9/8/08

Shanghai Baby 06

Shanghai Babies!

Fancy going to China on your next shopping spree? It’s a ten-hour flight from Heathrow, but if it’s shopping you’re after, then I guarantee you the trip will ultimately be a more rewarding venture than travelling to either LA or South Africa, both equal distances from Dublin.
China is an enigmatic land of gigantic proportions and fast becoming a high profile destination for global economic affairs. Entry to the WTO World Trade Organisation had brought a wealth of foreign investment to the country and Shanghai is the new darling, taking over from the now over priced, fading economic star - Hong Hong. Although China’s political regeme does nothing to enhance the perception of the country and the SARS outbreak was in danger of tarnishing our preceptions even further, this country is opening up to all, and creating a welcoming and enchanting environment for business and shoppers alike.

I loved every minute of my trip to Shanghai. I travelled there with model, Kiki Zo on a shopping extravaganza that lasted two weeks and I left wanting more!
Shanghai is electric! Still under major construction, along with the rest of China, Shanghai is a vast jungle of concrete and people; a rare concoction of smells and sounds - truly a sight for sore eyes. Sore feet too, if you opt to walk anywhere. As you’d expect from the largest city in the world, Shanghai shopping and night life are spread out, but thankfully taxi fares are cheap as chips (E2.50 FOR 20 MINUTES RIDE) and well regulated so even the non Chinese speaking tourist like me could make my way around this vast city without too much fuss.

Getting around
Getting around was a daunting experience at first, quiet like jumping onto a fast moving train! Once you’re on, you have a smug sense of achievement which lasts right up until you need to make your next move! My advice is toget organised with a good map, preferably in English and Chinese as most if not all taxi drivers will not read an English/pinyin address.

Tips on Bargaining
I found there were three prices for everything in China - the written price on the item, the Chinese price and the tourist price. Like most countries, bargaining is key and surprisingly easy to do with a calculator. Bring one! Don’t feel guilty for not haggling all the time as over focusing on prices can ruin a good day shopping. Chances are you’ll pick up a few bargains anyway. The majority of the time, tis worth a bit of banter. Most times you are likely to get it at half the price. Just remember, they want to sell even more than you want to buy in most cases.
And yes, they seem to think we are all millionaires.

Shopping
Nanjing Road
Although titled The Number One Commercial St in China, I didn’t do much shopping here at all. Loads to see, but if its designer fakes you’re after, you won’t find them here.
Xiang Yang Road Market
This is what shopping is all about for me! A vast market full of stalls selling everything fake from all the top designers - Louis Vutton being by far the most popular. Remember fakes come in 4 grades A,B,C and D. The grades at this market vary and its up to you to know what you’re looking for. Do your research! Be careful of the guys trying to lure you away from the market to private stores of stock. Although these fellows are mostly genuine, there are plenty of reasons why you should trust no one and being ‘Shanghai-ed’ is one of them! It’s not a mith. Get a guide if at all possible. It really helps when you have a Chinese speaker with you. Expect to see Christian Dior sunglasses for E6 and some of the best fake Gucci bags I’ve ever seen for about E14 (Check out for Haui Hai St Market and Xing Wang market on 9i Pu Road if this is your style of shopping!)
New World
An ultra modern area, I suppose equivalent to our Temple Bar with bars and designer shopping open late at night. I loved the layout of this area but the prices in the bars would make your hair curl.
Yubyuan Commercial City
This is Old Shanghai - a collection of beautiful old style buildings full of fantastic shopping for any self-respecting tourist. Visit the ancient Yuyuan Gardens, which are close by and eat in the famous dumpling restaurant - no English name -so just look out for the huge queues of hungry Chinese customers!
The Peoples Square
Is worth noting for the large Shopping Centre called Hong Kong Label St. build beneath it.

Bars & Clubs
We met two great Dutch girls in a club one night who recommended various clubs and bars including The Loft, The Kitchen, The White Room and Fuxi Nan Lu, but we didn’t make it to any of them - maybe you’ll have more luck finding them!We did make it to Heng Shan Rd where there are an array of bars. We liked an English Bar called Bourbon St Bar and KTV Bar/Club (Real Love) all on the same street.
Communication
Don’t bring your mobile unless you want a bill running to four figures. I am speaking from experience here! Try to get a mobile there if necessary. Use e-mail, its cheap and widely available.
Credit Cards
Cash is the language everyone speaks in China. Don’t use your card if it can be helped.
Custom and National pride
The Chinese are a very proud nation. They appreciate anyone making an effort to speak Chinese (even if you re the butt of all their jokes for months after you leave!) They also have great respect for the English language and see it as an essential tool in maximizing their healthy 9% annual economic growth rate, thus making China a force to reckon with. Don’t be alarmed if you find people trust their children towards you and force them to engage in conversation. This is done in the hope that their child will a) learn some English or b) impress family and neighbours around them by speaking English to a foreigner.

Environment
Yes tis true - China is a dirty place - It is a country where the deconstruction of the environment is seen as development. The waste disposal system in place simply doesn’t work. A plastic bag levy would be laughed out of government or just plain misunderstood by the common man here, but I’ve never seen a country more in need of some kind of regulation. Litter is strewn everywhere - even the remote rivers and walkways in the deep countryside are littered with modern day waste. But there is light at the end of this particular tunnel. The Chinese Government has issued grants to many cities to address this growing problem.
Beauty
Massage
A wide varity of massage on offer, in particular reflexology. Have a foot massage every day for about E4. It s the wisest investment you’ll make I assure you. If you can get to one of the major Sauna houses, you’ll be in for a treat. Check out if you can stay over night and enjoy all the facilities for head to toe pampering.
Hair treatment
Available most good salons, it is expensive at E15, considering you can get your haircut of E1 but definitely worth it. Two girls spent over an hour massaging Mink Oil conditioner into strands of my hair then left me under a steamer for 20 minutes. After a rinse, my hair was soft and conditioned like never before.
Nail Care!
I got acrylic tips for the grand total of E4 so don’t leave Shanghai without a set!
Essential reading:
Green Dragon, Sombre Warrior by Liam D’Arcy Brown
An in depth look at the growing economic force that is ‘China’
Shanghai Baby by Wei hui
A brilliant, light, romantic insight into the life of an young, female Chinese author and her ill-fated love life.
Must Do’s
For reasons to many to mention - Karaoke - Just do it!
Huangpu River Cruise
We got on a boat in the Pudong New area and travelled up the river, soaking up the most incredible skyline I’ve ever seen. Go at night for an even better view.
Address:219-239 Zhonshan Dong Er Rd. Reservations: PH63299992
Oriental Pearl TV Tower
Situated in the Pudong New area, it’s the third highest TV tower in the world. There’s an observation deck where you can see the whole of the city. We tied in with the river cruise and that made it really worthwhile.
Where to stay:
you can afford to be choosy. Every major hotel group in the world has a hotel in this city. Be warned, prices will be the same as home in most cases. I found some bargains and can recommend:
Shanghai DaZhong Merrylin Hotel ****
Palatial four-star hotel they have a superb restaurant in the complex along with a gym, tennis courts and beauty salon. Standard Rooms are priced at approx E80 per night and a 10 min taxi ride will have you in the heart of Shanghai centre.
Address:
699 Wuzhung rd
Shanghai 201103
www.merrylin.com
Ph 64466666
Sofitel Hyland Shanghai
You can’t get any closer than this hotel! Slap bang in the middle of Nanjing Rd (largest shopping street in Shanghai) a great place to stay to soak up the atmosphere of busy high street Shanghai. The Sofitel group also have another hotel in The Pudding district Shanghai, near the Oriental Pearl building. Prices start at E70 including breakfast.
Accor Hotels & Resorts
505 Nanjing Rd East
Shanghai 200001
www.accorhotels.com
Ji mao Hotel
1525 Zhongshan Rd
Shanghai 200233
Ph 021 64645558
Fax 021-64642528
This is the most economical of the three options- a well-equipped 3 star hotel. We felt the quality of the rooms were just as good as a four star - prices starting at E40 Double room. We did have to commute by taxi (20 min to the main shopping district) but once we had the address written in Chinese it didn’t pose a problem.

Shanghai in Brief:
My own personal 20 second guide to Shanghai includes the following:
Smog
Beware of the haze…
Crossing the road
Putting it simply, you take your life in your hands.
Pickpockets
They re nimble professionals - be ware.
Over pricing
Foreigners pay more - the unwritten rule.
Boozing with locals:
Enjoy it but they’ll drink you under the table!
Toilets
I can’t prepare you for some of the sights I saw around the city. Be warned. Hotel loos are top standard as a rule.
Karaoke
Get practicing because you won’t escape without singing a bar or two! I surprised myself more than once and sung songs I didn’t even know I knew - learn a verse of Careless Whisper and you’ll ‘wow’ your audience, I promise.

No comments: