Thursday, March 31, 2016

Shanghai 2015- Waldorf Astoria on The Bund

Walking on The Bund at night is one of the most pleasurable experience in Shanghai. The night time views are impressive and romantic. What's even greater is that you can easily pop in and out of the numerous luxury hotels, restaurants and pubs that dot The Bund to check them out.

Another architectural gem on The Bund is now the Waldorf Astoria Hotel. This used to be The Shanghai Club - an exclusive gentlemen's club for the British residents in Shanghai. It boasted at one time the longest bar in the World - the 34m Long Bar.

Today the Waldorf Astoria occupies this Baroque Revival building which like all the other buildings on The Bund has been restored to its former glory. The most impressive part of the building is the oval shaped balcony which overlooks the Grand Brasserie - Waldorf's all day dining venue. 

The hotels along The Bund easily rival the luxury and opulence of hotels in New York or London - with prices to match. Shanghai used to be a place to get a taste of European opulence at more affordable prices. Sadly that is no more - in fact some of the restaurants here charge astronomical prices which may make even a seasoned foodie cry.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Shanghai 2015 - The Jazz Bar

The Bund in Shanghai boasts a dazzling collection of heritage buildings, and one of the most iconic is The Peace Hotel. After extensive renovations the hotel is now re-branded as Fairmont Peace Hotel under the Canadian luxury hotel group. Inside the hotel is a famous bar simply known as The Jazz Bar. This bar is as famous and infamous as The Cotton Club in New York - and was where the rich, powerful and notorious of Shanghai go to have a good time.

Visiting The Jazz Bar for the first time - courtesy of an invitation from an old friend, I was surprised at the size of it. The venue is actually quite small - but it was packed to the bream. On most nights you will need to queue to wait for a table.

The legendary Old Jazz Band still performs here nightly. The musicians look like they came right out of the 30s. Thankfully the singer was less ancient and she was very good - belting out old Shanghai standards like a pro. 

The Fairmont Peace Hotel is an Art Deco gem. The interior which has been restored to its past splendour is truly magnificent.

If you want to get a feel of what life in glamourous old Shanghai used to be, the Peace Hotel and The Jazz Bar is where you should go. Don't forget to bring a fat wallet too - you will need it.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Shanghai 2015 - Haidilao Hot Pot Restaurant

Haidilao Hot Pot is a local culinary sensation in Shanghai. It is so popular that there are usually long queues waiting for a spot at the coveted tables. Thankfully the wait usually isn't too long - and the service here is legendary. While you wait you are given lots of snacks to keep you happy, and there are even free manicures for the ladies.

Once you are seated, you order the food on a tablet. It is quite convenient as the total is tallied up on the tablet as you order - so you know exactly how much you are spending. There are different types of soup base to choose from - we chose the Sichuan hot oil soup and a herbal soup. Personally I prefer the herbal soup which has a nice subtle fragrance - whereas the Sichuan soup tends to mask the taste of most items dipped into it.

Besides the normal ingredients for the hot pots such as pork, lamb, beef and seafood, you can also order other small dishes and snacks to complement the meal. 

Order then Kung Fu noodles and you get a noodle master to perform at your table.

Service throughout the meal was exceptional by China standards. Wait staff were always at hand to help with cleaning up the table, topping up the soup, divvy up the food, etc. This is one of the most pleasant, satisfying and value-for-money dining experiences you could have in Shanghai, and it won't end up emptying your wallet either.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Shanghai 2015 - Tian Zi Fang

One of the most popular spot in the French Concession is Tian Zi Fang. This area consists of a maze of narrow residential streets which have been converted into a rabbit warren of shops, cafes, restaurants, pubs, etc. Most of the buildings have been preserved with very little intervention - which contributes to its organic and nostalgic charm. 

The first time you go there you can't help but get lost in the maze. If you are serious about getting to where you want to go instead of just rambling around - it is best to get a map or a good local guide. The place is a treasure trove for those who want to fill up their abodes with curious knick-knacks. 

Many of the cafes here are very Instagram-friendly.  You will find that most of the patrons are more interested in taking selfies then what's on offer.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Shanghai 2015 - Nanchang Road French Concession

The French Concession is one of my favourite areas in Shangai. Tree-lined streets, quaint Colonial architecture, a laid-back vibe - whats not to like ? It is quite a large area and not possible to fully explore in 1 or 2 days. Pick 1 or 2 streets and it will make a relaxing and enjoyable half day sojourn. 

This trip I picked the Nanchang Road area which is fast becoming one of the popular enclave in the French Concession with its trendy cafes, restaurants and fashion boutiques. 

Step behind the main street and you will find a living and breathing neighbourhood. It never ceases to amaze me that in a city of 14 million people you can still find quiet sanctuaries like these.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Shanghai 2015 - Shanghai Natural History Museum

Shanghai isn't just about The Bund and Nanjing Road anymore. A multitude of new developments have made it into a cultural, artistic and culinary destination to compete with the best in World. One of the latest cultural institutions which opened in April 2015 is the Shanghai Natural History Museum. One of the top museum design firms - Perkins & Wills was selected to design the project from an international competition. And what they have done is spectacular.

The plan of the building is based on a spiral nautilus shell. Once you enter the building - you are faced with an impressive multi-level atrium - which lead your views to the different levels of the museum. You then work your way down through the exhibitions - and the design of the exhibits are some of the best I have ever seen.

The displays are cutting edge and impressive.

A visit to this museum will rekindle your interest in the natural world - even though you are looking at stuffed animals. It is fascinating !

If you visit Shanghai - make sure you make this one of the required stops. It is rewarding both for the old and the young.