Shanghai was the first city I visited in the mainland of People’s Republic of China and I was completely disarmed by her. Many have told me that Shanghai isn’t perhaps the most accurate reflection of China so I guess I will need to explore other parts of this vast country to understand her better. For now, these are my Shanghai impressions from our short visit in 2014.
This walk, and the view, is what Shanghai will always be defined by…..loved the sights, the sense of history and magic and just watching ships go by against the backdrop of modern skyscrapers while behind you sits a completely different architecture..
Tan Zi Fiang Market
Tianzifang has that lovely combination of historical vibe, consumerist entertainment and chic dining spots of eclectic cuisine (Thai, Japanese, Vietnamese, Chinese, Moroccan, Italian etc). I walked around the area for about four hours and didn’t feel tired despite the pelting rain because of all the sights. The shops offer a repetitive theme of cards, notebooks, pocket watches, embroidered pouches, fridge magnets, candies, scarves, shanghai inspired soaps and cosmetics, beautifully packaged tea, art and design shops, silver jewellery, blue and white porcelain but they were all nice pieces and so best to fully scour the place before deciding on a purchase. Also prices are hiked up because of tourist clients but generally still quite reasonable and if you see something you are unlikely to get anywhere else outside of China, then best to get it. I was not sure that I was likely to return to Shanghai so used it as my opportunity to ‘stock’ on anything chinese inspired:) Worthy of a visit!
Dong Tai Road Antiques Market
Loved this antique road market. I doubt they are real antiques, definitely not the stall markets but you can get good ceramics, vintage postcards, maps and pouches at prices which can be haggled.
I managed to get myself two blue and white ceramic vases for 10USD, so I was incredibly chuffed. The vases now sit at our home on top of bookshelves and protecting the vintage map of Thailand and Malaysia.
True to the identity of Shanghai, the French concession warrants a long stroll because of its traditional Chinese settings set in European architecture. This has to be in anyone’s To Do list when in Shanghai. It’s also a place to browse through Platanes a homewares store which is equivalent to India’s Goodearth i.e. contemporary clean lines fused with native themes, and which I posted a little bit on here.
We went to Shanghai because of my husband’s University courses so the University gave us the option to stay here. The location is very central, on the west of Nanjing Road so if you just keep walking east you will eventually hit the Bund and of course in the meanwhile, pass by every consumerist outlet possible from Cartier to Zara. The amenities in the room, the furnishings, the layout, the bathroom were all very classy eg robes as fluffy as the ones in the Waldorf, bathroom had beautiful floors and fittings, the lights were sophisticated etc. They did not skimp on luxury in this aspect. The lobby of the hotel is strangely situated on the 12th floor so it made it a tad confusing to locate the property. The breakfast was also not a very generous option but mostly, the aspect of which I had difficulty with was just the standard of english generally spoken by staff which possibly really needs to be improved for an international hotel in an international city. Requests like ‘milk powder’ ‘can i have fettucini pasta’ ‘can i get my room cleaned’ etc sometimes took a few phone calls and call backs to be understood. To the hotel’s credit of course, if someone couldn’t understand you they always notified other staff who could speak better English who would then call back and try very hard to understand.
We spent one night here before we bid farewell to the city. If possible do get a river view room as this is really worth it. You feel like you’re part of a movie every time you walk inside your hotel room, especially in the evening as the flashing lights of the skyscrapers and billboard advertisements draws you in.
The property has a historical base, but has been refurbished to meet contemporary tastes resulting in old meets new grandeur. It feels like acres of different sorts of products from the tea hall, to the breakfast hall, to the long bar, to the massive lobby. The service also had some finese – they left a complimentary cake in the room after I had written and said that it was our anniversary… so there was definitely a personalized touch in our short stay.
Go for 4-5 days minimum, if possible. Try to find a place to stay at The Bund or anywhere on Nanjing Road which will take you to The Bund in a short walk. Stroll through the French concession and explore the markets in Tan Zi Fiang and Dong Tai Road. There is also the Xintiandi, another pretty cobbled street place to stroll through, dine and shop. Try out the wealth of cafes around the French Concession and Tan Zi Fiang. If you have never been to China, it’s a very gentle and romantic introduction to the country.