A Page from My Shanghai Diary: An Unexpected Breakfast Loaf and Fuxing Park

Shanghai, Day 08
It’s 7am, Sunday the 20th of June. I’ve just started my day by walking out onto Zhujiabang Lu – one of the major roads here in the Magnolia city. Given if this was any ordinary weekend at home, I wouldn’t even have been out of bed until mid-day. Today, is my final day in Shanghai. I remember coming into the city for the very first time the Sunday before, just right about this time in the morning as well. Like that morning, the sky today is gloomy and threatens to spoil the day with its pissy summer drizzle. Then, I thought it was just an unfortunate welcome to the Paris of the Orient and spent the first half of my Sunday catching up on my sleep.

Fuxing_1.jpg

Today, its different. I now know that blue skies are rare in smog-filled Shanghai and as long as the it doesn’t starts to pour, it is considered a good day. After spending a week here, I can say that I’m fairly orientated with the city and her weather. I’ve also gotten used to the fact that the city’s well known glittery skyscrapers are just a facade. Behind every neck-breaking building is another depleting tight lane with rows of have-seen-better day homes. I’ve also gotten used to being alone. I’ve learn that the city can be a very contrasting place. Also, In a city of 18 million inhabitant, being a non-Chinese-speaking Chinese can be a very lonely experience. I’ve also surrendered to the fact that the city is so much more humid than it is back home. Besides having to get a little used to, I find the city quite a pleasant surprise. But sadly, despite finally warming up to the city, I am heading home in a few hours time.

Fuxing_3.jpg

As this is  my first trip to China, I came with a checklist of things I would like to experience, and Shanghai has not disappoint so far. I’ve managed well considering I’ve only had a few days to myself – thanks to the world wide web, a TimeOut guidebook, multiple iPhone apps and detailed tips from a friend of a friend. The only thing left to strike off that list was a walk in the park. I hear that the locals do it very differently here. Although it is known as the Magnolia city, Shanghai is an unremitting urban jungle and public parks are a rarity. Hence, these small squares are popular gathering spaces for all ages – making them great for people watching.

Fuxing_4.jpg

My park du jour was Fuxing Park, located in the heart of the French Concession. Started about a century ago, this French-styled gardens broad promenades has remained virtually unchanged. As I arrived, tai chi enthusiasts were just leaving the park, leaving the center fountain area behind to the gentle waltzing veterans, the cha-cha pensioners, a few badminton enthusiasts and a singing ‘glee’ club. There’s even a group dedicated to maracas! It was amazing being in the centre of all these creativity. No offense, but who would have guessed that the senior citizens of Shanghai had this much energy in them! And right at the back of the park’s well manicured rose garden is the quieter park of the park with its gazebos taken up by gentle poets and strategic chess players. If I had the time, I could have set here all day just watching them play a few games. But for now, I’ll sit here until I’m done composing this entry on my iPhone.

The park wasn’t the only magical part of this morning. En route to the park I walked the tree-lined streets of the old French Concession one last time. The little people of Shanghai was just starting their day. Many walk out from their shared housing into the main street, in their pyjamas no less! A girl was brushing her teeth on the curb while another family sets a make shift table for breakfast right outside their Mom & Pop shop. On the next street corner was a lady washing her long silken black hair too. It’s bizarre yet fascinating to take in.

Fuxing_2.jpg

Suddenly, the air around that street corner was perfumed with a heavenly scent of bread. The curious foodie in me led the way and I found myself in front of a Yóutiáo (Chinese Doughnuts) store with a long line waiting to get their breakfast. Apart from Chinese doughnuts, this family-runned store also makes a delicious and pillowy Spring Onion Flat Bread in a deep round coal oven. The texture and preparation reminds me of an Indian na’an, but the taste was undeniably Chinese. The bread was fragrant by the savory aroma of the spring onions, and sweetness from the sesame seeds. At only RMB0.30 (RM0.15/USD0.045), this has got to be the most delicious cheap eat I’ve encountered in Shanghai. I was glad my final day started with a beautiful breakfast.

Watching these families go about their morning, I suddenly missed my family and friends back home too. Thankfully, I’ve already packed and ready to head home.

Note: Most of these photos were intentionally shot in high contrast in an ode to the contrasting nature of Shanghai. Also, many thanks to the Queen for loaning her wide angle lens to me. Without it, neither of these beautiful pictures would have been possible.

***

Spring Onion Flat Bread and Yu Tiao
#259, Jinan Lu, Near Fuxing Zhong Lu,

Shanghai, China

15 Responses to A Page from My Shanghai Diary: An Unexpected Breakfast Loaf and Fuxing Park
  1. J
    July 12, 2010 | 1:05 am

    Nice to see so many enjoying the Golden years of their life! :)
    (Mmm… And that bread looks absolutely delish!)

  2. CUMI & CIKI
    July 12, 2010 | 2:06 am

    I can really feel Shanghai in your storyline. Totally agree that Shanghai that is such a contrast in young and old, new and ancient SHOULD be shot in high contrast:D

    gorrgeous. you're in your element.

  3. Wandernut
    July 12, 2010 | 4:59 am

    I am feeling so 'homesick' for Shanghai now.

    Sniff.

  4. Sean
    July 12, 2010 | 6:47 am

    i've never been to china, partly becos of this communication breakdown fear too (not being able to speak or understand chinese, and being scorned by the locals there for it, since i LOOK chinese) :D but i guess with china becoming more open and more important as the years go by, none of us will be able to escape visiting at some point in our lives, right…
    more humid than kl though? yikes, that's scary as well!

  5. babe_kl
    July 12, 2010 | 7:33 am

    i always find it amusing to see ppl go out in their pyjamas LOL

  6. J2Kfm
    July 12, 2010 | 8:45 am

    I still rmbr fondly when we walked past a HUGE crowd in a public park in Beijing, and were amused at the sight of so many Chinese doing their daily routine of exercising.
    Yes, it was in the afternoon!

  7. thule a.k.a leo
    July 12, 2010 | 9:23 am

    just like Sean, I haven't really been to China before.. well, except for HK (which has been returned to China since 1997) and Macau (part of China too right?)
    For me, I'd go there once I'm getting older.. with Jenn of course!

  8. PureGlutton
    July 12, 2010 | 2:38 pm

    Will there be any stories for Day 1 to 7, since you started with Day 8? Shanghai is truly a city of contrasts, i do agree!

  9. qwazymonkey
    July 12, 2010 | 2:43 pm

    J: The bread was absolutely delish. Wish I could chuck in more that morning.

    C&C: Thanks. It's not hard to see how contrasting life can be there.

    Wandernut: I'm glad I could take you make to a little moment in Shanghai.

    Sean: Honestly, if it wasn't for the Expo trip, I wouldnt have come here in the first place. But when I was there, it didn't feel all that daunting. Nobody really cares that I'm a Chinese and can't speak Chinese. Think they're quite used to it. I wouldn't mind returning for another visit though.

    Babe_KL: It had me chuckling on the inside too. Especially that Ah Pek that's wearing running shoes with his PJs.

    J2Kfm: I'm actually amazed at the sheer size of their public spaces too. How come KL don't have one that's accessible one?

    Thule: Like I was telling Sean, it's actually quite an interesting place to visit. Just keep an open mind and you'll be in for a lovely surprise.

  10. qwazymonkey
    July 12, 2010 | 2:47 pm

    PureGlutton: Yeah, of cors there'll be stories from earlier days. Just not necessary in that order.

  11. thenomadGourmand
    July 12, 2010 | 3:18 pm

    I been to ShenZen only & cant wait to visit Beijing & Shanghai soon!
    Hw come so many "old" ppl? Whr r the young uns?

  12. Paranoid Android
    July 12, 2010 | 3:22 pm

    Fuxing Park… Sounds obscene. LOL. Anyway, the only thing I can associate with Fuxing is that Fuxing dee ren song. China does not bring fond memories, unfortunately. Beautiful country, but ahem.

  13. UnkaLeong
    July 13, 2010 | 2:03 am

    I can almost smell the bread from here ;) I would love to visit the "motherland" one day. But like Sean, i am afraid of the communication breakdownn that inevitably will happen ;)

  14. qwazymonkey
    July 13, 2010 | 9:53 pm

    TNG: The young ones are hiding at home after late night partying I suppose.

    PA: Yeah, I know what you mean. My sentiments exactly about the crowd there. LOL

    Unka: I survived motherland, eventhough I didn't understand a single word of the mother tongue! I'm sure you can too :)

  15. msiagirl
    July 15, 2010 | 3:05 pm

    Haha I remember when I went to China and didn't speak much Chinese, all i had to say was point to myself and go "Ma-Lai-Si-A" and everyone would nod and smile: ahhhhh those Malaysians…so many don't speak mandarin BUT SCARY BARGAINERS!

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