The buzz about this boomtown of 18 million on China's eastern seaboard has become so loud that it threatens to drown out the city's chaotic traffic.
Last year, almost 50 foreign companies set up their Asia-Pacific headquarters here, joining General Motors, McDonald's, and FedEx. Entrepreneurs, CEOs, large-scale retailers, and high-profile chefs are all flocking to the Pearl of the Orient-now the world's largest cargo port-giving the city an effervescence that it hasn't felt since the decadent 1930s. Back then, the city's central park, People's Square, was a racetrack. Now a new band of gamblers have arrived, hoping they've backed the right horse and looking to join China's merry band of 320,000 millionaires.
Where To Sleep
Shanghai is a tale of two cities, divided by the Huangpu River. Pudong, in the east, is the space-age, steel-and-glass financial district where 20 years ago farmers tilled the fields. The Grand Hyatt is the world's tallest hotel, for now (a higher one will open atop the 101-story Shanghai World Financial Center next door in 2008). Still, nothing can detract from its woozy 33-story atrium, enjoyed by Bill Clinton, John Galliano, and Kate Moss. The Shangri-La has a luxurious new $138 million tower-recent guests include Henry Paulson and the Trump siblings-and the slender, sophisticated St. Regis comes with butler service. Across the river in Puxi, the city's expat hub, the Portman Ritz-Carlton offers extras such as a luxury boat that can be booked for private events. Giorgio Armani prefers The Westin-it's a stone's throw from his flagship Bund store. 88 Xintiandi is a low-key alternative in the shopping and entertainment precinct of Xintiandi, with kitchenettes for longer stays.
Where To Eat
Three on the Bund is a restored neoclassical building where tycoons like Chen Tianqiao (China's Bill Gates) and Yahoo's Jerry Yang lunch by day and celebs such as Ed Norton and Naomi Watts arrive at night. Most noteworthy of its four restaurants is Jean Georges, where the foie gras br�l�e may be the sweetener needed for a stubborn client to sign. Local cuisine has its detractors, who say that it's too oily and sweet, but a bite of the crab dishes at Whampoa Club-also in Three on the Bund-will muffle their moans. Across the river in Pudong, Y� Shanghai's new outlet in the Citigroup Tower has exceptional xiaolongbao (steamed soup dumplings) and a fine river vista. Atop the Pudong Shangri-La is Jade on 36, where the designs of Adam Tihany have as much flair as the French avant-garde food-imagine sardine tins full of fluffy seafood mousse. Crystal Jade, in Xintiandi, is the city's best Cantonese eatery, with perfect hand-pulled noodles. Local movers and shakers come here on Sundays, ties off, chatting over dim sum with family and friends. The weekday lunch hour sees the expat property and banking sets pour into sandwich-and-smoothie joints such as Element Fresh and Wagas.
Where To See And Be Seen
First stop should be the flashy entertainment complex of Xintiandi: The spot where the Communist Party of China was founded is today a $170 million development of glitzy restaurants, jazz bars, and boutiques. From there, follow in the footsteps of Rupert Murdoch and Richard Branson to M on the Bund for dinner, before heading downstairs for a Dragon's Pearl cocktail at the Glamour Bar. For a nightcap, Bar Rouge and newcomer Attica are Shanghai's hottest nightspots, both with breathtaking river-view terraces. Your chances of being photographed here for the social pages of a Chinese glamour magazine are around 80 percent.
Where To Close A Deal
In the French Concession-the most famous of the city's international settlements-the former British consulate has been transformed into the Yongfoo Elite. Hong Kong's Zheng Yutong is just one wealthy tycoon to have talked shop here. To really impress, The Cupola has the city's most exclusive private dining rooms, in a bell tower above Three on the Bund. Michael Schumacher reportedly booked the venue for five nights during Formula 1 week. Alternatively, do it the Shanghai way, in the VIP room of one of the city's ubiquitous karaoke halls. If food and song won't do the trick, try one of the city's dozen golf courses. The best is Tomson, where membership costs well over $100,000. If that's steep for a single round, nonmembers are welcome for 18 holes at Binhai.
People don't talk about art, sports, politics, or even family. They talk about work. So be sure to brush up on the ABCs of JVs (joint ventures) and WFOEs (wholly foreign-owned enterprises), not to mention your Mandarin-a few phrases of the local lingo always impresses in negotiations. Despite government attempts to curb the habit, spitting on sidewalks is de rigueur, so don't show disgust toward it. Taxis are impossible to find on a rainy night, and most other times, too. If you do get one, make it a turquoise-colored Da Zhong Taxi (cleaner cars, better drivers). Bargain hard in markets; don't be afraid to start at a tenth of the asking price. And that genuine piece of Mao memorabilia which costs a small fortune was made last week.
Arriving at Pudong International Airport, 18 miles from the city, visitors can be forgiven for wondering what the fuss is all about. Shanghai's underwhelming welcome mat lacks anywhere decent to eat or drink, and it's a battle to get online or buy an English-language newspaper. As for the airport's almost 300-mile-per-hour magnetic levitation train (Maglev), this white elephant dumps passengers at a suburban metro station. Better to take a cab from the airport itself (about $20; have your destination written in Chinese).
The Three-Hour Tour
Shop in Xintiandi before walking west through leafy Fuxing Park, past the former residence of Sun Yat-sen to the tree-lined avenues of the French Concession. Sip a quick coffee at Whisk, from where it's 15 more minutes to the glitzy retail nucleus of Nanjing Xi Lu and its centerpiece, Plaza 66, bulging with luxury brands. A short taxi ride farther north and you're at the Jade Buddha Temple: Look for the monks in robes and clouds of incense smoke (sample their vegetarian noodles for $3). Nearby is the artsy district of Moganshan Lu, where edgy painters and sculptors issue a challenge to Beijing, the country's art epicenter. Expend your last ounces of energy walking east toward the city center along burgeoning Suzhou Creek, lined with towering residential buildings and funky, low-set design offices in restored warehouses.
by Shamus SillarVisit Portfolio.com for the latest business news and opinion, executive profiles and careers. Portfolio.com© 2007 Condé Nast Inc. All rights reserved.