One of our favorite activities. It's free, it's fascinating, and you may learn more about today's China in an hour of people-watching than you would in a day spent on a tour bus. You can do this practically anywhere, at a park or a major intersection, but the best spots may be in People's Square, along Nanjing Lu Pedestrian Mall, on Huaihai Lu, on the Bund Promenade, or at Xintiandi, where you are almost certain to see some wild and woolly mix of beleaguered tourists, both Chinese and foreign, along with newly minted business folk, trendy young fashionistas, uniformed school children, strolling seniors, and, of course, whistle-blowing traffic cops. One of the more interesting sights in recent years has been the "matchmaking market" that has sprouted in People's Park (Renmin Gongyuan) on weekends as parents show up in droves hoping to find matches for their still-single adult children.
Morning Exercises in the Parks and on the Bund
There's no better way to greet the day than to join the thousands of Shanghai residents in their morning tai chi exercises (and occasionally Western ballroom dancing) in Shanghai's parks and on the Bund. While the Bund is preferable (the first golden rays hitting the colonial facades are truly something to behold), the newly refurbished Bund promenade seems to have deterred residents from coming out as before.
Wander the Old Chinese City
The narrow winding alleys of the old Chinese city may strike some as mysterious and forbidding, but they are neither of these, and are worth exploring even beyond the walking tours. Here is a chance to come upon a wet market, or run into the increasingly rare sight of a night soil worker on his morning rounds (many houses in this part of town still lack indoor plumbing). See it before the bulldozer shows up.
Stroll the French Concession
This is the most interesting of the colonial districts left in Shanghai, filled with the gorgeous villas, mansions, and apartment houses of the 1920s and 1930s when the French made their mark here. Plenty of Art Deco gems abound, hidden behind years of grime and buried beneath webs of laundry poles, and they await discovery, so keep your head up.
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