It was a dizzying weekend filled with whirlwind of memories and the nostalgia of turning a year older in a non-English speaking city that commenced during the long drive from the Pudong International Airport to the Renaissance Yu Garden Hotel (159 South He Nan Road, Huangpu District), our home base for the weekend and continued on until the time we landed back in Manila.
We had initially booked the Junior Suite after agreeing that everyone is okay on splurging with the hotel since it is my birthday weekend after all but because of a last minute addition, we settled on switching to two De Luxe Rooms. Either way what really mattered was the location. As long as there is something to do close by, in this case the hotel is walking distance from several tourist attractions like the Bund and Xintiandi, and as long as a train station is a stone throw’s away, Yu Garden stop is just across the main entrance, every RMB cent is worth it.
After our failed attempt to go to one of the water cities, most of them situated an hour away by bus or train from the city and with only one trip coming back, and my unlucky first three attempts at swiping the train card we finally arrived at our first real stop that is Tianzifang (Taikang Lu Street at the French Concession). This eccentric big block of shops and little streets is a larger than life version of Makati’s The Collective and Cubao’s Expo. Here, everyone feels at home whether you are an artist or just a mere wandering soul wanting to immerse in local art and at the same time is on the look out for unique pieces to bring home with you.
It is around brunch time by then and we settled at Tai Yaki Kanpai for a buffet brunch of Japanese Food (published rate is at 198 RMB per person but they only charged us 100 RMB per person as their first customers). It is quite strange eating Japanese in China with some jazz Western CD playing in the background but that’s globalization for you. Some of my favorite shops, which means I spent an hour or two at these charming stores, are High Note (No. 4 Back Door, Lane 274) where I can stay for hours just listening to hard to find although quite pricey music finds and Progressive Studio (26-2, Alley 274) where the owner gladly shared their family’s history and tradition of making the finest teas.
Soon it was time to move on to modern shopping and experiencing the financial district of the city which I was able to do as soon as I step out of the exit of LuijazuiStation and into the streets leading to the IFC Shopping Mall which houses the some of the world’s most famous designer brands including two floors of Dior and Miu Miu. I also went up one of their busiest pedestrian overpass to take in the view of the tall buildings of giant business names and modern architecture of the offices while bumping into a mix of locals and tourists hurrying by.
Come evening, I rushed to the train to make it in time for a Shanghainese dinner with some friends at Lynn (Xikang Lu Street). Thankfully it is only a few stops away and I reach the Nanjing West Station only fifteen minutes late. My friend who is based there did not waste time in showing me around the area before and after dinner. The shopping lane of Nanjing Road was bustling on our way to dinner and is in contrast to the near empty streets by the time we went to Jing An Temple and visited the PuLi Hotel & Spa to take a sneak peak at its swanky receiving area and the very relaxing outdoor nook for drinking and night caps. Before heading back to the hotel and throwing myself onto the welcoming bed waiting in our room, it was a must to spend sometime at The Bund before the lights went off at thirty minutes past ten followed by a quick stop at Xintiandi.
The next day, refreshed and ready to take on another day of walking, was spent shopping at H&M where I had fun picking out early Christmas gifts for my nieces and nephews and scouring cute pasalubong items for my friends at Yu Yuan Garden. A trivia for this place is that I actually bought some items from the same store that was one of the pit stops of Amazing Race Season 6. And not far from it, there is a store called Everyday Happy filled with Papmelroti-like stuff but with quirkier designs where I also hauled a good deal of paper products. It was especially nice to sit around Haagen Dazs at a corner which serves as a nice vantage point to witness the Yu Garden Plaza transform from tourist hub during the day until late afternoon to a park with local kids freely playing around in whatever free space there is come evening time.
Of course, no day is complete without the usual food trips. Lunch was at the little cute blue restaurant Art Salon (164 Nanchang Road), a few blocks away from the H&M building on Huaihuai Lu corner Sinan Lu, and dinner was at Din Tai Fung (2F Yu Garden Fashion Plaza). It is a nice thought that on the same day I was able to eat in a nice new place but also did not miss out a trip to probably one of my favorite Chinese restaurants ever.
The richness of the experience made me realize a lot of things and I am still on a ShangHigh, allowing each and every little thing that has shaken me up to settle within and become part of the new me.