This is the blog post I never found that includes some tips what to do in Shanghai (when you go there for work and have a bit of spare time to see the city).
A technique that worked well was to have a list of about seven things to see and do in your pocket along with addresses written in Mandarin. Then, whenever I had some a slot to fill I just picked a random destination and a cab driver would take me there for two to three pounds. Cabs in Shanghai are cheap and plenty.
A definite must is YuYuan Garden which is very touristy but also very nice. There’s a market where you can buy superb tea and very cheap crap surrounding the garden. Also, there’s a touristy restaurant that does heavenly dim sum just next to the garden entrance.
I’d say the urban planning museum is also a must. In any other city or country this would be a boring dusty place. In Shanghai it’s a temple to planning and manifestation of ideas. Let the greatest car industry hub in the planet be on this piece of land by 2011. Consider it done! (US and Japan who?) Let a green suburban town with 200.000 inhabitants rise on this marshland in 5 years. Voila! Impressive as well as scary stuff.
(Quite a bit of the museum was out of order eg. one escalator and the thingie that tells you about F1 in China. How very illustrative of the fact that plans don’t always pan out the way they should…)
Then there’s the Shanghai Propaganda Poster Art Centre. Or rather a small space in an apartment block basement that feature two rooms full of the art of propaganda. It’s a bit tricky to find, just drive to the address, find the right gate and look a bit lost (it should come quite naturally at that stage). Then, the security guard will come and point you to the right direction. Once inside, you’ll find the full history of China from 1940’s to 1970’s condensed into seventy or so awesome posters. Tauno, thanks for the tip!
If you’re into art and such you’ll also enjoy MoGanShan Road, a block of old warehouses which is now home to dozens of art galleries, workshops and studios. It’s wonderful to potter around in this 3D maze and get acquainted to the hip Chinese modern art. Take Zengguo Li, whose horse painting pictured above is now forever haunting me. Other notes to self: PEI Lian-zhi and Shi Jian and PengPeng. Highrisers are closing in on the MoGanShan area, though. Even on a Sunday, there was intense construction work going on next door. I’d be surprised if this lovely part of the city is still there in five years time.
The tourist/expat nightlife happens on the Bund. There’s plenty of nice restaurants and bars around which are all very nice but there’s not much ‘Shanghai’ there, these venues could be anywhere. There’s also Xin Tian Di area which is full of ‘international’ bars and restaurants and Heng Shan road which is less glam and more local. Except for a bar called Soho there which appears as if Apple’s Jonathan Ivy had designed it, after consuming a large quantity of LSD.
And naturally don’t forget to have a cheap good massages whenever you can, and enjoy the food. If it’s summer go eat at YongFoo Elite where the food is nothing to write home about but the 1920’s ambiance is awesome, especially in the garden terrace. A bit of like Ammende villa in Pärnu, Estonia.
Oh, and I was warned about ‘tea ceremonies’ or ‘showing exclusive art work’ at the back of a bar. Apparently a good way to part with your money, though I wasn’t offered a chance.