Friday, March 1, 2013


I have been going to Shanghai frequently and my impression is that it is just big, boring and coyote ugly.

I guess if you are from Timbuktu or Alaska, you might find all the new skyscrapers and traffic jams exciting, but to a world traveler like me, it is all very boring. People rave about the French Concession area but I guess these people have never seen Paris. The Bund is totally over-rated.
Just in case I was missing out on a secret, I took a weekend to play tourist in Shanghai.
I stayed in the SOFITEL on Nanjing Road. Great hotel location but the service is not up to snuff. Small overheated gym, no pool and not so great breakfast.
Nanjing Road is just another over-crowded-pedestrian mall with low end, overpriced stores.

Of course the APPLE STORE was mobbed.

 Nanjing road is kept super clean for the tourist but just stick your nose down any side ally to see Shanghai's underbelly.
 This ally is right across from the Sofitel

 I decided that the best way to see the city was on a bicycle, so I booked a tour with
4 hours cost 400rnb which is a tad expensive but then again China is no longer "cheap".
They picked me up at my hotel and off we went. My guide Stella was delightful but she was perplexed when I said I was not interested in seeing new buildings but wanted to see old Shanghai.
 This is the old city wall.
 No, it does not go any further.

What ya see is what ya get.
Here's the issue, unlike other countries where conquerers built onto their predecessor buildings, the Chinese tore them down and built new buildings to glorify themselves, so there just isn't anything really that old left to see. The Chinese just have no respect for old building or any sense of community.

This street was interesting. Right in old town Shanghai, it is getting ready to be demolished.

 I tried to explain to my guide that in other cities, these workers' buildings would be refurbished into expensive single family homes but she was totally against this idea. Much better to pull them down and build another ugly modern hight rise.
They were originally built for single families but have been illegally subdivided.
This room was divided into 2 illegal rooms and was quite a fire hazard.

Another room devision where each family gets a little glimpse of sunshine.

After the ghetto we headed to XINTIANDI (HEAVEN MEETS EARTH) which is a very nice faux warehouse tourist restaurant area.
 TMSK is a beautiful restaurant/bar with a 2nd floor dinner entertainment area.

 My lovely bike guide STELLA.

Here is an interesting building on the People's Square. It looks like it is from the 1940s and was the tallest building in Asia for many years.
The People's Square was originally a race course but was turned into a public square after the Communist government banned gambling. It is surrounded by government buildings and the Shanghai Opera house. The Shanghai Museum is in the center of the park.

Sunday was raining so it was a good day to visit the Shanghai museum  (free entry) which is very interesting. Lots of interesting exhibits from money

 To furniture. I learned the difference between MING and QING furniture.

 Ming is more utilitarian with beautiful clean lines.

QING is very ornate.

 An exhibition of decorative mirrors which was donated by an American.
 Jade, lots of jade. This is a jade funeral mask.
 Chinese peasant costume exhibition reminds us of how varied the peoples of China can be.
 Loved this salmon-leather suit.
 Madame, are you wearing a jack rabbit chapeau?

 This outfit from 1950s looks so modern.

 I'm guessing a unicorn hunter's hat.

 Here is the main waiting room of the Shanghai's HONGQIAO train station at 6.30am

Impressive for its sheer size and modernity but give me NYC's Grand Central any day. Yes, it is much better than Penn. station!

Another thing people point out is that Shanghai has great restaurants. Well, yes it does if you are willing to over pay for european food but it lacks good local/european restaurant with decent prices.

My perennial favorite is AZUL with its rooftop garden.
Master chef Eduardo will have you clamoring for more of his delicious spanish tapas. His roasted baby pig is to die for!
Also check out his new neighborhood feeling Peruvian restaurant CEVICHE.

38 FUMIAN ROAD. TELE;62481998.
Situated in a delightful old house in the French Concession area.

Best hotel is the millennium Hongqiao Hotel. It has a great breakfast buffet, gym and pool.

So at the end of my 2 days playing tourist I still think that Shanghai is still coyote ugly.

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