Sunday, October 17, 2010

Shanghai

On our third night in SH, we were about to go to bed after coming home from dinner when 7th Uncle (younger bro of my MIL. In China, each child is numbered according to his birth order. My MIL for example, is 'si jie', 4th sister, the 4th to be born) mentioned how the lights would be very pretty at The Bund, as it was National Day Golden Week, so we jumped into a taxi which brought us there in less than 15 minutes.

SH lies at the mouth of the Huangpu (tributary of the Yangtze, the longest river of China) which cuts the city into the older area Puxi and the newer area Pudong.The English name for the beautiful stretch of river embankment where the two areas are sited is The Bund, which I find stupid-sounding. I prefer the Chinese name Wai Tan which means 'outer beach'. Sounds so much more romantic and less stupid.

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On The Bund, looking at the modern Pudong side with the futuristic Oriental Pearl Tower on the left and on the extreme right, the current highest building in China, the Shanghai World Financial Tower. 

Shang means 'up' and hai means 'sea'. Interestingly, in Chinese you don't fall in love, you 'up love' so the words on the building is a play on the city's name: 'Fall up up sea' means to fall in love with Shanghai. Hub's grandparents were from Pudong, in those days an undeveloped area of SH. Now Pudong is the high-class business center of the city.

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On The Bund, looking at Puxi  on the left.

Puxi on The Bund is lined with neoclassical buildings built a century ago. These are now mostly headquarters of international banks.

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Nanjing Rd

I thought I could escape Nanjing Rd, a very tourist-packed pedestrian street. Don't waste your time here. Nanjing West Rd however is an upscale and pleasant street to stroll in, especially at night. Shanghai this time of the year is filled with the scent of osmanthus (guihua) but  it gave me headaches and sniffles. The scent of magnolias on Nanjing West Rd agreed with me and in the cool night (about 19 C, no need even for a sweater), we had one of our best walks. We couldn't afford the things on Nanjing West Rd so we stopped by a cart that sold English paperbacks. We picked three for RMB70/RM35/USD11 and didn't realize until we got home (it was too dark on the street corner) that they were pirated books. I didn't know that they pirate books too. It felt wrong.

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Huahai Lu which we had to walk daily since hub's relatives lived off the road, in the longtang behind Starbucks in fact.

I found Maoming Lu and Shanxi Lu best for shopping. Changle Lu had surprisingly nice apparel but prices are crazy. I don't do malls such as those in Xujiahui; too boring.

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Longtang (in Beijing, they are called hutang) are 3-storey brick townhouses over 100 years old, usually grouped in a small area with two exits/entrances, one in the front and one at the back and guarded by a watchman each. Generations have grown up in longtangs. Not many are left in Shanghai. This one is Huahaifang, just behind Starbucks on Huahai Lu, where my MIL's three brothers live.The houses are old but because of their location, each house is estimated to be worth RMB10 million/RM5 million/USD1.6 million! The owners don't renovate their houses because they are waiting for the government to take over.

I prefer longtangs to apartments because there's a sense of community and kids can play with each other on the lanes where no cars are allowed. Most families now live in apartments where kids are confined and neighbors don't know each other. The lucky ones who live in longtangs are usually those 'real' Shanghainese whose ancestors first moved there.

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This is the staircase and landing of my FIL's brothers' longtang in Tungfuli, behind Changle Lu. The rooms are huge and the ceilings over 11 feet high. There's no central heating and in the winter, these houses are bitterly cold. On our first trip to SH, we stayed in the attic and despite 5 layers of comforters, we froze every night. There's a charm about these old houses. They remind me of the houses I stayed in in New York and Toronto a long time ago. It's a pity that they will be torn down soon. Because of that and our wanting to spend more time with Hub's uncles and aunties who are in their 80s, we decided to stay in their longtang this trip.

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Tianzifang, Taikang Rd.

But there's good news. Not all the longtangs will be demolished. This is Tianzifang, a longtang that now houses art galleries, boutiques, pubs, restaurants and other shops. The houses are maintained as much as possible and I think they did a great job at that. However, I feel that Tianzifang is too westernized. Instead of Chinese music, American pop music was played and the restaurants seem to all serve western food such as pizzas and steaks. Things were super expensive there.

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I was fascinated by the way this building was decorated. The 3-D petals looked very pretty as the lights changed. The buildings on Taikang Rd are modern and new and many are art galleries like this one.

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Why not stroll before bedtime in your pjs and jump into bed without changing? Wearing your pjs publicly is a very Shanghainese thing and the government banned it during the Expo period but I saw many people in pjs, most of them men. Women used to leave the house with their hair in rollers but I didn't see that this trip. Wearing pjs in public is not confined to old men only. One morning we were eating breakfast at 9 am and a young man in his 20s walked into the restaurant in his pjs. Straight out of bed, no need to get dressed. While at a major hospital one day because Hub had a pain in his arm, I saw a gweilo ('devil man', referring to white men but this term is now used fondly) walk in in his pjs. When in Shanghai, do as the Shanghainese do. Just make sure your pjs are nice.

11 comments:

zurin said...

LOL....the pj part is too funny. I think its charming as well as fascinating.
the equivalent of people going around in sarongs i suppose.

malaymui said...

your post brings back a lot of good old memories of Shanghai!!! i still have a lot of photos on the longtang but most of those places already demolished for the xingtiandi... nostalgic!

Ming said...

Beautiful pictures, my elementary school is just off of Huai Hai Rd. I never noticed all the shops when I was rushing to school....who knew all those houses would one day become such prime real estate!!

Feed Me said...

I've heard so many interesting things about Shanghai from friends who live there. I hope to make a trip over sometime next year :)

Heather Sario-Mahi said...

*Sob* Memories!

I used to live just 5 minutes away from HuaiHai Fang.

And I miss em pyjama clad peeps who used to to shop at the same wet market as me!

terri@adailyobsession said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
terri@adailyobsession said...

zurin: it's kinda funny n embarrassing yet endearing,, like they never grew out of their 'kampungness' too.

malaymui: land is so precious n expensive so all those heritage buildings have to go. tt's one thing i dislike about china, all those shiny high rise. why is it tt italian cities can be kept like they have been kept for the last 2000 yr but not chinese cities?

ming: wow, you from SH?

heather: you should've waited for me in SH...sigh. but we met up in lux, yes we did :DD n lux's a fine place, lucky you!

feedme: i'm waiting to read about your trip there bc i'm sure you'll go to more exciting places than me.

Milosh said...

Terri, I'm sorry, but I think you mixed up Huangpu (Yellow Bank River) with Huang He (Yellow River). Huangpu which flows trough Shanghai is only 97 km long.

terri@adailyobsession said...

milosh: u r right! i am so ignorant about chinese history n geography i had to double check with my hub. i don't read chinese n i thot huangpu n hunaghe are the same n it doesn't help too when yangtze is called changjiang in chinese, all so confusing. n it took you, a serbian, to point out my mistake!

thnx, thnx!

Anonymous said...

if you ever go there again, can snap some pictures on adeline Yen Mah's liao jia?

Beau Lotus 涟 said...

Would love to see more pictures of your family's long tangs, I'm quite fascinated by them. And it's a pity they don't renovate them any more because I'm sure the potential is great. I love that one pic of the uncle's house with all that wood and ceiling!

I used to go to Tianzifang a lot because of that but the food there is expensive and lousy and like you said things are expensive.

My driver's family has a old house near People's Square and they don't renovate either, waiting for the day it will be demolished so that they could be reimbursed with a few apartments and become "rich" over night. But apparently it is linked to the number of people registered so with his mum dead last year they now have one apartment less.

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