Shanghai Old Town On foot
One day last week, my bike was stolen. My precious Giant that I knew and loved was gone. I was a little sad, but really, it couldn’t have happened at a better time. I only have one more week in Shanghai, and this way I don’t have to worry about what to do with the bike when I leave.
Since we were now short a bike, this weekend Nik and I set out to explore Shanghai the old fashioned way: on foot.
We hadn’t had a significant walking day since we visited last December, and I honestly forgot that it was possible. Sure, we’ve walked five or six blocks to get from one place to another over the past year, but we haven’t set out for a destination on the other side of the city.
On Saturday, the Bund Soft Spinning Market (aka “the Fabric Market”) was our destination and along the way, we needed to pick up a cup of coffee, eat breakfast, exchange RMB for $$$, and enjoy the crisp November weather. For the first stretch, I window shopped while Nik filled up his memory card. I thought it was going to be a day where I was along for the ride…and then we crossed Chongqing Road into the older section of downtown. All of a sudden there was a ton of activity around a young couple getting married, so I took my camera out to take video of the firecrackers, and I never put my camera away until we made it to the Fabric Market.
If you ever visit Shanghai, be sure to reserve a day for wandering around the area east of Chongqing Rd South between Xujiahui Road and Fuxing Road West. Many of the buildings seem to be ramshackle and in disrepair, but they are loved and taken care of by multi-generational families that have probably lived and worked there for over 50 years. These are the streets that I will think of when I miss Shanghai. The ones where no matter where you turn, a hundred things are going on at the same time. Behind an elderly woman sitting in the sun is a doorway leading to another woman washing clothes in the shared sink in front of another open door leading to a table of five men playing cards where the sixth is mounting his motorbike and rolling it through the door towards the elderly woman. The layers of this neighborhood are amazing, and there are very few cultures in the western world where each family’s space flows into another family’s to the point where as an outsider, I feel as though I am walking through one huge maze-like garage.
Now I understand why Nik is worried about being bored in America. Please tell me if any of you know of a place in the continental United States where you can walk for four hours and see scenes as diverse, textural and beautiful as these. Because if this place exists, that might be where we should move next.
Then today after meeting Andy for lunch, Nik and I took a detour down an old lane so that I could photograph the three blankets that I have made here in Shanghai. The first and last ones are gifts for new little ones, and the middle one is for Nik and I. I had never made blankets before, but for some reason I was drawn to the repetition here in China. We’ll see how long my blanket streak lasts!
Nik has also written a blog post about this weekend’s adventure, that is accompanied by 90+ photos!