Monday, November 13, 2006

Shanghai Day 2: The Love Affair Continues

11:00 Shopping bonanza at Shanghai’s knockoff market – in addition to the usual designer fakes like watches, sneakers, and bags there are silk purses, linen tissue box covers, and other Chinese souvenirs like chopsticks and slippers. You got to haggle hard here. The calculator becomes a fantastic bargaining intermediary as buyers and sellers of all nationalities emphatically punch numbers onto the keyboard and argue in the only language common to both – numbers.
2:30 Buy train tickets for next day’s 12-hour overnight trip to Beijing. The “soft sleeper” in a 4-bed car costs about $60 each. Only con is having to share the car with two mystery travelers. The area outside Shanghai train station indicates that not everyone enjoys prosperity in Shanghai; crowds of Chinese laborers and travelers from rural areas are camped out either waiting for trains or with nowhere to go.
3:30 Metro to People’s Park, a peaceful gem on Shanghai’s urban landscape. Inside the park there’s the Museum of Contemporary Art (below) and the Shanghai Art Museum.

4:00 Peruse the collection at the MOCA (admission is 20RMB or $2.50).

Outside event managers are constructing a display for the dance party that will kick off the Fringe Shanghai Festival that night.

4:45 Late lunch at MOCA's rooftop café. Fantastic views of the park and surrounding skyscrapers. Nice gourmet pizza and coffee for 68RMB ($8).

6:00 After leaving the museum we walk through the park and don’t get too far before we happen upon Barbarossa, a soothing Moroccan lounge perched on a lake in the park. Happy Hour from 5-8 means we are in time for half-price drinks.

7:00 Walk to Houaihai Road, a shopping thoroughfare in the French Concession. The winter lights lend a magical touch to this busy shopping district.

9:00 Dinner at South Beauty 881, a high-concept restaurant complex featuring well-executed Sichuan Fusion cuisine and uber-stylish décor.

The setting is a converted banker’s mansion reconfigured by Japanese design firm Super Potato for a $7.5 million price tag. The space includes cozy colonial private dining rooms inside the mansion, a soothing outdoor patio with an Infiniti pool-style pond and a detached dining room outside whose wooden brick walls are reminiscent of a Jenga set.

The food is superb with plenty of spicy Sichuan dishes including marinated wood ear mushrooms (28 RMB, $4.50), braised green beans in ginger sauce (16 RMB, $2), individual servings of Dan-Dan noodles (8RMB, $1 each) and a fried fish platter (58 RMB, $7) that was prepared by shredding the fish, battering and frying it and covering it in a delicious sweet sauce. The artful presentations and surroundings are interesting enough to keep you entertained. The prices at South Beauty were incredibly affordable given that it is such a shmancy place. Dinner for three people including multiple beers came to about $50 (probably because we shied away from the pricier menu options including shark's fin and bird's nest). The love affair with Shanghai just became a torrid infatuation!

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