If you’re looking for an easy trip from Shanghai but aren’t particularly desirous of dealing with taxis and buses, Qibao is a good getaway. Qibao is a small water town on the outskirts of Shanghai with plenty to offer – provided you don’t visit on a weekend day or a holiday. If that’s all the time you have, all bets are off because the alleys are way overcrowded and are very difficult to navigate when you’re afraid to be skewered by someone with meat on a stick in one hand and a mobile phone in the other.
While Tongli, Suzhou, and Zhujiajiao are a nicer bet overall for a water town trip, Qibao is in it for ease. Getting there is very easy – take Line 9 Metro to the Qibao stop. Go out Exit 2, turn left, then turn left at the first major intersection there. Walk for a few blocks until you see the canal, and then head left once more. Chances are, you’ll see the older architecture and the street vendors easily enough.
Qibao offers a small range of activities, including 10 RMB canal boat rides, the Cricket Museum, and eating. The town itself is not very big, so it’s easy to be underwhelmed by it, but if you explore closely enough, you’ll find some local artists (such as a pottery artist near the bend for the temple), cute cafes and local eateries, and 10-20 RMB eats. Stay clear of the ultra-touristy junk that doesn’t do much for me, and instead explore the tiny Postcard shop along one of the main alleys. They have some unique cards that you can mail right there.
My favorite spot was the main food street, Nanjia (I believe), where you can find just about anything on a stick. I recommend the grilled squid with Xinjiang spices and the chicken skewers (most stalls sell them 3 for 10 RMB). Fruit juice, especially xigua zi (watermelon juice), is about 10 RMB, and it’s very refreshing on a hot day. Ask for a cold juice, as most proper stands have some refrigerated and not just the warm ones on display. Other goodies include the tiny quail eggs baked with a shrimp sticking out of it and a little batter, then squirted with ketchup or spicy sauce. You’ll see quail eggs baked in clay ovens everywhere.
One interesting treat to try are the glutinous rice cakes, which come in all shapes, sizes, and flavors. You can get a “pizza” styled one, but mistake it not – it’ll be just as gooey as any other rice cake. Other goodies include a pigeon on a stick, lamb on a stick, and toad on a stick, if you’re feeling up for an adventure.
The Cricket Museum is cheap and interesting, if you’re in to the history of fighting crickets. I preferred to roam instead, checking out all the lanes of Qibao and finding interesting things on my own.
If all else fails, people watching as you munch on some crab dumplings is not a bad way to spend a day either.
Time to get down to Qibao town…