New Year’s Eve in Shanghai!

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I took a quick trip up to Shanghai to celebrate New Year’s 2008. As the former most international city in China, Shanghai is eager to reclaim its title. The city has been booming for a decade with foreign companies flocking there to open operations and brands seeking to establish a foothold with consumers in Shanghai’s relatively affluent market. Foreign concepts are pouring into the city making it more international all the time. The dual barriers to entry – high rent and staffing costs that make Hong Kong difficult to do business in, are lesser issues in Shanghai.

While Hong Kong is considered the “Manhattan of Asia,” Shanghai is often sighted as Hong Kong’s biggest threat. Instead of viewing Shanghai as a threat, smart Hong Kong companies have already embraced the city as a new market, leveraging their expertise and proximity to create spin-offs suited for China. The pace of these role-outs is getting faster and faster.

My brief trip allowed me to check out several new world-class additions to the city that have close ties to Hong Kong.

Jia Hotel Shanghai

An outgrowth of the successful Hong Kong Jia boutique hotel located in Causeway Bay, I had the opportunity to stay in Jia Shanghai, one of the high profile new editions to Shanghai’s lodging landscape.

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I’m not really into the hype about boutique hotels, I view them with the same skepticism I do restaurants that focus on design. In this case, my feelings were totally unfounded. Staying at the Jia Shanghai I found the location, facilities, and hospitality all excellent.

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Occupying a renovated old building right on the main stretch of Nanjing Lu near the major shopping centers, the staff was helpful and friendly. The bell-boy even told me that he’s into Heavy Metal music – when was the last time you met someone in a hotel with a little personality? The comfortable room had everything I could think of, including moisturizer, which I desperately needed in the cold, dry winter weather. Even though I was in a studio, I found the room spacious. Each unit is decorated in an individual style, so that guests don’t get that gloomy feeling of staying in a sterile box.

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The lobby has a living room feel to it with art books scattered around and a staff that makes you tea and snacks. One particularly thoughtful gesture – on the 31st, I came back to my room and discovered a pair of sunglasses and a special aspirin packet – just in case I needed help for a New Year’s hangover. Thoughtful indeed!

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Check out the website here for more information.

Jia Shanghai address:
931 West Nanjing Road
Shanghai, 200041

Racks Shanghai Billiards Club

Less than a year old, Racks MDB, Hong Kong’s casual billiards club with a cool crowd has expanded to Shanghai’s famed Xintiandi complex. For those of you unfamiliar with Shanghai, Xintiandi is a dining and entertainment area based around two blocks of old low-rise architecturally significant buildings converted into restaurants, shops and bars. It’s roughly equivalent to Hong Kong’s Lan Kwai Fong. Racks Shanghai is located on the fifth floor of the new shopping center that anchors Xintiandi and shares the level with the UME cinema and a club called G Plus.

On New Year’s Eve I was upstairs at the new Racks Shanghai for the celebration. Racks regulars from Hong Kong will be blown away by the large scale of the new branch. The Shanghai billiards club occupies a whopping 16,000 square feet and includes multiple rows of pool tables, a separate lounge area, VIP rooms, a large balcony and several bars.

At midnight, club-goers filed out to the balcony to watch the impressive fireworks display nearby.

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Racks Shanghai address:
5/F Block 7, Xintiandi South Block
Xin Ye Road, near Ma Dang Road

ACU
The last time I was in Shanghai, ACU, the sister store to Juice, operated by the Hong Kong based CLOT crew, had yet to open. During this trip I took the subway over to Hua Hai Road and then walked a block to Changle Lu, a tree-lined street I’ve always been attracted to, looking for the ACU shop.

Changle Lu is an interesting shopping area filled with quirky stores. It runs parallel to Huahai Road, a block away, which is a popular mainstream shopping avenue.

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The large two-story ACU shop is impressive. Not only did they have a tasteful interior in keeping with the theme, they had a good amount of merchandise including a large selection of Visvim shoes and bags. The rest of the inventory, which included everything from hard to find street-wear companies, to big brands such as Nike, was featured on interestingly designed displays. Worth a look!

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ACU store address:
Shop#15, 139 Changle Road,
Shanghai, 200020

One sad note is that Rendezvous Cafe, near the main strip on Nanjing Lu, home to the best cheeseburger in Shanghai (or perhaps even greater China for that matter,) is now closed! I’m hoping they just relocated elsewhere in the city.

Perhaps due to the new CEPA agreement, walking around the streets I noticed a huge increase in branches of Hong Kong based banks. Hang Seng bank, Bank of East Asia (BEA) and HSBC were far more prevalent than in my previous trips to Shanghai. For Hong Kong account holders this offers far more convenience than on earlier trips to the city.

Shanghai I’ll be back!

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3 Comments

  • Hong Kong is considered the most international city in China. Its unique history, combined with its small size and relatively diverse population, plus the large percentage of international Chinese (what I define as Chinese who have lived elsewhere and returned to Hong Kong,) makes Hong Kong the most international.

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