Exploring Shanghai: My First Night Market Experience

Oct 6, 2016 1:30:00 PM / by Julie Ritz

CAPAStudyAbroad_Shanghai_Fall2016_Caleb_Kostreva_Profile.jpgCaleb Kostreva is an official CAPA blogger for fall 2016, sharing his story in weekly posts on CAPA World. A public policy and civic leadership; social science (global studies emphasis) major at Howard Payne University, he is studying abroad in Shanghai this term.

In this week's post, Caleb visits a night market and talks about all of the delicious food he got to try.


One month ago today, I was crossing the date line on my way to China. I was probably switching between trying to sleep and making sure I had not forgotten anything important, but all while wondering what it was going to be like in a foreign city knowing very little of the language, and even less of the culture. Now that I’ve [sort of] learned my way around Shanghai’s complex metro system, I am beginning to explore other parts of the city.

Through all of the diversities and dissimilarities found on each passing street, there are a few things that someone would have to be basically blind to miss. The little street markets that appear every few streets are one of these things. They are generally not on the main roads, but then again, most of this global city is not composed of “main roads.” These markets are found down the side streets and alleyways, and boast everything from food items like live chickens or bullfrogs to clothing or shoe shops. On many of the more popular market streets, I would immediately be sucked into the crowd, and if I wanted to buy something, I would have to weave my way through the seams between people to be able to get to the vendor that I wanted. However, this is certainly not the norm – most of the street markets are easily navigable, with only a dozen or so people meandering through, purchasing crabs or vegetables to take home to cook.

Photo: One of the more typical street markets

One of my friends in the CAPA program heard about a night food market, so we obviously had to find out where it was. What we didn’t realize, however, was that it was not as easy to get to as we had thought. We took the metro to where we heard it was; when we got out of the station, we saw many things, but none of them resembled a food market. After looking around for a few minutes and then looking on our phones trying to find it, we noticed a stream of people walking along a path beneath an overpass. We decided it was worth a shot, and we were not disappointed. The path abruptly ended where the food vendors’ stands began, and it was a steady flow of people the entire distance of the market. There was ramen (and by ramen, I don’t mean Maruchan Cup O’ Noodles), fried tofu, dumplings, squid (that’s my best guess – it was good, though!), various fried breads, and a host of other foods, all prepared right in front of you. In the US, I would have had to pay at least $20 to eat what I ate, but here, I only spent the equivalent of about $5 at most – many of the things were being sold for a fraction of a dollar!

Photo: The night food market

One month ago, I was writing my blog post on a 13-hour plane ride, flying somewhere over the Pacific Ocean. Now as I write this post, I am on a 12-hour train ride to Yellow Mountain (Huangshan) to spend the Chinese National Day holiday climbing mountains and experiencing China on another level (more on that in my next post). At moments, it feels as though I have been in China for years, but then I’ll be reminded how little time I have actually spent in it. As I continue to learn from this city and this country, I will also continue to seek the hidden treasures and the overgrown paths to walk upon, like the street markets or the back alleys. I’ll see you next week from Huangshan!

Photo: One of the vendors at the market

Thanks Caleb!

Caleb's journey continues every Thursday so stay tuned. 

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Topics: Shanghai, China, Official Bloggers and Vloggers