LDS YSAs in China: Welcome to Shanghai!

Latter-day Saint young single adults (YSAs) come to China for many reasons, though I think the most common reasons are teaching English (especially for China Horizons and ILP) and studying Chinese or other programs at a university, especially through the BYU “Flagship” program. Many also come for internships with Western or even Chinese companies. Whatever the reason, YSAs in China tend to be hardy, adventurous, and often in for a lot more challenge (and sometimes a lot less income or fun) than they bargained for. They may face challenging apartments, restrictive schedules with long hours and surprise weekend shifts, unexpected added duties, strange food unlike anything they’ve seen before, and inadequate heating or cooling. In spite of all those challenges, most quickly learn to love China and love experiencing different parts of the country when they get a break. Shanghai is one of the favorite spots to visit, especially since there are some significant YSA gatherings there every six months for District Conference for foreign passport-holders.

If you’re one of our YSAs in China and are coming to Shanghai, here are a few suggestions. On the Saturday of District Conference, the Shanghai International District typically offers some tours of Shanghai for groups of YSAs coming here. In fact, local members of the Church often make their homes available for YSAs coming to town so they can attend District Conference affordably. But it’s important to let the folks in charge of this service know in advance that you are coming and want housing help. No guarantees, but we like to help.

In preparing for your visit, you might wish to refer to my page on transportation in Shanghai and China. Note: subways don’t go very late. Some lines stop a little after 10 PM. Others might go until 11 PM, barely. Get home early for best results, especially if you are staying with a family or friends (so you don’t keep them up too late). For other general tips, you may also wish to see my page in this topic area, “Surviving in China.”

Suggested Tours in Shanghai for YSAs

There are many possible events for YSAs coming to Shanghai. Here are the tours that I’m proposing for our March event in 2014. Of these 7 suggestions, we’ll ultimately select roughly 3 or 4, depending on interest. Most tours will begin at about 9:30 AM and go until about 3 PM. If you are going on the QiBao tour of that fun ancient water city, go directly there and meet at Exit 2 at 9:45. It takes over 30 minutes from downtown Shanghai to get there on Line 9, so leave at a reasonable time. All other tours will begin at 9:30 AM People’s Square, Exit 1, up at ground level. With your back to Exit 1, go right about 20 meters to avoid clogging the exit. This will put you within eyesight of the round Shanghai Museum, which is a great alternative to consider if we get bad weather. Please come by 9:15 so we can leave by 9:30 AM.

1. Main attractions walking tour: People’s Square, People’s Park, East Nanjing Road and the Bund, with lunch at East Nanjing Road near the subway station, then across the river on Line 2 to Liujiazui, then on to the meeting place in PuDong.

2. Bund Tour: Begin at Yu Garden, then walk down to the Bund, take the ferry across, then visit Lujiazui, back over to East Nanjing Road and then down to the Rock Bund and the steel bridge there (famous place for wedding photos).

3. Shopping tour: Shopping sites at Yu Garden (including the crafts mall), QiPu Lu, walk along the Bund, brief visit to Lujiazui to see the towering buildings, then shop at the Science and Technology Museum. If there’s interest, though, some of the best deals in town are found in the crafts mall at 388 Renmin Road across from Yu Garden’s entrance gate, and in the shopping complex next to the entrance gate.

4. French Concession Tour: Tianzifang, beautiful streets, Fu Xing Park and Xin Tian Di, then see the Bund.

5. The Old City tour: Yu Garden (enter the Ming Dynasty Garden area), then walk over to the Confucian Temple (also old, quiet, and peaceful), then shop at the Fabric Market, then see the Bund.

6. Parks of Shanghai tour: Start on the Bund, then Fuxing Park (taiqi, dancing, birds), the park at XinTianDi, then People’s Park (lively, pretty, and includes a traditional and very busy matchmaking place), and Century Park (huge, beautiful). Lunch at Longyang Station where there is an excellent new dining area with many choices at low cost. [WITHDRAWN]

7. Qibao, ancient water town: Qibao is an ancient but small water town on the outskirts of Shanghai with a bustling pedestrian street, pretty water scenes, and some interesting museums to explore. Spend the day in that area before returning to the meeting place in PuDong. Don’t overlook Qibao: it’s a terrific place to spend a few hours with some fun photo ops and food ops, too, including 10 RMB ice cream/gelato at #21 roughly on the left side of the main pedestrian street, after you cross the canal. I share some photos from Qibao on a recent blog post, “Qibao, the Not-Too-Ancient Water Town in Shanghai.

In the evening, a walk along the PuDong Bund starting at LuJiaZui can be really fun, followed by taking the ferry across the HuangPu River to the PuXi side of the Bund. As you start to get off the ferry, look out at the Bund. You’ll see one of the best views available of the old buildings along the Bund, nicely lit up and arrayed for a great photo. Bring your camera!

Where to Eat

All of these tours will put you near some great places to get good food for not much money. You can eat well for about 30 RMB per meal if you’re careful, and even less if you’re careful. In the evening, for example, you may be near the LongYang subway station on Line 2. Above the metro there is a fantastic building with loads of places to eat, with some very good and inexpensive ones both at ground level and on the second floor. I recommend going into the second floor area to explore before deciding what to eat. Yang’s Dumplings has one of Shanghai’s favorite dumpling shops (a Shanghai traditional style fried on the bottom and steamed on the top) for 6 RMB for a serving of 4. Soups are about 10 RMB. I had lunch for 16 RMB once at a Yang’s Dumplings – not bad. There are some nice places with plenty on the menu for 30 RMB or less, so look around. There us also a KFC if you need a fake taste of America, or some soft ice cream.

During the day, you may be near East Nanjing Road’s subway station where Lines 2 and 10 cross. Above Exit 3 is a mall with many nice places to eat. The cheapest ones are in the food court area in the lower level, just below ground level and adjacent to Exit 3. You can get Korean fast food, Vietnamese food (sit down restaurant), Japanese, baked items at Bread Talk, sushi from sushi boats, and a wide mix of Chinese. My top recommendations, though, are in the mall with the large Apple store (a.k.a. “the Shanghai temple”) about 40 meters away on the other side of the big pedestrian street (East Nanjing Road). This is the Henderson Metro building and it has some great places to eat. For the best value, go to one of the two basement levels. Enter the mall at street level by walking into the Applet store (or through the main doors of the mall) and the go to the escalators near the Applet store to go down one or two levels. On the first lower level you encounter, there is aBurger King if you must, but several excellent Chinese and other places. My favorite is ZhiZhu (green Chinese characters above the door), where you can sit down and order Chinese, Korean, or Japanese dishes including some good set meals for around 35 RMB or less. Bee Bim Bap is fun. For vegetarians, their fried tofu set meal is actually quite good and tasty (only lightly fried). In the middle area is a place where you can get a hearty sandwich-like item made like a big egg and flour crepe with meat and veggies inside, with prices around 8 to 11 RMB. Cheap and looks pretty good. There are other interesting places. Go down one more floor and you’ll find some inexpensive restaurants with Korean, Japanese, and Chinese items. The Korean place next to the gate back into the subway station offers soups that you can pick up next to the cash register. I had a bowl of a sweet pumping soup for 8 RMB. Not bad.

Up at ground level near that area, go a little south on Shandong Street, ignoring the MacDonalds there and instead going to the corner where you’ll see 3 or four restaurants, such as a Taiwanese beef noodles place and a popular Taiwan-style dumpling shop. Inexpensive and good. There is also an excellent Korean place there where you can eat for around 30 RMB. Shandong street continues for a couple of blocks until GuanDong Street, and lis lined with restaurants and food vendors. Fun area to eat.

If you are near People’s Square at lunchtime, I suggest going into the Raffles City Mall where you can access the food court underground from the subway station. I think Exit 18 is marked as an entrance to Raffles. Many choices there, including a Burger King.

On the French Concession tour, there are two main spots where you may be for eating. One is near the Changshu Road Station on Line 1. This area, unfortunately, does not have a lot of cheap places to eat besides the KFC at the station (outside, ground level), though there are many nice and perhaps too expensive places along Changshu Road to the north. When my wife and I explored this area, we did find a restaurant that looked like a cafeteria (cheap, sterile white decor), signaling low prices, and we found the food was also pretty good. The place is Haoshun, but the name is in Chinese only: 毫吮御膳房. I hesitate to translate this name because the second character means to suck or, in this context, probably “sucks.” The safest translation comes from Google translate: Milli Suck Imperial Kitchen. I’ll leave it at that. The food does not live up to the name, fortunately: it was pretty good. We really liked their eggplant dish (ask for “qie zi”) and the Kong Pao chicken (gong bao ji ding). The Yangzhou fried rice wasn’t very good, though. We also had a tray of shaolongbao (Shanghai steamed dumplings) and they were good, as always. The dumplings were 20 RMB for 8. The eggplant was 26 RMB, and the Kong Pao chicken was 32 RMB.

For those going to the French Concession, though, I hope you’ll eat near the Shaanxi South Road station on Lines 10 and 1. If you come out Exit 1 from Line 1, you’ll see a Lao Liang Jiu (old uncle) restaurant with the big cartoon image of an old uncle’s face. Great fast food with set meals under 30 RMB. There are other options along that street. If you come out Exit 7 on Line 10, that little road down to the right has a lot of shops with good food for cheap, including a noodle shop (Xingjiang, halal style), several inexpensive restaurants, and on the corner or just around the corner to the left, dumplings. You can get there from Exit 1 if you walk to the left in front of the mall, past the Apple store in the mall, and turn left. Basically around the north and west sides of the big new mall with the Apple store, you can find a lot of good places. Inside the mall are some great choices, but more expensive. We love Bellagios down on a lower level close to the subway station.

The LongYang Station on Line 2 has a new complex with lots of places to eat on the ground level and especially inside on the second level. I got there after closing at 9 PM recently and took some photos when few people were there. You can see how clean and new it is. Looks pretty fun and we saw lots of low prices for food. Here are some photos: