There’s something about modern cities in Asia that I thoroughly enjoy. There’s an infectious energy from the sheer number of people, and a beautiful mesh of traditional architecture, food and lifestyle, plus the best of western luxuries, brands, food and drink. Shanghai is no exception, and I have explored this massive city carefully over the last two years on two separate occasions. You can visit a ton of places over a two-day period (a lot of them are very close to each other) and getting around is incredibly easy, with every option of transport you can think of.
From the airport, take the Maglev, the world’s fastest train, to the centre of town at speeds over 400 kilometres per hour for the thrill and convenience of it. It literally takes minutes, for a distance that is otherwise is an hour or so away from Pudong.
You can’t visit Shanghai and not visit the Bund. It overlooks the River Huangpu in the district of Pudong, with its sky-kissing, futuristic glass buildings, including the Oriental Pearl TV Tower and the Jin Mao Tower (what the locals refer to as the bottle opener building) on one side and old colonial buildings on the other. Both sides are equally eye catching in exactly opposite ways. The river itself is full of activity, with floating restaurants, cruise and cargo ships, all slowly moving along this ancient waterway.
Mr. & Mrs. Bund
When at the Bund, you have to visit Shanghai’s most famous restaurant — Mr.& Mrs. Bund, by Paul Pairet. This restaurant offers incredibly delicious French food, great cocktails and a brilliant wine and spirit list with a view of Pudong to die for — a glass of wine on the terrace here is pure bliss.
Interiors of Mr. & Mrs. Bund
Mr.& Mrs. Bund banquet
One floor above, on the terrace of the building, you have the Bar Rouge, which is a must-visit for some late night shenanigans. If you have the budget (approximately Rs 40,000 a head) you should definitely have the Ultraviolet experience. This restaurant is in a secret location and takes dining to a whole new level, using sounds, light and aromas to take you on a gastronomical journey like no other.
Food & Drink
Further down the road along the Bund is a high-end yet casual tapas bar called Unico, which I thoroughly loved. They have live music there and the food is delicious. I had the lobster with peanut oil, which has quickly become one of my favourite dishes of all time. I took a sip of their Malbec Cosmopolitan, which I thought was truly inventive, with a whole new take on how to enjoy Malbec.
Egg mushrooms and duck confit
Not too far away, in an area called Xintiandi, you will be spoilt for choice. This area is a little touristy, I must warn you, but excellent nevertheless. Head for a beer at the Pauline Bauhaus, or have a glass of vino at the wine bar right next to it for some ‘lucky’ red wine. The Chinese believe that the colour red is lucky and have taken to their lucky red wines with some serious aggression, so much so that now, in a relatively small period of time, they have become the world’s largest consumers of red wine. But I digress. If you want some live jazz, head to the jazz bar slightly ahead, or visit The Devil’s Share, for a range of whiskies as you watch the world go by down below. Try the famed Xiao Long Bao at Crystal Jade, and try to not burn your tongue. Oh, and if you’re looking for some seriously good steak, there is a spanking new Wolfgang Puk restaurant bang in the middle of this area. Connected here is Nanjing Road, famous for its shopping and underground markets. For world class shopping, head to Huahai (also known as the Paris of the Orient) for your fix of fashion and designer labels.
Black Cod Essential Soy
An area definitely worth a visit is the French Concession. I found myself on a road called Yong Kang Lu, that is lined on either side with what seems like hundreds of small bars and restaurants, with residential apartments above them. I don’t think I have ever seen anything like it before. Go down there in the early evening for a very slow drink , especially over the weekend, and take in its almost Goa sort of vibe. This place seems to be off the tourist map and is visited by tons of expats and hipster locals, who ride the most fabulous modified scooters on the planet. Shanghai is a serious food and drink town and you can have great food anywhere — I particularly liked Din Tai Fung, a chain of value for money restaurants that are scattered all around Shanghai and the rest of Asia. If you’re the adventurous kind, try the many street food options, that include duck tongue, insects, bamboo shoots and a variety of pork-based dishes.
Kung Fu Panda
Alternatively, it does not all have to be about food and booze. I would highly recommend visiting the Yu Yuan Gardens, with old King Fu Panda movie-like structures. You could spend a lot of time here walking around or you could head to one of the many tea spots and get a glimpse of what China was like eons ago.
Shanghai night life
Yu Yan garden
The City God temple is definitely worth a visit, and so is the Shanghai Museum for Fine Art Chinese Porcelain, if porcelain is your thing. The Urban Planning Centre shows Shanghai’s architectural plans in 3D for the next four years, and I would highly recommend a visit just to see the technology used here.
In Pudong, you could walk around the Oriental Pearl TV Tower and IFC Mall area and see swarms of people go from one place to another. The mall has a great number of restaurants on top, and some with terraces. You could sit there with your neck craned upwards and look at some of the world’s tallest structures around you.
All this, and I frankly haven’t even scratched the surface; I don’t think anyone could, even after living here for a year. I have to say that I love this city, and Shanghai has quickly become one of my favourite cities in Asia.