The Bund a shining example of success
Few parts of China reflect the nation's burgeoning economy so accurately as the Bund, beside the Huangpu River in Shanghai.
Once the epicentre of the city's financial operations, it fell into disrepair in the second half of the 20th century, only to re-emerge restored, not to its former glory, but to something far superior.
The rank of gracious buildings, that reflect a variety of architectural styles, have been renovated, their grandiose facades taking on new life thanks to the range of designer label stores, gourmet restaurants and lifestyle emporiums that lie within.
A prime example is Three on the Bund, formerly known as the Union Building which was built in 1916 in neo-Renaissance style. A private equity company from Singapore purchased it in 1997, and set about turning it into an entrancing mix of shopping, dining and relaxation.
The ground floor of the seven-storey building has an extensive space given over to the German fashion brand Hugo Boss. The Shanghai Gallery of Art showcases all that the city's creative young minds have to offer, and there is also function and exhibition space.
The upper storeys are given over to deluxe international and local restaurants. The pinnacle - both from a point of view of gourmet food and an incredible location - is provided on the roof in The Cupola, which houses two private dining rooms.
Further along the Bund, in the newly-opened Peninsula Hotel, all is supremely luxurious, not least among the rank of high-class boutiques, that include the first mainland branch of Graff Diamonds.
'It was an obvious decision to open in China, and we felt that the environment and the clientele at The Peninsula were utterly appropriate,' says Arnaud Bastien, Graff's general manager for Greater China.
'We feel this is a great opportunity. There are many people in the large Chinese cities who are wealthy and sophisticated enough to appreciate the rarity of our diamonds and other precious collections.'
Perhaps the pioneer of the changing face of the Bund is Australian Michelle Garnaut, whose restaurant - M on the Bund - opened in 1999 on the top floor of what had been the Nissan Shipping Building and has rarely had a empty table since. Its vis-?vis, The Glamour Bar soon established itself as the second home of the city's wealthy and fashionable young - proof that an even more cosmopolitan Shanghai had money to spend and was more than willing to do so.
And, while Shanghai's residents contribute substantially to the balance sheets of the businesses that have opened along the Bund, the newly prosperous out-of-towners also spend lavishly.