June 3rd, 2013

Does My Bomb Look Big In This?

Travel - Shanghai Sights

With the Hotel Indigo Shanghai on the Bund as my home base, my first stop was a walk along The Bund. There's a nice high paved boardwalk, which affords you great views of The Bund's striking architecture, the Huangpu River and Pudong across the water.  However it's almost as interesting to just people watch!

I was struck by how new everyone's clothes were, and by how few Western tourists there were.

It seems that Chinese tourists from other parts of China mostly frequent The Bund river walk, and they're there to be seen - dressed in their best outfits.

A brief word of warning: there is a scam operating on The Bund where Chinese students ask you to take a photo with their camera, and then ask you to have tea with them so they can practice their English.

Their English is in fact very good – they seize upon you with such a wall of words and questions, it’s hard to get a word in edgewise.

They are very particular about the tea house they insist you will have tea in with them (they get a cut) so if you do get there, expect to be paying for everyone (somewhere in the vicinity of a hundred bucks).

They exploit our Western discomfort with seeming rude. A firm ‘no thank you’ and walking away is your best strategy.

By day the only downside is the poor air quality, which adds a hazy quality to the sights. By night however things crisp up, so do book in some time on the Huangpu River.

The best way to do this is on a boat, and despite the cold, I enjoyed every minute of it! It’s a little like New Year’s Eve here every night of the year!

The hotel is also well placed to visit the beautiful Yu Garden (also known as Yu Yuan Garden). A walk through the ornate gardens (designed in 1559 the Ming Dynasty and constructed in 1577) should end you up at the traditional Bridge of Nine Turnings. It's designed so evil spirits can't follow you, apparently they're not excellent with corners...

Taking the crazy path along the edge of the pretty artificial lake will get you to the Yu Yuan Tourist Mart.

This is an ornate bazaar filled with small streets and lanes, where all sorts of vendors sell everything from souvenirs to gold to jade to food stuffs. It's the home to the much touted dumpling house called Nanxiang Mantou Dian, and is frequented by locals and tourists alike.

Of course you should expect the hard sell as you walk through this market (a firm no is your friend) but it's worth it to admire the heart of Shanghai's Old City. While you're in the neighbourhood, take a stroll down one of the laneways to get a real look at traditional Shanghai life. You'll see tiny low-rise rambling houses with washing hung out on poles and people preparing food and going about their daily lives. It's one of the only remaining areas in the city where people live communally like this - most have made the move to high-rise living.

You might even stumble upon this food stall street. It's a riot of colour, smell and movement, with motorbikes and bicycles weaving down it between the crowds here to get their lunch.

They're eating everything from noodles and rice dishes prepared at tiny little outlets, to cold shellfish, to brightly coloured skewers of fruit.

It's not just this area that's teaming with street food. You'll find all sorts of street food vendors selling off bicycles and carts wherever you go in Shanghai.

Some of the best sights I found were just walking around and taking it all in - including a man shaving fresh noodles off a large block with a potato peeler, each noodle arcing out the window and landing into a steaming pot of water.

In the streetside fresh produce stakes you'll find everything, including live fish. While these ones are made for super fresh eating, you can also find ones meant for keeping at the Flower and Bird Market (sometimes called the Flower, Bird, Fish and Insect Market).

Before you enter, prepare yourself for a cacophony of sound - chirping crickets and many different bird calls.

The rambling market will give you a look at the types of pets the Shanghainese people keep in those towering apartment blocks. You'll find hundreds of goldfish (sadly with too many in the same tank), turtles, albino frogs and really cute chinchilla.

In case you're scratching your head, they're South American rodents, a little bigger than squirrels.

For a whackier animal-related spot, jump a cab to Miao Club in the former French Concession. It's a cafe (not sure I'm keen on eating in it though) where you get to interact with a house full of cats. They also do cat adoptions.

While you're walking and driving around town, make sure you check out the architecture. In every direction you'll find a wide range of architectural styles, from the early 20th-century buildings on The Bund in neoclassical and art deco styles, to all sorts of eccentric high rise towers.

Some of my favourites included the golden 'robot', the pyramid trapping a smoking ball, and this brutalist looking tower.

As Shanghai has more buildings taller than 400 meters than any other city in the world, there's certainly lots to look at as you cruise this mega city!

You'll also see whole groups of the same building design repeated - it's enough to make you feel like the architecture is closing in!

If you want a smaller scale way to understand the city, you might also like to check out the Urban Planning Exhibition Hall. It's got a truly amazing scale model of Shanghai that rotates through daytime and nighttime. It's about the only way to see it all at once!

Keep your eyes peeled for the final part of my Shanghai adventure, which also talks about attractions you might like to visit during your stay. This trip was only made possible by the kindness of New Shanghai who provided my airfares.

Please also see: Shanghai, Shanghai Eats, Shanghai Bars & Shanghai Attractions.
Does My Bomb Look Big In This?

This Week's Food News

Published in the City Hub, Inner West Independent and City News.

With the onset of winter, it’s nice to see Marrickville Council endorse local cafes to use the Suspended Coffee scheme. It allows those in need to rock up to a participating café and receive a free cup of coffee, paid for by those who can afford an extra cup. If you’re looking for the perfect coffee, there’s (another) new guide out called The Australian Coffee Book [RRP $8]. It’s a skinny paperback that purports to deliver Australia’s top one hundred cups. They missed out all my local favourites, like Runcible Spoon in Camperdown working with The Golden Cobra coffee, and Balmain’s Little Marionette. Workshop Espresso in the CBD serves a cup that has them queuing down the street. Shame they didn’t make the guide…

Over the last few weeks I've started doing a Pub of the Week radio spot on 2GB 873 on Luke Mangan's show Fresh! I'll also be having dinner at his restaurant Glass Brasserie as part of the Sydney Film Festival's collaboration with the Bordeaux wine flick, Red Obsession. Now the first session I'm attending is sold out, but I'm told the second Gourmet Cinema event has 50 seats left for Wed 12 June at 6:30pm. Below you'll find details on the film and matching dinner experience, as well as how to book! I am looking forward to this one!


Red Obsession: Gourmet Cinema Film & Dinner

This complete evening package includes the movie, meal and wine, combining an Australian Premiere documentary with a menu created by a legendary chef at his hatted restaurant; plus carefully-matched wines from an award-winning Australian producer alongside some famous drops from the Bordeaux region of France. This is the one Sydney Film Festival event where every single sense will be truly satisfied. Book now, as numbers are strictly limited! http://tix.sff.org.au/session2_sff.asp?sn=Red+Obsession%3A+Gourmet+Cinema+Film+%26+Dinner&s=493

The legendary Bordeaux region, ‘the best plot of land in the world’, has been producing valued wine for centuries. The region’s fortunes, long exposed to the vagaries of climate, are now swayed by market forces. In 2010, when a vintage year was on the cards, the global financial crisis ensured that Western pockets were empty, and cashed-up Chinese buyers set the price. This shift, fuelled by the East’s obsession with these illustrious vineyards, created a perfect wine storm; co-director and vigneron Warwick Ross documented the upheaval. Narrated by Russell Crowe, Red Obsession is an expertly told, delectable tale of a much-coveted global commodity in times of change

Following the movie, enjoy a 3-course ‘Bordeaux inspired’ dinner at hatted restaurant glass brasserie at Sydney’s Hilton Hotel. The evening’s menu has been especially created by Luke Mangan and includes matching Bordeaux old world wines and new world wines by Eden Road Wines.

Headed by award-winning restaurateur Luke Mangan, glass brasserie offers Sydneysiders an unprecedented dining experience in the heart of the city. Offering simplicity, quality and consistency in all aspects of food, wine and service, Luke employs French techniques and international flavours to perfect his Contemporary Australian cuisine.

Please note: Seating for this dinner will be communal, however bookings of 6 or more will be guaranteed individual tables.

The Gourmet Cinema dinner is available for diners 18 years and above.