The lights are bright in Shanghai at night, most places.

Here’s the front of the Jade Garden restaurant; we ate there and a good time was had. Notice something? The sign’s mostly English, and the customers were a totally random mix of locals and foreigners; it felt just like eating out in Vancouver. Shanghai is cosmopolitan and don’t you forget it. Compared to Tokyo, there are more foreigners, and more people speak more languages. Unlike Tokyo, people are happy and confident trotting out their English even when it’s klunky. Maybe it’s because they all speak the local dialect and Mandarin too, just to get by. It’s obvious the city is looking out as much as it’s looking in.

The Jade Garden restaurant, Shanghai

Nanjing Road is an endless mostly-pedestrian shopping street with bright lights all the way along. It’s fun; we stopped at a chopsticks shop and picked up some way-cool sets.

It could be better: there’s a really high density of Rolex/Montblanc touts and people selling glow-in-the-dark gizmos and trinkets and various other flavors of hustler, and they’re aggressive and irritating. Me, I’m large-ish and calm and rude when necessary, and my wallet was in a zippered pocket, and I didn’t let it get to me; but I can see some people getting really bent out of shape.

Nanjing Road, Shanghai

Also, there are nearly no buskers, which is a shortcoming on a warm night’s stroll. And nowhere to sit down and have a beer or coffee or ice-cream and watch the people flow, which seems all wrong to me.

Another evening we visited Xintiandi, which is, well, weird. It’s another walking street, not as bright or garish, tasteful brick buildings on both sides, places to eat and drink all the way along, music coming out of them; more than half of the mostly sharp-dressed people strolling and eating are foreigners. And there are no touts, so there must be enforcers lurking to keep the tone up.

We stopped for a drink in a place with a very competent multi-ethnic jazz band. The whole thing felt, I don’t know, colonial or like a gated community or something.

That walk down Nanjing Road took us to the river’s edge. There were no streetlamps up on the embankment; sudden blackness after the street’s glare, little pools of light from candyglow toys for sale and the pungent food-stands’ charcoal, voices everywhere in the dark offering knock-off watches and probably other sins. And then the barges ghosting past on the Huangpu, dark and smooth and low between us and the towers of Pudong. Bright or dark, Shanghai never stops working.



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From: John Cowan (Oct 28 2007, at 20:15)

Local *language*, please, not dialect. Shanghainese is a dialect of Mandarin like French is a dialect of Spanish.

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October 27, 2007
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