TF Flashback: The Search For A Difficult (But Not Impossible!) To Find Movie Location Plus Dumplings & Other Delicacies In Shanghai (2013)

The arrival of a new ‘Mission: Impossible‘ movie this summer got me thinking of the filming locations I have been to from this franchise. I have tracked down locales from the first six films in the likes of England, Australia, Italy and the Czech Republic but perhaps the most exciting and challenging one for me was the small ancient Chinese town of Xitang which appeared in ‘Mission: Impossible III‘ (2006).


With zero knowledge of where exactly Xitang was or how to get there, it proved to be something of a struggle to reach this scenic town in Jiashan County. We found out we had to go to Shanghai South Railway Station where buses actually went directly to our destination of choice.

One lady at the information desk told us it was two hours away and the next bus was at 2:17 pm so after much thought and deliberation I went back and asked a different person who said it was a 90 minutes journey so I decided that we should just go for it without even knowing if we’d ever get back that evening. It ended up only taking one hour to get there so we were delighted with that outcome.

The next problem was knowing where the river town was and how to get to it. First we  played safe and booked our return tickets to Shanghai for 5:28 pm meaning we only had two hours to locate the area we wanted and then return.We just decided to take a cycle rickshaw paying 40 yuan (about £4) to the driver for what turned out to be just a five minute ride! It was a fun way of getting there and once the driver had parked the bike he guided us through a narrow maze of alleys which ultimately led to the town.


First impressions made it all worthwhile and I was so relieved to have made it as this was one of the things I most wanted to do whilst on this trip to China. There are a few poster boards dotted around the place letting visitors know that ‘Mission: Impossible III‘ was filmed there but as they were only in Chinese I couldn’t read them. In retrospect they may have been placed at points where they filmed but I certainly can’t verify that.


Dragging my girlfriend (now wife) to that place was fine as it was a tourist sight in its own right but I couldn’t get away with doing too many other locales although I did somehow manage to see some of the filming locales for Steven Speilberg’s epic ‘Empire Of The Sun‘ (1987) as we walked around the Bund area of the city. The Peace Hotel on Nanjing Road was proabably the best match-up.


Of course, those filming locations were just a small part of this trip to China where we stayed at a cheap hotel in the Hong Kou District. The polluted skyline was very apparent from the off.

The view from our bedroom was almost laughable, and while some people wouldn’t have been impressed, I was very content as the huge mud area outside the window meant very little noise. We  subsequently slept in on my first morning till quite late which probably wasn’t such a good thing when we were only in the city for a few days!

We were on our way out to meet my Canadian friend Michael in Lujiazui on our first night but had no idea how to cross the river to get there. We then noticed a Bund sightseeing tunnel so went for that option thinking it was probably just a free walking tunnel with some exhibits decorating the walls.

However, it turned out to be a cheesy train ride amid a load of flashing lights and vague-related themes. It cost us 50 yuan each but actually did save time in meeting my friend. He pointed out the Jinmao Tower, the Shanghai World Financial Center and the Oriental Pearl TV Tower which is a symbol of Shanghai’s skyline.

Dinner followed and I just thought we’d be eating some night market food whilst sitting around on some cheap plastic stools but we ended up dining out at a restaurant called ‘South Memory‘ (Hunanese food) which had some very impressive views of the Bund skyline which sure was a much better sight once dark!

The dishes kept on coming throughout the evening as we tried all manner of weird and wonderful dishes which were expensive by Chinese standards but still very reasonable when compared to Japanese prices, and the total cost was way cheaper than an average night out. Some of the dishes we sampled were river-fish head with peppers & noodles, mabo dofu, duck tongue, a chicken dish, stinky tofu (a Hunanese delicacy), very spicy eggplant, pigs fingers, mushroom salad, egg plant and red peppers and some other stuff which I can’t remember!


We had a quick walk along the river after dinner enjoying the fine views as well as a McDonalds kiosk-sized place which was a new thing for me.


This trip happened when I was just getting into food-based travel thanks mainly to the TV shows of the late Anthony Bourdain around that time. One such place that was brought to my attention by him was the century old Nanxiang Steamed Bun Restaurant in the Yuyuan Bazaar area.

Massive long queues are usually a sign that a restaurant is good, and this place supposedly had the best and most authentic xialongbao (dumplings). A mix of out-of-town Chinese tourists made up the majority of the lines with a fair few foreigners in line too.


The steamed buns are famous for the special gravy-type taste of the first bite and are a superb mix of pork stuffing, soup and thin dumpling skin. It has to be said, they were absolutely delicious and to quote Bourdain himself you really will have a hard time finding a more perfectly constructed food item. Steamed buns with crab roe soup stuffing followed which are incredibly hot and had to be consumed through a straw. This was also awesome and way better than I thought it may be. A shame it had to to all be eaten outside but it was just so chaotic inside. Still, at least they were consumed amid fine views of the Mid-Lake Pavillion Teahouse.


This Shanghai institution was actually found by accident having given up on finding it only 30 minutes prior to locating it. Having just had lunch at a very, very local place on a back lane nearby where a funny but pushy lady persuaded us to sit down and eat even though none of us could communicate at all! We had some pork, tea eggs (eggs soaked in soy sauce) and noodles at a dirt cheap price and glad of the experience we were!

French Concession was a big wide tree-lined street with a host of restaurants and shops. The area is supposedly given its name for the tudor mansions and French-influenced architecture. I can’t say I was too bothered by it all although the former Russian Orthodox St Nicholas Church was quite impressive.

The Shanghai Metro was cheap, efficient and easy to use and truly lived up to the stereotype of people pushing to get on the train as soon as the doors opened and before others were allowed to even get off! There is also a scan machine for bags at all stations!

People’s Square was the next destination via metro but the rain, which had been prevalent all day, started to get harder. The cherry blossoms in the park there were rather nice with the Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibition Center looming above in the near distance.

Nanjing Road East rounded off our final evening as it did indeed on all three nights in Shanghai. This was another long shopping street with bright neon lights everywhere and an example of how modern parts of the city are in contrast to the more run down bits.

Every time we dined out on this street we were surprised by the sight of the plates and cups being wrapped up for hygene purposes, and remember that this was a long time before the worldwide Covid_19 pandemic! Beers and dumplings, along with a few other dishes, followed each time.

I have to be honest and reveal that I had almost completely forgotten about this trip until very recently. It was quite a good holiday with some nice highlights but just didn’t match up to the heights of other places we visited around this period of time.

Click here to read ‘TF Flashback: First Trip To China -The Great Wall, Forbidden City, Peking Duck, Grasshoppers, Crickets & Snake! (2007)’

Click here to read ‘Shanghai 2013 Pt I: Meeting Up With My Mate Michael’ 

Click here to read ‘Shanghai 2013 Pt II: Eating And Sightseeing’ 

About tokyofox

A Leicester City fan teaching English in Japan
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