Shanghai Day 1: Yu Garden, the place every blog tells you to go

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Every blog, travel book tells you to go to 豫园 Yu Garden when in Shanghai. It is the 2nd most popular attraction on Tripadvisor after The Bund, and well, that makes it a must-visit, right? Read on to find out why this place is so appealing to tourists even though it is super packed all-the-time!





Yu Garden is situated within a bustling commercial area, comparable to Nanjing Road. The stream of cacophony of voices from hawkers and tourists never stops. Upon leaving the Yu Garden metro station, we were instantly drawn to the food! Tian Zi Fang didn't do us any good in the feasting department, so we were certainly famished. The stalls were only a 3 min walk away from the metro station.


We went headlong for the scallion egg pancake 葱油饼 which was drawing a small crowd, and quickly we had to decide what goes into (and what doesn't) the pancake. The pancake was the best thing we tried at Yu Garden, juicy and flavourful. It was packed with so much yumminess! I would totally get this if I ever go back. The auntie also complimented me for being pretty here which totally made my day, ha! So I might be biased.




Along the whole row of stalls, we also spotted a lot of fried items that was permeating the air with its fragrance. But I have already ceded the time when I can enjoy fried food (now it just makes me very full easily with 0 satisfaction. #age) Anyway the boy went ahead with it and it turned out to be average / okay, nothing impressive about it even though this stall was more crowded than the scallion pancakes one. We had to jostle with the crowd to get those.


Soup baos 汤包 were also sold here. Soup baos are part of the cuisine in the Shanghai/Nanjing region, so it was one of the food bucket list! First, you drink the soup via a plastic straw, and once it's finished you eat the skin of the bao. To be honest, I've had them in Singapore and I can't understand the appeal of these baos. But since I'm here I'll try it and see if there's a difference! The soup was definitely better and tastier, but it was in such a small quantity (what did I expect, it's a small bao after all). Then comes the part to eat the bao skin which was hard and logistically difficult to eat without making a mess. It isn't specifically enjoyable taste-wise but guess it'll be better to try it in a restaurant with serviettes and cutlery.


We also went into the indoor areas to find one of the restaurants to eat a random dish because we wanted window seats to the beautiful pond with ducks and swans. Call us the milennials seeking for an Instagrammable holiday, but guess who's not squeezing with the crazy crowd in the sun :> Those who seek the Instagram life enjoys the beautiful side of life, eh.

#shadeliterally (I'm so punny hahaha)

  

It is really pretty and comfortable to watch and take photos from the restaurant. Moreover, because it was in the afternoon, the sun was especially strong and taking a rest indoors was a great idea.
Then we were confounded - where on earth is the "Garden" part of Yu Garden? We certainly weren't here just to see a pond with ducks and swans (and stuff our faces with food, ha). A quick check shows that we haven't actually reached Yu Garden. We were merely at the surroundings of Yu Garden metro station.




There is an entrance fee to Yu Garden, luckily, because I cannot imagine how crowded it'll be if it were free. One of those times I'm glad to pay for a fee.

Yu Garden
Opening hours: 8.30am - 4.45pm
Fees: 30¥ (off peak periods - July, August, Dec to Mar)
40¥ (peak periods - Apr to Jun, Sep to Jan)

The Yu Garden is a private garden dated back in the Ming Dynasty, built in 1559. It is representative of the traditional Jiangnan architecture at that point in time. Some of the key highlights include the Lake Heart Pavilion 湖心亭, Nine Bends Bridge 九曲桥畔, Lotus Lake 荷花池...


According to the tour guides of other tours (we visited free & easy), they described how the owner had a lot of ideas to decorate the whole garden, including using window outlines to frame a "painting" of whatever that's on the outside - usually a willow tree of sorts. It was super cool to be part of a masterpiece. So much thoughts went into creating every room.





Many 'writing chambers' for the literary folks in the past. They had the necessary '4 treasures of the writing chamber' (文房四宝) in every of these rooms - paper, brush, ink, and ink stone (纸笔墨砚) laid out nicely on the table for calligraphy activities.


One of my favourite scenes in Yu Garden.


One of the many lakes... make for a very suitable backdrop for films such as Hidden Tiger Crouching Dragon! Well of course I certainly wished I brought more clothes to switch out and take more photos with the gorgeous scenery. Being amidst the greenery is just a really relaxing experience. Despite the crowd outside, the gardens are quite big and there are corners where you can have for yourself, at least for a little while.


The owner also created a lot of "false" hills that are featured in many traditional Chinese drawings to mimic certain shapes. The lakes, too, function to reflect the buildings around it. It was certainly too beautiful, especially when observed together with reasons behind the inspiration.


There are many more such buildings/ manors/ mansions that we didn't fully explore because it was just amazingly huge and we ran out of time. :( They were pretty strict with the visiting hours, starting to shush people out at 4.45pm. Allocating at least 2 hours for Yu Garden (excluding the surroundings) would be wise and you'll leave no regrets then. :)


Every corner is definitely worth an OOTD, but I'm sure the cultured folks from Ming dynasty will look upon us as boorish idiots for using their painstakingly designed gardens for mere photos, ha!

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I share interesting episodes in life revolving around food, lifestyle, travel and inspirational ideas. If you would like to stay in touch, follow me on my Instagram on @amie.hu and Facebook page!

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