a weekend in shanghaisaturday morning - post sus2 - was spent wandering the narrow alleys of old town, which is the most traditionally chinese area of shanghai. old town is a great place to let yourself get lost in - we just wandered and wandered and wandered - it was like a walk back in time to when streets were narrow and carless, and part of the household's living space - laundry strung on power lines, hissing woks in the open family kitchens - and the amazing food smells coming from the street food vendors. the houses were so old that no one had running water inside - all the faucets and toilets were located by the side of the street; and electric wires were jerry rigged to the sides of buildings in bewildering tangles.
we walked past old men playing wei ke (?) - that game with the black and white pieces on a grid, where your goal is to occupy as much of the board space as possible by surrounding a group of the opposite colour; another group of men gambling on cricket fights; through an alley that was clearly the food market, and into a vast indoor market that sold crickets of every imaginable size and birds and fish; and some old men critiquing the calligraphy of the characters being painted on the wall.
this being shanghai of course, the new and shiny is rapidly closing in on old town.
in contrast to old town, pudong is glitzy, stylish and thoroughly modern. saturday evening was spent in the highest hotel in the world - the grand hyatt in jin mao tower, the building with the fifth tallest roof in the world. we drank cocktails and ate dessert at the hotel lounge at the base of the hotel's astounding and famous barrel-vaulted atrium, which starts at the 56th floor and extends upwards to the 87th, each floor's hallway a balcony ringing its perimeter. this was the view up from my seat.
the experience was more than worth the wait and the price of the drinks - although the waiting was very very pleasant, as we had dinner at the hotel's grill (and jesse had his first taste of kobe beef). the altitude also gives the alcohol an extra kick, an added bonus.
sunday we spent again in old town, visiting the silk market where i bought 3 metres of real silk for about five u.s. dollars; early evening drinks we had at face in the french concession - which looks almost exactly like sections of paris, a legacy of shanghai's cosmopolitan history. this was followed by what was easily one of the best and most opulent meals i have ever eaten in my life, at the restaurant t8 - a monkfish salad with mango and chilis, an amazing sechuan high pie (braised lamb), milk-fed veal cheeks with seared fois gras and consumme with black truffle dumplings - proved that t8 well deserves its ranking as one of the world's top fifty restaurants. it wasn't cheap, but it was worth every penny. dinner was followed by a walk down the historic bund which faces the crazy architecture of pudong, and down the electric nanjing donglu with its flashing neon signs.