I’ve always considered myself a city girl. The sound of buzzing neon lights, the energy of people as they crowd the sidewalks, the ability to get a slice of pizza at 3am on a Tuesday. As someone who grew up in Small Town, U.S.A, the thrill of moving somewhere bigger–somewhere better–was not only a dream, but a necessity.
So here I am, in what seems to be the world’s largest city–Shanghai. Population 25 million. Complete with humming motorbikes, all-night street food, and subway cars resembling the inside of a sardine can.
I got exactly what I wanted. Well, kind of. See, I’ve been moving from one big city to the next for the last six years–my last two homes pushing 10 million people each (Seoul and Bogotá). And while it’s great for awhile, I find myself craving peace and quiet. I want green space. I long to sleep past 9am without hearing the sounds of jackhammers.
So, just like Adam Sandler in “Happy Gilmore,” I needed to find my “happy place.” And boy did I find it–in Fuxing Park.Originally a private garden during the Ming Dynasty, sprawling Fuxing Park was taken over by the French after the Opium War, and turned into the only “French-style garden” in Shanghai. Lined with the city’s famous Plane trees, the paths take visitors through lush rose gardens, past a large field and to a large lake.
But that’s not why I love it. Sure, it’s a beautiful oasis in the center of the city (near Xintiandi and across from Sinan Mansions), but it’s also a window into Chinese culture. Here, in the early morning hours (usually before 10), visitors get the rare opportunity to see what a Chinese community really looks like–to experience people watching at its finest. Old men, dressed in pajamas, play intense games of Chinese checkers. Old women, donning giant visors, dance ballroom. Groups gather to sing sheet music on microphones. People perform Tai Chi under trees.Do yourself a favor: if you find yourself in Shanghai, and do nothing else, visit this happy place. I guarantee you’ll leave smiling.
Chongqing Nan Lu,
near Fuxing Zhong Lu
Closest Metro: Xintiandi Station, Line 10