Shang­hai sur­prises

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Front Page -

From Page 1 wed­ding pho­tos shot, in a va­ri­ety of cos­tumes rang­ing from the sub­lime to the ridicu­lous. It’s a Chi­nese custom, Dod­ding­ton tells me, that wed­ding photography be done in ad­vance so the al­bum of pic­tures of the happy cou­ple can be shown to guests dur­ing the nup­tials.

While food and drink op­tions are seem­ingly end­less in this bo­hemian district, Dod­ding­ton spir­its me away af­ter much brows­ing of shops to a reg­u­lar haunt of his, the in­aus­pi­ciously named Leg­end, on a street just be­hind the Bund. ‘‘ This is the place where peo­ple who work nearby come for a cheap lunch,’’ Dod­ding­ton says, as our wait­ress hands out lam­i­nated menus with pho­tos of each dish and, mer­ci­fully, English trans­la­tions. Dod­ding­ton does the or­der­ing from the Sichuanstyle menu and the meal we em­bark on proves one of the high­lights of my Shang­hai stay.

At the ta­ble ar­rives enough food to keep us go­ing for days: bean noo­dles with chilli sauce, Sichuan braised pork in soy sauce, stewed wild mush­room with loofah soup, grid­dle-cooked tea tree mush­rooms, siu mai and Sichuan-style jiaozi dumplings, an ex­cel­lent Shang­hainese salad and more. The bill comes to a ridicu­lous $30. Dod­ding­ton half jok­ingly tells me not to men­tion the place in print, lest his favourite din­ing spot be over­run by ea­ger tourists. Not on your nelly. This place lives up to its name; def­i­nitely a Leg­end in its own lunchtime.

We stroll back down the Bund, past the lux­ury goods stores and the Peace Ho­tel, which is cov­ered in scaf­fold­ing, and look across to the other side of the city where the fa­mous Pudong fi­nan­cial cen­tre dom­i­nates. Along the im­pres­sive sky­line, Dod­ding­ton points out the World Fi­nan­cial Cen­tre, which looks rather like a bot­tle opener with its rec­tan­gu­lar open­ing at the top of the build­ing re­veal­ing the blue sky.

‘‘ The rec­tan­gle was go­ing to be a cir­cle but they changed it be­cause they felt it looked too much like the Ja­panese flag,’’ he says. The dis­pute ap­par­ently held up the build­ing for eight years and knocked the feng shui, which re­quires the use of cir­cles to bal­ance the harsher male square and rec­tan­gu­lar shapes, right off kil­ter. The build­ing opened late last year and houses the world’s high­est ho­tel, Park Hy­att Shang­hai, as well as of­fice and re­tail space.

That oc­cu­pancy rates for both of­fice space and ho­tels here and across the world have slumped as a re­sult of the eco­nomic down­turn hasn’t de­terred the myr­iad ho­tels and in­ter­na­tional hos­pi­tal­ity out­lets soon to come on stream here.

A Penin­sula, a Wal­dorf As­to­ria and many more high­end ho­tels are planned; in Xin Tian Di district, an out­post of the achingly chic Costes Paris, a bar and restau­rant de­signed by Jac­ques Gar­cia, has al­ready ar­rived. There seems to be no end to the rush to cap­i­talise on this lat­est, and great­est, meta­mor­pho­sis of China’s most vi­brant city.

In­ter­est­ingly, the theme of next year’s Expo is Bet­ter City, Bet­ter Life. If moves to boost the city’s green space and make the en­vi­ron­ment cleaner and more liv­able for the mil­lions who re­side here are suc­cess­ful, then the

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