehow involved. These noodles were good, but I was confused by the acidity - I'm not sure if it was lime or some kind of chili but my lips and throat were burning. Requested a Tsing Tao ASAP!

 A tall glass of mango juice. Every restaurant, even traditional places, bars and diners in Shanghai will blend up fresh fruit or vegetable juice on the spot. I think it may be because they don't really drink much water. Why can't we have that in NY? 

 Narrow alley. You would never know that a little further lies a cafe.

 I felt sort of bad taking pictures of this person's home... but everyone else was doing it! You can see the paint stains on the tubs and table, I think it may be an artist's home or studio.

After the acid noodles, I needed something familiar for dinner. I settled on Indian food, wondering how China would interpret that. Aloo chat without the crunchy bits was more like potatoes with salsa, but good. My favorite dish, Paneer Makhanwala was actually very good. 



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