Monday, April 4, 2011

Dragon Diaries: Reflections on China (Part 2: Shanghai)

Joma Arts in Taikang Lu
After 5 days of non-stop sightseeing in dusty, historic Beijing, we flew two hours southeast to Shanghai. I'd read about the economic growth of the city before the trip, but I had no idea what I was truly in to see. Shanghai is China's biggest city with over 23 million people and given it's rapid expansion over the past two decades, it has emerged as an international center for commerce, finance, fashion, and culture. As we battled the sea of traffic from the airport to our hotel. located in the city's center, I experienced total shock and awe over the city's jagged, endless skyline.  Our hotel was on People's Square which is now home to the municipal government headquarters and The Shanghai Art Museum. We learned quickly that cab drivers (or most Shanghai Chinese residents for that matter) don't speak English and you need addresses in Chinese characters to get where you need to go by taxi. Needless to say it was quite an adventure, especially with the nearly 3 inches of rain that fell on the city the first 48 hours we were there.  However, we certainly made the most of it and for anyone planning a trip to Shanghai, I highly recommend the site for the best in arts and culture.

Pudong from The Bund
A few of the highlights of our adventures in the city were the Urban Planning Exhibition Center which contains a history of the city's development and contains an enormous 3-D model of Shanghai by 2020; you wouldn't believe what is in store for this mushrooming metropolis in the next decade. I was really impressed with their commitment to green space in the city, setting an example for environmental urban planning across the world. The second must-see is a section of the French Concession called Taikang Lu (Lu means Street in Chinese). It's a pedestrian maze of boutiques, galleries and restaurants and you can spend hours weaving through the stores and discovering unique items for the home. One of my favorite shops was Joma Arts which was filled with art, pillows, statues and jewelry from Tibet and India. The final highlight of Shanghai for me was viewing Shanghai at night from The Bund. Along the Huangpu River sits Pudong, the financial and commercial center for the city, and at night the buildings are lit from top to bottom, electrifying the city's skyline in all its modern glory. We had the perfect date night in Shanghai which started with dirty martinis and raw oysters at The Long Bar in the recently opened Waldorf Astoria (the hotel was restored to its orignal 1911 architectural materpiece when it was the legendary Shanghai Club); this was followed by a decadent four-course French culinary journey created by Jean-Georges in Three on The Bund. Over truffle gnocchi, beef tenderloin, and creme brulee, we took in the extraordinary lights of Pudong. I had to pinch myself asI felt worlds away from my life in Virginia.

Here are a few pictures of the design inspirations I found in Shanghai.

People's Park (we watched some Chinese students dance like Justin Timberlake)
Chanel exhibit at Shanghai Art Museum (mimicking Coco)

Chinese garden stool at Propaganda Poster Museum

woven blanket from Ming Dynasty
Shanghai Art Museum

glass ceiling in The Peace Hotel Shanghai

The Peace Hotel

entry way to Shanghai silk store

painted white wall with backlit lattic openings just off The Bund

the new Waldorf Astoria on The Bund

Waldorf Astoria ( I loved this set of silk prints)

The Bund by night from the window of John Georges

Taikang Lu

checking out the Deke Erh photography exibit at Taikang Lu

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