A Retreat from Shanghai
Moganshan is a mountain retreat in the outskirts of bustling Shanghai.
Situated within its confines is House 2, modeled after a villa from the early 20th century. House 2 is not for the weary at heart; if you happen to have a room on its third floor, the 87 steps prove to be an arduous trek. It is just one of many lodging developments to the area. These recent improvements have transformed Moganshan into a peaceful, low-traffic tourist attraction.
The journey from Shanghai is free of stress, although a bit long for some – three hours by train or bus. One gets the impression that Moganshan still retains its original founding magic from the time it was renowned as the Hamptons of eastern China. China’s elite constructed elaborate mansions of stone as well as tennis courts and pools. They spent their days in bliss on the mountainside.
Later, however, Moganshan was infiltrated by drug dealers and gangsters. These low-down criminals lived next door to the politic elite until the 1930s, when Communists raided the area and appropriated its mansions for themselves. Although it took decades after the communist reign, the area luckily became a summer retreat once again.
One summer villa, the former residence of Kuomintang foreign minister Huang Fu, has been transformed into a museum. A honeymoon suite displays a wedding photo of the minister and his wife. Another bedroom with black and gold deco-style beds is where formidable communist Zhou Enlai conducted meetings about military strategies against Japan.
The former residence of notorious gangster Zhang Xiaolin contains a Chinese temple with latticed and carved effrontery. Along with the Huang villa, it is a must-see and just one intriguing stop of a tour conducted by reputed guide Mark Kitto. In fact, he and his wife are in charge of House 2 and two other villas, House 23 and 25. They renovated them to provide an authentic feel of the resort’s heydays.
Another famed hotel is the Moganshan Lodge, where visitors can relax with a glass of quality wine. The Lodge has maps for self-guided tours around the mountain and its neighboring slopes. Those weary of walking are able to rent bikes at the Songliang Hotel next door.
Near Moganshan, the Naked Stables Private Reserve is an eco-friendly resort that preserves the pristine land surrounding Shanghai. Each room is equipped with meters that track gas, water, and electricity output. Energy-conservative guests receive a discount at the end of their stay.