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Spell-bound in Shanghai, City on Speed.
By Yeoh Siew Hoon
Friday, 20th April 2007
 
Even our intrepid traveller YSH is left foaming at the mouth by the food and the thrills of a city on speed.

Every time I come to Shanghai, I feel like a kid let loose in the candy store.

I hyperventilate. I get breathless. I am all excited to get out there to find out what's new, what's hip, what's the latest, brightest, biggest …

You just can't help it. There's something about this city that never stops growing that gets to you, even the most jaded of travellers.

I swear that since the last time I was here, 10,000 new buildings have come up, and 10,000 more are being built.

At the Shangri-La Hotel, Pudong – this is the biggest hotel in the group with just under 1,000 rooms – I get a notice under my door warning me that there will be a "controlled structural explosion" near the hotel – so don't be alarmed if the ground shakes, it's just part of the growing pains of a city on hyperdrive.

From the Jade on 36, the highest restaurant in its Grand Tower, I see the entire city laid out before me. Across the river is the Bund, all twinkling and dazzling. On Pudong side, each building vies with the other for attention.

Cruising up and down the river is a huge floating television screen flashing constantly changing advertisements. See, if you don't come to the advertisements in Shanghai, they come to get you.

The food at Jade on 36 is all show. I think it's a restaurant where the chef has more fun than the guests. Each course arrives, designed to impress.

My "dandelion sashimi" (right) comes on two skewers stuck into one of those pieces florists use to stick flowers in. The two sticks of raw fish are covered in some sort of soy sauce that's been whipped up into frothy-cappuccino-like foam.

Another appetiser is a lone prawn that's been soaked in orange, lemon and ginger in a jar. It reminds me of one of those specimens you see in biology class.

The other courses arrived in a blur – I couldn't keep up with the explanations so I just ate like a good little girl whatever they dished up. I just remember lots of foam.

Dessert is some form of cream that's been inserted into a lemon that I've been told has been simmered and stewed – whatever it is you do to lemons – for three days.

For lunch, I am taken to New Heights at Three On the Bund where the menu had a word I didn't understand – farinaceous. It actually means, "resembling starch". Other synonyms are amylaceous, amyloid, amyloidal – I suppose farinaceous sounds more appetising than all that.

I am tempted to order Singapore laksa but I thought that might make Jin Jiang's marketing boss Michael Meade, my lunch partner, choke on his "farinaceous" parpadelle.

Prawn in a jar (left)

After lunch, I walk past the historic Peace Hotel that will soon become the Fairmont Peace Hotel when it reopens in 2010 under a deal just signed two days ago.

I head up Nanjing Road towards the JW Marriott where I have a date with coffee and the highest library in the world. I battle my way through half of China's population that seems to be visiting Shanghai today, as well as touts who seem to think shoving things in people's faces is a good sales tactic.

I seek refuge in the highest library in the world – there's something about being surrounded by books that calms me. Then I am taken up to the rooftop by John Northen, who used to run the JW Marriott but a month ago moved to open the 680-room Renaissance Zhongshan Park. Yes, a general manager's job in Shanghai is never done.

If you have a fear of heights, don't do this. If you don't, just be prepared to be amazed. From the 60th floor, other than the area round the People's Park, all you see are high-rises, and more high-rises, all of which have been built in the last few years. John and I play a popular game known in Shanghai as "building spotting".

Half of them seem to be new hotels. I am told that this year about 7,000 new rooms will be added. By this year-end, there will be 31,009 rooms – and we're only talking about those being tracked by the International Branded Hotel Shanghai (IBHS).

Every brand is here – Royal Meridien with more than 700 rooms has just opened; Four Seasons; Ritz Carlton; InterContinental – you name it, they are here. Marriott alone, I understand, is responsible for more than 1,000 rooms in Shanghai.

I stagger back to my hotel, numbed not only by the cold – it's nine degrees when it should be 20 – but by the numbers.

Just 36 hours in Shanghai, and this kid's all out of steam. Or should I say foam?

Yeoh Siew Hoon, one of Asia's most respected travel editors and commentators,  write a regular column on news, trends and issues in the hospitality industry for 4Hoteliers.com.

Siew Hoon, who has covered the tourism industry in Asia/Pacific for the past 20 years, runs SHY Ventures Pte Ltd. Her company's mission is "Content, Communication, Connection".
  She is a writer, speaker, facilitator, trainer and events producer. She is also an author, having published "Around Asia In 1 Hr: Tales of Condoms, Chillies & Curries". Her motto is 'free to do, and be'.

Yeoh Siew Hoon's other writings can be found at www.thetransitcafe.com . Get your weekly cuppa of news, gossip, humour and opinion at the cafe for travel insiders.
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