Yuyuan (Gardens and) Bazaar

Well, I didn’t make it into the Gardens.  Typically, this popular attraction is packed full of people and I was there on a typical day.  From what I hear, the gardens are quite amazing, full of lush landscape, glittering ponds and rockeries, and housing China’s oldest tea house.  The crowds really were too much (I will visit another day and provide a report then) so I spent time in the adjacent bazaar, also a popular tourist trap. 

Like the gardens, the bazaar was original built in the sixteenth century, but I imagine the current buildings are much newer.  They’ve done a good job of replicating the traditional style, but haven’t managed to totally conceal the concrete structure or mechanical plantrooms.  Originally the site of a large temple, the place is totally geared towards tourism now, with cheap trinkets, Starbucks and retailers harrassing you at every turn.

Somewhat overwhelmed by the crowds, my guidebook lead me to Songyuelou, Shaghai’s oldest vegetarian resturant (first established a century ago) located on the edge of the bazaar.  I was a bit early for the dinner rush, so arrived to find all of the staff playing checkers or napping  on the floor.  A few snapped to attention (despite my awkward attempts to communicate “It’s fine, you sleep, I’ll go somewhere else”) and I got to have one of my best meals here – a pepper ‘steak’. 

For me, the neighbourhood around the bazaar is much more engaging and colourful, having retained many of its small alleyways and older buildings. 

Middle Fangbang Street is the main shopping strip, and compared to the bazaar, is more spacious, has better quality souvenirs and antiques, and feels like a part of the city.  The street is buzzing with cars and bicycles, as well as people, with all the functions of the city on full display (not hidden away in service lanes and basement carparks). 

Across the historic rooftops, the two modern towers on the other side of the river are the perfect counterpoint to the colour and chaos of the street.

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4 Responses to Yuyuan (Gardens and) Bazaar

  1. luKe says:

    Brings back fond memories of steaming hot dumplings oozing with garlic and spinach … accompanied by long necks of Shanghai beer.
    Then to the very tea house you refer to in the Yuyuan Gardens for an extortionate but unforgettable tall glass of erupting cammomile flower blossom.

    • Gosh luKe, all that steaming, oozing and erupting … it sounds like your trip to Yuyuan was far more satisfying than mine. 🙂 I really must go back soon. But yes, life doesn’t get much better than dumplings and beer.

  2. TomG says:

    ..and extortion. sounds like NSW politics.

  3. Yup, lots of noise and chaos, and with a constant turn-over of people.

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