For the final instalment of my Shanghai adventure we moved hotels to the Fairmont Peace Hotel.
From the moment I walked in, I felt like I was on an art deco movie set, yet one quickly realises that this is no movie set - it's real art deco.
So expect to find yourself strolling the grand halls of what once was The Cathay Hotel (which opened in August 1929), with your mouth gaping!
If you keep wandering, you might stumble upon the Jasmine Lounge, where you can partake of high tea, and admire a beautiful piano played by stars including Marlene Dietrich.
When you finally scoop your jaw off the mosaic floors, it's time to find your beautifully appointed suite.
My two favourite features were the claw-footed bath with in-bath television and waterproof remote control; and your own in-room coffee machine. The bed is soft, the decor tasteful, in fact you'd be perfectly happy except while I was there, the hotel was renovating the Mezzanine level, which meant they were hammering from 9am-5pm every day of the week. Not quite conducive to spending quality time enjoying your suite!
On the first night we were there we took a crazy taxi ride to Shanghai Circus World to see Era - Intersection of Time. Taxi rides are quite the adventure in Shanghai - I spent all of them in the back seat trying to not see the near misses on the crowded roads.
I love circus, and see a lot of it, so this was not my first introduction to Chinese circus, though it was my first visit in China. The show takes place in a geodesic dome. Seats are relatively cramped and not the most comfortable, but as soon as the show starts, you won't care. Tricks are well performed with more emphasis on skill-based acts (acro-balance, trampolining, silks) than clowning. My favourite act besides the terrifying finale, was the partnered silks. It was a beautiful and innovative male-female routine.
The finale was a death-defying sphere which performers enter on dirt bikes. I have seen this act before, but never with more than three bikes inside a relatively small dome. So at three, I shut my eyes and started screaming. I peeked at four, but when they did two bikes doing vertical lines, two doing horizontal, I screamed some more. Then they put in the fifth bike. When they were all going around the circle's circumference in a line I was holding my breath. There couldn't have been more than twenty centimenters between the nose of one bike and the tail of the next. When three more bikes came out to enter the sphere I was flabbergasted. They got eight bikes into the sphere, for a thankfully short time. It was an astounding routine.
As a sidebar, our concierge told us two performers had been killed doing this act already, and all the rest are scarred from it. I am not surprised. They all certainly deserve your money and you're unlikely to think the show is poor value whatever seats you take (by the way, B-Reserve seats on the ground tier are perfectly fine).
It's also fun to view The Bund by night - though on the evening I picked, the famous Oriental Pearl Tower was a stick without a round top due to the fog.
However the eerie haze did nothing to dampen the looks of the wonderful architectural collection of buildings along The Bund, in fact it accentuates their baroque, gothic and art deco styles!
You should also turn the corner down Fuzhou Road to check out the Gotham City-esque Shanghai Metropole Hotel, one of Shanghai's most glamorous hotels back in the 1930s. Inside it's not much to look at, but it certainly cuts a menacing three-corner skyline outside!
While you're on your feet, be sure to take a stroll (or a tourist train) up Nanjing Road to check out all the neon lights.
This bustling commercial street is popular with locals and tourists alike, and even looks good in the rain (especially from inside a covered tourist train).
This hotel is also well placed for a trip to Pudong on the other side of the Huangpu River. We chose to take The Bund Sightseeing Tunnel - a strange but entertaining way to cross underneath a reasonably grubby river!
You travel through a rather trippy tunnel in a small glass carriage - it's cheesy but funny, and a convenient way to get to Pudong.
On this side of the river there's a boardwalk, and if you're lucky you might even see a kite flyer.
He's flying a very simple (and inexpensive) centipede kite, and I was even lucky enough to get a turn flying it!
While you're looking up, check out the amazing Pudong skyline, or travel up 474 meters to the hundredth floor of the Shanghai World Financial Centre. You can also go up the neighbouring 420.5 meters (or 88 stories) in the neighbouring Jin Mao Tower, which gives you a good view of the more impressive Shanghai World Financial Centre, as well as the twisting tower that is set to be the tallest of the group at 632 meters. (If you're after some bars or restaurants to visit while you are in Pudong, check out my previous posts: Shanghai Eats & Shanghai Bars.)
If you're more interested in art than architecture, head to M50 Creative Park at 50 Moganshan Road. It's packed with an array of galleries that could keep you busy all day, and the road in is decorated with some of the only street art I managed to see in Shanghai.
From there jump a cab to the former French Concession and locate the Shanghai Propaganda Poster Art Centre in the basement of an apartment complex (remember, printed instructions in Chinese for cab drivers are your friend). It's worth the hunt for the fabulous collection of Maoist period posters.
The owner, Mr. Yang Pei Ming, is a fountain of information and is keen to hear about where his (almost all) foreign visitors hail from. Hearing I was from Australia, he told me he'd had a Christmas card from Kevin Rudd. Mr. Yang Pei Ming explained that while he'd never actually met Kevin Rudd, his son had visited the museum. He was much more interested in hearing about Julia Gillard, who it would seem appeals to the Chinese more than Rudd. He explained that the Chinese youth are not interested in hearing about China's communist history, they're all fully developed capitalists, though in my travels I did spy a Chinese man on a bike riding around behind a poster of Chairman Mao.
While we're talking about the streets, simply driving around Shanghai is a visually stimulating adventure.
Intersections look like chaos, and everywhere there are bicycles and motorbikes weaving between pedestrians and vehicles.
As the traffic is on the other side of the road, it takes a few days to get used to knowing where you should be looking.
While I was in Shanghai, I learned that a walk sign means it's safer to cross rather than it's safe to cross; that there is seemingly no limit to the number of things you can carry on the back of a motorcycle; and that bamboo scaffolding is perfectly safe (well safe enough - it's been banned in China for buildings over six stories)!
After a morning of art, you're probably thirsting for a beverage and perhaps a spot of shopping? I found the arts and crafts area Tianzifang to be a great spot for an afternoon combing narrow alleyways for souvenirs, art and the odd snack.
Spying More Than Toilet (which I had seen on a television show) I couldn't resist going in and sitting on the commode!
Their menu of snacks includes tiny squatter toilets bearing chocolate soft serve. It's gimmicky but cheap and fun enough to warrant you taking a load off those aching tootsies.
This is an amazing city that I feel I only just touched on in six and a half days and five colourful posts on this blog. I'd definitely like to return to China again after travelling to Shanghai (courtesy of New Shanghai who provided my airfares).
Please also see: Shanghai, Shanghai Eats, Shanghai Bars & Shanghai Sights.
Fairmont Peace Hotel
Era - Intersection of Time
Shanghai Metropole Hotel
Shanghai World Financial Centre
Jin Mao Tower
M50 Creative Park