I have always taken the train from Beijing to Shanghai; I have done it probably a dozen times as I await the TGV-style train that will eventually unite China’s two most famous in a five-hour journey.
There are some rather-fast trains that make this run now (about eight to nine hours), but I didn’t know there were so many different kinds of trains and so that’s my warning to you now.
The rain in Spain may fall mainly on the plain but the train in China is in China and therefore not subject to generalizations. Be careful when you book.
Before we even left for China, I called the concierge desk at The Peninsula Beijing where they were totally prepared for my request, sent me a variety of forms and then confirmed our carriage by email. The concierge was so professional that at one point he said he couldn’t understand my spelling and rhyming system (“That’s P as in pneumonia …” ) so could I fax the names!
Tickets were waiting at The Pen on check-in, they cost about $400 for all four berths in a single carriage. Two for us, two for the luggage and privacy. When we got onboard the train, it was the most disgusting example of train service I had ever seen in China, and this is in the first-class, soft-seat section. Do remember I have taken this train at least a dozen times; I have some historical reference here.
As the train pulled out of the station and we grit our teeth and searched for the Xanax to make it through the night, one of our portable phones began to ring. By the time we figured out where the phone was it had stopped ringing and we were mystified as to who could have called.
“I’m sure it was the concierge of The Pen,” my traveling companion Sarah Lahey (editorial director of “Born to Shop”) sighed. “I’m sure he was calling to apologize for putting us on this train.”
Despite the horrible trip, we were met right at the train by the bellmen from the Portman Ritz-Carlton. We were ready to hug them and giggled to ourselves as we sped to the hotel, one of the first luxury hotels in Shanghai and one of my regular haunts.
Once showered, we were off to the Barbie Store, which had just opened a few days before our arrival. What can I tell you? American Girl is far better and more creative; this is just sort of sad and creepy. The David Laris café—Laris is Australian and one of the most famous chefs in town—was not yet opened so we needed a new luncheon concept. Luckily, we remembered a noodle shop hidden in a nearby alley and slurped ourselves silly. They have picto-grams on the menu, so no problem there.
Then went closer into “downtown” to a single street called Movie Lane, just around the corner from the Four Seasons Hotel. It is lined with CD and DVD shops, all clean, well-lit, friendly (English speaking help that knows their stuff) with high-quality product. Regular DVDs cost 7 yuan (a little more than $1 USD) while DVD-9 format costs 12 yuan. The selections vary in each store, but count on new movies, classics, kiddie shows, TV shows, BBC, documentaries, and films in over a dozen different languages. I never found porn in any of the shops. I guess that’s against the law in China. The proper name of the street is Da Gu Road—the addresses are in the 380s (Big Movie= #382)
Upstairs from the movie palaces there’s Taipan Foot Massage, open from noon until midnight; www.taipanspa.com.cn
As Shanghai awaits Expo 2010, more and more hotels open up. We stayed at Ritz-Carlton, one of my forever regulars, the Sofitel Hyland, which is now totally redone, is right on Nanjing Road the pedestrian walking and shopping street, and at the brand-new Park Hyatt Pudong, the highest hotel in the world.
If you’re looking for a deal, Sofitel was listed at $140 USD a night online before we left (a winter rate) and is perfection in a 4 star deluxe fashion.
The Park Hyatt is so elite you will have to pinch yourself—if you don’t stay there, at least eat there.
Shanghai has long been the last word in style, even going back to the 1930s. The Okura Garden Hotel, which is a Japanese hotel, began the trend toward fancy toilets with the latest imports from Tokyo. Now the Park Hyatt has Toto’s latest model to ensure you’re not in Kansas any more. The toilet warms the seat, opens its seat and flushes automatically. It cannot, however, distinquish between sexes and therefore does not appropriately raise the lid.
A Pudong Ritz Carlton is under construction as is a Pudong branch of W Hotel. The Peninsula Shanghai will open in September, right near The Bund in the old British concession.
Before the Revolution in 1949, Shanghai was famous for its tailors. Most fled the new regime and moved to Hong Kong. In recent years, many tailors have returned. Even tailor assistants have come to Shanghai claiming to be tailors or to know what they are doing.
There’s an entire stretch of MaoMing Road that is chockablock with tailor shops. None of them, however, makes clothing by hand the Savile Road way except for W.W. Chan & Son LTD. Because of their methodology, their suits are the highest quality in Asia but cost a few thousand dollars. For those who want to spend less, there are plenty of deals to be had on MaoMing. (Try’s Sam’s, of Hong Kong fame.)
For women who just want to have a little fun, head to the fabric market which is crawling with tailors. There are two fabric markets, so this is confusing.
I no longer like the one called South Bund Spinning Mart; it’s in the middle of Expo 2010 traffic and is filled with tourists. Instead, I send you to Shiliupu Clothing Material Market, 168 Dongmen Road in the Huangpu District—which means it is closer to Old Town and other important tourist pursuits.
There are three floors of fun here—on the top floor, the more expensive and exclusive tailors have grouped themselves together. I actually found the tailors I would do business with on the second floor—one man specializes in linen Mao jackets so chic that David Tang would weep and the other made me a series of Chinese shirts, fabric and all, for $32 each. I only regret that I didn’t buy a dozen. It took one and a half days for the tailoring to be done; shirts were delivered (on a Sunday!) to my hotel in Pudong for an extra fee of $1.
On the 3rd floor I did flip for a woman who just makes coats and jackets—booth #17 although she will also do tailor-made dresses and suits. I bought a ready-made swing jacket in purple cashmere that belongs on a Milanese runway.
Kisses by the meter,
By Suzy Gershman for PeterGreenberg.com.
Go on a shopping spree with Suzy! Join her this fall traveling through Buenos Aires and Rio de Janeiro with Suzy Gershman’s Born to Shop & Spa tour with InterContinental Hotels. The tour runs from October 13-21, 2009, including a “luxury scavenger hunt” in Recoleta, tango lessons, wine tasting, scouring the Copacabana night market, Amazonian spa treatments, and much, much more. Rates start at $3,600 per person, not including airfare. Contact Sarah Lahey at srlahey @ gmail.com for more information.
And don’t forget to check out Suzy’s blog at www.borntoshoplady.blogpsot.com.
- Suzy’s Postcard from Hang Zhou, China.
- Suzy’s Postcard from Berlin, Germany.
- Suzy’s Postcard from Paris, France.
- Suzy’s Postcard from the Fancy Food Show.
- Suzy’s Adventures in Las Vegas.
- Suzy’s Postcard from Seoul, South Korea.
- Suzy’s Postcard from Hanoi, Vietnam.
- Postcard to Peter: Santa Barbara Shopping.
- Suzy’s Bay Area Baubles.
- Postcard to Peter: The Wares in Buenos Aires.
- Suzy’s San Antonio Adventures.