Lunch (Thoughts of Shanghai)


Late lunch was xiaolongbao from the original spot on Wudong Lu.

Still didn’t take a picture — ate them all with dark rice vinegar (the Zhenjiang variety of legendary origin) before I could even pull out my smartphone.

Later that day I would take a taxi to Pudong with several large bags and check in for a red-eye flight direct to LAX. First, I’d eat these eight dumplings — minced pork mixed with spring onion and aspic set inside circular unleavened dough wrappers then folded and pinched shut — directly from the bamboo steamer. These were the same ones I tried after arriving in Shanghai last year: the ones with vinegar poured in the same saucers, red chili sauce served with the same tiny spoons.

Exactly eight dumplings; no more, no less.

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China, in Quotation Marks


The one thing I know for sure about China is that I will never know China. It’s too big, too old, too diverse, too deep. There’s simply not enough time. That’s the joy of China: facing a learning curve that’s impossibly steep.

– Anthony Bourdain in Parts Unknown (Shanghai)

On Earth: Leaving Here


What a year it’s been.

Around this time last summer I gave up a teaching assistantship in Austria to come to Shanghai and learn Mandarin. Never would’ve guessed that I would get to see more of this country than my own, meet some incredible people, flip my brain upside on a daily basis learning this language, and understand myself a whole lot better than when I boarded the plane at LAX.

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Seven Treasures of Qibao, Shanghai


Where do I even start with this one?

The aptly named 七宝镇//Qi1bao3 Zhen4 (lit. Seven Treasures Town) is an absolute must-see. Shanghai’s closest water town isn’t just that. It’s a snack food paradise and a barbecue lover’s fantasy, a photographer’s dream, an architectural wonder, a relic of ancient China.

Qibao is by far Shanghai’s coolest water town. Wandering through the Old Street will take you the day if you plan it right, but I strongly suggest throwing out those plans. Most likely, you’ll be enticed by every other storefront selling Chinese-style sweets. Don’t stress about it too much. The sooner you accept the fact that you’ll have to make multiple trips to Qibao to truly be “done,” the sooner you get try that curious-looking meat on a stick.

Speaking of which…

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Shanghai’s Jade Buddha Temple


Housed in its own worship chamber and sitting in pristine silence is the Jade Buddha statue after which this temple is named. Enormous and impressive, you’ll have to experience it in all its transience: photos aren’t allowed. However, they are allowed in the temple’s spectacular inner courtyard and grounds.

Here are a few I took while visiting this colorful place:

You can find out about the Jade Buddha, the temple’s century-long history, and more here and here (Chinese).

China, in Quotation Marks


“It seems that the more places I see and experience, the bigger I realize the world to be. The more of it I become aware of, the more I realize how relatively little I know of it — how many places I have still to go, how much more there is to learn.

Maybe that’s enlightenment enough: to know that there is no final resting place of the mind, no moment of smug clarity. Perhaps wisdom, such as it is for me, means realizing how small I am, and unwise, and how far I have yet to go.”

– Anthony Bourdain in Parts Unknown (Peru)

Fly South to Nanxiang


Shanghai’s even got a TIME MACHINE.

It’s located specifically in one of Shanghai’s copious satellite towns: Nanxiang (南翔). Here, in this otherwise sleepy suburb, you’ll travel through time and space to the birthplace of xiaolongbao (also known as God’s gift to man). Here, where they celebrate the myriad genius of our ancestors by cooking dumplings in a bamboo steamer, you’ll be transported to the China of story.

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