INTO THE MELT­ING POT

As one of the most cos­mopoli­tan cities in China, there is some­thing for ev­ery­one to ex­pe­ri­ence in Shang­hai

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - WEEKEND LIFE - By Al­ly­win Chew

Ed­i­tor’s note: With the China In­ter­na­tional Im­port Expo sched­uled to end to­day, here’s an over­view of what the event’s cos­mopoli­tan host city of Shang­hai has to of­fer to vis­i­tors.

Be it from the mouths of for­eign­ers who have lived here for a few years or from sto­ries on travel web­sites, one of the most com­mon qual­i­ties that peo­ple list about Shang­hai is the in­fec­tious en­ergy that cour­ses through the city.

For some, this en­ergy is de­fined by the way of life — Shang­hai is a city that never sleeps. In the day, the streets are al­ways bustling with peo­ple from all over the world. Af­ter all, the city has long been China’s most cos­mopoli­tan city, hav­ing been the epi­cen­ter of trade and cul­tural ex­change be­tween Chi­nese and for­eign­ers since the city was forced to open its door to the world in 1843 af­ter the First Opium War (1840-42).

Shang­hai’s ubiq­ui­tous de­liv­ery peo­ple can be found on the roads even past mid­night, rush­ing from point to point on their trusty elec­tric scoot­ers to sa­ti­ate the hunger of night owls. Even be­fore the break of dawn, pen­sion­ers can be found gath­er­ing in parks, ready to kick start their day with a tai chi ses­sion.

For oth­ers, this en­ergy is gen­er­ated from the fric­tion be­tween the con­trasts the city has. In­deed, it does not take long for one to re­al­ize that Shang­hai’s charm lies in it be­ing a bi­nary of old and new.

Awe-in­spir­ing fa­cades

Here, charm­ing neo­clas­si­cal ar­chi­tec­ture and art deco struc­tures stand along­side mod­ern build­ings with shim­mer­ing glass and metal fa­cades, rus­tic lane houses and de­crepit shiku­men build­ings. Hum­ble mom-and-pop shops that look stuck in time can of­ten be found right next to hip din­ing venues or in­dus­trial-chic bou­tiques sell­ing de­signer ap­parel.

It is also not un­com­mon to find Maser­atis, Fer­raris and Rolls-Royce cars shar­ing the road with cy­clists rid­ing their col­or­ful shared bikes or the clas­sic mod­els of For­ever Bi­cy­cles, one of the na­tion’s most fa­mous do­mes­tic brands.

One of the best places to get an over­view of th­ese sur­real con­trasts is none other than the tallest build­ing in the city — the Shang­hai Tower in Lu­ji­azui. Mea­sur­ing a dizzy­ing 632 me­ters in height, this ar­chi­tec­tural mar­vel boasts hav­ing the world’s high­est ob­ser­va­tion deck within a build­ing or struc­ture. It also comes with the world’s fastest el­e­va­tors which would get you from the bot­tom to the top at 20.5 me­ters per sec­ond.

On the other side of the Huangpu River is where you would find the Bund, which is home to mag­nif­i­cent neo­clas­si­cal build­ings such as the HSBC Build­ing, the Cus­tom House and the Wal­dorf As­to­ria. The Bund is to Shang­hai what Times Square is to New York or what the Champ­sÉlysées is to Paris. A trip to Shang­hai would not be com­plete with­out ex­plor­ing this iconic water­front prom­e­nade.

A gour­mand’s par­adise

As a hub for all types of sec­tors in China, in­clud­ing fi­nance, in­no­va­tion, avi­a­tion, sci­ence and tech­nol­ogy, it is per­haps nat­u­ral that Shang­hai too is a vi­brant hotspot for many food trends.

While China is tra­di­tion­ally a tead­rink­ing na­tion, Shang­hai’s ef­fer­ves­cent cof­fee scene paints a dif­fer­ent pic­ture. From hip and cozy spe­cialty cof­fee joints to the sprawl­ing Star­bucks Re­serve Roast­ery in the city cen­ter — it is the first of its kind out­side the United States — java ad­dicts are spoilt for choice when it comes to search­ing for a caf­feine fix.

The city is also the leader in the coun­try when it comes to bev­er­ages such as cock­tails and craft beer. Among the most il­lus­tri­ous of the city’s cock­tail of­fer­ings are Speak Low, Sober Com­pany and the Union Trad­ing Com­pany, all of which are listed in the Asia’s 50 Best Bars rank­ings.

One of the lat­est en­trants to the vi­brant craft beer scene is the renowned US brew­ery Stone Brew­ing. Lo­cated in a charm­ing old ware­house in the up­scale Jing’an district, this out­post is the com­pany’s first in Asia, a nod to the city’s rep­u­ta­tion as a hot­bed for gas­tron­omy.

As the city where the Miche­lin Guide first made its China de­but, Shang­hai is also where one can find the only three-Miche­lin-starred restau­rant in the coun­try — Ul­tra­vi­o­let by French chef Paul Pairet — where the set menu price starts from a whop­ping 4,000 yuan ($577) per per­son. At the other end of the spec­trum, the xi­ao­long­bao, the hum­ble, quin­tes­sen­tial Shang­hai del­i­cacy in the form of a del­i­cate dumpling con­tain­ing mor­eish soup and meat or veg­eta­bles, can be had for as lit­tle as 6 yuan per serv­ing of eight. There’s also Can­ton 8, a restau­rant serv­ing hearty Can­tonese fare and dim sum that was in 2016 de­clared as the world’s cheap­est two-Miche­lin-starred din­ing estab­lish­ment.

A time to un­wind

Au­tumn is the best time to ex­pe­ri­ence Shang­hai on foot, not merely be­cause the weather is con­ducive for walk­ing, but be­cause this is when the roads and side­walks in many ar­eas are blan­keted with a layer of col­or­ful fallen leaves.

The best places to view this sea­sonal spec­ta­cle are in the nu­mer­ous parks across the city as well as the idyl­lic for­mer French Con­ces­sion, which is home to a bevy of life­style bou­tiques, trendy cafes and his­tor­i­cal build­ings such as Wukang Man­sion, Shang­hai’s ver­sion of the flat­iron build­ing in New York City.

Al­ter­na­tively, the new 45-km long walk­ing path that hugs the Huangpu River was opened ear­lier this year, of­fer­ing peo­ple serene views of the river and flo­ral and fauna. This path also takes you to many of Shang­hai’s land­marks, such as the Waibaidu Bridge, the As­tor House Ho­tel, the Yang­shupu Wa­ter Plant, the Yuz Mu­seum and the Long Mu­seum.

For some peo­ple, Shang­hai is only truly alive when night falls and the daz­zling neon lights come on.

From posh rooftop bars along the Bund that of­fer stun­ning views of the Shang­hai sky­line to mega clubs like Myst which reg­u­larly hosts in­ter­na­tional acts, the nightlife scene in Shang­hai is sec­ond to none in China.

Those seek­ing a more muted nightlife ex­pe­ri­ence can check out the nu­mer­ous live per­for­mance venues such as Shang­hai Cul­ture Square which is known for host­ing pro­duc­tions all the way from Broad­way and the West End. There are also sev­eral live jazz venues worth your time, such as the Fair­mont Peace Ho­tel where the fa­mous band is made up of only oc­to­ge­nar­i­ans, and JZ Club in the bustling Found 158, a be­low-ground life­style venue within a park in down­town Shang­hai.

True to its rep­u­ta­tion as a first mover in China, Shang­hai also has its own ded­i­cated standup com­edy club. Called Kung Fu Kom­edy, the club fea­tures an ex­ten­sive lineup of in­ter­na­tional and lo­cal co­me­di­ans who could help you end your Shang­hai trip on a high.

GAO ERQIANG / CHINA DAILY GAO ERQIANG / CHINA DAILY

A night view of the Bund in Shang­hai. Tourists take a stroll along the Bund to cap­ture the im­pres­sive ar­chi­tec­tural glam­our.

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