Friday 23 November 2012

Shanghai Nov 2012 - Old Town and Bureaucrats

I've always loved cities. Especially the old ones.

Not so much a nature trekker I guess

It's a bit of a paradox, but I do enjoy the slight tinge of solitude walking amongst the teaming mass of strangers. Of disappearing and losing myself in a crowd. I become invisible.

Old cities provide me 2 of my favourite interests:

People watching - Why is he wearing a frown? They looked like they have fought? Ah! Love birds! She looks so happy. Is he going for an interview? Bad hair day? She is talking; he is not listening.

Buildings - I like functional sculptures that reflect a society's culture (or lack of), their shared memories, and the inspirations of where they want to be in the future.

If you would like to visit the authentic old town of Shanghai, and you are not on a package tour, you may want to stopping at this LaoXiMen (老西门站) metro station instead of the Yuyuan Garden (豫园) metro station.

All package tours will bring you to Yuyuan Garden. It's the near equivalent to our Chinatown - just as sanitized, just as touristized. Don't get me wrong! Do pay to visit the Yuyuan gardern. It's a good representation of Jiangnang style architecture and garden landscaping. 

Remember, go INSIDE the garden

Many tour guides just bring their flock to the shopping and eating places OUTSIDE the garden (where they got cover commissions) and skip the main attraction. 

Or I could be wrong. Most tourists prefer shopping and eating. Who wants to learn about Chinese architectural styles and garden landscaping anyway?

By alighting at LaoXiMen, and I am assuming you have a map, you will have the opportunity to walk through the real and authentic old town of Shanghai. It will probably take you around 40 minutes or an hour - depending on how adventurous you are weaving in and out of the maze like alleyways. 

Don't worry about about getting lost. Just smile and ask the residents where is Yuyuan garden 

If you are lucky, you may find middle-aged aunties carrying spittoon in the streets towards the public toilets.

When I first came to Shanghai, I thought it's quite quaint that Shanghai have public baths. I thought the Shanghainese are like the Japs

Then I realise the really old Shanghai houses in this part of town have no baths and WC facilities in their homes. 

And spittoons are used not just for spit. Just look at the picture above. Remember, it's year 2012 now.


And the wash basin is outside the house. 

Is the door used for preventing people from outside getting in; or is it to prevent people from inside getting out?


Why do we have windows? To let in sun and air?

Quick! Take a look at your own windows. 

Are they closed and the curtains drawn? 

Makes you wonder... No?

Better be quick if you want to visit the real old part of Shanghai. It's getting enbloc soon.

Bureaucrats are the same everywhere. These buildings and the people living there are an "embarrassment" if your KPI is to develop Shanghai into a 21st century cosmopolitan city to rival Hong Kong, London, and New York!

Slash and burn.

It's a pity we have destroyed the character and soul of our own Chinatown...

Lucky Little India is still alive and kicking! Budget hostels, pubs, eateries, expansion of Mustafa do not distract from the charm of Little India. In fact I find them complementary.

Especially if they are bottom-up grassroot endeavours by entrepreneurs. The local community should be the best judge which developments should fail, which should thrive. 

Be very afraid of heavy top-down broad strokes from bureaucrats who find the sanitized and touristized Chinatown a success - just because we can get X numbers of tourists visiting it per year.

It about numbers again.

But there is hope. The Ministry of Education has stop publishing the top student rankings for PSLE. That's one baby step in the right direction.



  1. Replies
    1. Lucky you never become instructor!

      People who know about spiral galaxies would be so under challenged intellectually!!!

      Trading is a good fit for your intellectual curiosity. People fret about gains and losses, to you, it's all about solving the puzzle :)

      Which ties back nicely to my post. Some check-off lists, some focus on numbers, I ask questions :)


      But you belong on a whole different dimension!!! You far out man!


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