I arrived in Shanghai yesterday and was super excited to start my first speaking tour of China - a country that I know I am not alone in finding fascinating. The pace of change and the rate of growth in the country over the past few years is staggering. I have already been told there are well over 200 cities in China with more than a million residents (Shanghai has around 20m) and that the country is building universities at a rate of two 20,000 student complexes EVERY WEEK.
well as sharing my story with business people, entrepreneurs and students in
the country (ahead of the upcoming launch of the Chinese edition of my book,
SuperBusiness), I have been having to explain exactly what jam is. And
what scones are, what toast and toasters are and what British people eat for
"In China we eat EVERYTHING.... but we don't eat much jam".
Live turtles and frogs for sale at Tesco ("Happy Buy" in Chinese).
I had just over a day to see the sights in this megacity and began with a walk along The Bund, the 1920's colonial-era promenade where nowadays all the banks and fancy hotels are, and where Chinese people go as part of their wedding-photo-taking-tours.
We had a quick look around the Peace Hotel, a beautiful art-deco 1930’s building was at its time the place to stay and was also home to Victor Sassoon, an opium magnate who owned some 1900 buildings in Shanghai.
After a quick walk down East Nanjing Road (Shanghai’s equivalent of Oxford Street, with a slightly surreal Marks and Spencer on it) to People’s Square, we visited the Urban Planning Exhibition Hall (not the sexiest of names but definitely a fascinating, if not a bit weird, museum) – which hosts a gigantic scale model of the city (above).
Shanghai’s Old Town is full of typically Chinese looking buildings, little Buddhist temples and the Yuyan Gardens, which have a whole load of Pagodas and ponds full of Koy Carps.
A toilet themed restaurant in Tianzifang.
We took a stroll around Tianzifang, a kinda Camden-like area with little shops selling kitsch Mao memorabilia, photography and other bits and pieces.
Probably my favourite area of the city is the French Concession, once home to revolutionaries, prostitutes and artists – now a lovely neighbourhood of wine bars, fashion boutiques and restaurants. I went for a Shanghainese dinner at local institution, Baolou Jilou, followed by a few pints at Dr Beer – a brew bar frequented by expats and westernized Chinese.
We also ate at Vegetarian Life Style, which was pretty tasty and quite amusing. All of the meals contained imaginative meat substitutes (so realistic in fact that we had to check they weren’t actually meat!). The vegetarian Beijing Duck was a hit.
A great view of the city can be had from the top of any of the skyscapers – we picked the (pricey) bar at the top of the Park Hyatt.
We stayed at the Hotel Nikko Shanghai, a very plush and comfortable 5* Japanese hotel, complete with an amazing Japanese/Western/Chinese breakfast spread and high tech Toto toilets!