I have 36 hours to get myself reaquainted with the sassy party girl that is Shanghai. I love this crazy lady, she has a past and now she welcomes the world in on her own terms.
I stretch out my jet-lagged legs along the Bund, the promenade lining the Huangpu River. Its colonial buildings were built when she was called a strumpet and owned by who ever paid, usually the American, English, Russian and Japanese lovers. She has since kicked out her international sugar daddies and painted the town red. Portraits of Chairman Mao line the walls of the art nouveau Peace Hotel, the most famous on the strip.
It’s getting late, I grab a plate of dumplings to eat and head over the river to the new-look Shanghai on the east bank, the Pudong district. It was rice paddies fifteen years ago. Now it is home to some of the world’s tallest buildings. The Pearl TV tower, with its two glass spheres suspended in the middle now looks like a quirky grandma.
It’s tempting to not to sleep in a 24-hour city, to carry on. As a delicious compromise, I book a spa treatment for 11pm at CHI Spa, www.shangri-la.com and embark on a Jade Journey to say, ‘Goodnight jetlag.’
Good Morning French Concession! (It’s the best place to snatch some high-octane coffee and take a stroll through Fuxing park to watch everyone doing their morning Tai Chi, ballroom dancing, etc.) The old gangster badlands played host to gambling and opium dens and the odd shooting, while the communists secretly met around the corner. Now the cobblestone lane ways of the Xintiandi are Shanghai’s answer to Covent Garden.
I stumble out and head north to Nan Jing, the big, famous shopping street in Shanghai and I really feel like I’m in a city of over 16 million people. It’s a surprisingly easy crowd to negotiate and makes me wonder about a comparison, but I cannot think of an instance in the animal or insect world where creatures move through each other in different directions on such a large scale. Ants form orderly queues. Lemmings? Well they’re all heading in the same direction.
The Culture and Sex Museum is about halfway down. I went there last time, but all I can remember are the embroidered shoes made for women who had their feet bound. They were the same size as the shoes worn by today’s chubby cherubs. This time I eschew the sex and stuff for a huge queue outside the bakery opposite. They are buying moon cakes for the moon goddess. It’s the tradition to eat the moon cakes with a cup of tea under the moon when it’s brightest and clearest.
Later, I sip champagne and watch the moon over Shanghai’s matter hatter’s tea party of a skyline from the Jade on 36 Restaurant, www.jadeon36.com
When have you fallen in love with a city?