Shanghai is like Tokyo on speed; whilst Tokyo is very polite and ordered, Shanghai is raw and very full on. The driving, especially cabs drivers, are nerve-racking and very funny – you haven’t seen so much horn abuse anywhere; everyone seems to have a hair trigger behind the wheel.
The cityscape is very impressive and futuristic and at night the skyline is all lit up with neon and giant advertising screens like the ones you see in Times Square or Japan. Along the Bund, looking out across the river to the famous TV Tower in Pudong is particularly cool and then at 10.30pm all the lights get turned off to save power and everyone seems to take that as a cue to go home or move on to bars and clubs in the other districts.
The French concession seems to be the place to hang out and there were some lovely bars and clubs down there. Thankfully, the old heart of the city seems to be getting preserved, too, although a lot of the older districts are still being bulldozed to make way for more corporate headquarters.
Shanghai food was delicious and good. We never got to try the recommended hairy crab (we’ll save that for our return visit) but the dumplings and cold plates were amazing. The Shanghainese eat several cold plates prior to their meat and fish dishes and we got to try slivers of pig’s ear, jelly fish, eel and snake which I really enjoyed. The seafood is particularly good and although we searched (but not too hard) for the duck blood soup as featured in the previous article published by you, I failed to find any (so, lucky escape for this westerner!). The only thing I couldn’t enjoy was the smelly tofu; despite smothering it in the accompanying chilli sauce I still found it overpowering and it reminded me of feta cheese which I also hate.
The shopping out there was fantastic too, you have miles of US-style malls with their seven plus floors filled with every brand you can name – the Japanese Uniqlo in Shanghai was really cool and much better than the branch on Regent Street – and then there are also the street markets with stalls selling cultural revolution memorabilia and Buddhist artefacts from the pavement. I picked up a copy of the Chairman Mao Little Red Book that looked suitably historic and also some really cool Tin Tin books in Mandarin. Julie visited a clothes market where they made a tailored dress for her in 24 hours and delivered it to the hotel.
We were so lucky to be having our friends to look after us as they showed us around town and ordered different shanghai dishes at their favourite restaurants every night. Eliza took us to the massage parlour (what a way to spend a Saturday afternoon!) but also to see some of the cultural highlights too, like the Shanghai Art Gallery, Shanghai Museum, the TV tower where we viewed the history of the Shanghai Museum and also for high tea on the 55th floor of the Hyatt Hotel. On our last night Eliza’s father-in-law cooked a very traditional dinner for us, which reminded me of dinner with Julie’s folks. After that, we played a Chinese-edition Monopoly; what little business acumen I’ve acquired in my career to-date failed to stop the Chinese couple we played against from building huge property empires and taking all my dollars.
Although it has been a hectic week, Shanghai was a lovely experience that we would recommend to anyone. We will definitely be coming back for more in the future!