Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Sichuan North Road

Sichuan North Road is a street that extends from Suzhou River to Hongkou. That's a longer stretch of road than the other streets I've spotlighted on this blog, it takes at least half an hour to walk the distance. It's also generally not a street to stroll on its own merits. However, I find that the street manages to pass by some of the most interesting spots to Shanghai – there's a number of nearby places that I've either blogged about before, or plan to blog about in the near future.

Sichuan North Road's Southern end starts at the Suzhou River and the North of the Bund area. There's also Zhapu Lu nearby, and a number of interesting neighborhoods in the area to the East, some of which haven't even been torn down quite yet! I've been to the international post office building a number of times, usually to post mail, and I only recently discovered that on weekends and some weekdays it has a huge, very well-put-together museum dedicated to the history of China's and Shanghai's postal service. In some ways it puts Shanghai's vastly over-rated Museum of History to shame, in other ways you can't help but wonder why there's such a large museum dedicated to a subject that's so boring. Anyway, it's free, and there's also a very nice rooftop garden that can be accessed once you make it through.

Just a few blocks to the north of this is Wuchang Lu, a top food street. Walking to the west, almost immediately there's popular food stalls and smaller street-food restaurants. After a short block, the road is completely given over to these small snack stalls. It's almost, but not quite, the second coming of Wujiang Lu, which really is getting shuttered very soon, to make way for a mini-mall. A little past the food is a series of clothing stalls that have the reputation as one of the best places to buy cheap clothes in Shanghai, with a minimum of bargaining needed. Fair warning: if there's one place in Shanghai where you want to hold on to your wallet, this would probably be it.

Going along Sichuan North Road, there's a number of side streets that are given to interesting older buildings, they're worth making a small detour for. One of them is at Kunshan Huayuan Lu, slightly North of Wuchang Lu, with a labyrinthine, brick apartment complex. I'm sorry for the cheesy old v. new photo here, but it's hard to avoid when the building is surrounded by skyscrapers:

Continuing on, there's a nice little park alongside Sichuan Lu. It's mainly interesting for the large artificial pond, with irregular barriers that are obviously meant to bring to mind the irregular terracing of Chinese hillside farms.

Around this area is a lot of larger shopping malls, generally they're modern but none of them are particularly elite looking.

Additionally, there's a lot of older apartment buildings, two or three stories tall, where the first building is used for small shops – generally it's clothing stores, either discount stores or Chinese chains. This is an attractive old building, it doesn't deserve to be covered in billboards for a mediocre shuijiao chain.

Continuing North can be seen the Southern gate to the Duolun Lu Area, which is a very interesting preserved area of older buildings and shops. This area of Sichuan Bei Lu, and the immediate surroundings, was a top spot in pre-Communist Shanghai. It forms the setting for much of the literature of the time.

It would be tempting to just cut through Duolun Lu and skip out on Beijing Lu, but don't! Just a little farther is Tian'ai Lu, translating to “Sweet Love Street.” It's right near the large, terrible Japanese noodle chain, Thousand Taste Noodles – Sichuan Lu darts left and right wildly around here, so it's easy to get a little lost. Anyway, keep an eye open for “Sweet Love Street,” because right around the corner is Wanshou Zhai, a great hole-in-the-wall place to grab some xiaolongbao and noodles, and then it's worth continuing along Shanyin Lu to have a look at the older houses.

Slightly past this is the Northern Gate to the Duolun Lu Area, which is itself adjacent to a branch of toy-camera store Snaps Shop, and an insane public sculpture to soccer:

And then there's Lu Xun Park, which is probably the most interesting park in Shanghai, alongside the more central, smaller Fuxing Park. Like a number of other parks, it has fairground-type rides for the kiddies. I'll have an update about Lu Xun Park in the near future.

And the adventure ends just a little past this, at a corner on Zhongshan Yi Lu with a decent beergarden-type pub, it can't be missed because it has about fifty signs for Tsingtao Beer, in both English and Chinese. When the weather's good, it's a fun place to get a huge mug of Tsingtao.

It's right across Sichuan Lu from the line 8 subway station, with line 3 right nearby, and the top restaurants Guo Yuan, Delongguan, and Xinjiang Style are all within a short walk.


chicanohek said...

Interesting route you took, nothing quenches a walk like a nice mug of beer!


sbfowler said...

First, I think your blog is great! Lots of useful (and otherwise unavailable) information about Shanghai. We went to Lu Xun Park and it was great: lots of singing, dancing, and other activities.