Iím often asked what one city you should go to right now. At this moment, itís Shanghai. Caught between the old and the new, there is no other city like it and as it's changing at the speed of light, a year from now it will be different so this is the trip of the moment.
The Park Hotel on Nanjing Lu. Itís at the centre from where they measured everything in Shanghai and itís historic. Or the Westin down the street if you donít mind being in the middle of the big shopping street. Nanjing Lu is one of the main streets which runs into the Bund (the shore). It's a whole shopping and eating section with lots to see at night.
If you walk to the Bund at night, you'll see across to Pudong which is the new district of Shanghai - a worthwhile late night walk.
Hire a car and driver through your hotel and take a day trip to see Tong Li which is one of many of China's historic river villages.
Go to the Yu Garden - very touristy but go inside the MidLake Pavilion tea house and have a glass of tea - it's very old Ming Dynasty and the quail egg, mochi and free painted fan that comes with your tea is fun.
Across from the Yu Garden there is a big jewelry store - you are looking for the Terminal Market of Pearls. Go to the 3rd floor. China has amazing real cultured pearls and this is the place to buy them. These are real and gorgeous.
Huahai Lu is the other big shopping street. Start at Lane Crawford and walk towards the Xiangyang xichang (market). Inside Lane Crawford on the 5th floor is a great dim sum restaurant called Han Lim Quok.
I also like the Giordano on Nanjing Lu which is part of a Hong Kong chain - the upstairs has quite smart women's clothing.
Take a taxi - you cannot walk - to a fabric market called Dongjiadu Lu - inside - you can have clothes tailoured - actually I would go here the first day so that you have time to come back and pick it up as well as have it refitted if you need to. You can bring photos of clothes you want made or have a style of an old item that's falling apart remade for you. I like the stand in the very back that does nothing but Chanel-esque tweed jackets. Fantastic.
Leave extra space in your suitcase you will be buying a lot of stuff.
EAT & DRINK
The Pudong Hyatt is a super pricey meal - the hotel goes to the 88th floor and on the 86th floor you must have a reservation is the best view but be warned it's not cheap, maybe $100 US for two? It's called Cloud 9 and is also a bar at night with bottle service.
At the other end of price range, on Nanjing Lu - the New World Building with two outside glass elevators can take you up to the Shicai food court on 10 for cheap local eats - I'd stick to the stands which seem real popular and I recommend the box sets or the noodles.
Bar-wise Bar Rouge is really popular right now as is a place called Barrosso for drinks.
A restaurant called Shintori is a must experience. It's on Henshang Lu and here's the trick - when you get to the metal gate, you have to wave your hand inside the "z" for the motion sensor to open the door. Not as cheap as street eats but if you have to pick one posh place, this is the crazy one. Go before it gets dark because then you can see that it's like sitting inside a tree house - it's glass on all sides and literally inside the trees.
One more tip. You have to have the egg tarts (dan taht) from Surprise! They're really good. It's a chain, you can't miss it.
Bring loose clothing which covers you up. The sun is VERY strong. I was sunburnt after just two hours and I was wearing major sunblock. Think white linen pants.
Local currency is ren men bi (RMB) - exchange is approx 1 US dollar to 8.2 or 8.3 RMB.
Pedestrians do NOT have right of way and sometimes cars run red lights so be very careful.
Bring a hand-fan if you can - I like the whirly kind that runs on batteries.
When you arrive, grab wabs of your hotel's tissue - public restrooms do not always have TP and be prepared that some of them are holes in the ground with running water so don't wear slippery shoes!
Early on start holding onto coins Ė some public restrooms charge 50 jiao (which is half one RMB) Ė basically 50 cents. 10-50 cents etc to 1 also come in bills so read what bills you're handed back.
It's a cash society so your hotel will of course accept credit as do the big shops and restaurants but sometimes the networks are down so make sure you have lots of cash Ė not all at once of course. Your hotel should have an in-room safe Ė use it. And leave your passport behind Ė you do not want to lose that cause it will be a nightmare for you to get it replaced in China. In fact you should make a photocopy of the ID page and leave it with someone handy at home.