One-of-a-kind gifts

(Yao Minji and Michelle Zhang )
Updated: 2006-12-20 09:12

Shanghai is the place to find one-of-a-kind gifts, whether you want to pour your own chocolate, stuff a teddy bear, order a pair of tailor-made jeans or a customized rice-paper notebook, say Yao Minji and Michelle Zhang.

In this holiday season, let's play a word connection game:Holiday Christmas Christmas tree.

Under Presents Exclusive

Here's our keyword - exclusive. For Christmas, don't you want something unique for your special ones? Don't you want gifts that are different from anyone else's?

They're not easy to find these days when the Mona Lisa can be seen everywhere, anything can replicated, everything has its price.

Fortunately, there are a few places in Shanghai where you can find the "one and only" present, a gift that conveys your unique presence and taste wherever and whoever it goes to.

Make chocolates

Forrest Gump's mama always said, "Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you're gonna get."

You certainly know what you're gonna get at Chocodo Chocolate Bar - rich and silky chocolates that look as good as they taste, and in any shape you can imagine.

With decorations in homely red and orange as well as comfortable armchairs around the room, Chocodo Chocolate Bar looks more like a cozy coffee house where you can spend a nice afternoon.

Phoebe Wu opened this cute little shop two years ago, when there was nothing like it in Shanghai.

"I love chocolate and I tried lots of delicious chocolates in Europe. When I came back to Shanghai, I wanted to bring the sweetness and happiness back and share it with everyone in my hometown," says Wu.

"Chocolate is a good reason to be content," says Dennis Chen, a college freshman who brought his girlfriend here for their first date.

They order a popular chocolate hot pot to treat themselves before starting the chocolate making process.

As top-quality chocolate from Belgium melts in a small pot, sweetness fills the room and Wu explains their options.

Five flavors to choose from - dark, white, lemon, strawberry and the increasingly popular mocha - and the same five colors for the design.

Three kinds of chocolate from Belgium and France are available, each containing 75 percent, 65 percent and 55 percent coca, the more cocoa the more bitter.

Finally, there are more than 200 molds to choose from. Some are standing figures.

"The most popular ones are cartoon characters such as Hello Kitty or McDull. The Chinese zodiac signs are popular too, especially the pig for the forthcoming the Year of the Pig, or 'Golden Pig.' Lovers can choose heart-shaped chocolates," says Wu.

Chen and his girlfriend agree on Hello Kitty and hearts. They carefully pour the melted chocolate into the molds. For each color or layer they use a mold. For Hello Kitty's eyes and nose they use a final layer. A few layers later, the chocolate is ready to go to the cooler.

After another 20 minutes, they finally see their work - very cute kitty-shaped chocolates with a strawberry base. Some might have a larger left eye. Well, it's charming, not perfect but unique.

Especially for Christmas, Wu made a house of chocolate.

It might not be as large as Charlie's chocolate factory, the chocolate bar is a delightful place for a date, a family day or a place to make chocolates.

Changning store
Opening hours: 10am-10pm
Address: 342 Wuyi Rd
Tel: 6213-2969

Xuhui store
Opening hours: 10am-10pm
Address: Room 303, Ascendas Plaza, 333 Tianyaoqiao Rd
Tel: 6426-4464
Cost: 0.7 yuan per gram for German chocolate; 0.5 yuan per gram for Belgian chocolate

Fairytale cutouts

Besides fresh chocolate, Shanghai also offers three-dimensional fairytale papercuts. Though China is famous for its folk art cutouts, these are extraordinarily intricate cutouts that you can learn to make - if you have saintly patience and skill - or order from Paper House.

"Paper House is a trademark that originated in the Netherlands more than 100 years ago," says Ge Jun, owner of Paper House in China. The family of Ge's wife live in Holland and has a long history of paper crafts.

The doorbell makes a crisp sound and the door opens into another world, one that seems straight out of Hans Christian Andersen's fairytales, such as the "Snow Queen."

At first, it is even difficult to tell what is in the little shop because it's packed with vibrant paper flowers and the walls are covered with intricate, fanciful paper scenes and inspirations.

"If something can be made from paper, we can make it for you or teach you to make it," Says Ge confidently.

From the simplest DIY holiday cards to layered flowers and three-dimensional decorations that need four identical paintings to produce, this is a fantasy world made of paper.

"We have our own contracted painters in Europe and all the 3D decorations are based on their paintings," says Ge.

For Christmas, Paper House offers Poinsettia, more commonly known as Christmas flower.

Paper House
Opening hours: 10am-10pm
Address: 644 Fuxing Rd M.
Cost: 5-600 yuan
Tel: 6433-3424


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