When we arrived in Shanghai, the Lujiazui residential neighborhood became our home for two weeks as we kicked off our aventura. Living like locals in a shared two-bedroom apartment provided a unique experience, forcing us out of our comfort zone quickly. Most of the time, we were the only foreigners in sight as we walked around the neighborhood so naturally we received a lot of curious stares. Our biggest struggle though was going to the local restaurants and ordering food.
With the lack of English and pinyin (the spelling out of Chinese words with English letters) menus, we resorted to standing awkwardly at times waiting for someone to help. We managed by pointing to dishes at nearby tables, playing food roulette and randomly picking something or taking food pictures with our phone and showing them as we ordered. We even deciphered part of the menu at our favorite noodle place by saving the receipt, matching the Chinese characters to what’s on the menu and using Google so that we knew what to order each time we went. Once we ventured out to more tourist areas this was no longer a problem but we mainly stuck to our neighborhood to stay within budget and in doing so came across a few amazing inexpensive dishes. Our favorites were steamed vegetable baos, sheng jian baos (pan-fried pork buns), minced pork and vegetable noodles and spicy garlic wide noodles.
We took it easy for the most part in terms of site seeing. We explored the surrounding neighborhoods by walking and taking the metro, hit up several huge fancy malls which are sometimes all next to each other on each corner of a street. Some of our favorite sites were the Yu Garden located in the Old City; Xintiandi, a fancy hip neighborhood with tree-lined streets, lots of cafes, restaurants and small alleyways with shops and homes; and walking down Nanjing road, the main shopping district of Shanghai.
We made it a goal to dance salsa during our travels and had an incredible night at a rooftop bar near The Bund. With gorgeous views of the skyline on a clear cool night and dancing to salsa jams with a diverse crowd, this became our happiest and most memorable experience in Shanghai.
In this video we share some highlights of Shanghai, the first stop in our aventura.