Morning Shanghai Bicycle Tour
Morning Shanghai Bicycle Tour, China
This four-hour cycling tour gives you an intensive behind-the-scenes look at daily life in one of China’s flagship cities. Your bilingual, English-speaking guide leads you through a peregrination of the French Concession quarter, with its elegant Art Deco villas, before plunging you into the backstreets and alleyways of off-the-beaten-path residential areas and the maze of narrow streets that make up Shanghai’s old town. You might have the chance to chat with local people and may be invited into their houses. You’ll also see the plethora of activities that take place in one of the city’s main public parks, and visit a Buddhist temple.
You’ll meet your cycling guide in the French patisserie cafe of the Andaz Xintiandi Shanghai hotel. After a coffee and a pastry (included), you’ll be equipped with your vintage-style bicycle and helmet.
Following a quick safety briefing by your guide, you’ll head off in single file. Although the traffic may initially seem daunting, you’ll find that cycling through the city proves to be a breeze. Bicycles are the norm here, the streets are all flat, and intersections are well-marked. Your guide will move at a measured pace — Tour de France this is not.
The exact order of areas you visit will vary, but you’ll likely spend some time cycling in the airy plane-and-beech-lined streets of the French Concession. You’ll skim past historic buildings including the birthplace of the Chinese Communist Party, stately Art Deco villas built by French and Russian expatriés, and traditional shikumen (stone-gate) houses.
You’ll also delve into lilongs (a type of alleyway) and narrow residential streets lined with flapping washing; here you might stumble across a small street market selling vegetables and live fish in trays. You’ll pass residents sitting out on the side of the street, watching the world go by or chatting, knitting and playing with their children.
Your guide will occasionally stop and point out easily overlooked architecture, such as the grand townhouses once built by French colonists (now home to several families) and their stone carvings. They’ll explain how sections of Shanghai’s traditional housing are being demolished to make way for shiny new developments and high-rises: it may be that you cycle through an area that will be erased from the map in the near future.
You might meet and chat to locals, or even be invited into their homes for a brief look around. Look out for the many Art Deco features you’ll see in the older houses, and local oddities such as small rooms that were used in the 19th century for imbibing opium.
Just over halfway through the cycle ride you’ll pause to refuel with some snacks and a drink (included) at a hole-in-the-wall. Your guide will pick out a selection of salty and sweet titbits, which might include jiaozi (pork dumplings).
One of the highlights of the tour is the chance to take a short stroll around Fuxing Park, a green space of lawns, manicured topiary hedges and cherry blossom trees. Here you can observe the sheer variety of daily activities locals like to take part in, including partner dancing, choral singing, t’ai chi, and water calligraphy.
You’ll also have the chance to spend some time exploring a Buddhist temple, Fa Sang Si, which dates back to the 1930s and is open to outsiders and non-Buddhists. Your guide will provide you with incense sticks, and will explain to you the ritual for making a wish or a prayer, should you desire. You’ll likely see a local or two doing the same.
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