A Meteor Garden (2018) pilgrimage: Finding Dao Ming Si in Shanghai, China

It took a big leap of faith for me to set foot in the “Land of the Sleeping Giant” and chase a dream of mine I know some of you might find absurd. In November 2017, it was confirmed that a Meteor Garden reboot is to be released in Mainland China by 2018. Angie Cai, the executive producer of the series and Barbie Xu, who played Shan Cai in 2001 Meteor Garden, announced on their weibo accounts that a reboot of the old series has been finalized, with a few tweaks and a new set of actors as well. Meteor Garden was huge in Taiwan and the rest of Asia back in the day, and in the Philippines it was a breath of fresh air in our soap opera and Mexican Telenovela dominated primetime. Hence, my enthusiasm for Asian entertainment solidified. Though I may have turned into a K-drama consuming ahjumma, 流星花园 will always have a special place in my heart.

Fast forward to July 2018, the reboot finally aired on China Hunan TV (Mainland) and through Netflix worldwide excluding the Philippines. Many were forced to enter the back door, thanks to the existence of multilingual stans who put in their love and effort to sub the series making us on a par with Meteor Garden 2018 enabled Netflix subscribers.

After two months of nostalgia and watching like Wang He Di crazed humans, two of my good friends ignited the idea of going on a pilgrimage to Shanghai. It remained a joke until our flight was booked and our itinerary drafted. Six months later, we all flew to Shanghai to “find” Dao Ming Si.

Now here is the lowdown on our Meteor Garden 2018 only itinerary in Shanghai from Day 1 to 3.

-Day One-

Location: Jiangwan Stadium
What happened here: Dao Ming Si and Shan Cai meet up for an epic first date (E06)

The Jiangwan Stadium

Location: Now Factory Creative Office Park
What happened here: This place became a widely used setting throughout the series and is known to be one of Ming De’s facades. Shan Cai and the F4 usually hang out and meet here. And for all you Hua Ze Lei stans, this is where all the rooftop scenes were shot.

Notes:

  • Getting here is quite tricky, just make sure you ride the correct bus to save time.
  • The Wild Cafe is closed so we only took pictures outside. You can easily find this in the area once you explore Now Factory further.
  • The Now Factory kind of looked deserted, but no one is prohibited from going up the rooftop and can stay all you want to take pictures and gush over the fact that iconic scenes from the drama were shot there. Yet, it isn’t polite to imitate Shan Cai’s shouting and swearing so leave that to your imagination.

Location: 上海保利大劇院
(Shanghai Polygrand Theater, Jiading Qu)
What happened here: Dao Ming Si and Shan Cai’s formal break up after the latter returns from hiding (E30) and also one of those places where Ah Si and Lei had their one on one talks about Shan Cai (E33)

Notes:

  • Now this place isn’t exactly free for all. You can take pictures outside the theater, but not allowed beyond that arc. Explore at your own risk. The experience has turned funny now that I think about it, my face was stiff in that picture cos everything was rushed and that this was the first time I tresspassed…in China.
  • Shanghai Polygrand Theater is one bus ride away from The Now Factory. If you know how to speak Mandarin, good for you. But if you don’t, be very patient. Or better yet, secure an address in Kanji.

-Day Two-

Location: 上海建桥学院 (Shanghai Jianqiao University)

What happened here: Again, one of the many Ming De University facades in the series. To be specific, it is the first thing you see in the opening credits.

Notes:

  • The weather was to our advantage the day we visited this uni, their garden still has Sakura blossoms… the first ones I’ve seen and touched in my entire life.
  • One bus ride from the station to get here, again you have to ride the correct bus to enter SJQU through the front gate.

Location: 上海市长宁区协和路 (Xie He Lu, Changning Qu)

What happened here: The iconic “bus” scene. (E32)

Zhu Jia Bang River

Notes:

  • We almost gave up finding this road because of confusing bus stops and bus routes but I’m glad we didn’t. I felt my heart race the moment I got off the bus and to very same bus stop where they filmed the scene.
  • We took pictures at around 2:30-3:00 PM and Xie He Lu didn’t look busy at all.
  • You may notice this isn’t a famous route in any Meteor Garden 2018 tours available online. If I’m not the first, maybe I didn’t search hard enough but this is a F.I.Y (find-it-yourself) location I am very proud of.
  • I took a picture of Zhu Jia Bang River too, backdrop to Shan Cai and Hua Ze Lei as the latter was walking the former on the way to her part time job at the tea shop.

Location: The Vue Bar, Hyatt on the Bund
What happened here: Dao Ming Feng humiliates Shan Cai in Ah Si’s party so they escaped and ended up here. (E19)

Notes:

  • We were almost discouraged from exploring Hyatt on The Bund since it looked like an exclusive place, but if you have 110 CNY to spare you are certainly welcome at The Vue.
  • Just across the street is the hostel were staying at and the night we arrived we didn’t expect for Hyatt on The Bund to be this close.
  • It was not possible to achieve the exact view captured during filming because the place has changed a lot, but Huangpu River and the Oriental Pearl TV Tower were both mesmerizing, nevertheless.

-Day Three-

Location: Three on the Bund
What happened here: Nothing much. Here, Dao Ming Si and Shan Cai came across Harlem Yu in the last episode.

Location: The Press Cafe
What happened here: Shan Cai pays after Ah Si found out Dao Ming Feng has cut off his bank account (E39)

Location: BMW Shanghai Experience Center/China Art Museum
What happened here: Dao Ming Si and Shan Cai were strolling down the street and accidentally tripped because the latter’s shoe is broken. (E46)

Location: Shanghai Science & Technology Museum (entrance)
What happened here: Another Ming De University facade. Dao Ming Si likes parking his car in this side of the university.

Notes:

  • I do not even want to remember this place because we got lost a couple of times! Please be careful in choosing the right station and exit point because this place is huge!
  • This is the ultimate souvenir shopping place for tourists. Haggling skills can be very useful here!

Location: Grosfairy
What happened here: Shan Cai brings Dao Ming Si to her favorite snack shop, Rabbit Hole. (E26)

Notes:

  • Grosfairy has the yummiest cupcake ever. Their price is high, but it met with the quality. It has a very unique texture I cannot describe. It refreshed me after the tiring walk through Nan Binjiang.
  • Their cupcakes are seasonal therefore we failed to order the ones Shan Cai did. I also forgot to ask if they still have the same pink cup Dao Ming Si used.
  • Did you notice that the shirt I’m wearing matches Grosfairy’s table cloth?!
  • Perhaps this is their answer to OG Meteor Garden’s P.S. Bubu scene. I love the face Dao Ming Si made when he tasted the cupcake. 😍

Location: 三两春 (San Liang Chun)
What happened here: “Wonton shop” where Ah Si coerced Shan Cai to marry him (E45)

Notes:

  • The restaurant only serve traditional Shanghai dishes and their menu contains no pictures at all. We were fortunate that a bilingual local happened to dine that night and explained to us the differences of their “noodles with soup” items. I was a bit embarrassed to have asked for some ramen while in China.
  • On our way to San Liang Chun, we saw lots of street food and eateries. Laoshan Lu has the same feels as the streets in Manila (where I studied for 6 years).
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Review: Hana Yori Dango/Hana Yori Dango Returns [2005/2007]

 

Alternative Title: Boys Before Flowers / Boys Over Flowers
Format: Renzoku, across two seasons
Genre: Romance
Broadcast network: TBS

Cast:

Inoue Mao as Makino Tsukushi
Matsumoto Jun as Domyoji Tsukasa
Oguri Shun as Hanazawa Rui
Matsuda Shota as Nishikado Sojiro
Abe Tsuyoshi as Mimasaka Akira
Nishihara Aki as Matsuoka Yuuki
Kato Natsuki as Okawahara Shigeru
Sada Mayumi as Toudou Shizuka
David Ito as Nishida
Kato Takako as Sengoku Sachiyo
Tomiura Satoshi as Makino Susumu (brother of Tsukushi)
Kobayashi Susumu as Makino Haruo (father of Tsukushi)
Ishino Mako as Makino Chieko (mother of Tsukushi)
Matsushima Nanako as Domyoji Tsubaki (sister of Tsukasa)
Kaga Mariko as Domyoji Kaede (mother of Tsukasa)

Season 1

Episodes: 9
Broadcast period: 2005-Oct-21 to 2005-Dec-16
Theme song: WISH by Arashi
Insert song: Planetarium by Otsuka Ai

Production Credits

Original writing: Kamio Yoko
Screenwriter: Satake Mikio, Fujimoto Yuki, Takahashi Natsuko, Arai Shuuko
Producer: Setoguchi Katsuaki
Director: Ishii Yasuharu, Yamamuro Daisuke, Katayama Osamu
Music: Yamashita Kousuke

Episode Titles

* Ep 01: Declaration of war! The thing which is absolutely more important than money
* Ep 02: The worst first kiss!
* Ep 03: Tears! Good-bye to the person I like
* Ep 04: First time coming home in the morning
* Ep 05: Confession of life-threatening love
* Ep 06: A love triangle of a roller-coaster ride hair-trigger crisis
* Ep 07: Battle F4 dissolution!
* Ep 08: Now the female high school student’s “Top of Japan” decision war
* Ep 09: The greatest last present

Season 2

Screenwriter: Satake Mikio
Producer: Setoguchi Katsuaki, Miki Shinichi
Director: Ishii Yasuharu, Tsuboi Toshio, Takei Atsushi
Music: Yamashita Kousuke

Episode Titles

* Ep 01:
* Ep 02: The strongest rival
* Ep 03: Bye bye, stupid guy
* Ep 04: Perilous Battle
* Ep 05: We like you
* Ep 06: Confession turns Chaotic!!
* Ep 07: Once-in-a-lifetime First Love
* Ep 08: The Love Square is Settled
* Ep 09: Painful Goodbye in the Rain
* Ep 10: Lost Memories
* Ep 11: The World’s Best Proposal Ever

I Say…

Hana Yori Dango has been adapted so many times and this live action is the latest of all. For over 10 years the shoujo manga by Yoko Kamio captured hearts of people not only in Japan but also the farthest corners of Asia and some parts of America. Since the Taiwanese were the first to adapt the manga and bring F4 to life, it’s unavoidable to compare it to Japan’s very own version. The actors, the set and the entire production is being compared by fans everywhere. I am not doing this review to prove which version is better, but I would like to stress on the things that made the HYD J-Dorama different from the renowned and loved Meteor Garden.

Starting from their actors, they have gathered their aces and most popular J-Dorama stars to complete their line up of characters. We all know Matsumoto Jun’s popularity and he’s actually one of Japan’s hottest male actors of today. He bagged an award for playing Sawada Shin on his performance in Gokusen (3rd Television Drama Academy Awards: Best Supporting Actor) .Abe Tsuyoshi might be a bit too old to play Mimasaka Akira, but still attracted attention. I found it funny that Matsumoto Jun was chosen to play Domyouji Tsukasa. He’s overqualified for the role, by observation. and physically they could’ve chosen someone taller. It’s not much of a big deal, but I just think he’s too good to play Domyouji. Oguri Shun played it fair, being Hanazawa Rui, as well as Matsuda Shota who did Soujirou. He could pass as a real playboy with that charming smile! Lastly, Inoue Mao, who really impressed me with her acting. She gave a less tough portrayal of Makino Tsukushi, but it was cool that she made her into an emotional heroine for a change. In the anime, Makino is really one tough weed.

How the parts of the story were mixed up is also one of this adaptation’s strong points. There were limited number of episodes and they tried to really make the most out of it. It didn’t ruin the story or made it look like they tried to compress everything in. With that, HYD returned for another round beginning with what was left from the previously successful first season.

With that I can say that this J-Dorama also has an edge over Meteor Garden, with their experienced cast and creative production staff.