Tuesday, May 22, 2007

An Updated Guide to Shanghai

In Shanghai, the more things change, the more they continue to change. It’s hard to overstate the pace of transformation in this place. For anyone who plans to visit the city in the near term, here are some guidebook regulars that no longer exist or are currently under renovation:

Hengshan Moller Villa. One of Shanghai’s so-called boutique hotels. To picture the larger setting imagine Hans Christian Andersen meets the Pasadena Freeway. Knock on the gate if you desire a conversation straight out of the Wizard of Oz. No, you can’t look inside, but the hotel is scheduled to re-open in the fall of 2007.

Peace Hotel. The adjective legendary means Noel Coward wrote “Private Lives” here in 1930 and the same jazz band was still playing last year. (At least they sounded like the same band.) The Jinjiang Group has joined forces with Saudi and Swiss companies for two years’ worth of remodeling.

Ohel Moishe Synagogue (and its museum of the Jewish experience in Shanghai). Completely shrouded at the moment. Should re-open to the public by late August or September. Mr. Wang, the 88-year-old volunteer docent, who grew up in the ghetto himself, holds court now at Huoshan Park, a block away.

Ohel Rachel Synagogue. Hillary Clinton and Madeleine Albright visited in 1998. When I tried last week, the security guards wouldn’t let me in the driveway. No lengthy explanations, just a sheet of paper whose words I can’t quite recall. Something like, “Private business. Closed to viewing.”

Xiang Yang Market. Although cash is still king, the emperor’s favorite source for fake brand-name goods has been gone for almost a year. Several pretenders to the throne have emerged, most notably the Fenshine Fashion Accessories Plaza, at 580 Nanjing West Road.

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