Monday 10 May, 2010

Focus on: Shanghai

Shanghai Speaking a foreign language for the first time can sometimes be intimidating, but if you’re heading out on tour soon, don’t stress out too much about your perfect past participles. According to the New York Times, even the experts can get a little lost in translation from time to time.

The Times recently featured an article on “Chinglish,” and Shanghai’s efforts to fix their signage in preparation for Expo 2010. The expo, which will bring 70 million visitors to the city from May to October, is centered on the theme “Better City, Better Life.” Here are some ideas of how to spend your free time in the city of Shanghai on your EF College Study tour:

Eat: Typically served as a snack until early afternoon, dim sum is the name given to small portions of food that can be made from meat, fish vegetables or sweets. Venture to Din Thai Fung restaurant (Shop 11A, Building 6, Xintiandi South Block, Shanghai) to taste some specialty dishes like wonton soup, bamboo shoots or sweet-smoky fried fish. The name dim sum means “order to your heart’s content,” so be sure to sample a variety of tasty treats. If you’re new to using chopsticks, you may wish to check out this demo as well.

Learn: Located in the Oriental Pearl TV Tower, the Shanghai Municipal History Museum provides an in-depth history of the city, focusing especially on the period from 1860-1949. See models of Nanjing Lu, the Bund and many of Shanghai’s classic streets. It’s a great way to see how the city has changed over the years.

Shop: With everything from crowded alley markets to giant mega-malls, there’s plenty of shopping options in Shanghai; and with stores typically open from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., there’s plenty of time to pick up some souvenirs. Jewelry, silks and antiques are particularly good buys. When buying antiques, make sure that there is red wax seal attached to any item that was made between 1795 and 1949. On your tour, you’ll visit the popular street, Nanjing Lu, so you may wish to wander over to Huaihai Zhong Lu for more economically priced goods or Maoming Lu/Changle Lu if you want to buy fashionable clothing. The Old Town Bazaar is a great place to purchase traditional crafts. Keep in mind, however, that bargaining is the name of the game. Generally, do not offer more than one-quarter of the price you are quoted and do not accept the first counteroffer. You typically shouldn’t leave having paid more than half of the original price.

Groove: Fifty years ago, Shanghai was known as having some of the best nightlife in Asia. There’s still plenty there, but the city also boasts a wide variety of cultural activities perfect for a free evening. ERA: Intersection of Time, a combination of acrobatics, lighting and technology, is a multimedia show that will delight all audiences. Watch motorcyclists race through a giant sphere, see acrobats twist themselves into pretzels and more.

Save: Spend an afternoon wandering around the French Concession. Nicknamed the Paris of the East, this section of the city was home to the French colonial community until 1949. In stark contrast to the rest of the city, the tree-lined avenues and mansions may make you feel like you’re in Europe. Make  your way to Fuxing Park, which is often filled with people doing tai chi or enjoying a game of cards. If you’re lucky, you might even catch a free dance performance.