6 Attractions in Shanghai
There are hidden corners of this thrumming Chinese metropolis where past and future quietly collide. Story and photos by Christopher Kucway.
Published on Jan 9, 2015
At (1) Shàng-Xí (+86 21 2036 8888; fourseasons.com/pudong) in the Four Seasons Pudong is a taste of traditional China with set menus showcasing the best teas in town. Okay, so the sautéed beef happens to be melt-in-yourmouth wagyu and the steamed pork dumplings come with a hairy crab cream, but its these off-script touches that make lunch all the more unforgettable.
Traditional dishes with flair at Shang-Xi
Among the small collection of restaurants and bars that has sprouted up in a restored Chinese courtyard, (2) Black Pepper (89 Taixing Lu; +86 138 1833 6837) is a favorite for inexpensive Turkish fare and filling meals. Broken down into hot and cold starters, grills and desserts, expect haydari (homemade yogurt), a sea prawn casserole, izgara köfte (grilled meatballs), and tavuk göğsü, a blended chicken breast dessert that has to be tasted to be believed.
Outside Black Pepper
Is there any better way to tour Shanghai's French Concession than from the sidecar of a restored Chinese army motorcycle? Tooling around the tree-lined, history-laden streets on a sunny autumn day for a few hours with (3) Insiders Experience (+86 138 1761 6975; insidersexperience.com), a typical stop is the pine- and maple-dotted gardens of (4) Yongfoo Elite (+86 21 5466 2727; yongfooelite.com), a private club with a throwback feel that conjures the Shanghai of decades past. While in the sidecar, make time for a chat with owner Thomas Chabrieres, who is a font of inside information when it comes to lesser-known addresses. If you'd rather amble about on your own two feet, then touring some of the last remaining shikumen in the city is, well, up your alley. Wedged between Black Pepper and the (5) Four Seasons Puxi (+86 21 6256 8888) is a cluster of streets that date back to the 1920's, but you'll need the assistance of a resident to find your way around. That's where photographer Wang Gangfeng enters the frame. This is his 'hood and he leads tours through these time-worn buildings to which few others have access. The area just screams black-andwhite photography and, in fast-changing Shanghai, better visit now. Some of the narrow lanes are protected but, when asked, Wang admits, "Shanghai people don't really care about these buildings."
Zipping around the French Concession in a sidecar
A standout in Shanghai's forest of a modern skyline, the (6) Four Seasons Pudong (fourseasons.com/pudong) is an escape, both in that you could easily stay put in the hotel all weekend—state-ofthe-art spa, excellent dining and well thought-out guestrooms—and as a launch pad for exploring the older charms of Puxi.
Photo courtesy of Four Seasons Hotel Shanghai at Pudong
THE CITY IN A GLANCE
It is easiest to take taxis but have your destination written down in Chinese and always ask for a receipt or fa piao.
China in Focus
After your tour of the shikumen, stop in at Wang Gangfeng's studio (gangofonephotography.com) to see his often- comical work from around China shot during the past 30 years.