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Pack Up: Shanghai

As told to Belle TaylorPerthNow

WA expat Matthew Contuzzi first moved to China to study Mandarin. Five years on he’s working for The Nielsen Company and loving the buzz of the big smoke.

Q. If Shanghai were a person, how would you describe them?

A. Shanghai is a suave old jazz player with that relaxed demeanour. You know he’s been there, done that and doesn’t have anything to prove. But you know if you buy him a drink and ask the right questions, you’re going to get a lesson you never forget.

Q. Why did you move to Shanghai?

A. I moved here five years ago to teach economics and learn Chinese, but quickly got hooked on the commercial pull and haven’t looked back since. Work took me to Beijing for a year but Shanghai is, and always will be, the most welcoming.

Q. Where do you always take Aussie visitors?

A. It’s not always where, but when. Nothing gets you hooked on Shanghai like a “Bundrise” (sunrise on the Bund). Usually the Bund is full of thousands of tourists, but at sunrise it becomes a perfect spot for a walk with locals flying kites and practising tai chi. While on the Bund, we always stop at the famous Peace Hotel. I sneak up to the rooftop and head down the stairs for a self-guided tour. The Peace Hotel is typical Shanghai with its layers of history.

Shanghai.

Shanghai.Source:Supplied

Q. Top three eating experiences?

A. For breakfast, you can’t go past a hole-in-the-wall baozi (steamed buns with a sweet pork or vegie filling). Lunch, everyone must try M on The Bund at least once. M’s food is second to none and one of the best views a city can give you. Dinner involves grabbing a few friends and heading to Di Shui Dong, a Hunan restaurant famous for cheap beer and the best cumin-spiced ribs you have ever had.

Q. Where are Shanghai’s best cocktails?

A. This is a tough one because Shanghai is full of great cocktail bars. But my recommendation must go to El Coctel, firstly for the great cocktails but, most importantly, the chance to wash down a truffle and cheese toasted sandwich on the menu.

Q. What is the city’s best-kept secret?

A. It’s no big secret but few make the time, even the tourists. The Jazz Bar at the Peace Hotel plays host to Shanghai’s oldest jazz band — their average age is 77, and some members first played together in 1947. If you’re into jazz or want to impress your friends, this is a must-do.

Q. For kicking your heels after dark you go to?

A. Bocado, a restaurant that’s turned into a bar late at night. It serves great drinks and pumps out nothing but the best ’80s and ’90s tunes. Look out for the dorky foreigners having a little bit too much fun. Good for those not accustomed to the ostentatious Bund clubs.

Q. What’s your favourite hard-to-find haunt?

A. Shanghai Propaganda Poster Art Centre gives you a great insight into the Cultural Revolution. It’s small and hard to find but truly an eye-opener to the history of this great city.

Shanghai’s cityscape.

Shanghai’s cityscape.Source:Supplied

Q. How do you get around?

A. Bicycle and sometimes the metro (rail line). Shanghai is flat, and all the good spots are within a few kilometres of each other. Cheap, healthy and the best way to find hidden gems down all the small laneways.

Q. For a city escape, you head to where?

A. Moganshan, a small mountain getaway with clean air and chance to get back in touch with nature. The high-speed rail makes plenty of choices only a short ride away. You can pick a new station each weekend and come back the next day, with little or no effort to plan.

Q. Best free fun you can have?

A. Get on your bike. Shanghai is so diverse that you can feel like you’re riding through Europe in one suburb, then old China the next. The city has plenty of parks, waterways and public art to explore, so you can’t go wrong.

Where to stay

The Fairmont Peace Hotel, a short walk from the iconic Bund, is a chance to experience a slice of the grandeur of old Shanghai. URBN Hotel in the Jing’an District provides easy access to the former French Concession.

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