One of the largest, most mysterious cities in the world has emerged Shanguai from a long slumber to become a major player on the global scene.
Author Laurie Werner
Head to the leafy French
ConcessionDAY TWO Forgo a taxi (though they’re inexpensive—the longest ride on this itinerary costs no more than four dollars) in favor of a brisk walk to People’s Square 1, a bustling mall packed with—what else?—people, and grab croissants and coffee at any one of the dozens of dim sum stalls. Then stroll Nanjing Lu and check out the shops, which reflect a fine balance of cutting-edge fashion and the highly negotiable prices of Old Shanghai. You’ve discovered the sweet spot between the fashionable present and the cut-rate past. Take advantage without guilt.
Cross the square to the Shanghai Museum 2, which resembles a large cooking pot, complete with jug handles, and houses 120,000 objects of fine art, including collections of ceramics, weapons and sculptures dating back to the Neolithic Era. You’ll also see the calligraphy paintings of misty mountains often found in dentists’ offices. Except, you know, these are the real thing.
Double back to the French Concession and walk until you encounter the seductively named street Calm Heaven. Here, you’ll find the bustling restaurant Jesse 3. Boisterous waiters are anything but calm as they weave magically through the warren of crowded dining rooms bearing steaming plates of boiled red hairy crabs, roasted fatty pork and carafes of local wine. Opt for the house special, a soothingly tender salt-cured chicken.
Raise the red (and
yellow) lanternsNow it’s time for Shanghai’s world-renowned foot massage. There is an abundance of stylish day spas that will competently pet those barking dogs, but the adventurous tourist should take what locals insist is the truly authentic route: Find a salon in which the masseurs are blind. Skeptically, you make your way to Lulu’s 4, where the sightless experts use intuition to isolate (sometimes with uncomfortable vigor) whatever ails you. Trust them: The after-effects are eye-opening.
Let your happy feet carry you to the Dongtai Lu antiques market 5, a long stretch of stalls whose chatterbox proprietors are experts at the hard sell. The products range from high-end antiques to Communist kitsch (such as a scale ceramic Chairman and Mrs. Mao relaxing in ceramic armchairs). Don’t be afraid to haggle, and don’t let the shouting of the hawkers throw you off—they’re here to argue. All that spirited commerce gins up an appetite, so you head to Fu 1039 6, a bistro in a converted 1930s-style clapboard house that’s tucked away in an alley in the French Concession. The food is a mix of classic and nouveau Shanghainese and comes in onerously large portions. You can skip the soup dumplings and go straight to the crispy local smoked herring and drunken chicken poached in shaoxing wine.
Just be sure to keep in mind as the waiter offers you another glass of the deceptively smooth shaoxing: It’s the chicken that’s supposed to be drunken, not you. Off to bed.