Last weekend, new bike tour company Culture Shock invited me for a four-hour morning ride around Shanghai. Officially open for business later this week, the long-term French expats have been running special media tours in order to work out its kinks.
As of now, the company runs two tours: one in the morning (9am-12:30pm) and one in the afternoon (1pm-5:30pm). Both begin at the Eclair Cafe in the Xintiandi Andaz Hotel, where you receive a complimentary croissant or pain au chocolat and coffee/tea, and end at the same place. The tour gives a pretty good feel for the surrounding area ( approx. 10km), as well as some insight into Chinese culture. Here’s a look at my experience:
I arrived to the hotel at 8:45, in desperate need of coffee and carbs. It was Sunday morning, after all. The croissants were pretty legit; although I wasn’t too surprised, since our guides were, indeed, from France. Afterwards, we tested out our vintage-inspired bikes and went through a safety check.Our first stop was a lane house development off Nachang Lu in the French Concession. We were greeted at the entrance by some residents, who seemed happy to have us in their quaint complex, then we were educated about the building styles and materials. It was interesting; however, my own apartment was only about two blocks away!Next, we took a short trip down the road, to one of my favorite places in the city, Fuxing Park. We were led through a labyrinth of singers, dancers, Tai Chi enthusiasts, and old men practicing their calligraphy with paint brushes and water. And after doing a bit of singing and spectating, we ended up at a field, where we became the ones people wanted to watch. Imagine a group of foreigners amongst hundreds of Chinese people, learning Kung Fu, taking turns pretending to be cranes and tigers, and attacking one another with grand gesticulations. Needless to say, we had more than a few visitors. We also felt a bit closer as a group, which was the company’s intention. After working up a sweat in the park, we headed to a local street haunt for a traditional Chinese breakfast. The guides ordered youtiao (long fried sticks of dough), soy milk to dip them in, cōngyóubǐng (scallion pancakes), cí fàn gāo (deep-fried rice cakes), and da bing (literally “big bread,” but deliciously crispy). It was a good variety, and nice to be surrounded by locals, doing the same thing. After the coffee, soy milk and bottles of water along the way, it was time for a bathroom break. But instead of stopping at a public restroom, the guides changed plans a bit, and we ended up at one of the few Buddhist temples in the city, and one I never knew existed: Fazang Temple, at Ji’an Lu with Fuxing. It was a great chance to explore a lesser-known attraction and to learn about how to make wishes and use incense properly. The last part of the trip was by far my favorite–exploring Shanghai’s “Old City.” Near Laoximen station, away from the tourist path, there is a whole world that feels quite separate from the modern metropolis I’ve come to know. Narrow streets wind through tiny, crumbling buildings, lanterns and a variety of undergarments decorate windows. It’s what I imagine all of Shanghai looked like at one time.
I took one last look at the old buildings, and at the men and women who occupied them. They waved as we passed, and some of them wished for our return. Thanks to Culture Shock, I’m pretty sure I’ll be back.
If you want to go:
- Website: http://culture-shock-tours.com
- Cost: 450 RMB (approx. $65 USD). Includes everything discussed above, including food, drinks and a voucher to the hotel’s cafe.
- Recommended for: Any age group and physical condition, but remember that Shanghai traffic can be overwhelming to some. French visitors will appreciate that the tour can be led in their mother tongue.
- Get 100RMB off when you use the code LUCKYRIDE at checkout!