Historic Duolun Road, Shanghai

June 18, 2010 by  
Filed under Culture, Uniquely Far East

If places like Taikang Lu and Xintiandi are a contemporary and historical melting pot of Shanghai-ness, then Duolun Road is its timeline. When 50 Moganshan was still nothing more than a textile factory, some of the most radical and freethinking writers of their time were chilling out on Duolun Rd. It started with Lu Xun, China’s most celebrated literary son, who moved in to the area in the 1930s. Others, like Guo Moruo, Mao Dun and Ding Ling followed. Before long, Duolun Rd. had blossomed into a vibrant cultural district of writers, artists and Chinese liberals.

duolun1

The entire Hongkou District, just north of the Bund, where Duolun Rd. is located, was at one time a settlement of American and British diplomats, and thus has always prevailed as an area of Shanghai where internationalism flourished. When Duolun Rd. was first built in 1911, it was called Darroch Rd. after a British missionary who had once met with the Emperor during the Qing Dynasty. The road was renamed “Duolun Lu” in 1943, after the People’s Republic of China was established. By the end of the 20th century, Duolun Rd. had been pedestrianized and much of it restored, repainted and revitalized.

Despite the many social, political and aesthetic changes around Duolun Rd. throughout the last hundred years, the street still runs its same course in an L-shape, connecting at its two ends with the bustling Sichuan Bei Lu. A hodgepodge of architectural styles interlace the road, weaving together a map of the street’s age like lines on a tree trunk. Old bookshops, antiques stores and trinket stalls line the edges of the street and give visitors a chance to partake in the Bohemian feeling of what was once the greatest literary center in all of China.

duolun2

Shopping

Shopping is not why people go to Duolun Rd., but it is one of the perks of being there. That is, if you are interested in antiques, because antiques are really all you’ll find on Duolun Rd. A few dusty bookshops leave their doors open to passersby interested in historic and used books, most of them Chinese. Unnamed trinket shops sell archaic bits of jewelry – beaded bracelets, jade necklaces and old fans. And the dozens of antiques stores you’ll find there house fine examples of traditional Chinese furniture, wooden objects and historic porcelain (just be on the lookout for fakes, because they’re around, too). There is even some revolutionary paraphernalia to be found in the mix, if that’s your thing.

Shopaholics may find another spot in Shanghai to be a more entertaining option. Shanghai’s “new heaven and earth”, hip modern Xintiandi, is a hotspot of entertainment, shopping and nightlife that really lives up to it’s name.

duolun3

Eating

Cultural districts never have a shortage of quaint cafes, and Duolun Rd. is no exception. Several small eateries are dotted along the road in between antiques shops and historic buildings. If you’ve ventured far afield enough to find Duolun Rd. in the first place, you’ll want to step inside Old Film Café, which pays homage to Shanghai’s contributions to the silver screen with their showings of old Chinese movies. Though their menu is limited, the classic film-heavy ambiance shouldn’t be missed. The Koala Garden House and Eucalyptus Café is perhaps the best spot on the street for a quick bite and a strong Illy coffee, which can be enjoyed in the café’s cute cottage setting amid a mishmash of colorful walls and stone columns.

If it’s a truly hearty meal you’re after, a branch of the popular Japanese ramen noodle chain, Ajisen, is just around the corner on Sichuan Bei Lu. Though by far the smallest branch of Ajisen I’ve ever encountered, the food is just as tasty (and there is often a line out the door for lunch).

After a day of eating and history, head on towards The Cool Docks, your very first stop for a luxuriant taste of Shanghai’s soft, romantic side, and an excellent way to start out the night’s revelries.

duolun4

Odds & Ends

The tie that binds Duolun Rd. together through a century of history is the architecture, and that too is the most charming thing about a walk down the street.

The strong presence of Duolun Rd.’s artistic past can be felt immediately as you enter the street from Sichuan Bei Lu. The first thing you encounter is the Shanghai Museum of Modern Art, which in truth is not as interesting or important as much of the art you’ll find at 50 Moganshan. However, the Shanghai MOMA is the only subsidized museum of modern art in China, and for that it has an important place in the world of Chinese modern art.

Further down the road, Hong De Tang, the Great Virtue Christian Church, offers up a sublime architectural fusion, with its firmly European brick façade embellished by distinctly Chinese upturned eaves. A bit of neo-Classical French architecture is evident in the white-washed iron balconies of the Tangenbo residence just past Duolun Rd.’s L-curve; and at the end of the street, even an Islamic presence is visible in the Kongxiangxi house, a stately granite structure with rounded windows that suggest its Central Asian influences.

And in between these, along Duolun Rd.’s .8 km stretch of cobbled stones, sit dozens of examples of Lilong houses in the style typical of Old Shanghai. Narrow, dense and packed together like stacked cardboard boxes, these buildings remind the visitor that yes, this is still Shanghai after all.

If art is more your cup of tea, head on towards Shanghai’s art district, 50 Moganshan, the center of modern Chinese art in Shanghai.

Getting There

Though most listings will tell you to take a bus directly to Duolun Rd. (No. 21, 939, 231, 47, 854, 79, 18), the nicest way to go is actually by subway. If you take Metro Line 3 (yellow) and get off at Dongbaoxing Rd., it’s only a 5-10 minute walk to the entrance to Duolun Rd. at Sichuan Bei Lu, and is a pleasant way to see some of the authentic residential backstreets of Shanghai.

Use Exit 1 and go right, following Hailun Xi Lu west to Sichuan Bei Lu, where you’ll turn left. You’ll know you’ve reached Duolun Rd., again on the left, by the large historic stone gate that marks the entrance to the street.

Unearthing Asia now offers travel packages throughout the region of Asia. Check out our promotional offers of Luxury Private Villas in Bali, perfect for Honeymooners or those looking for a little romance. We also have great offers for hotels in Singapore, resorts in Phuket and many more.

About the Author. Megan Eaves. Megan Eaves is a freelance travel writer and China junkie. She’s an English teacher in a small town in Zhejiang Province where her days are filled correcting grammatical mistakes, killing nuclear wasps and getting stared at by the locals. Megan has traveled everywhere from the Great Wall to the Gobi Desert and isn’t afraid to write about it. She’s also the author of a groovy book called “This is China: A Guidebook for Teachers, Backpackers and Other Lunatics”. She, of course, has a website: http://www.meganeaveswriting.com

Seven Great Lakes in Asia

May 31, 2010 by  
Filed under Attractions, Feature Highlights, Nature

Who doesn’t like a great lake? No, not those great lakes, but any lake where you can see an amazing reflection or view that forces you to make your own reflection. Whether it’s a serene place or an amazing lake that has a story, these are great places to stop for a rest and think. Write in your journal. Or just relax – isn’t that what lakes are for?

Photo credit - Patrick Kiteley

Photo credit - Patrick Kiteley

Mirror Lake, New Zealand

Sunrise at the Mirror Lake in New Zealand, near Fox Village, is no mean feat. You must drive or bike a few miles from town, then trek in the darkness around the lake to get this view. But it is certainly a noteworthy goal, as a lake clear as glass and silent makes way for this surreal mirror image as light fills the sky. It is a must-see when seeing the glaciers in the area, and even during midday a walk around the entire lake is lovely.

If you’re looking for more reasons to visit New Zealand, look no further than our Dreaming of New Zealand photo blog.

Photo credit - Robert Nyman

Photo credit - Robert Nyman

Tonle Sap, Cambodia

The Tonle Sap is Southeast Asia’s largest freshwater lake, expanding many times its size during monsoon season. Because of the incredible change in landscape between dry and wet seasons, the people who live near here stay on floating villages – complete with televisions, petrol stations, and other typical amenities. It is a surreal sight to behold, especially since the far shore of the lake cannot be seen, leaving you feeling as if you are afloat at sea. It is possible to visit as a daytrip from Siem Reap.

There is more to this Asian country than sun-baked ruins and temples galore. Retreat to the south and experience Cambodia’s shore, full of beaches and off-beat sights to be explored.

Photo credit - Susonauta

Photo credit - Susonauta

Lake Biwa, Japan

Lakek Biwa is the largest freshwater lake in Japan; because of its location next to the historic capital of Japan, it is well known to Japanese historians, but the lake’s beaches are also popular to those not interested in history or literature. Other popular attractions include Ukimido, the floating temple, the Seta no Karahashi Bridge (especially at sunset!), and biwako Hana Funsui – the world’s largest water fountain.

Photo credit - Delirante Bestiole

Photo credit - Delirante Bestiole

Lake Baikal, Russia

Lake Baikal, just north of the Mongolian border in Russia, is a geological phenomenon. It is massive, containing 20% of the world’s surface freshwater and the deepest (and strangely, clearest) lakes in the world. Because of this and the hundreds of unique species that live here and nowhere else, Lake Baikal is actually a UNESCO World Heritage site. The resort of Listvyanka is also a UNESCO site and popular stopping point.

Not far from there, check out as well our exploration of Kamchatka, at the far eastern edge of Russia.

Photo credit - George Lu

Photo credit - George Lu

Lake Wuhua Hai, China

Wuhua Hai, meaning ‘five flower lake’ in Chinese, is one of several of the amazing lakes in the Jiuzhaigou Valley. The name is appropriate, because just in the span of a few meters the lake changes color, from blue to black to yellow to green and back again. It is surreal, spooky, and amazing. Don’t miss the other lakes here in the valley, such as China’s version of the Mirror Lake featured above.

Photo credit - Thomas Depenbusch

Photo credit - Thomas Depenbusch

Lake Issyk-Kul, Kyrgyzstan

Would you believe the above photo was shot in Kyrgyzstan? Lakes are a popular tourist attraction in the mountainous countryside of Kyrgyzstan, and Lake Issyk-Kul is no exception. It’s hidden inside a deep valley, giving you endless views of the snowy peaks of the Tian Shan mountains. It was a popular resort destination during Soviet times, and although those resorts fell into disrepair, they are making a resurgence with foreign tourists.

Check out our recent series of posts, where we covered the four “Stans”, starting from Kazakhstan, Tajiskistan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan.

Photo credit - yeowatzup

Photo credit - yeowatzup

Inle Lake, Myanmar

Inle Lake in central Myanmar is the second largest lake in the country and one of its highest. An entire population of people, called the Intha, have built their lives and villages around this lake. Visit in September or October where you can experience Hpaung Daw U Festival, where Buddha images from the nearby Pagoda are paraded around the lake and there are dozens of boat races. This is followed by the Thadingyut festival of lights celebration.

Myanmar is also home to off-the-beaten-path Putao, a destination that is a veritable paradise on earth.

* Note: Some people seem to get held up with my definition of Asia. Asia = all of the destinations featured on Unearthing Asia, which includes places you might call “Australasia” or “Middle East.” Enjoy.


If you are planning a visit to Asia, don’t forget to check out Unearthing Asia, the best Asia travel portal focusing on Lifestyle, Culture and Attractions all over Asia. We have got some of the best Cheap Holiday Deal and inspirations in the region of Asia, such as this list of must-try Malaysian foods.

About the Author. Andy Hayes. Andy Hayes is a freelance travel writer and photographer based in Edinburgh, Scotland. When not crossing the world to have his next Asian travel adventures, he is hitting the walking trails near home. To get in touch or see Andy’s other travelogues, visit his website, Sharing Travel Experiences.

A Rough Guide to Dim Sum

No trip is complete without trying out some of the best local food at your choice of destination. When you come to Asia, one of the must-try food is none other than dim sum, a traditional culinary art originated from Southern China that has captured the palates of many, especially in countries with strong Chinese influences such as China (duh), Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan and many others around the region.

Dim sum (literally meaning, “touch the heart”) is the name for a selection of Chinese cuisine which involves a wide range of light dishes. They are usually served before noon, along with tea (also known as yum cha), but is now such a big part of the culinary scene in Asia that you can find restaurants serving them all day through. Dim sum are usually steamed, baked or fried, and come served in traditional bamboo containers. Here’s a quick guide through some of the more popular dim sum dishes.

Siew Mai

Har Gau (see below) and Siew Mai (or usually translated to Steamed Meat Dumpling) combine to form the one of the most popular pairing of dim sum dishes. I’ve eaten Dim Sum umpteen times, and never had one without at least an order of each. In fact, they are the first things my dad would order when eating dim sum. So while we ponder on what to order next, we’ll be munching on these delicious dumplings. The original Cantonese Siew Mai is usually made out of pork and mushroom, but nowadays you can find all kinds of Siew Mai to suit your preferences.

Photo credit - avlxyz

Photo credit - avlxyz

Har Gau

I personally prefer Har Gau (Steamed Prawn Dumplings) compared to Siew Mai. The skin of Har Gau is delicate and translucent, wrapped around fresh juicy shrimps to form a pouch-shaped dumpling. They are usually dipped in soy sauce, rice vinegar, or even a combination of mayonnaise and chili sauce. This dish is a crowd pleaser, so be sure to order enough so that everybody will have at least one.

Photo credit - Nate Robert

Photo credit - Nate Robert

Cheong Fun

This dish features a thin roll of rice noodles that are filled with meat, vegetables or other ingredients. Before serving, the roll is usually cut into a few pieces and a spoonful of soy sauce is poured on top. With a wide variety, this dish comes filled with shrimp, beef, char siew, or even youtiao (Chinese fried bread stick), chicken or fish. My personal favorite is Cheong Fun with Youtiao, which features fried youtiao wrapped in noodle rolls. The crispy youtiao combines well with the silky noodle rolls, melting away in your mouth with a heavy dose of soy sauce. Heavenly!

Photo credit - Wendalicious

Photo credit - Wendalicious

Baos / Buns

The most popular type of Baos (Buns) is Char Siew Bao, which simply means BBQ Pork Buns. They are soft bread with a unique texture, filled with char siew (BBQ pork) at the center of the bun. The char siew is pork tenderloin slowly roasted to achieve a tender and sweet taste, which combines well with the fine soft bread on the outside. Though Char Siew Bao is another popular dim sum dish, it is not exactly one of my favorite. As much as I enjoyed the taste very much, it is however, a very filling dish. My preference is to skip this so I can eat more of the others.

Photo credit - avlxyz

Photo credit - avlxyz

Daikon & Taro Cake

Here’s another standard pairing when ordering dim sum. They are both similar in appearance, usually cut into square-shaped slices and pan-fried before serving. This makes them crunchy on the outside, but soft on the inside. The Daikon Cake is made of shredded radish and flour while the Taro Cake is made from the vegetable taro.

Photo credit - avlxyz

Photo credit - avlxyz

Dan Tat

Dan Tat (Egg Tarts) is the Cantonese interpretation of egg custard tarts which are popular in many parts of the world. This pastry was initially introduced to compete with dim sum restaurants, but ironically they have now become part of the dim sum experience. Many variations are available, including egg white tarts, milk tarts, honey-egg tarts and even bird’s nest tarts.

Photo credit - avlxyz

Photo credit - avlxyz

Jin Dui

Jin Dui (Sesame Seed Balls) is a fried ball-shaped pastry coated with sesame seeds on the outside that is crisp and chewy. The pastry is filled usually with lotus paste, black bean paste or red bean paste. A more modern interpretation I’ve seen before are Jin Dui filled with chocolate and even durian.

Photo credit - Charles Haynes

Photo credit - Charles Haynes

Chun Juan

This is not a dim sum dish per say, as you can easily find them in various countries with differing interpretations. However, the fried version is one you would encounter in dim sum restaurants, usually filled with various meats.

Photo credit - avlxyz

Photo credit - avlxyz

Fu Pi Quan

This dish is similar to Spring Rolls, with the main difference being the outer layer of the dish is made of tofu skin. Just like Spring Rolls, you can find the fried and steamed versions, with various meat fillings inside of it.

Photo credit - avlxyz

Photo credit - avlxyz

Fung Jeow

Phoenix Talons is the fancy way of translating this dish name, which is usually just called Chicken Feet by non-Chinese speaking eaters (like yours truly). The chicken feet are first deep fried or steamed to make them puffy, and then stewed and marinated in flavored black bean sauce. The result is a dish that is moist, tender and flavorful, though it does consists of many small bones.

Photo credit - avlxyz

Photo credit - avlxyz

Lo Mai Gai

The English translation to this dish is quite a handful – Steamed Glutinous Rice in Lotus Leaf Wrap. It features glutinous rice filled with chicken meat and various vegetables, which is then wrapped in a dried lotus leaf and steamed. The result is a savory and flavorful dish, with the aroma of the lotus leaf and chicken melting into the sticky glutinous rice. A personal favorite.

Photo credit - Jason Lam

Photo credit - Jason Lam

Almond Jelly

This is a common dessert made of sweet Chinese almond. Almond milk is extracted, sweetened and then heated with a gelling agent. It is then chilled to create a tofu like pudding with a sweet almond taste.

Photo credit - jetalone

Photo credit - jetalone

Mango Pudding

Last but definitely not least, is one of my favorite dessert – the Mango Pudding. This is the perfect way to end your feast, a simple dessert that captures the glorious flavor of mangoes like no other. When done well, the pudding is silky smooth in texture, rich in flavor and refreshing in taste.

Photo credit - avlxyz

Photo credit - avlxyz


This post is part of WanderFood Wednesday, a Blog Carnival held by Wanderlust & Lipstick. Check them out for a visual treat of tasty dishes, or take part in the carnival yourself. Additionally, do check out as well our latest offering, our new Issue 02 of the magazine!


If you are planning a visit to Asia, don’t forget to check out Unearthing Asia, the best Asia travel portal focusing on Lifestyle, Culture and Attractions all over Asia. We have got some of the best travel ideas and inspirations in the region of Asia, such as this list of Singapore’s best romantic views. You can also find some information on cheap holidays to kavos here.

The Ghost City

March 28, 2009 by  
Filed under Culture, Nature, Uniquely Far East

As I stood on the edge of a large rock overlooking the vast desert in northern Xinjiang, the wind howls fiercely around me. The sound it makes is unnerving and the sand it whips into my face is uncomfortable at times. There’s not a single human being in front of me for miles, just the huge rock formations like the one I’m now using as a lookout. It’s no wonder they call this place “The Ghost City”.

The province of Xinjiang, known as China’s “Wild West”, is one of the poorest yet most visually spectacular parts of the country. From the capital city of Urumqi you’ll have to travel roughly 250 kilometers (155 miles) to the north west to visit The Ghost City. Calling it “off the beaten path” is at the very least an understatement. All roads, although paved, run straight through the Dzungar Desert until it unexpectedly meets with a small city of towering rock.

The Ghost City of Xinjiang. Photo credit - randomix.

The Ghost City of Xinjiang. Photo credit - randomix.

Xinjiang’s Ghost City

I’m embarrassed to admit that I was thoroughly deceived by the name “Ghost City”. There were no abandoned buildings nor squeaking barn doors that I was expecting for some reason. Rather, a collection of towering rocks shaped by wind and erosion stand in defiance of the desert it borders. The locals gave the place its name because of the eerie sounds the wind makes, and rightly so. With but a little imagination, it was easy to imagine these skyscraper-like structures turning into animals and ghostly spirits.

A bunch of rocks might not seem like a great tourist destination – and I admit that I too was skeptical – but there is more to this place than meets the eye. Depending on which part of the day you visit, the color of the rock and the clarity of the sky provide incredible views to both enjoy and photograph. If you’re more adventurous like I am you can hire a camel to walk you through the city or strap on your hiking boots and blaze your own trail up a few of the tall towers. Some entrepreneurs in Urho, the small city nearby, have been renting mountain bikes and 4-wheelers for those who are willing to pay a few extra RMB.

Camels are available to rent for exploring the desert. Photo credit - randomix.

Camels are available to rent for exploring the desert. Photo credit - randomix.

One of Ghost City’s biggest draws for both national and foreign tourist, though, is its familiarity. Numerous films have shot scenes within this park and it’s likely you’ve seen at least one of them. Arguably the most famous movie to come out of China, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, used the Ghost City as one of its shooting locations and a stone marker near the spot identifies the area for visitors. Various other films, familiar mostly to Chinese audiences, were also shot using the unique scenery of Ghost City as its backdrop.

I think what most excites me about this place is the experience of it all: the desert, the small town, the cultural atmosphere.

For me this isn’t the final destination – I’m actually headed further north to the famous Kanas Lake – but it makes a great pit stop in my travels around the northern portion of Xinjiang. From what I can tell on my map, there are plenty more fun spots like this to keep me busy exploring, and if they’re all even half as unique as the Ghost City then this trip is going to be exciting!

About the Author. Josh Summers. Josh Summers is a part-time writer, full time traveler in Xinjiang, China, his home for the past three years. To hear more about his many adventures in China’s wild west or just to learn about the unique culture in the area, check out his website, Xinjiang: Far West China.

The Cool Docks, Shanghai

February 9, 2009 by  
Filed under Attractions, Culture, Uniquely Far East

Despite the fact that most of the world is tightening its financial belt, young expat Shanghai, feeling insulated from the crisis “back home”, continues the hunt for new hangouts where the cocktails are sweet and pricey and the music hot and loud. Eager to join the fray, I headed to where I hoped the trendy throngs would be gathered – The Cool Docks.

Ladies, if you are waiting for the perfect occasion to unveil your little black dress and killer heels: a visit to The Cool Docks might just be it. With its sleek bars and haute cuisine restaurants, it is easy to mistake this chic sliver of eastern China with the Upper East Side of New York or the West End of London.

A view of the Cool Docks. Photo credit - dixsonlv

A view of the Cool Docks. Photo credit - dixsonlv

Exploring The Cool Docks, Shanghai
We went on a Thursday night and, while the place was surprisingly empty, we were grateful for the opportunity to do that very rare thing in Shanghai: stroll. Without the usual heaving mass of jostling crowds around to dictate our pace, my companion and I were able to amble around the docks (they aren’t really docks, that’s just the name) and take in the crisp, wintry air at a leisurely pace.

Stylish new constructions throughout the Cool Docks. Photo credit - Dennis Deng

Stylish new constructions throughout the Cool Docks. Photo credit - Dennis Deng

The Cool Docks, just a few months old, are gorgeous, sparkly, cool, spacious, classy, elegant – just a few choice words my companion came up with as I prodded for details of her first impression.

Continental Influences
As you walk around the red brick courtyard, taking in the brightly lit fountains, the opera music blaring out of invisible speakers and the glittering shop fronts with fanciful names like Pure (Wine Bar), Spring Sunrise (Sports Bar), Banni (desserts), Mythos (Mediterranean restaurant) and Caffein (café), you are struck by how very un-Chinese it all seems.

We started off in Spring Sunrise, a sports-themed bar where you can catch live action from the various wide-screens as you enjoy a hearty western meal and a jug of beer. As we made our way out to move on to the next establishment, the smiling waitress came and thrust a few fliers into our hands. Open bar for ladies on Christmas day. As we found out throughout the evening, friendly staff and mouthwatering promotions are par for the course at The Cool Docks as it tries to lure revelers from the more established entertainment hubs of Xintiandi and the Bund.

The view of river Bund, Shanghai. Photo credit - china guccio

The view of river Bund, Shanghai. Photo credit - china guccio

Our next stop was Pure, my newly crowned “Favorite Wine Bar”. The prices are as fantastic as is the décor. Plush leather sofas, polished antique furniture, an authentic-looking gramophone and gleaming crystal cases packed with 500RMB Cigars. Pure’s host, Jackson, was keen to assure me that, in six months, The Cool Docks would be the thriving entertainment hub that their location deserved.

The Cool Docks can be found at 505 Zhongshan Nan Lu, a stone throw from Shanghai’s world-renowned Bund with its idyllic views of the moonlit Huangpu River and sleepily drifting boats. It may be quiet around these parts now but that won’t remain the case for long. Make this your very first stop for a luxuriant taste of Shanghai’s soft, romantic side.

Another spot to check out is Shanghai’s “new heaven and earth”, hip modern Xintiandi, a hotspot of entertainment, shopping and nightlife that really lives up to it’s name.

Iris Jumbe. A roving writer, devoted blogger and ardent cake lover, Iris lives in China and splits her work time between feeding her blog and working as a freelance copywriter/editor. In Shanghai for just over 3 years, her playtime is spent exploring the schizophrenic city. She has a tempestuous love-hate relationship with China but usually only writes about it when they’re firmly in love. Which is often. Phew.

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