Friday, June 29, 2007

Before You Go

What should you do on your last evening in Shanghai? Circumnavigate the Bund. Which means see its inscrutable mix of architecture from as many different angles as you can, from various elevations, and from both sides of the Huangpu River.

You can begin wherever you like (it’s a circle after all) but don’t start until sunset, when Shanghai’s lights and shadows are at their best. Use the elevated crosswalks over Yan’an Lu and Zhongshan Lu. The view from both is panoramic. The former Bund meteorological tower, a museum for many years, is now a bar named Atanu (3313 0871). Climb the circular staircase to the third-level deck for a cocktail or two. They don’t stint on the gin.

Back on ground level, walk south until you see the turnstiles for the Huangpu ferry. The ticket office is behind you, in a little booth by the road. Exchange 2 yuan for a blue plastic token and you’re on your way. The ferry is airconditioned but the most urgent views are outside, leaning against the rail, where the neon reflects from the glistening surface of the river. The captain will dodge freighters and barge traffic on his trip across the current.

You will dock just south of the Citigroup building, then walk north, toward the Pearl Tower. You can turn into the gate for the Riverside Promenade, or make a brief detour into the elevators of the Shangri-la Hotel. The uppermost floor of Tower 2 houses Jade on 36, an atmospheric bar and innovative restaurant, with floor-to-ceiling windows (and really cool bathrooms).

Continue north along the river, past the Super Brand Mall, to the entrance to the Bund Sightseeing Tunnel (35 yuan), one of the world’s oddest forms of urban transport, with a seizure-inducing light show and cryptic narration.

Emerge somewhat dazzled, then take the underground passage near Nanjing Road, and stroll south again. You have any number of choices for a celebratory dinner in 18 on the Bund, 5 on the Bund, or 3 on the Bund. The food at Laris is wonderful, but the winelist is annoyingly overpriced. For reasonably affordable extravagance, my pick would be appetizers in the bar at Jean Georges (6321 7733), the Shanghai outpost of New York’s celebrity chef, Jean-Georges Vongerichten. Ask to see the dining-room menu, and don’t neglect either the crunchy tiger prawns or the foie gras brulĂ©e.