Insider's guide to... Shanghai


What's the weather like now?Shanghai is gearing itself up, all too literally, for the seasonal "Plum Rains", due to start a week from now. A gentle drizzle will build up over a fortnight into an unremitting, seemingly endless downpour.

What's the weather like now?Shanghai is gearing itself up, all too literally, for the seasonal "Plum Rains", due to start a week from now. A gentle drizzle will build up over a fortnight into an unremitting, seemingly endless downpour.

What are locals complaining about?The fact that builders have still not finished raising their ground floors or retiling their roofs before the rains start. And property prices, which in decent areas refuse to come down in spite of massive oversupply and yet are ridiculously cheap in the less popular Pudong, Shanghai's Docklands across the river from the city.

Who's the talk of the town?Jin Xing, the ex-People's Army dance troupe colonel, and ex-man (he had one of China's first sex change operations) who has just been invited down from Beijing to run the city's modern dance troupe. Her first move was to sack 34 of the 50 members of the group.

What's the cool drink to order?Red wine ... and more red wine. Foreign wine companies are falling over each other to get into the Shanghai market. Shanghainese are supposedly the most sophisticated consumers in China. Where they lead, the rest of China follows. At last people have stopped chucking Sprite into it to make a Burgundy shandy and are beginning to appreciate the bouquet.

What are people eating?Hangzhou food has held the number one spot for six months. The city of Hangzhou, 100km from Shanghai, is famous for drunken chicken and beggar's chicken (clay-baked whole chicken). Mister Donut and Starbucks have also arrived. The latter is the spot for coffee and a bun.

What's the latest outrageous stuff on TV?Corporate-sponsored game shows. Zhi Li Da Chong Lang (Intelligent Strong Big Wave) is the most popular. Large teams from work units, neighbourhoods, and universities answer general knowledge questions and play embarrassing games for the grand prize of a packet of biscuits or a stick of lipstick.

Where won't the locals dream of going?Bowling. It's over. Back to karaoke.

Where are locals going that tourists don't know about?The brand new Central Park in Pudong. Designed by a British company, it was so overrun during the May Labour Day holiday that fights broke out, with staff trying to keep people off the grass.

Where are the chic shopping?Huating market, off Huai Hai Road. A street market overflowing with famous brand rip-offs. Alternatively, it's a leap to Hong Kong for the real thing. Not that anyone can tell.

What's the trendy place to escape for the weekend?

Hangzhou for "real" Hangzhou food and boating on the beautiful West Lake. The place also offers a vibrant live music scene compared to the tightly controlled Shanghai rock music venues (all two of them).

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