Friday, December 27, 2013

Shanghai: small is becoming beautiful

Shanghai from the Jin Mao Tower
Shanghai from the Jin Mao Tower (Photo credit: thewamphyri)
Yesterday I arrived from Zurich in Shanghai for a short holiday, today (Friday) we had some time for a few first observations. First: was big beautiful in the past, now small is getting appreciated too in Shanghai.
Upon landing, pollution on Thursday was right away disastrous: a brown layer of clouds continued even after we touched down at Pudong airport. The first-hand experience of Shanghai´s killing clouds was not a pleasant one.
The number of people wearing masks was pretty limited, and in most cases it was obvious useless, as many used cotton cloths did not even cover their noses. (And do not offer protection anyway).
To beat the effects of a tiring flight we set off right away for a city tour. What we noticed much more than before were strings of small, high-end shops. Fashion, luxury, bars have been opening up, and largely integrated into the existing housing structures of old Shanghai. Quite a diversion from the Shanghai that excelled in building shopping malls, skyscrapers, bridges subways and other prestigious projects. That, if it continues, might be a change for the better and offer more character to a city where all districts until recently tried to look like each other.
The luxury brands (with mostly empty stores) still prevail, including endless rows of Swiss watches, but the little entrepreneurs now seem also able to get their chances. Nice and different stores, often with ample investments.
We ended for drinks in a new bar street YongKangLu, in the former French concession, where I have spend many hours in the past waiting for appointments, without any shelter. Now, part of the street has changed into a new bar street. And while a fair amount of them lacked any clientele, the idea seems to work out for this old street(although bar streets in Shanghai have a troublesome history).
We had drinks in the Cafe des Stagiaires, one of the better ones with a decent share of Belgian beers and French wines. And free internet access was available there (it seemed even uncensored) as in many other place, apart from our hotel The Equatorial, but that is a different story.
Dinner was as a nearby Bi Feng Tang at HuashanLu. Not our first preference, but that one was fully booked out.

Next morning we rushed off for breakfast at a place that was advised by our Shanghai friend, but had meanwhile closed down. Fortunately, we found on outlet of the famous Wang Jia Sha at the Beijing Xilu 15334, and were saved in the best possible way. Pollution was fortunately today bearable, although the temperature was below zero. Note that Shanghainese check first the Air Quality Index, and only then the temperature.
Notable is certainly also the speed of the Shanghainese while walking. Some of you might recall one of the first sociological research reports in the 19th century on the walking speed of unemployed in a town, as I remember well in Austria. Those without work walked slower than those with work. Since then the connection between economic prosperity and walking speed has been a classic one in sociology.
Well, the Shanghainese walk extremely fast, we noted today. While in the 1990s I was well ahead of the Shanghainese, cursing those who were in my way; this morning the roles were reversed, as the work forced hurried to their offices.
Then off to the Puli Hotel, one of the many new hotels in Shanghai, also famous for its food. A very stylish place in one of the relative new arrivals among the hotels in this city. The ambiance is pretty stunning, and not surprising, its pricing is also pretty upscale. Decent food, although few surprising, apart from an amazing Gorgonzola quiche.

 More tomorrow.

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