SHANGHAI -- Shanghai
came into view down the highway ahead. Oddly shaped skyscrapers
designed by international architects presented an astonishingly
un-Chinese skyline, like a Euro-pean metropolis transplanted to the
sprawl (five times larger than Los Angeles) embraces at least 13
million people in a mix of rich farmland, industrial suburbs,
enormous housing projects, a major river port, parks, shopping
malls and colonial quarters, all connected by elevated highways,
subways, tunnels, ferries, boulevards and labyrinthine
Because it was born
just yesterday, the urban center is mind-boggling.
You cant help thinking
that while Chinese leaders still call themselves communists, in
practice they have become super-capitalists, building in just a
decade such landmarks as the gaudy, 1,535-foot Oriental Pearl TV
Tower (Asias tallest structure when completed in 1994) and the
88-story Jinmao Tower, in which the Grand Hyatts position on floors
54 to 88 makes it the worlds highest hotel; Chinas largest stock
exchange; and an airport-to-city transport system of magnetic
levitation trains (Maglev) that make the 18-mile trip in eight
As in any major world
city, at least one half-day guided tour is a good investment, and
then clients can strike out on their own, leaving plenty of time
for the major Shanghainese pastime: shopping.
Traveling by subway is
fun; taking a taxi will cost roughly $3 to $5.
My take on the
not-to-miss places that fit into a three-day stay
The Shanghai Museum on
Peoples Square is not only the best museum in China but a
state-of-the-art presentation of some 120,000 historical artifacts,
arranged in displays on four floors around a central
A half day was not
enough to take in everything: the bronze and sculpture galleries,
the ceramics gallery and the painting, calligraphy and seal
galleries on the first three floors. Working my way down, I started
on the fourth floor with the jade and furniture galleries as well
as the ethnographic exhibits of costumes, dioramas and ceremonial
objects from all corners of the Chinese Empire.
are sold on each floor, but the gift shops on the main floor offer
some of the best buys in Shanghai. Clients can also take time out
for tea and cookies at the museums traditional tea room.
attractions are within walking distance of one another.
One can spend a half
day in the Old Town, downtown Shanghai during colonial times. Its
best to come here on weekday mornings to avoid weekend crowds, or
particularly come early Sunday mornings for the Temple of the Town
Gods outdoor market and the Fuyou market for curios and
The Old Town Bazaar,
with hundreds of shops, is open daily, as is Yuyang Garden, a
classical gem of landscaping and architecture. Outside the garden
walls, take the bridge leading mid-pond to the 400-year-old
Huxinting Teahouse, a China landmark for tea.
In this same corner of
Shanghai, the sweeping waterfront promenade called the Bund runs a
mile along the Huangpu River. This is the place for
people-watching, from early morning when the tai chi groups work
out until the evening strolls of courting couples.
In colonial times, tea,
silk and opium were traded along the Bund embankment, and wealthy
merchants built a riverfront parade of fine buildings -- banks,
private clubs, a customs house -- many now restored in the effort
to recapture the Bunds former architectural grandeur.
One building not to
miss is the Peace Hotel with its art deco lobby; further, advise
clients to book ahead for a late-night seat in the hotels Old Jazz
Bar, where New Orleans is the sound.
reservation along the Bund is a table at the new Jean-Georges
Shanghai restaurant on the fourth floor of the atrium-style Three
on the Bund building; other attractions in this Michael
Graves-redesigned building are an art gallery, an Evian spa and a
Giorgio Armani store.
And while on the river,
consider lunch (perhaps after a stroll along Nanjing Road, Chinas
most famous shopping avenue) or dinner at M on the Bund.
Clients may want to
cross over to Pudong, new East Shanghai, for a panoramic view from
the observation deck of the Pearl of the Orient TV Tower. The
towers basement houses the Shanghai Municipal History Museum.
The French Concession
district is a good bet for meandering. It is dotted with many of
Shanghais most historical colonial homes, including the residences
of Sun Yat-sen, founder of the Chinese Republic, and Zhou En-Lai,
once head of the Communist Party, as well as the Shanghai Museum of
Arts and Crafts, quartered in a beautiful Renaissance-style
In this area, however,
I spent far more time on a shopping spree (until 9 p.m.) in the
nearby Xiangyang Market, Shanghais version of Beijings famous Silk
Alley, but even better.
The draw here is
designer-label clothing and accessories. Some may be the real
thing, but stall after open-air stall was stacked with faux Louis
Vuitton, Prada, Fendi and Gucci bags, shoes, sweaters and scarves
-- fabulous knockoffs, at a fraction of the price of the real
thing, once youve bargained the first 50% off the asking
Shanghai is full of
wonderful buys from pearls, silk, jade and ceramics to antiques and
furniture, all requiring a practiced eye and spirited
Theres no bargaining at
the Friendship Store here; open daily till 10 p.m., it carries a
generous sampling of nearly everything worth hauling home, and
credit cards are accepted.
On one of my precious
days in Shanghai, my friend and I hired a car and guide for an
excursion outside the city. The day-trip options included a trip to
Suzhou, a moated city of interlocking canals, bridges, pagodas and
some 70 fabled and classic gardens, with 12 open to the
A second choice was the city of
Hangzhou, from which you cruise about beautiful West Lake, visiting
islands, floating pagodas, gardens and temples. We chose, instead,
to drive southwest to Zhou Zhuang, a 900-year-old water village of
canals lined with tile-roof houses.
The drive through the
delta of farms and the factories that fuel the prosperity of
Shanghai offers an interesting contrast. The townspeople now make
their living from tourism, and they live in a village that
preserves its original architecture built in and around a working
There are several
centuries-old wooden mansions with elaborate and traditional
interiors, tucked along narrow lanes among craft shops, mom-and-pop
restaurants and houses with laundry drying and flower boxes abloom.
Aboard a colorful gondola, visitors can view the whole scene from
Looking back at my
visit, I think I should have traded my day in the country to remain
in Shanghai for a riverboat cruise on the Huangpu, joining
flotillas of modern container ships and oceangoing junks, packed
ferries, convoys of barges and bobbing sampans coming from and
going to the mouth of the Yangtze River 18 miles to the
To contact reporter
Carla Hunt, send e-mail to[email protected].