TO THE BUND

When in Shang­hai, shop, drink and dine un­til dawn, ad­vises Chris­tine McCabe

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Travel -

THE Sof­i­tel Jin Jiang Ori­en­tal ho­tel rises above Pudong like a rocket launcher with a fly­ing saucer perched on top. But be­cause this is Shang­hai it doesn’t look at all out of place; and the fly­ing saucer is home not to the cast of The Jet­sons but to a clus­ter of re­volv­ing bars and a French restau­rant.

Much of 1930s Shang­hai may have dis­ap­peared but in this em­phat­i­cally 21st-cen­tury city there’s more than a whiff of pre-war he­do­nism to be found in the grow­ing num­ber of bars, restau­rants and night­clubs op­er­ated by an ever-ex­pand­ing cadre of savvy (and ob­vi­ously very thirsty) ex­pats.

The view from the giddy heights of the Jin Jiang is across the great Pudong sprawl where not so long ago farm­ers toiled the muddy river flats. To­day sky­scrapers grow, crowd­ing the hori­zon to form the most fu­tur­is­tic sky­line on earth.

At ground level, civic plan­ners have been work­ing over­time land­scap­ing the new Shang­hai with a strik­ing arts cen­tre, shaped like a flower, a gleam­ing science mu­seum and hectares of neatly man­i­cured gar­dens fea­tur­ing fish ponds, top­i­ary pi­anos and road­side pil­lars em­broi­dered with plas­tic roses. Young plane trees are an­chored against sea­sonal ty­phoons with wooden struts and palm tree trunks wrapped in rope to pro­tect against the win­ter cold.

The wind, when it blows, howls across th­ese im­mense spa­ces but there’s an ex­cit­ing en­ergy to this in­stant, just-add-wa­ter moder­nity and smiles are broad as vis­i­tors emerge from the Ma­glev ter­mi­nal af­ter a 300km/ h-plus jour­ney from the air­port.

But it’s across the murky brown Huangpu River that Shang­hai takes on a form we more read­ily recog­nise. Here the bustling, neon­shim­mer­ing Nan­jing Road meets the Parisian-style boule­vard, the Bund.

Lined on one side with el­e­gant, neo­clas­si­cal build­ings and on the other by the busy river, the Bund has be­come a fo­cus for up­mar­ket re­tail de­vel­op­ment.

The trail­blaz­ing Three on the Bund is one of the loveli­est lifestyle cen­tres in the world, set in a seven-storey 1916 for­mer in­sur­ance build­ing and struc­tured around the Shang­hai Gallery of Art on the third floor.

Be­gin at the top with sun­set cock­tails on the ter­race of the New Heights bar, af­ford­ing some of the best views in the city, up the Bund and over the river to Pudong. There’s even a din­ing room for two set in the old cupola and for­mer bell tower.

Down­stairs you can shop for la­bels (Ar­mani and the like) or have a fa­cial in the gor­geous Evian Spa where the soar­ing atrium re­cep­tion area fea­tures a sur­real gar­den of boul­ders and raked car­pet and where at­ten­dants in white coats are spot lit like ex­tras in a sci-fi movie.

There are four restau­rants lo­cated in the com­plex, in­clud­ing that of Aus­tralian chef David Laris. His epony­mous eatery is ul­tra glam with a sleek mar­ble foyer and river views through high arched win­dows. The food is ad­ven­tur­ous (think cae­sar salad soup) and the Vault Bar is a pop­u­lar late-night hang-out. For smok­ers there’s a ci­gar room and for ev­ery­one else a choco­late bar (have the frozen ba­nana truf­fles served over ice).

On the fifth floor, the art deco-themed Wham­poa Club is home to Jereme Leung’s up­dated take on tra­di­tional Shang­hai cui­sine (try the wasabi prawns washed down with a rice wine cock­tail).

Af­ter do­ing Three, pop next door to M (ac­tu­ally 5) on the Bund and the Glam­our Bar, cre­ated by an­other Aus­tralian, Michelle Gar­naut, and the loveli­est wa­ter­ing hole in town, with so­phis­ti­cated in­te­ri­ors, great mar­ti­nis and reg­u­lar lit­er­ary events.

At 6 on the Bund, Dolce & Gab­bana has a lifestyle store, with ground-floor mar­tini bar, a Ja­panese restau­rant and the strik­ing Aquar­ium Bar on level two. Around the cor­ner on Fuzhou Lu you’ll find the bon­sai­size but hugely fash­ion­able Suzhou Cob­blers (hand-em­broi­dered shoes and bags), Blue Shang­hai White (stylish porce­lain) and Stu­dio Rouge, a small art gallery run by Aussie Ge­orge Michell. Pop your name on the mail­ing list and stay in touch with the con­tem­po­rary art scene in Shang­hai and Bei­jing, now lead­ing the world.

Still on the Bund, there’s Bar Rouge on the eighth floor of Bund 18, and At­tica, opened last Oc­to­ber, on the south­ern end of the strip (south of Yan An Road) in an old colo­nial pile.

When the smog, bus­tle and boom­ing hip hop be­come too much, tourists and ex­pats make for Xin­tiandi, a leafy en­clave of ren­o­vated Shiku­men houses con­tain­ing ex­pen­sive bou­tiques and smart, mostly Euro- pean restau­rants. Sim­ply Thai does a good green curry (and there’s a rea­son­able se­lec­tion of Aus­tralian wines) and you’ll also find a small Shang­hai Tang out­let here. Renowned San Fran­cisco restau­ra­teur Ge­orge Chen (Shang­hai 1930) brings his finely honed sense of style and French­in­flu­enced cui­sine to the Shiku­men Bistro at Lane 181, Taicang Lu.

Ad­ven­tur­ous shop­pers will en­joy the mys­te­ri­ous Mar­ket of Old Stone and An­tique (688 Nan­jing Rd West), a scene straight out of In­di­ana Jones and The Tem­ple of Doom, fea­tur­ing an odd as­sort­ment of rather de­press­ing pet shops, mu­seum-qual­ity fos­sils, crick­ets in cages, dan­ger­ous-look­ing men gam­bling in dark cor­ners and even more fear­some women guard­ing the shad­owy, dimly lit en­trances of dusty an­tique stores.

Timid shop­pers are bet­ter served at the Dongtai Lu mar­ket where made-yes­ter­day an­tiques (the sort of stuff you find in lifestyle stores back home) and Mao mem­o­ra­bilia, old prints and deco lamps crowd stall af­ter stall. For hand­bags and two floors of in­sanely cheap jew­ellery and pearls, con­sider a 30-minute cab ride to Hong Qiao In­ter­na­tional Pearl City on Hong­mei Road in the Chan Ning area.

Back on Nan­jing Road, there are de­part­ment stores and bou­tiques ga­lore and broad foot­paths so crowded you’ll be long­ing for the rel­a­tively un­crowded streets of our Aus­tralian cap­i­tals. In the Old Town it’s worth ex­plor­ing the 16th-cen­tury Yuyuan Gar­dens (touristy but divert­ing) with a stop at the Nanx­i­ang Steamed Bun Restau­rant.

For a qui­eter af­ter­noon, scout the quirky bou­tiques of the for­mer French Con­ces­sion where 1930s Shang­hai has been well pre­served in a lovely col­lec­tion of art deco and neo-classical build­ings. Many of the area’s man­sions have been con­verted into jazz bars and night­clubs, mak­ing this a pop­u­lar af­ter­dark haunt.

For help nav­i­gat­ing Shang­hai af­ter five check out www.smartshang­hai.com. Brain­child of for­mer Three on the Bund ex­ec­u­tive Caro­line Rowe, it pro­vides a handy guide to Shang­hai night life (new restau­rants, night­clubs and other hap­pen­ings). But this city changes so rapidly, with sky­scrapers sprout- ing al­most overnight and to­day’s hottest night­club des­tined to be to­mor­row’s old news, that con­ven­tional travel guides are out of date be­fore they go to print. Chris­tine McCabe was a guest of Ac­cor Ho­tels and Qan­tas.

Check­list

Shang­hai is in­cluded in Qan­tas’s Global Deals sale; book­ings must be made by Au­gust 28 for travel to mid-2008. Min­i­mum four-night stay and other con­di­tions ap­ply. Sam­ple fare: Syd­ney-Shang­hai re­turn, from $1359. More: 131 313; www.qan­tas.com.au.

www.cnto.org/shang­hai.asp

Pic­ture: Lonely Planet Images

All of a piece: Gold leaf and coloured glass, known lo­cally as li­uli, put the shine on TMSK bar in the chic bou­tique dis­trict of Xin­tiandi

Balm for body and soul: Evian Spa’s sur­real and soar­ing atrium at Three on the Bund

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