Admit it. You don't get out of the city much. The skyscrapers, the malls, the bars, the restaurants, they all box you in. It's easy to forget that there is actually plenty to see and do outside the city proper. Especially in Qingpu. Sunken forests and lotus ponds, lush farmland, historical water towns, hotels with beautiful architecture and island resorts where you can ride horses and go-karts, and, of course visiting Sam's Club.
We ventured out to three of these places to motivate you to get off your couch and explore.
We don't get that much natural scenery in this city. Qingxi Country Park is 22 square kilometers of nature, with 185 different species of wild birds and a great variety of landscapes.
Entrance is free, but you pay 20rmb to take a sightseeing trolley to a trailhead. From there, you can wander among fields of lotuses and water lilies. Along the way, there are bird blinds where you can view some of the local fauna — perfect if you have a pair of binoculars or a camera with a telephoto lens.
The path takes you to a wood plank walkway that winds through a sunken cypress forest and then around Dalian Lake, the park's centerpiece.
The road from Qingxi Country Park is lined with paddies where local farmers grow rice, lotus (for their roots and seeds), and jiaobai (the tender stems of rice stalks). It's all prologue to the cuisine on offer at Ahn Luh, a luxury hotel just blocks away from Zhujiajiao Water Town, where the dining room is open to the public (make sure to book ahead).
Here, you can order local delicacies artfully presented. They serve those jiaobai you saw alongside the road in an intense chicken stock with fresh peas and grains of wild rice (金汤野米莲塘茭白).
Even if you aren't hungry, this place is worth a look. Ahn Luh's owner, Qin Tongqian, is an avid collector of Chinese antiquities. In fact, two of his most prized pieces are buildings on the premises. One is the mansion of a Ming-era government official. Qin had it dismantled at its original site in Anhui Province and transported on trucks to Zhujiajiao, where his team rebuilt and restored it. It's the centerpiece of the hotel, and it is absolutely stunning.
Just opposite the mansion is another piece, a gorgeous Qing-era Kunqu opera theater — also brought in pieces — from Jiangxi Province.
Yes, there is a place within the Shanghai city limits where you can ride a horse. Occupying a spit of land in the middle of the Mao River, Sun Island is a resort property offering a respite for city-weary Shanghairen. It's also home to Sun Island Horse Riding Club. Parents take their kids here to learn equestrian sports and get some pedigree. You can sign up for classes, starting around 7,000rmb.
If that level of commitment doesn't appeal to you, then just opt for a few laps around their circuit for 80 to 120rmb. Pony rides are available for small children. And if you prefer to ride something with wheels, not legs, they have a huge outdoor go-kart track too.
Save a little energy for one more stop, you've got some shopping to do on your way back home. Right, Sam's Club! It's the giant, flaxen-gold, big-box reason you came out here in the first place. Here's one suggested route through its sweeping array of imported goods.
Go directly to the meat department and pick up some steaks. They bring in fresh (not frozen) imported beef from Australia. It's sold in proper thick cuts. This is essential. The paper-thin steaks you see everywhere else leave you only two options: bloody raw or well done. A thick cut allows you to get a proper sear on the outside and a juicy warm red center.
One kilo of Aussie rib eyes goes for just under 200rmb. That gets you three steaks at about 330 grams. In downtown, steaks like these would cost you at least twice the price. For something a bit more affordable, try their Aussie strip loins. They go for about 120rmb per kilo, and you get four in a pack. You'll also find a wide variety of other cuts, like tenderloin, beef shanks, oxtails, and rib fingers. And that's just the beef selection.
The wine and beer selection here is worth a look, too. You'll find lots of big-name labels at very reasonable prices. How about a bottle of Penfold's Bin 8 Shiraz Cabernet, an Australian red, to go with those Australian steaks? They sell it for 196.8 rmb. You can also get a six-pack—not six loose bottles, an actual six-pack—of Goose Island IPA for 59.9rmb. That's a little less than 10rmb per bottle, the lowest price we've seen in town.
Should you feel the need to subsist on more than just booze and beef, you have plenty of other options here, too. They offer a vast selection of fresh and frozen seafood, high-quality imported snacks (get yourself a few packs of their Dutch stroopwafels, they are delicious), fresh produce, and pretty much anything else you'd need to stock up your fridge and pantry.
Even toys for the holidays!
Still not convinced? Sam's Club also offers one-hour delivery in downtown via their English-language app!