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Published on : Thursday, November 14, 2013
As is the trend these days everything is put in a particular niche. There is wellness tourism, medical tourism, sports tourism and so on and so forth. Similarly, there is food tourism, the pursuit of unique and memorable eating and drinking experiences, is still largely a niche market in Shanghai’s tourism industry. But trailblazers Jamie Barys and Kyle Long are changing that. They have been running food tours in the city under their UnTour Shanghai label for more than two years.
“In China, the typical tour group experience often involves giant groups wearing matching neon hats and T-shirts following megaphone-toting guides to overrun tourist spots that you can find in all the guidebooks. After seeing these typical ‘follow the flag’ tours, we knew we wanted to be different and create genuine experiences that showcased a part of the city most tourists don’t have access to.
“Thus, the ‘UnTour’ is the opposite of a typical tour – very small groups where guests get to know the guide personally and really feel immersed in the local culture,” Barys and Long told the Global Times in a recent talk about Shanghai’s street food culture at M on the Bund.
UnTour Shanghai offers weekly group tours as well as several options for private tours navigating the city’s dining scene and revealing the hidden gems at food stalls and alleyway eateries. The group tours include street breakfast eats and night markets, noodles and dumplings and last between three and four hours. They limit the numbers to keep the tours intimate and personal.
“We know how intimidating it can be, traveling to a new city and trying to partake of local foods without speaking the language. To avoid this and help tourists get off on the right foot, we provide all of our customers with a welcome package that includes restaurant and menu recommendations in the neighborhood. After the tour, we offer more information for the guests to fully utilize their time in Shanghai and help them plan their meals,” explained Long, an Oregon native who has been living in Shanghai for five years.
Barys agreed. “Eating at local, authentic Chinese restaurants can be a very daunting experience, especially for visitors who are unfamiliar with the city and don’t speak the language. Plus Chinese menus are notoriously long, so even if tourists or expats do end up at a great restaurant, they can still have a mediocre meal, depending on what they order. When we first started UnTour Shanghai, Kyle and I wanted to take the guesswork out of finding the best places to eat in Shanghai to make sure every bite for our guests was memorable.” Tennessee native Barys has lived in Shanghai for more than six years.