Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Shanghai, China

Executive summary by Darmansjah

The Shanghai Museum resembles an ancient Chinese ding vessel. See fantastic bronze and ceramic treasures as well as beautiful paintings and Chinese calligraphy. The audio guide is well worth the extra US$6 (00 86 21 6372 5300 132; shanghaimuseum.net/en; 201 Renmin Ave; 9am-5pm Mon-Fri, 9am-8pm Sat; free).

Symbolic of old Shanghai, the Bund was the city’s wall St, a place of fortunes made and lost. The area remains at the heart of the city. Amble along the waterfront and compare the bones of the past with the fast emerging geometry of Pudong’s Skyline across the Huangpu river.

The French Concession is a residential, retail, restaurant and bar district with tree-lined streets. It spreads from Huangpu District, through Luwan and Xuhui and slices of Changning and Jing’an Districts. It’s excellent for random exploration, on foot or by bike.

With carp-filled pools, pavilions and whispering bamboo, the Yuyuan Gardens are popular at weekends. A fine example of Ming landscaping, the gardens come into bloom in spring. The heavy petalled Magnolia grandiflora-Shanghai’s flower-is particularly pretty (00 86 21 6326 0830; Yuyuan; 8.30am-5.30pm; US$5).
The 492 metre-high Shangahi World Financial Centre is the World’s third-tallest building, with the world’s highest observation decks on the 94th, 97th and 100th floors (swfc-shanghai.com; 100 Century Ave; 8am-11pm; US$22).

In ancient land five millennia old, Shanghai feels like it was born yesterday. There are few age-old temples and monuments here, instead you’ll discover an extreme blend of art deco architecture, high-speed Maglevs, skyrocketing buildings, European colonial neighbourhoods and charming 19th-century alleys.

From April to May and late September to November the temperature is perfect, avoiding summer’s humidity and chilly winters. During these periods, catch Chinese New Year (spring festival), the international Literary Festival and the Longhua Temple Fair.

The city’s most famous sesame-seed-coated fried dumplings unquestionably belong to Yang’s Fry-Dumpling. Queues can stretch for miles as eager diners wait for them to be dished out onto communist-era enamel dishes. Order at the left counter then join the queue on the right to pick up your order (54-60 Wujiang Rd; lunc; 4 dumpling US$0.80)

Dishuidong is the locals’ choice for spicy Hunanese cooking in unpretentious surroundings. Its greatest claim to fame are the cumin ribs, but there’s no excuse not to try the chicken and chilli clay pot or even the classic boiled frog (00 86 21 6253 2689; 2nd Fl, 56 South Maoming Road; lunch and dinner; mains US$3-US413).

Factory is all about creativity, with a recording studio, exhibition space and retail shop. But it’s also a restaurant serving delicious kung pao chicken salad and peppercom scallops (00 86 21 6563 3393; bldg 4, 29 Shajing Rd; lunc and dinner; mains US$4-US$28).

Set in a three-storey 1913 villa, Fu 1039 is a must. Try the smoked fish starter and stewed pork in soy sauce or the sweet and-sour Mandarin fish. The entrance is unmarked and the staff speak little English (00 86 21 6288 1179; 1039 Yuyuan Road; lunch and dinner; dishes US$6-US$43).

High end Jean Georges has a fusion menu featuring crab with mango, and beef tenderloin in a miso red-wine sauce. It’s divided into casual and formal (jean-georges.com; 4th Floor, 3 The Bund, Zhonshan Dong Yi Rd; lunch and dinner; set dinner US$79).

The Shanghai metro currently runs eight lines, with No 1 and No 2 being the principal lines (tickets from US$0.80). Taxis are cheap and hassle-free (from US$1.60). whatever mode of transport you use, try to avoid rush hours between 8am and 9am and 4.30pm and 6pm.

Quintet is an intimate b&b with just six rooms in a 1930s townhouse. Some rooms are small but each is decorated with stylish art deco furniture, silk furnishings and deep bathtubs. Sometimes the friendly 9 9088; quintet-shanghai.com; 808 Changle Road; from US$118).

The 1930s red-brick building of Old House Inn has been lovingly restored to create an exclusive yet affordable place to stay All 12 rooms are decorated with care and attention and have wooden floorboards, traditional Chinese furniture, stylish artwork and antiques (00 86 21 6248 6118; oldhouse.cn; lane 351, No 16 Huashan Rd; fm US$134).

Hidden down an alleyway, Number 9 has no sign and is hard to find. But once inside the large wooden gate you’ll see a gorgeous art deco mansion with a pretty garden family-owned, the house is decorated with a mix of antiques and Chinese objects d’art (00 86 21 6471 9950; 355 west Jianguo Road; fm US$158).

Astor House Hotel is situated near the Bund. Its pedigree reaches back to the early days of Concession-era Shanghai. Rooms are colossal with wooden floorboards. For an extra cost you can stay in rooms once used by Einstein and Charlie Chaplin (astorhousehotel.com; 15 Huangpu Road; fm US$197).

Combining historic charm and luxury, Mansion Hotel was originally the residence of Jin ting Sun, a business partner of two of Shanghai’s gangsters. It has antiques, plus carpets, double showers and upholstered wooden furniture ( 00 86 21 5403 9888; chinamansionhotel.com; 82 xinle road; fm US$434).

In Our Gang the Donghu Hotel is an impressive old colonial mansion, with a garden surrounding the building. The original wooden floors have been kept throughout the hotel and bedrooms, and it has this wonderful Shanghai style of the 1920s. it once belonged to Du Yuesheng, a feared gangster of the period. There is also a good Sichuanese restaurant opposite this hotel called Long Men Zhen (donghuhotel.com; 70 Donghu Road; fm US$150)

Top Tapas El Willy is a recently established Spanish tapas restaurant named after its chef, Guilermo Willy Trullas Moreno, in the French Concession area. It specializes in modern tapas, such as slow-cooked beef cheek with banana and passion fruit, and crispy sucking pig with pear tatin. The result is excellent food in an atmospheric and lively setting(elwilly.com.cn; 20 Donghu Road; dishes fm US$5.80).

A Grand plan, I particularly enjoyed the Shanghai Urban Planning Exhibition Hall. Behind this unpromising name lies a bright and modern museum with a gigantic scale model of Shanghai and interesting interactive exhibits on the past and (prospectively ecological) future of the city. It also has a pleasant café overlooking Renmin Square in front (100 Renmin Ave; 9am-5pm,closed Mon; US$4.40

Find out more TravelerGuidance.Blogspot.Com is a comprehensive guide to the city, while Shanghai Encounter provides a handy pocket-sized version. You can download the Shanghai chapter from the China guide at TravelerGuidance.blogspot.Com. Stella Dong’s Shanghai: The Rise and Fall of a Decadent City 1842-1949 offers a sketch of the city. For listings, see cityweekend.com.cn

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