Chic Shanghai

Chic Shanghai
All that glistens is good as this city of lights catapults
itself into its latest incarnation as the Pearl of the Orient
This page: the sparkling 30-floor atrium of the Grand Hyatt Shanghai. Opposite page, clockwise from top
left: overlooking The Bund; a shopfront in dowtown Shanghai; tea served ceremoniously at
Shanghai’s Yu Garden; festive traditional lanterns for sale at a street market.
Mao Tse-tung ticks unevenly, trapped behind a pane
of glass in a red alarm clock, his hand counting down the seconds.
His Little Red Book is stacked in neat piles nearby, while plastic
effigies of the former Chinese communist leader lounge comfortably
alongside those of Lenin, Stalin and Trotsky.
In Shanghai, all things old are new again on the streets – for the
foreigners, at least. Both sides of Dong Tai Road, one of the city’s
modest side streets, are lined with Mao-pop paraphernalia, and we
westerners hoover it up, stuffing bags with postcards of his sayings.
Classic symbols have moved off posters and onto T-shirts and bags,
hilariously reworked into a 21st century ideology: ‘Worker,
peasant and soldier – let’s kiss!’ Alongside the propaganda
posters, twisted wire lanterns and yellowing mah-jong sets are
reproductions of cards and posters of glamorous 1920s Chinese
flapper girls, extolling the virtues of smoking.
These are just a few incarnations in Shanghai’s long and lurid
life, earning it a new image each time: the ‘Paris of the East’ for
its culture and gentility, a title that slid into something more
degrading as the tawdry trade of prostitutes and con-men swelled
to feverish proportions in the 1930s, to today’s far more sedate,
but no more modest, ‘Pearl of the Orient’, referring to the Orient
Pearl TV Tower, set across the river in the suburb of Pudong. The
tower dominates the city skyline – among skyscrapers which
formed the setting for the ubiquitous Tom Cruise to hang from
his shirt tails in the action film Mission: Impossible III.
At night, Pudong’s forest of spires is tipped with red flashing
lights, which pilots use as navigational tools as they slip into the
new airport. The brightest of them all, the Orient Pearl, naturally,
is awash with colour that draws admirers from across the globe.
Local tourists line the promenade along The Bund, set on the
opposite shores of the Huangpu River, to watch the sluice of
colours travel down its bulbous form. Alongside, another highrise competes with a neon-light display of European artworks – a
blindingly bright Mona Lisa, Sunflowers by Van Gogh and
Gainsborough’s The Blue Boy chase each other across its facade.
Such glittering signs of modernity are in stark contrast to
Shanghai’s rich history: The Bund, Shanghai’s most fashionable
strip, features a string of European buildings along the riverfront,
most dating from the early 1900s. They hark back to a time when
each nationality set up camp, or ‘concessions’ in different parts >
dining out
BLOW THE BUDGET Laris Don’t mess
around with dinner; go straight to dessert
with Aussie chef David Laris’s sensational
offerings in the marble-encased Chocolate
Room, where you can watch chocolatiers
deftly spin the elixir of life into intricate,
handmade creations at one of The Bund’s
most chic addresses. The restaurant
stands on 1700 square metres and
includes its own decadent Vault bar and
lounge. Laris, Three on The Bund, 3
Zhong Shan Dong Yi Road, (0011) 86 21
6321 9922,
MID-RANGE Silver Tree It’s the most fun
you’ll ever have with a menu. Aside from
the traditional offerings of dumplings,
noodles and sensational green spinach in
garlic and oyster sauce, you could also
try anything from bullfrog to bighead
fish. The restaurant is a typical Chinese
institution set at the top floor of a
department store, serving Shanghai
specialities washed down with lashings
of pale, cold, Tsingtao beer. Silver Tree,
6th floor, Man Ke Dun Plaza, 465 East
Nanjing Road, (0011) 86 21 6322 2088.
BUDGET Hit the street Some of
Shanghai’s best and most authentic food
is being cooked on street corners,
including piping hot skewers of chilli
octopus, steamed dumplings stuffed with
greens or red roast pork, wontons,
cuttlefish and even corn on the cob,
which cost just a few cents.
CLOTHING Find silks, linen and tailoring
services in the Dong Jia Du fabric market,
but be prepared to haggle: 168 Dong Men
Road. Then, pop in to Suzhou Cobblers for
exquisite handmade shoes and handbags:
Room 101, 17 Fuzhou Road, ShirtFlag has funky, cleverly
reworked Mao-pop T-shirts and bags: Lane
210, Taikang Road,
BEST INTERIOR YongFoo Elite Located
in the consular district, this Italianate
terrace is the spot for afternoon tea.
There are opium beds in the garden, a
1960s Gucci sofa in the greenhouse and
vintage Fendi loungers. Call ahead for
reservations. 200 YongFu Road, (0011) 86
21 5466 2727,
Above: the view from the Grand Hyatt Shanghai. Opposite, top (from left): Nanjing Road by night; the city skyline; the People’s Republic of China flag. Middle:
Communist paraphenalia; Mao Tse-tung’s Little Red Book; Tai Chi in the People’s Square. Bottom: steaming buns on Wu Jiang Road; local antique markets.
then shop for designer versions of Mao-pop paraphernalia.
Visit Ye Shanghai or T8 to fill the belly, Shanghai Tang or Simply
Life homewares for a retail hit.
And there lies the great Asian dichotomy: you can feed your
appetite with three fresh, puffy steamed dumplings stuffed with
spinach for about 20 cents on the street, or pay $20 for a raspberry
martini atop one of the many cocktail bars looking down over
The Bund. Snap up an exceptionally good faux designer handbag
at the markets, or browse the Dolce & Gabbana emporium, a
monument to all that glitters. Doss deep in the hustle of Shanghai
on Nanjing Road, a main shopping strip, or sleep in one of the new,
tallest-on-the-block five-star hotels in Pudong, looking down over
the smoggy sprawl of snarling traffic.
Home to 18 million, Shanghai should feel bigger, meaner,
denser and more threatening. But it’s a surprisingly gentle city,
curious but not intrusive. Expat exporters of everything from tent
pegs to sofas rub shoulders with wealthy Hong Kong suits and
chic Shanghai locals in new bars and the private clubs set in
revived manors in upmarket leafy streets, their names the
epitome of this joyous mood of nouveau capitalism – Glamour
Bar, New Heights, Cloud 9 and YongFoo Elite.
While it cleans up its city centre, Shanghai is adding the green
spaces that are a feature of old Europe – city parks where people
gather each morning to exercise to the sound of wavering Chinese
violins on tinny ghetto-blasters, where young and old pyjama-clad
men (a quirky habit picked up from the days of indolent British
masters) wander in conversation and couples catch a few minutes’
calm before the horns start blaring again and the city pushes
forward to achieve its goal of a better city and a better life.
Shanghai, there’s no need to rush ... ■
chic china
< of the city. The French and the British concessions collide on
the urbane waterfront where, later, locals would add their own
decorations to the buildings – a red star here, a pentagon there.
Always ready to embrace European trends, but adding its own
special Shanghai touch, this is today a city in transition, and a
designated ‘go now before it all changes’ destination.
Communities of close-knit shikumens (apartments in narrow
alleyways) were once the pulse of Shanghai but have been largely
reworked into newly sanitised neighbourhoods. Xintiandi is one
such example, with another dose of the city’s finest restaurants
located here. Tourists eat Shanghai delicacies in up-market cafes,
Shanghai, Pudong. The shiniest of the
city’s new hotels, the lobby is on the 54th
floor of Jin Mao Tower – which really sets
the tone for this sky-high hotel, the highest
in the world. Rooms curl around a dizzying
30-level internal atrium and the views
from the iconic Cloud 9 bar are mindblowing. From $365/double, 131 234,
MID-RANGE Sofitel Hyland Shanghai,
Nanjing Road. Set in the pedestrian
section of Nanjing Road, you can’t get
much closer to the action. As soon
as you step out of the hotel, you’ll be
swept up into Shanghai’s bustle of neon
and humanity. Lash out and join the
Club Lounge on the top floor for their
magnificent breakfasts and unhurried
service. From $243/double, 1300 656
BUDGET The Park Hotel, West Nanjing
Road. Step outside this Art Deco hotel
into the People’s Square to join in morning
Tai Chi or ballroom dancing. It’s opposite
one of the city’s main parks, which also
houses the Museum of Contemporary Art
(restaurant pictured, above) and a great
nightspot, Barbarossa. From $115/double,
(0011) 86 21 6327 5225.
BEST GUIDE For a list of the city’s elite
hot spots, tuck a copy of style magazine
Wallpaper’s guide in your pocket.
Wallpaper City Guide: Shanghai
(Phaidon, $12.95), call Bookwise
on (08) 8444 5304 for stockists.
FLIGHTS Virgin Atlantic flies from
Sydney to Hong Kong daily. 1300 727 340, with connections
to Shanghai via Dragonair, 131 747,
TOURS Travel Indochina runs tours of
China including their 10-day Highlights of
China tour from $2595/person. 1300 365
essential information
hot hotels