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城隍廟 in the dark January 17, 2012

Posted by hslu in China, Chinese, Chinese Food, Restaurants, Shanghai, Travel.
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城隍廟 in the dark

Two days after we have arrived at Shanghai, we woke up at 12:30 am and couldn’t go back to sleep.  Instead of staying inside the cramped hotel room with a 32” flat panel on the wall, we decided to go out and get something to eat. The hotel staff suggested a 24-hour restaurant but the food there was so bad that it wasn’t even worth writing about.

Even though it was about 2:30 in the morning we couldn’t sleep because of jetlag, we decided to tour the city after in the dark. Since 城隍廟 was only 15 minutes away according to a sign posted in the lobby of the hotel, we walked south along 四川中路 and explored the city under dim street lights.

Along the way, we walked by a night club called M1NT,a 包子店 just opened for the day and an empty and almost eerie 豫園。On the way back to the hotel before dawn, we also stopped by a 24-hour McDonald’s to get some breakfast too,

When we were about 2 to 3 blocks away from 城隍廟, we saw 10 to 15 taxis lining up around a street corner waiting for the last chance to get a fare before the end of their night shift. But why here? There was nothing here except closed shops. Well, about a ½ block away there was a high-rise hotel with a bar called M1NT and the taxis were waiting for M1NT to close for the day. Based on the p[eop-le walking out of the bar, M1NT was frequented by mostly male foreigners with their young and flashy female companions. These young girls dressed in eye-catching tops, ultra short skirts, dangling earrings, name brand “fake?” bags and 3″ high heels. A mobile food stand was making good business selling street food to these half-drunk guys who probably didn’t know what they were eating at about 3 in the morning.

In front of M1NT at 3:30 AM

Many of the guys were rowdy and drunk but they certainly didn’t forget to flirt with their female companions or a few other women who were standing by trying to make a few more bucks before calling it a day or night. I hues the oldest business in the world never dies.

Across from M1NT, two young men in their late 20’s or early 30’s had already started working at a 包子店 preparing the dough for 包子 and 饅頭. They won’t start selling their first 包子 for at least an hour and a half from now but they had to get the dough started before 4:00 in the morning. The young and handsome guys told us that their first customer usually came as early as 5:30 am and they usually close in mid-afternoon after all the 包子 were sold out. I wished them well and hoped them doing great business for the days to come.


When tourists ask for direction to 城隍廟 in Shanghai, they are actually asking for direction to 豫園商區 near 城隍廟. 城隍廟 “cheng2 huang2 miao4” is a Taoist temple a block or two from 豫園 “yu2 yuan2,”a famous traditional Chinese rock and water garden. 豫園商區 “yu2 yuan2 shang1 qv1” is a business district encompasses several blocks around 豫園 about a mile south of The Bund and 南京路步行街. When we got there, 豫園商區 had long been closed. The lights were off and all stores were closed. The never-ending crowd during the day was finally gone and the over-worked and under-paid workers could finally go home and rest their tired feet.

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The doors of the famous 南翔小龍包 “nan2 xiang2 xiao3 long2 bao1” were closed。Even though the kitchen lights were dark and the team of robo-小籠包-makers had long gone, I could still image them tirelessly making thousands of 小籠包 one after another to satisfy the appetites of an endless line of hungry tourists from all over China.


九曲橋 “jiu3 qv1 qiao2,” or a bridge with nine turns, had no other pedestrians expect us walking under dimmed lights from buildings nearby. The bridge was made with white marble pave stones with beautiful designs which were hidden from view when the bridge was occupied by hundreds of tourists.

Some of the stones have various floral designs with following inscriptions for each month of the year:

一月 水仙 “yi1 yue4 shui3 xian1”– January Lily
二月 杏花 “er4 yue4 xing4 hua1”– February Apricot
三月 桃花 “san1 yue4 tao2 hua1”– March Peach blossom

四月 杜鵑 “si4 yue4 du4 guan1”- April Azalea
五月 牡丹 “wu3 yue4 mu3 dan1” – May Peony
六月梔子 “liu4 yue4 zhi4 zi3”- June Gardenia

七月荷花 “qi1 yue4 he2 hua1”- July Lotus
八月 桂花 “ba1 yue4 gui4 hua1”– August Osmanthus
九月 菊花 “jiu3 yue4 jv2 hua1”- September Chrysanthemum

十月 芙蓉 “shi2 yue4 fu2 rong2”- October Hibiscus
十一月 茶花 “shi2 yi1 yue3 cha2 hua1”– November Camellia
十二月 蠟梅 “shi2 er4 yue4 la4 mei2”– December Wintersweet Flower or Chimonanthus praecox

On the way back to our hotel, the McDonald’s on a side street of the 南京路步行街 was still open for business. We stopped by to get some pancakes and Egg Mac Muffin but they didn’t serve pancakes and their Egg Mac Muffin just tasted different. They didn’t have orange juice either. In a corner of the store, there were about 10 middle school boys and girls in three or four clusters crushing on chairs and tables. I wondered why McDonald’s management allowed this to happen at this store. Were there other kids spending their time at other McDonald’s in Shanghai at this time? If these kids didn’t sleep here, where did they go instead? How come they weren’t at home? Did their parents know where their kids were?Weren’t their parents worried?It seemed to me that this was a problem that begs society’s and McDonald’s attention.

We also walked around The Bund to see what the place was like without tourists and dazzling lights.

A very lonely policeman guarding the bull at The Bund

The Bund at 4 AM

Pudong at 4 AM

By now we’ve been out for about 5 hours and it’s time for a nap before our day got started.

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