As the first weeks of Expo 2010 Shanghai wrap up (and the attendant Shanghai tourist population surge gets underway), we talked to our old friends at Shanghai's 6-month (overcrowded) Expo extravaganza.
Read on to find out more about novel ways to see the best of Shanghai beyond the Expo 2010 site, and to get a glimpse of the kind of adventures you could be enjoying during your sojourn in the land of Haibao, the Great Wall and xaiolongbao (extremely tasty little steamed dumplings).
So what is "China Outside Adventure"? What do you guys do?
We do adventures trips around China. We go to Inner Mongolia for desert treks, to Yunnan to climb a 5396 meter high, snow-capped mountain. In Shanghai, we focus on city bicycle tours, and hiking and cycling trips in the vicinity of Shanghai. We love outdoor activities. That's why we call ourselves China Outside Adventure.
What are the most popular tours/activities that you offer?
The French Concession tour is most popular. The streets are mostly curved instead of straight and right-angled; and lined with trees, trendy little shops and cafés, and cool, colonial-era European architecture.
Which tour/activity do you like the most and why?
I like the French Concession and Full day Explorer tours. A full day tour offers more places to go and longer riding. I love the leafy, quiet streets in the French Concession. Cycling along those streets, I feel like I'm suddenly entering a different world, it's very peaceful, and there's hardly any traffic or noise to bother you.
What is a typical tour like? How long does it last? Do you stop and eat?
A bike tour is a great way to see the city on two wheels. A typical tour starts from our office and we stop from place to place. A half-day tour lasts four hours while the full day tour is seven hours long. We stop at a few places with nice cafés, like Tianzifang [Taikang Lu] and Xintiandi. Riders get a little free time in each place to check things out. Our guests can recharge their batteries with a sandwich or a cup of coffee there too.
Is there a tour that few people have tried that might be really cool?
Not really. All our tours have their own unique features. What can I say? They are all cool!
What are the advantages of seeing the city by bike?
You just get to see more and go further in a day. We travel 20-35 kilometers on a bicycle tour. When in the saddle, everything is right there in front of you as opposed to being framed by a dirty window and feeling boxed in in a car or bus!! Also, you get lots of exercise! Even stopping at traffic lights is good because you have time to look around you and see the people, the buildings and interesting businesses that make up the city.
What are some of the places people will visit in Shanghai when on one of your tours?
We go to Tianzifang, Xintiandi, the Dongtai Lu antique market, the bird & flower market, a shikumen residential compound, the Yu Garden bazaar, Jade Buddha Temple, Moganshan Road galleries, Pudong riverside, we take a boat ride to Pudong, ride along Nanjing Road, visit the Jewish Refugees Museum and wet market... lots of places! Plus we mix popular Shanghai attractions with a few that are a little more off the beaten path.
Shanghai's traffic conditions are a little different from those in the Europe, U.S. and other places. Do you have any advice for first time bike riders in Shanghai?
Before the trip, we brief our guests about Shanghai's unique traffic conditions and how people behave. In the beginning people get a little bit nervous, but they get it over it very soon. Most of our guests riding a bike in China do very well. It just takes a bit of time to get used to. Our advice is:
1) Always pay attention to traffic going in all directions, not just yours.
2) A green light means green for right turn and left turn for cars too.
3) Use your bell any time you need to and anytime you want to alert someone or something of your presence nearby. It's always ok to ring the bell!
4) When making a left turn at large intersections, make an L-turn, where you just cross the street first and then wait for the next light to cross the second rather than making a single left turn the way cars do.
5) Keep right at all times and let scooters/motorcycles pass on your left.
6) Always wear a helmet!
7) Relax and enjoy yourself!
Do you think Expo will make traffic in Shanghai worse? Why? Is biking the solution?
Definitely! Sadly, I don't think traffic conditions are going be to good. There'll be 6,300 more taxis on the road (special Expo taxis), travel company vans and buses, expo buses.....all these vehicles on top of what we already have now in Shanghai... You can imagine what that is going to be like!!
On top of that are several other elements worsening traffic conditions: more people walking in the streets slowing traffic down, weekend drivers. Drivers from outside of Shanghai who are both not familiar with the city and bringing their own bad driving habits into the city...
Especially during peak traffic hours, there is no doubt that bicycles are the fastest means of travel downtown, not to mention that they are a fun way to get around! Besides, seeing the city in an environmental[ly]-friendly way and doing some exercise at the same time feels great!
Are you looking forward to Expo 2010? Why?
Ha ha, I do and I don't! Expo has brought Shanghai to the world's attention! People from all over the world will come to see Shanghai. This will boost our business. Expo has a lot to offer in terms of knowledge and education. People in China have a chance to know and understand more about other countries by visiting their pavilions. My friends and family will come to see me. I am looking forward to it. At the same time, the city will become even more crowded. And then there are all those extra security checks making life a bit more complicated.
What if people want to explore Shanghai by bike on their own? Would you have any suggestions for what they should see and do?
Rides along Suzhou Creek and in the leafy French Concession streets are very enjoyable and fun. Other places I like most and offer to our customers are Taikang Road with all its cool shops and cafes, Xintiandi, Moganshan Road, the Jade Buddha temple, and I also like to take a ferry to Pudong for the view of the Bund from Puxi.
Let's say you're not coming to Shanghai for the Expo. What other kinds of adventures do you offer in China?
There are plenty, but here are my top ten picks:
1. Inner Mongolian desert trekking
2. Mt. Haba summit trekking
3. Minya Konka trekking
4. Xinjiang, Kanas Lake region trekking
5. Yunnan, Tiger Leaping Gorge, Lugu Lake & Shangri-La trekking
6. Hiking & camping in Nanxijiang (Zhejiang)
7. Wuyuan hiking
8. Anhui biking
9. Suzhou SanShan Island abseiling
10. Chongming cycling
Related posts on ChinaTravel.net:
Feature article: Biking China in search of 'Old Hundred Names'
Tips for Safe Cycling on Shanghai Streets
How do you rent bikes in Hangzhou?
How do I go about setting up a mountain biking trip to changbaishan?
2wheels4girls: Biking around China for charity