By: Frankie Chee
|Singaporean Abroad in Shanghai With...
Occupation: Senior consultant in a public relations firm
Length of stay: 18 months
Shanghai is a city unlike any other in China. Linda Lee, 27, has been living there for the past 18 months and finds Shanghai - with its artistic side, eating places and shopping - to be as cosmopolitan, if not more so, than Singapore.
However, the senior consultant in a public relations firm also enjoys getting away from the bustle to 'nest' at home, tucking into home-cooked Singaporean fare with friends.
She also finds Shanghai a good base from which to explore other places in the huge country. She has braved minus 30 deg C weather in Harbin, for example.
The best way to explore Shanghai is by...
Walking and browsing the lanes - known locally as nong tangs. Bring flat soles because the streets, which are uneven and pothole-filled, are not meant for high heels, especially expensive ones.
Is the transport system in Shanghai efficient?
The Shanghai Metro is very efficient. The two main lines are Line 1 or 2 in Shanghai city centre, like the East-West line in Singapore.
Cabs are also very affordable. The meter starts at 11 yuan (S$2.20) for the first 3km. But walking is the best way to get around.
The best time to visit Shanghai is...
Between April and May, as well as in September and early November. It would be around 14 deg C then - just perfect. The weather varies between minus 5 deg C in winter and 40 deg C in summer.
Which areas and hotels do you recommend staying in?
The Nanjing West Road area. The hip new boutique hotels there, such as Urbn (tel: 86-21-5153-4600) or Jia (tel: 86-21-6217- 9000), should be fun. Alternatively, Old House Inn (tel: 86-21-6249-6118) in Hua Shan Road is a pretty and quaint boutique hotel that is simple and encompasses the old Shanghai character.
Must you know Mandarin to get around?
Preferably, but generally locals here understand basic English. The city centre is as cosmopolitan as Singapore, if not more so.
Which places in Shanghai excite you?
The French 'concession' area, where I live. I like the walkways, the quaint streets and the shops, plus the way the trees hang over your path.
Next would be artsy enclaves such as Tian Zi Fang on Taikang Road, the art galleries in Moganshan Road and the Museum of Contemporary Art (231, Nanjing West Rd, tel: 86-21-6327-9900) that houses world-renowned exhibitions, such as the architecture of Antoni Gaudi last year.
What do you think Singaporeans will like most about Shanghai?
The nightlife and the great variety of food. I've met people from all walks of life and I appreciate their open-mindedness. Shanghai is indeed a city of convergence and opportunities.
What did you do during your first weekend in Shanghai?
Hang out with my dad and younger sister. We were at Carrefour and Ikea, then had a drink at Paulaner Brauhaus in Xin Tian Di, where I shed my first tear when my mum called us.
What is the one thing you must do in Shanghai?
Get a few tailor-made qipaos (traditional costumes for Chinese women) at the fabric market.
Where is the best place to go on a shopping spree?
Qi Pu Road - that is where the wholesale markets are.
Where can you find food that is close to home?
At my home here, where my Singaporean friends cook anything from chicken rice and bak kut teh to laksa and popiah.
I also get my fix from Crossroads on the sixth floor of Parkson Mall in Huai Hai Road.
There's also Awfully Chocolate and BreadTalk.
Feel complete after a meal at beautiful places such as A Future Perfect (16, Huashan Lu Lane 351, tel: 86-21-6247-8020), which offers brunch. It sits in a pretty glass house on Hua Shan Road and serves amazing Western-style carrot cake. There's also the sinful fried pancake, or the Chinese version of roti prata, at roadside stalls.
My favourite eating places are...
Azul (18 Dongping Lu, tel: 86-21-6433- 1172) for its beautiful tapas; People 7 (805 Julu Road, tel: 86-21-5404-0707) for its unassuming yet quirky design; Di Shui Dong (Mao Ming Nan Lu 56, tel: 86-21-6253-2689) for Szechuan food; Haiku for exquisite and authentic Japanese cuisine; and Xing Wang Cha Chan Teng that serves a mean bo luo you (known as bo luo bao - pineapple bun - in Singapore) and Hong Kong-style milk tea.
What are some of the foods that you must try, and where can you get them?
Traditional Shanghainese xiao long bao (steamed dumplings) at Nan Xiang in Yu Garden and sheng jian bao (pan-fried dumplings) from Xiao Yang Sheng Jian Guan (54, Wu Jiang Road). I like jiu niang wan zi - a local dessert of glutinous rice balls with a little bit of alcohol.
The coolest place to chill out is...
Vue Bar on the 32nd floor of the Hyatt Hotel on the Bund. This overlooks both Pudong Lu Jia Zui and The Bund on Puxi.
Where is one place you will always take visiting friends to?
There are several places: The Bund, Taikang Road for the arty side of Shanghai and Muse 1 (68 Yuyao Lu, tel: 86-21-6218- 8166), opened by Hong Kong star Carina Lau.
Where can one go for some peace and quiet?
Towns outside the city such as Zhou Zhuang, Xi Tang and Hangzhou, except during public holidays. I also love Century Park in Pudong for a long, slow jog in the morning.
This article was first published in The Sunday Times on June 23, 2008.