Sunday, July 22, 2007

Of summer in Shanghai

I just came back from Shanghai and I had lots of fun. Like any holiday, there were ups and downs, but on the whole, it was mainly positive. And this is considering the fact I really don't like travelling much, mainly due to airplane phobia, or more accurately, air turbulence phobia.

Day 1

Arrive at Changi airport at 10. Flight was at 11 something. So did duty free shopping. Tod's had this bag which was rather cheap (for a Tod's bag that is) that my mum and I considered getting. But we hesitated thinking maybe the Tod's at Shanghai would be cheaper. Oh big mistake. While China does not have a Goods and Services Tax on top of the sale price, apparently they have a high import tax that is incorporated into the sale price, and things there end up being slightly more expensive than that of Singapore.

Take for instance the Chanel wallet i wanted to help my dear sister get. It was sold out in Singapore (like the French Connection top she wanted that was also sold out here but available there) but available at Plaza 66 in Shanghai---this swanky mall whose only tenants are big-name luxury brands---but it cost about SGD$1000 there, compared to SGD$800 (including GST) here. But I couldn't call my sis to ask her if she wanted the wallet cos my handphone didn't work, but it was an interesting insight into the luxury goods market in Shanghai.

But i digress. Back to Changi Airport.

So mum and me skipped Ferragamo, Tod's and Chloe and Coach there. But on the plane, we bought this really nice Aigner charm bracelet set with a lock and key pendant (thanks mum!) Singapore Airlines has a really nice selection of goods to get that are cheaper than ground prices. Follie Follie, Aigner, and other gems can be gotten at relatively nice prices, and there was a 10% of all goods due to the upcoming national day celebrations. A further 10% can be wrought if you have a PPS card (or if you're really nice to the air stewardess, they will just give you the discount since a good sold at a discount is usually better than no good sold at all). Mum and I have a hard time finding the Priority Pass lounge as one of the guards gives wrong directions. Upon finding it, there wasn't enough time to er lounge. It also seems a bit boring. So we skip that and board the plane.

On board the airplane, the first announcement was made by the pilot warning us of a turbulent flight ahead. Now that did little to soothe my already sensitized flight phobia. But i prayed and it except for little air pockets, it was smoother than expected. Praise Jesus. Phew.

I did reach Shanghai safe and sound, but on the flight, my appetite kinda left me (due to the turbulence, what else) and I hadn't eaten much prior to the flight (erm this one was due to time constraints) so i started to get a headache. There was Amazing Grace shown onboard, and that was a show i had wanted to catch (so as to see the rather handsome Stephen Campbell Moore) but my jittery heart couldn't take any more drama so i watched Two and a Half Men, 30 Rock, Black Adder and listened to music instead. I discovered a very nice, but not very apt, song---Rehab---by Amy Winehouse and that distracted me for most of the part till the plane landed.

Touchdown Shanghai. Headache there. My mum tells me it's cos of my lack of food from morning (i awoke at 9am) till now which was 6pm. I wonder how i am ever to travel to England for further studies given such flight phobia that results in me fasting on each flight. The air conditioner doesnt seem to be working. What is more perplexing is that our driver does a no-show!

So we head over to the Shangri-la counter (which is just next to the Four Seasons counter where a very cute staffer sits) to ask where our driver has gone. The staff are helpful and inform us that our change in flight details were not given to them. An Amex travel boo boo as my mum had told her secretary to inform them of the change. In front of us are a group of disgruntled Indians, looking tired and in a hurry. We're asked to wait about an hour, but the hotel staff manage to hire another driver much earlier and we're off. My headache follows.

The car is plush---a China brand called a Buick and it is very comfortable. We pass by long stretches of roads, huge condominium compounds, and at least one golf course. This must be the new Shanghai---the Shanghai of the bourgeoisie.

As we near the city centre, there are lots of construction sites and really towering condominiums. See Exhibit A:

The air is perpetually foggy, perhaps due to the never ending construction, perhaps due to pollution---who knows. I ask the driver what the name of a mall stocking French Connection, G-Star and other fashionable labels is. He says "ba bai ban". Now it's been a long time since I've spoken or studied Chinese on a regular basis---probably about 6 years. However, i seem to recall "ba bai ban" as referring to Yao Han when my primary school Chinese tutor gave me a list of department stores to memorise in case I had to spout it out during a Chinese oral exam. A quick check on google proves I am right. So Yao Han has landed here. What next?

Well, it'll be some time before I find out. We reach the hotel, and check in. Mummy is listed as being Mr Seah, a common mistake she reassures us. I look around. The check-in guy reminds me of a classmate in junior college and looks vaguely Japanese. The hotel exudes a pleasantly warm sort of elegance. This will be "home" for 5 days.

The Pudong Shangri-la: "home" for 5 nights

I consult the "Shanghai Chic" book, a coffee table book i bought so as to know where to hang out in Shanghai and not end up seeing the merely tourist-y sites. It recommends the Yi Cafe among others. Mum stops by and takes a look. She likes it so we dine there.

Enter manageress Jennifer and a whole smorgasbord of food. The cafe serves Western, Japanese, Morrocan, Chinese, Thai, Malay, Indian, employing the "open-kitchen" concept similar to Straits Kitchen at the Grand Hyatt Singapore, or, according to my aunt, The Line at Shangri-la Singapore. My appetite remains unimpressed and while Jennifer brings soups to the table and is extremely helpful, I still feel queasy.

The Yi Cafe and its plentiful offerings

I order a bit of suckling pig, the cook is in a bad mood as i have apparently interrupted his conversation with some of the staff. He grumbles and slaps down a few pieces of pork and condiments onto my plate. I bring it back to my table but my dad eats it instead. I don't like the idea of eating something so rudely placed on my plate, but then again, I wasn't in the best of moods. So i wander of to the pastry section with my mum. There we encounter service that the Shangri-la is supposedly (i use this word as I would later on meet with another unpleasant experience) famous for. David the pastry chef is helpful and kind. A bright happy-go-lucky sort (this opinion is based just on looks, and we all know how accurate that can be), he speaks rather good english and i compliment him on his excellent knowledge of his dishes. "But of course" he smiles.

Back at the table, Damian the waiter is on hand to ensure everything is alright. I comment to my mum he looks similar to Lee Hsien Yang. She agrees. Jennifer comes around to check on things. Parents are full, I am still queasy but more rested. We foot the bill and leave.

Eager to walk around, mum and I made enquires about a mall her boss told her about, that was right next to the Shangri-la. Welcome to the Super Brand Mall and boy is it huge or what. This is a shadow of things to come in Shanghai, where the malls border on the gigantic. The Zara is HUGE. I try to find a the left side of a pair of sandals I scoured from the sale section. (In Shanghai, while goods cost a bit more than in Singapore, they have very good sale items, as there is a fairly large selection of on-sale goods and the discounts are quite high) The salesperson tells me that that left side of that particular sandal has gone missing for quite some time. I go back and search again. Ta-da, found it. But i decide to forgo the sandals. It is too big for alternation by a cobbler to be feasible.

Super Brand Mall---Convieniently located right next to the Pudong Shangri-la.

We walk around some more and come across H&M, a brand currently unavailable in Singapore, that I am eager to look at. The H&M store is huge, and the staff are proficient in English. I wonder if they are college students. But it is nearing closing time and we head back to the hotel.

And miracle! My headache is gone. Praise Jesus. I suspect it was a tension headache brought about by plane phobia and eased by shopping. Whatever it is, I'm just glad it's gone. Before I sleep, I check out the booklet "Shanghai Culture and Shopping Highlits", printed by the Shangri-la. It is written in English and Chinese, which suits me perfectly as I can point to the Chinese words to tell the driver the place I want. The hotel also has a copy of the Shanghai Daily (a newspaper), Noblesse (a Tatler-esque magazine) and a Luxury guide (a booklet about luxury shopping in Shanghai). I spot an Aigner advertisement and make a mental note to ask for directions to the Aigner shop here so I can get my charm bracelet (bought on the plane) altered.

It is nearly 1am when I fall asleep.

Photographs from: my own camera,,

No comments: