History Repeating

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Friday, June 11, 2010 

under Travel by Mary Weeks

Think of a typical tour in China and you'll probably think of matching caps and a guide with a flag. Daniel Newman has spent this year developing the antithesis of such sartorially matching, tick-sheet sightseeing. His company, Newman Tours, so far offers a French Concession Tour, a Bund Tour and the original and increasingly popular Ghost Tour, as well as tailor-made options to suit. Each two-hour English-language excursion is meticulously researched and designed to engage, inform and entertain. If you like it to be all-fright on the night, then the Ghost Tour will not disappoint; from cajoling a Tree Ghost to bestow on you the winning lottery numbers, to entering the depths of a pitch-black grotto in search of the Mad Abbot of the Bubbling Well.

History buffs will find that the French Concession and Bund Tours evoke a real sense of colonial Shanghai and the way that East and West have influenced each other to shape the city. It's a heady mix of celebrity scandal and political intrigue, peering into the lives of the wealthy and the powerful, encompassing everything from opium dealers to bygone movie stars. With infectious passion, pictures (via Daniel's nifty iPhone) and insider knowledge, Newman Tours reveals the secrets of the city for your curiosity. You'll see obscure details you might otherwise miss and be taken to places you wouldn't think - or be brave enough - to access on your own.

After two hours of pounding the pavement, no doubt you will have worked up a well-deserved appetite. The French Concession Tour is complemented by an optional Shanghainese lunch, complete with calligraphy lesson; after the Ghost Tour, a Ghost Festival dinner - where you can discover your fate with fortune sticks - awaits those not too scared to eat. Prices for just the core tours start from RMB150, with discounts for groups, students and children.

The story of Shanghai is unique, colourful and worth exploring. The more you uncover the layers behind what you see, the greater your experience of any one place. Newman Tours is a fun and memorable way to peel back the wrapping tightly bound around Shanghai's past and delight in the surprises beneath. After one tour, you'll want to go back for more, passing on what you learn as the proud new expert among your friends.

Bottom Line: Think you know Shanghai? Newman Tours takes you beyond the obvious in a city brimming with stories to tell.


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