My Shanghai Story: marketplace Shanghai

28 05 2014

I would probably be the last person to admit this, but hitting the places to shop at was one of several things that I did thoroughly enjoy about my recent visit to Shanghai.

Shanghai's does offer a wealth of opportunities for retail therapy.

Shanghai’s does offer a wealth of opportunities for retail therapy …

Shanghai does have some wonderful places to satisfy that urge to spend that Yuan in. And like me, if parting with the wad of currency notes isn’t as therapeutic as it might be for one of my blogger friends who was on the trip who did seek to fill that excess volume she did ensure she had in her choice of luggage; there are several destinations in the busy city’s retail scene that are worth a look at just for the opportunity they present to discover the Shanghai that lies behind the glossy veneer that the now ultramodern metropolis seems to want to wear.

Shopping at the brightly lit and trendy Nanjing Road.

… that goes beyond the glossy veneer of the modern metropolis that it does seem to want to wear (photograph is of the brightly lit and trendy Nanjing Road).

The bold excitement that the bright lights of Nanjing Road offers is a good place as any to start with for the would be shopper. While the experience provided by many of the shops along the famous street is perhaps replicated in many other Chinese cities, a stroll down Nanjing Road does provide the feel of what the Chinese idiom 人山人海 (literally mountains of people, sea of people) seems to well describe.

The more modern experience of Nanjing Road.

The modern experience of Nanjing Road and the sea of people.

There is also that huge and rather interesting food hall on Nanjing Road to wander into, the Shanghai First Foodmall (photographs). With its four floors of nothing but food ranging from snacks, traditional dried foods, and some quite exotic looking foodstuff, it certainly is worth a peek into.

Dried pieces of pork include rather bizarre looking pig heads at the Shanghai First Foodmall.

Dried pieces of pork include rather bizarre looking pig heads at the Shanghai First Foodmall.

The bazaars, such as the one by Yu Garden (photographs), are for me also worth wandering through, not so much for the shopping experience, but more for the life provided by the crowds of out-of-town folk who descend on it, as it is for the colour and sometimes bizarre sights that they do tend to provide.

Decorative items at a street bazaar.

Decorative items at a street bazaar.

Two places that did thoroughly fascinate me, within a stone’s throw of each other and in the heart of the city not far from Yu Garden, were the Dongtai Road Antiques Market and the Flower, Bird, Fish and Insect Market. It is in the rough-and-tumble of places such as these that I often find myself in on the road, seeking to discover a feel for a place beyond its main tourist sights, although admittedly, the two, especially the antiques market, does seem to wear a somewhat touristy face.

An antique reflected off an antique mirror in the sea of antiques at Dongtai Road Antiques Market.

An antique reflected off an antique mirror in the sea of antiques at Dongtai Road Antiques Market.

Dongtai Road Antiques Market (photographs), which sadly would not be around the next time I visit Shanghai – it will, I am told, be a victim of urbanisation and will make way for the next phase of the Xintiandi (新天地) development in July this year, is probably where you might find more junk and souvenirs rather than antiques. A walk by the market’s two streets centered on the crossroads of Dongtai and Liuhekou Road and lined with makeshift stalls with shops in the back, takes one past piles of old and mostly unserviceable goods such as tattered pieces of luggage, cameras, music instruments, sporting goods, implements in all shapes and sizes, dolls with western features, Mao and Soviet era memorabilia, along with replicas of terracotta warriors, tee-shirts, and other souvenir items.

Time is ticking on Dongtai Road Antiques Market - it will soon be a victim of urbanisation.

Time is ticking on Dongtai Road Antiques Market – it will soon be a victim of urbanisation.

It is across Xizhang South Road, which runs perpendicular to Liuhekou Road, that one is greeted not so much by the melody of birds, but by a cacophony of crickets. The huge fighting crickets, kept in baskets of woven rattan or plastic mesh, and also in clear containers of plastic, is one of several fascinating offerings of the Flower, Bird, Fish and Insect Market (photographs).

Baskets containing fighting crickets at the Flower, Bird, Fish and Insect Market.

Baskets containing fighting crickets at the Flower, Bird, Fish and Insect Market.

The market, possibly one of the last such markets in the city, also offers a range of other items as its mouthful of a name does suggest and strolling through its narrow passageways that takes one well  away from the Shanghai that never seems to slow down.

Birds on sale.

Birds on sale.


My Shanghai Adventure was made possible by Spring Airlines, China’s first Low Cost Carrier. Flights from Singapore to Shanghai were launched on 25 April 2014 . More information can be found on Spring Airline’s website. Do also look out for Spring’s special deals which are regularly posted on their website and also on their Facebook Page.

Previous My Shanghai Story posts:


Photographs

Dongtai Road Antiques Market

 

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Flower, Bird, Fish and Insect Market

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Nanjing Road and the Shanghai First Foodmall

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Bazaars near Yu Yuan

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The celebrating of Spring in the greater town

27 01 2014

The arrival of spring, commemorated by the Chinese by the celebration of the new year, brings much colour and life to the streets of the “Greater Town”, tua poh, as it was known as to the local population. Besides the street market – long a popular source of goods necessary to welcome in the new year, the area since 1985, has also been livened up by the illuminations of an annual Chinese New Year light-up.

No horse run - this year's light-up is perhaps light years ahead ...

No horse run – this year’s light-up is perhaps light years ahead …

Crowds thronging the street market.

Crowds thronging the street market this year.

I managed to take in the festive atmosphere on the streets, packed with crowds that the weekend before  the new year brings, but not before I attended a rather interesting sharing session on the celebration of Chinese New Year held at the URA Centre. Entitled “Cakap Heritage: All About Chinese New Year in Kreta Ayer / Chinatown” and jointly organised by the Singapore Heritage Society (SHS) and the Urban Redevelopment Authority (URA), the session provided a view not just of how the festival in years past would have been celebrated in the area, but also of the many ways in which Chinese New Year was observed all across Singapore through the recollections of several of the session’s participants.

A bus passenger The an gazes out at the festive light-up. The annual light-up is now a spectacle not to be missed.

A bus passenger The an gazes out at the festive light-up. The annual light-up is now a spectacle not to be missed.

One topic that was discussed at length during the session was shopping. Besides shopping for festive goodies, cards and decorations, Chinese New Year is also when new clothes and shoes – a must for every Chinese, are bought. For some it would be the only occasion to splurge on a new outfit and while many had theirs tailored, clothes for children were often bought from the Tua Poh street market – although as one former Changi Village resident did testify, shopping wasn’t necessarily confined to the streets of Chinatown.

Festive goodies on offer at the street market.

Festive goodies on offer at the street market.

A seemingly popular shop to buy shoes from, was the Phoenix Shoes Company, located in a shophouse along South Bridge Road. Although the shop wasn’t one I was familiar with, it did bring back memories of another shoe shop – further east along South Bridge Road, from which my parents got their shoes from. That shop, the Crane Shoe Store, is one I well remember for how a light green box in which the pair of shoes in the size desired, would come rushing down a chute from the store room above – almost without delay whenever the shop assistant shouted an order out.

The streets come alive in the lead-up to Chinese New Year.

The streets of the greater town come alive in the lead-up to Chinese New Year.

Other experiences ranged from the buying gold jewellery (On Choeng – a goldsmith on South Bridge Road, seemed a popular choice), to waxed products and ducks eggs. A name synonymous with the prelude to Chinese New Year these days, Lim Chee Guan – known for the long queues for what is today a must-have Chinese New Year treat, bak kwa or long yuk (sometimes translated to pork jerky or barbecued dried pork), did also get a mention. A participant did make the observation that queues would have been non-existent back in the 1950s – when it would be difficult for many. Another luxury mentioned was feasting on bats – something that a restaurant by the name of Oriental in the 1950s, was along with monkeys and squirrels, apparently quite well known for.

Shoppers at the street market.

Shoppers at the street market.

One the subject of luxuries, mention was also made of how for some of the less well-off folks – such as the Samsui women, Chinese New Year would be one of the rare, if not only occasion on which they would put meat, in the form of chicken, on the table, saving through the year to do so.  The mention of chicken does take me back to the Chinese New Years of my early childhood, when the second day involved visiting a family friend who helped on a chicken farm in old Punggol – besides the squealing of pigs for their supper and perhaps an unfortunate incident in which I swallowed a loose teeth biting into an ang ku kueh, a memory that does linger from those visits is the sight of a headless chicken bound for the pot, scampering around on the sandy ground. 

The colour of gold.

The colour of gold.

A consequence of the decades of social engineering in Singapore, is perhaps the loss of the use of the Chinese dialects, along with dialect group specific cultural practices such as was observed in the celebrations of yesteryear. Besides dialect group specific such as the Hokkien practice of Bai Ti Gong (honouring the Jade Emperor) still seen today, there are dialect group specific practices that have been adopted by the wider community such as the tossing of raw fish salad, yu sheng – a widely practiced Chinese New Year custom now in Singapore. This was confined initially to the Cantonese –  a gentleman recalled his first experience of it that went back to 1955. Other dialect group specific practices included taboos associated with Chinese New Year such as not sweeping the floor, and not throwing rubbish out of the house on the first days of the new year. 

A young shopper.

A young shopper.

One practice that was common across the community was letting-off firecrackers. The thunderous burst of noise, the acrid smell of gunpowder that lingered in the air and the sea of red paper that littered the streets, would not be something the younger folks would of course remember. Firecrackers which were banned after 1972 in Singapore – the first modern version of the Chingay parade organised in 1973 was offered as to compensate for that. These were however very much an integral part of the celebration before the ban and several of the participants did share experiences from the 1950s and 1960s, before the ban kicked in, such as how as girls they would not dare venture out on their own out of fear of mischievous boys would would lie in wait to scare the girls by throwing lighted crackers at them.

Scenes from Chinese New Years of days gone by ... the smell of gun powder and smoke that filled the air, and the sea of red left behind .... (source: National Archives, www.picas.nhb.gov.sg).

Scenes from Chinese New Years of days gone by … the smell of gun powder and smoke that filled the air, and the sea of red left behind …. (source: National Archives, http://www.archivesonline.nas,sg).

Still on the subject of firecrackers, a Danish couple shared how it was also common practice to let off crackers for the new year. Firecrackers are known there as “Chinese” – the smaller ones “one-cent Chinese” and the larger ones “two-cent Chinese” – a reference possibly to the origins of firecrackers.

Preserved fruits on offer,

Preserved fruits on offer.

Without the sound of firecrackers going off through the night, and perhaps with the distractions of the modern world and the dilution of cultural practices, Chinese New Year does seem a quieter affair these days. Chinese New Year, is however, very much still an occasion for the family to gather – the family reunion dinner is still very much an important part of the celebration for many families. And if one does brave the crowds on the streets of the Greater Town, streets that while perhaps are over sanitised and modernised, are where one does discover that the spirit of Chinese New Years past is one that is very much alive in the present. 

A view over the sanitised Chinatown and the modern city that has grown around it.

A view over the sanitised Chinatown and the modern city that has grown around it.

A view of the busy New Bridge Road with the galloping horses of the light-up.

A view of the busy New Bridge Road with the galloping horses of the light-up.





Gimme that Bling Thing!

24 08 2010

One of the delightful things about Hong Kong is that there are many surprises that await as one wanders through the maze of streets and back alleys. There is much to savour, from the sights and sounds presented by the colourful streets, to the sumptous smells wafting out of the many eating places, and also to the many tempting objects on offer at the glittering retail outlets all around. There is quite an interesting mix of just about anything one may desire in the many shops, from items of luxury to items that would appeal to the young and trendy. It is in the latter that Hong Kong does offer a host of surprises. Chic is not just everywhere and anywhere. It is in many ways a way of life in some of the more interesting streets of Hong Kong.

Shops that surprise are very much in evidence on the streets of Hong Kong.

A fashion outlet with a South Asian theme in Central being one.

One such area where there is a concentration of hip, is in Tsim Sha Tsui. Nestled in what appears to be a back lane off an area which had once been associated with the affordable fashion of the many factory outlets that once dominated the area, Granville Road, Granville Circuit offers just about anything the young and trendy could desire … and at prices are not far off from what one might have expected at the factory outlets that had once dominated the area.

A large concentration of trendy outlets and lots of Bling Bling ones can be found around Granville Road and Granville Circuit.


Scenes along Granville Road. The shops offer a little more than the lingerie shops that seem to dominate the road.

Walking along Granville Road, the countless lingerie shops as well as what is apparently one of Hong Kong’s most haunted buildings, may serve as a distraction, and one could be forgiven for thinking that by turning off the main street to Granville Circuit, one would be led to a seedy back alley. At first glance, it did resemble one of the back streets of London’s Soho. Walking down the street, the illuminations provided by the bright neon signs of an entertainment outlet that one might associate with London’s Soho, casts a glow on a row of shops to be discovered – there are many little boutiques and outlets for the young: clothes, shoes, accessories, and lots of bling things that have hip written all over them. That apparently I was to find, was only the tip of the iceberg. Much more of these were to be discovered in a nondescript and somewhat tired looking shopping arcade off Granville Circuit, the Rise Shopping Arcade. Walking through the somewhat run down entrance, one is seemingly transported into a time warp. The shopping arcade looking as if it would have been more at home in the 1960s and 1970s, than something that exists in the 21st Century. But the archaic looking entrance and stairwell had masked what had awaited … taking the escalator up to the three floors of small outlets, I was pleasantly surprised by the sheer quantity of small but very hip outlets, each independently run by the many young and aspiring designers that have populated the shopping arcade.



Set amongst the back lanes off Granville Road, Granville Circuit is a mecca of street fashion waiting to be discovered.

Granville Circuit offers a glimpse into the hip in fashion on the streets of Hong Kong ...

The lights of an entertainment outlet being reflected off a windscreen on Granville Circuit. Set amongst some rather dark alleyways that perhaps resemble the back streets of London

Shop fronts on Granville Circuit ...


More shops on Granville Circuit.

Geck Geck spent hours browsing through the shops along Granville Circuit and in the Rise Shopping Arcade.

The glitter on Granville Circuit is in a rather old shopping arcade named Rise.

Stepping into the Rise Shopping Arcade transports one back in time ...

For some of the younger and more trendy, Geck Geck being one, wandering around Granville Circuit and Rise, offered hours of wonderment (those who accompanied her would testify to that). Rise had also offered some of the more mature something as well – very bling bling silver pieces that caught the eye of not just Catherine, but also Pete, who wanted to get his wife a pair of earings (how sweet!). For me, not be terribly into bling, wandering around offered me an opportunity to satisfy my curiosity, and perhaps to discover what Hong Kong has in store for the young, chic and bling.

Even Pete was taken by some of the bling things on offer.

Another view inside Rise Shopping Arcade.


On the Rise, inside the Rise ...

The lights in the shops in the Rise and along Granville Circuit, I was told, remain on well into the wee hours of the morning ...


Note: this is a repost of my post on the omy My Hong Kong Travel Blog site. Please visit the My Hong Kong Travel Blog where you can vote for you favourite blogger and stand a chance to win a trip to Hong Kong. Details would be provided at the voting page.





And before we knew it, it was time to reluctantly say good-bye …

6 08 2010

Having had a great time in Hong Kong, courtesy of the Hong Kong Tourism Board, and omy.sg, and having made some wonderful friends over the previous three days, the final day came all too quickly, and it was time to bid the Fragrant Harbour goodbye. All I guess were busy in the morning trying to stuff whatever shopping they had done into their bags, and when the time came to say a sad goodbye to the fabulous hotel room at 9.30 am, most of us had made it down to the glorious lobby of the hotel with bulging bags, which we soon loaded into the bus that was to ferry us around that day. Once on the bus, the ever amusing Aussie Pete, gave us an account of his shopping exploits at Harbour City Shopping Mall, and how he had managed to fill his very large and what had been an almost empty suitcase, even getting a toy dog that his son had wanted (isn’t that sweet?). That I can tell you is no mean feat, having not had much time to do any form of serious shopping, with the activity packed programme that the HKTB had lined up for us over the previous three days!

Pete started our morning with the story of how he managed to fulfill the big shopping task his wife had set him.

Evidence of Pete's shopping exploits.

The day’s programme started with breakfast at a congee restaurant that is apparently on list of recommended local restaurants in Michelin Guide, Law Fu Kee on Des Voeux Road. The word is that the chef has been dutifully gotten up at 3 am everyday for the last 50 years to prepare his highly rated concoction of Thai rice, crushed preserved eggs and fish bones that many crave. I myself, not being fond of congee, opted for a plate of beef brisket noodles, after which I was ready for what was to prove a very interesting walk around SoHo and Sheung Wan with Mr Leon Suen, which I have mentioned in two previous posts.

The day's programme started with breakfast at Law Fu Kee on Des Voeux Road in Central.

Law Fu Kee is highly rated for its congee which has been prepared in the same way for 50 years.

After the walk which ended at the Man Mo Temple on Hollywood Road, it was time for lunch at the Yin Yang, a private kitchen with three tables housed in a historic building of 1930s vintage in the Wan Chai area, run by celebrity chef Margaret Xu. Xu had given up a job at an advertising firm to run the kitchen and an organic farm on which most of the fresh produce used in the kitchen comes from. The exclusive kitchen, known for its signature dish of “Yellow Earth” chicken which is roasted in an earthern oven designed by Xu herself, hosts up to 30 people and each sitting features a menu that is hand picked by Xu herself, which can cost around HKD 700 per person. I guess this and the sauce making session conducted by Xu herself that followed deserves another post and that I guess is what I would just do.

Yin Yang is a private kitchen housed in a historic building on Ship Street.

The historic building dates back to the 1930s.

Yin Yang's signature dish: "Yellow Earth" Chicken

The specially designed oven that the "Yellow Earth" chicken is roasted in.

We had a Blue Girl at the table.

Celebrity chef Margaret Xu later conducted a sauce making session for some of the bloggers.

Margaret's sauce making demonstration was very intently followed by the bloggers who attended the session.

Margaret Xu demonstrated how to turn this mixture of green chillies, spring onions, ginger and oil from this ....

... to this tangy tasting pesto like paste ...

... which Pete seemed to like ...

We each had a bottle to take home with us.

When the session came to an end, we had a chance to taste the tangy green chilli sauce that Margaret had shown us how to make, which had perhaps the consistency of pesto, of which Pete seemed to enjoy the most. We were each given a bottle of the green sauce which Catherine Ling of Camemberu fame mentioned goes well with Chicken Rice. With that, it was almost time for a sad goodbye to what had been a really enjoyable trip, made better by the company of the friends we had all made on the trip, including the members of the HKTB team, the omy team, and my fellow bloggers, as well as that of the excellent hospitality we all had been shown by the HKTB. After a quick look around the area, during which I had a quick glance at the Hung Shing temple on Queen’s Road East, which was constructed in 1847 and at the time of its construction was by the sea, it was time to board the bus for the airport and say goodbye to some of those who had opted to stay behind. With that, what certainly had been one of the most enjoyable trips I have made, came to an end.

A last look around: Hung Shing Temple (1847) on Queen's Road East.

An annex to the Hung Shing temple, a Kwan Yum temple was added in 1867.

Queen's Road East in Wan Chai.

Darren completing formalities, before we said goodbye ...

A lasting last impression of Hong Kong ... a city that reaches out for the skies in many ways.

Time to say goodbye.

All settled for the final journey to the airport.


Note: this is a repost of my post on the omy My Hong Kong Travel Blog site. Please visit the My Hong Kong Travel Blog where you can vote for you favourite blogger and stand a chance to win a trip to Hong Kong. Details would be provided at the voting page.