OUT GLOBETROTTER: CHRIS SCHMICKER IN SHANGHAI
Who: Chris Schmicker, writer, February 2012
Where I Went: Shanghai, China
What I Did: Fought the crowds of local teenagers in Tianzifang, a labyrinth of narrow shopping streets. Explored the bookshops and boutiques along Julu Road and Dongping Road in the French Concession. Uncovered some of the city’s hidden Deco landmarks (including a hotel that was once the private residence of Shanghai’s most loathed crime boss) with a guide from Newman Tours. Strolled along the canals of Zhujiajiao, an atmospheric old water town an hour outside of the city. Donned period costume ($5) for an impromptu photo shoot in the historic Yu Gardens.
What I Bought: At Spin Ceramics I picked up a handsome zisha-ware jar made from unglazed yixing clay (a purplish-brown clay traditionally used to make tea pots) and capped with a wooden lid and foot. While it may not be quite what Spin had in mind, I’m currently using it to store dog treats on my kitchen counter.
Where I Stayed: The Puli, Shanghai’s slickest design hotel. (No relation to the adorable Hungarian dog breed.) The place was conceived as an “urban resort,” which means a killer spa with tea-centric treatments, a bamboo-fringed terrace bar, and a stunning third-floor pool bordered by low-slung daybeds with views of the local park that borders the property.
What I Ate: Lots of xiaolongbao, the city’s famous soup-filled dumplings. Cold drunken chicken marinated in baijiu, China’s merciless clear liquor. (Liquor and sugar are perhaps the two most essential ingredients in Shanghainese cooking.) Songshu guiyu, or sweet-sour fish, split and scored to look like a squirrel (don’t ask), and studded with pine nuts. And the morning after a long night of drinking, an enormous bowl of rice congee, liberally laced with chunks of salted duck egg.
What I Skipped: “Chicken of the field,” the kinder name for cooked frog. No thank you.