Ninja Nicholas Vedelago's guide to Shanghai

Published October 1st, 2012

Nicholas Vedelago, originally from Brisbane, is a mildly bi-polar former *ninja residing in the Japanese districts of Shanghai. He spends most of his time enjoying Shanghai’s exquisite bar and restaurant scene or watching either SpongeBob Squarepants or Chinese-subtitled comedies from the 1990s. Alarmingly, in between these moments Nicholas works teaching Advanced Placement Economics to China’s future leaders. He managed to pull himself away from Kindergarten Cop to have a quick chat with us today.


Why Shanghai?

My initial reasons, much like myself, were purely superficial. The iconic Pearl Tower and the towering skyline of Luijiazui had a gravity that pulled at me. I wanted to roll the dice and have an adventure, and the city didn’t disappoint. There’s a piece of everything here, so long as you’re willing to find it. I was also a little curious. In China’s mad dash to modernity cityscapes were rising out of the ground all over the country, but Shanghai was the jewel in the crown.


Nicholas Vedelago's guide to Shanghai

Nicholas Vedelago in Shanghai

Moving from Brisbane to Shanghai, what has been the hardest thing to adjust to? 

Despite a population of some 18 million people, being a foreigner can be quite lonely. I miss the ease with which you could strike up a conversation back home and meet new people. Here, everyone is busy with the hustle of the city. They have no time to waste. You need to be active to make the most of it. But then it can be worse when you do meet genuinely great people, because chances are they are transient – just here for business, pleasure, both – before they board their flight tomorrow morning.


What's your latest city discovery?

I was recently dragged out to a lane of seafood ‘restaurants’ that assemble their plastic chairs and tables in the bikelanes on the road. The specialty is Xiao Long Xia, or ‘little crayfish’. You order by the kilo, name your level of spice, chilli, and MSG, then grab some beers. With beer, our dexterity suffered considerably, and we began to spill and drop everything. Though they have plastic aprons, for myself and other invalids, to prevent us from wearing the sauce.


You're fail-proof Shanghai spot?

hoF [at Luijiazui Huan Road and Dongyuan road] will cure any chocolate craving, but lull you into cream-based comas. It’s a cosy cafe-bar with incredible views and has become the cafe of choice of desert lovers across Shanghai. The entire menu begs to be eaten, but their Orange Chocolate Mud Cake is infamous.


Weirdest meal you've eaten so far? 

Stir-fried frog. When I ordered it, I wasn’t aware they were going to kill the unsuspecting frog right in front of me. It happened so fast, I don’t think either the frog or myself knew what was going on until it was way, way too late. I kept replaying the violent incident again and again in my mind. As they started cooking, I couldn’t help but notice how delicious and fragrant it was beginning to smell. By the time the meal came out, I was dripping with guilt, but it was just too tasty to avoid. I’m sorry, Kermit.


Craziest moment?

My mum will read this.


Best place for a drink? 

Too hard to call. Both the Alchemist in the French Concession mansions and the classy little El Coctel bar by Yongfu Road have nothing short of absolute professionals to mix up your old favourites and new master-crafted creations. Both places are rustic and have a roaring twenties feel, mixed in with some sleek modern elements. The drinks are unforgiving. They remind me of the Bowery back in Brisbane, which is probably why I’m at these places too often.


What would your dream day in Shanghai include?

My dream day is indulgent. To start it would definitely include blueberry smoothies and pancakes from Wagas, a massage, lunch and coffee at East Nanjing Road, and a siesta. We would be rising again to make sunset drinks at the 87th floor of the Jinmao, and a late reservation atXinChunCai New Tokyo or equally suited Japanese restaurant.


The night is still young, so to keep pace we’d be heading to the Cotton Club for a hit of American Jazz, then wherever the night leads. If the past is any guide to the future, then chances are you and I are going to end up at KTV singing a Boyz’2’Men duet for our adoring fans.


*Not an actual ninja


Lauren Burvill

Australian born but London based, I'm a sucker for big cities and small tropical islands. When travelling, I like eating like a local, dressing like a local, but staying in 5 star style. Have a travel story to share? Tweet me @laurenburvill.