Stand atop the second tallest building in the world and the city of Shanghai is a sprawling mass of glass, glossy cars and clean-lined skyscrapers but walk through the streets and you will notice things like laundry strung across pedestrian footpaths and the eclectically assembled shacks hidden by the row of new, uniform-size apartments; the dusty old bicycles left out to dry in the midday sun next to mobile phone shops and yoghurt chains. It's why I have a hard time describing China in general - your experiences and impressions can so utterly depend on where you spend your time. But since you're there, you might as well try to see it all, right?
Tianzifang (田子坊) is Shanghai's answer to Beijing's Nanluoguxiang and other hutongs - a sprawling maze of old, narrow streets dotted with all manner of interesting little shops, cafes and boutiques where you can find White Rabbit candy of your childhood in gigantic bulk packs or fruit drinks packaged in IV drips.
I only managed to give it a quick walk during Christmas Eve - in which there were too many people to comfortably browse - but it is definitely a place for those who love to do a bit of wandering, digging and photographing in nooks and crannies. We also dropped into the themed teddy bear cafe and shop where we helped to stuff teddy bears (talk about free manual labour and advertising for your shop!). Not somewhere I would have gone by myself (overpriced watery coffee...) but a pretty cute idea nonetheless.
A building that used to be an old slaughterhouse, 1933老场坊 (Lao Chang Fang) comprises one of many old industrial buildings now refurbished as creative spaces in Shanghai, housing cafes, boutiques and restaurants. That being said, the space was still very much 'unfinished' - almost all shops were still under renovation and the entire area was relatively deserted. I would love to come back when it's a little more developed. And despite being there at midday with bright light, the entire place would be an excellent horror movie set or interesting photoshoot location; there's a distinct eerieness to the bare concrete walkways (with an abundance of dead ends) and narrow, winding staircases.
Surrounding the area are residential buildings with narrow streets - according to my cousin-in-law, childhood in 1980s Shanghai was spent running through these crowded, winding alleys with friends and neighbours.
Number one on my 'tourist bingo' list was going up to the Shanghai World Financial Center (the one that looks like a can opener) via the Bund to take in the entire view of the city (and also take postcard-style photographs).
It was admittedly pretty cool to take in the scope of the city and view the Oriental Pearl Tower from a different perspective but more amusing was observing the truly amazing contortions that mobile phone users were practising in order to get a (correctly exposed) selfie with the view. Wide lenses...you need them.
I only wish the entire platform was glass so we could really get a sense of the entire panorama (then again, I was also telling my cousin how cool it would be if we could bungee jump from the building, which caused a certain degree of concern). Don't take my word for it - see for yourself