Shanghai and Seoul in December
October 28, 2014 7:05 PM   Subscribe

This December I'm going to Shanghai and possibly Seoul. I'd love your tips for museums, restaurants, hotels, and more!

I'll be staying in Ningbo, China, at the end of December and plan to do at least a day trip to Shanghai and hopefully a weekend trip to Seoul. Thanks to your help earlier this year, I feel well-prepared with general advice as a first-time visitor to China. Now I'd like to hear specifics, like your favorite three tourist tips for Shanghai and/or Seoul.

*Yes, I know it's so short -- too short -- but it's what PTO allows and a start for my first trip to Asia. I hope to return one day but would like to at least see both locations in case I don't. (I was excited to see they're just two-hours apart by plane.)

My main goal is spending time with my brother in Ningbo, who may have work. Therefore, super basic and low-key activities such as going to a favorite grocery store will be appreciated as much as famous museums and the like. As a schoolteacher myself, I'd love to visit a school but doubt it would be possible with such limited time and a personal contact.

Thank you very much!
posted by smorgasbord to Travel & Transportation around Shanghai, China (6 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Seoul has a lot of diverse neighborhoods. I lived in rural SK for three years and Seoul was a welcome diversion every couple of months. My favorite neighborhoods were Insadong and Bukcheon (artsy/historical neighborhoods) and Hongdae (university neighborhood with lots of cool music clubs). It's fun to stay in a traditional guest house.

We'd also often stay in Myeongdong in a cheap hotel near the subway station. It's fun for a taste of fast-paced modern young Seoul — lots of boutiques and western-style restaurants. Stay away from Itaewon though, which is where the US base is.

If you want something really special and you have some time, hike Inwangsan, the sacred Shaman mountain. It's in the middle of the city but unlike any other place I've ever been. So beautiful. It should only take you about half a day to explore.
posted by Brittanie at 7:38 PM on October 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: In Shanghai, the main things are the Bund, Chenghuang Temple (really, the market around there), and Jing'An Temple (which is an active Buddhist temple). If you can, take a night cruise on the Bund. Otherwise, just walk along the river. Take pictures with the Pearl of the East. (IMO, there's no need to go up the Pearl.)

But if you have a choice, I would say a day trip to Suzhou or Hangzhou might be more enjoyable, even if not more iconic.
posted by ethidda at 8:05 PM on October 28, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: The Shanghai Urban Planning Museum is a short and interesting place to visit. The M50 art district in Shanghai is also pretty interesting and a way to get a little off the beaten tourist path. If I remember correctly, it's close to the Shanghai Train Station but a bit awkward to get to without using a taxi.

One place you might not have thought of going and which is close to Ningbo is Shaoxing in Zhejiang Province. There's some neat literary history there. Interesting old and new areas to walk through. When I was there in 2010 (and 2009, I think) there was a bustling night market in the center of town with great streetfood. Shaoxing is one of the few places in China I visited multiple times; always had a good time there.

And nearby is an ancient rivertown (a bit touristy, but still well off the beaten expat tourism path, I think) called Anchang. You can take a cheap private riverboat through the canals and under old-style bridges with a guy who uses a foot-operated long paddle. There's an interesting local yellow rice wine alcohol, and I think you can visit a vinegar factory. Zhejiang is known for a particular type of dark vinegar used in a lot of Chinese cooking.
posted by msbrauer at 7:26 AM on October 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: If you take the train into Shanghai, you'll arrive at the Hongqiao hub, where there's pretty much nothing to do. Fortunately, it's easy to get to the city center, where you can spend an entire day sightseeing in a couple of square miles. My recommendation for a pretty generic -- but interesting for a first time visitor -- trip is below. Feel free to memail me with any questions or for more options.
  • Take Metro Line 2 to People's Square, look around the park, visit the Urban Planning Museum, etc.
  • If you're interested in going to the top of one of the world's tallest buildings, take the subway another two stops east to Lujiazui, and go to the top of the World Financial Center, then back one stop to Nanjing East Road
  • Or, take the subway from People's Square one more stop east (or walk 15 minutes) to Nanjing East Road. Walk down the pedestrian street to the Bund. Take some touristy pictures.
  • Back to Nanjing East Rd Metro Station, but this time take Line 10 south one stop to Yuyuan. Walk around Chenghuang Miao area, check out the temple, but skip the gardens.
  • Back to the metro station, and continue south/west on Line 10 another couple of stops to Xintiandi. Marvel at the (fake) old shikumen. The First National Communist Party Congress was here.
  • Xintiandi also has decent mall food. The soup dumplings at Din Tai Fung are really good, and Crystal Jade is a "safe" choice for Cantonese.
  • If you still have time, walk over to Fuxing Park or take a taxi deeper into the former French Concession. The whole area is nice and laid-back, with a lot of boutiques, restaurants, and hipster cafes, but I can't think of anything specific to do there right now.
  • Eventually, get back on Line 2 or 10 to get back to the train station.

posted by bradf at 11:18 AM on October 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: French Concession Walking Tour from CNN Travel.
posted by Rash at 1:08 PM on October 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks again, Brittanie, ethidda, msbrauer, bradf, and Rash for your excellent suggestions! I ended up sticking to China this time and had a complete blast. I am going to return there in the near future as well as plan a separate trip to Korea (and beyond.) Happy Travels and Happy New Year!
posted by smorgasbord at 11:29 PM on January 3, 2015

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