When in Shanghai, Do As the Shanghainese Do
I'm sure that you've all heard the phrase, "When in Rome, do as the Romans do." Likewise, when visiting Shanghai, or any other place for that matter, why not try to experience it from a local's point of view?
Although it's common for travelers to visit the typical tourist spots, it's always enjoyable to view the city from the perspective of the local people. So, how do you go local?
Well, it all begins by walking past the name brand stores and shopping malls until you see faces that are delighted to meet you. You'll often hear someone say "Hello", and mothers will coerce their children to recite an English greeting. Nĭ hăo (Nee-how 你好) would be a suitable reply, as they welcome you to their neighborhood. Now that you're feeling comfortable amongst the locals, what do you do next?
Eat Street Food
Here in China, eating street food on the run, or to simply enjoy a snack, is the first step to being a local. Whether it's an egg pancake, fried dough stick (yóu tiáo 油条), and a cup of hot soy milk for breakfast, or some stir fry or BBQ skewers for lunch or dinner, enjoying the local street fare can be a tasty treat.
Riding the Bus
Now that you have something warm in your tummy, it's time to get moving with the rush of the morning. City folks are always on the go and more often than not, they ride the bus.
Sure, the subways will zip you from here to there, but to really go local and see the city, you should take the public bus. For a meager 2 kuài (2 RMB), you can tour through town with the locals.
During the day, try taking bus 15 near Shanghai Stadium (上海体育场) at Lingling Road (零陵路), and get off at Jing'an Temple (静安寺) to enjoy the sights and refreshments near metro line 2. The reverse of which is also an option, because you can get on at Jing'an Temple and travel to Shanghai Stadium near metro line 4.
Bus 49 will transport you from Shanghai Indoor Stadium (上海体育馆), across from IKEA, to People's Square (人民广场) and everything in between. A benefit to riding the bus is when you see something that catches your interest you can get off at the next stop, look around, then simply get back on the bus to continue your journey.
In the evening, after viewing the Shanghai Pearl Tower (东方明珠塔) and The Bund (Wàitān 外滩 ) from Lujiazui West St. (陆家嘴西路) along the pier next to the river, board bus 985 for a rollercoaster ride over the Nanpu Bridge with a towering view over the city. You can get off at Dapuqiao (打谱桥) and walk to Tianzifang (田子方) to finish off a wonderful evening.
Ride a Bicycle
For the locals, the bicycle still remains a traditional mode of transportation. You can rent bicycles and the gear you will need to enjoy cruising the streets. They have tours you can join, or you can simply rent a bike and go with the flow.
Riding bicycles is not only good exercise, but gives you that local feel as you mingle on wheels with others. Rentals start at ¥100 a day with reduced rates for additional days. Advance reservations are recommended. See our recommended cycling routes and tips . Our 3-hour Shanghai cycling tour can be adapted to your requirements.
Dancing in the Squares
Meanwhile as dusk approaches, you'll see the public squares fill with locals as they set up their boom boxes and dance to various tunes. Whether it's at numerous parks or in front of the plazas, feel free to join right in for line-dancing, waltzing, or a little Chinese Salsa. Don't be shy, the locals will walk you through it.
However, if you are more of a morning person, you'll see the early risers in the same public squares practicing Tai Chi. As they work to stay in shape physically and mentally, you can join the smooth flexes and stretches by following their pattern of movement.
Singing at the KTV
Karaoke may not be the most popular form of entertainment elsewhere, but for the locals in Asia, it's the tops. Here in China, the KTV venues are often used for personal entertainment and business meetings.
Many are quite elaborate and equipped for a full party in every room. Various room sizes and prices are available depending upon the number of persons. Once inside, all sorts of food and drinks are available in the lobby or can be ordered to your room.
At Haoledi (好乐迪) near Xintiandi (新天地) on the corner of Taicang road (太仓路) and Shunchang road (顺昌路), you'll enjoy singing with family and friends. The KTV is definitely fun for locals and tourists alike, and if you've made any friends in the city, be sure to invite them to join you.
Adding a Local Touch to Your Shanghai Tour
Don't be content to simply be typical tourist, step into the shoes of the locals and enjoy the cultural experience.
Contact us to build in some local activities to your Shanghai itinerary. Our Shanghai tours are fully customizable and we have a range of Shanghai day tours including local life experiences. With China Highlights you have the option to create your own tailor-made itinerary .
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I updated this article on October 11, 2013
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