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Few foreigners venture here, but for those who can spare a couple of hours, a walking tour will shed light on the Shanghai of a century ago, with its vibrant markets, street vendors and hidden restaurants  that once made this working-class neighbourhood the heart of the city. Scattered throughout the streets are family-run food stands and classic “hole in the wall” restaurants serving delicious home-cooked food. The smells of freshly made pastry, noodle soup and stir fry hang in the air. Peek into the cement and brick dwellings — stacked on top and beside another — where old men sit around tables, smoking and playing cards, and children chase each other in the courtyards while mothers are busy with chores. Outside, everyone looks busy, from elderly ladies selling socks to young men welding pipes and repairing used electronics.

Around every corner, glimpses of Shanghai’s rich history reveal themselves to intrepid travellers who are willing to scratch the city’s shiny veneer.          

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