We had been in China almost seven months and had never been to Shanghai. Shock horror! We didn’t really ever have any burning desire to book a trip to Shanghai, even though its only two hours away on the fast trains. Then Mum had a workshop booked in Shanghai and it just so happened to coincide with Matt and Belinda visiting and Matt wanted to depart from Shanghai. It was the weekend after our second anniversary and Mum was dying to show us one of her favourite Intercontinental Hotels, the Intercontinental Shanghai Ruijin. She said that it was impressive, old and totally unexpected considering the busy, bustling city that it was in. And she was right! We were bowled over! Set on a 238-guest room estate, with over 100 acres of beautifully landscaped gardens, when you drive into the grounds it feels like you’re entering Shanghai history. Which you are! Previously state owned, these buildings and grounds that now house the Intercontinental were originally the Morris Estate, built in 1917 for Benjamin Morris (a one time owner of North China Daily News). Old buildings have been refurbished and new buildings have been constructed in the old British style so popular in Shanghai back in the 1910’s. The landscaped grounds certainly create an inner-city sanctuary, with bird song and pretty flowering cherry blossoms everywhere you look. So I joined in with all the Chinese taking photos of the cherry blossoms and took plenty of photos of my own!
As an anniversary present, Mum and Dad shouted us a club room, and clubs rooms were in their own building, seperate from the main reception and rooms (both of which are new buildings added to the estate). The rooms themselves were magnificent, with a large bathroom, expansive sleeping/living areas and a beautiful balcony over looking the courtyard and landscaped gardens. It was hard to believe that we were even in Shanghai! We made the most of Happy Hour in the Club Lounge and then headed into the Bundt with Matt and Belinda. After waiting outside the hotel for aaaaaaaages mucking around with Uber drivers and taxi drivers (none of whom seemed to want to pick us up!), we finally managed to get an Uber driver who was hilarious, if a little on the eccentric side. We headed into the city but he didn’t seem to know where he was going. He turned the wrong way, and turned the Uber app off because the journey was taking so much longer than it needed to! he drove down side streets, back streets and some incomplete streets. Talk about an adventure. Thank goodness there were four of us and one of him, or else I probably would have felt a bit anxious. But the boys didn’t seem to be too worried so Belinda and I followed their lead. Funny thing was that he ended up dropping us off outside the exact bar that Matt was telling us he wanted to go to but couldn’t find the address for! Which was closed. HA! So we wandered. We wandered along the Bundt, ooohed and aaahed at the many, many buildings lit up light very expensive Christmas trees. We took the obligatory group selfie on the Bundt with Nick’s selfie stick, I mean Go-Pro pole (sans Go Pro). We tried to get into roof top bars but got looked up and down and deemed unfitting for such high end affairs, not to mention the exorbitant entry fee’s they were charging. Ended up stumbling upon the Shanghai Jazz Bar when we were nosying through the Fairmont Peace Hotel. The minimum spend was the same price per person as entrance to one of those overly swanky rooftop bars and the live jazz wafting out of the bar was enchanting, so group consensus was to give it a go. It was eerie. Jazz played by old Chinese men who could have almost been playing the same instruments back in the 1920’s, decor that oozed old world opulence and cocktails that were classy, simple and bang on. The apple martini was to die for. Smooth, flavourful and packed just the right amount of punch. Thankfully this gorgeous jazz bar and it’s vintage charm saved our night!
Matt and Belinda flew out early the next morning so we said our goodbyes and headed back to Ruijin, both of us deciding that we had seen plenty enough of the Bundt that night. It just didn’t feel like us. Too busy, too up-market, too something-that-we-couldn’t-put-our-finger-on. Totally glad that Matt was there to drag us in to at least see it and feel it for ourselves, cos we wouldn’t have gone in otherwise. And that would have been a shame!
The next day we explored more around the French Concession area. Mum wanted to take us to Tianzifang, an arts and crafts market with many boutique shops, bards, cafes and restaurants. She well knows my love of markets, cheap knick knacks and hidden local gems. Also known as Taikan Road, you can easily get lost in the maze of little shops and lilongs (laneways), or get swept away in the crowd of people surging through at any given time.
We definitely managed to find some hidden gems amongst the many cheap reproduction shops. Like this amazing guy who paints with the side of his hand, stamping and swiping to create hills, mountains, trees and so much more. A few swipes with his rag, a few added details here and there. He was incredible to watch. We were enraptured. We just stood there watching him like dummies. Started talking to the guy also standing there watching him. Turns out the old guy was painting a commissioned piece as requested by the young guy, a piece the represented success, family and climbing the ladder in life. The young guy was from Hong Kong, spoke great English and when his painting was finished, was kind enough to be our interpreter so that we could commission a painting of our own. Of course, Mum wanted the painting to be about family. We described the five of us, Mum, Dad, Kimbo, Nick and I. And thus a theme was born. He repeated this theme of five in the trees, the birds and the contours of the mountains. Mum was stoked. It was definitely the highlight of the trip.
Our weekend in Shanghai was lovely and we definitely liked the French Concession area much better than the Bundt. Huge thank to Mama and Daddy for spoiling us rotten, even more than they usually do. Our second anniversary was amazing because of you guys xxx