In America that would mean traffic jams and lots of parking garages, but in Shanghai that just means traffic jams. Lots of them, really bad ones. Pedestrians are spared the hassle, with walkways that go over the street. There's escalators on the way up, you walk the way down. The day I took pictures it was raining, so there was the hassle of making sure you don't fall down the stairs, it's a little slippery!
And any escalator or series of stairs in Shanghai wouldn't be complete without people who don't get the concept, and come to a full and complete stop at the top or bottom. Sometimes merchants will set up right there. It can get ugly, especially on these raining days, where there can be one umbrella seller after another and you can't get out. This transaction was a little more low-key, true:
But even without sellers these walkovers can get over-packed. It's best to avoid large parts of Xujiahui after work gets out - the walkways are just too narrow, you can get surrounded by people and nobody's moving fast.
The main way to get to Xujiahui is by taking the Metro, there's a huge subway station there. The station is in the process of being re-built, adding a second series of guard doors, to keep people from pulling a "My Sassy Girl" I guess. Many of the subway exits go directly into the basement level of nearby malls. Even on the way, the hallways are full of small vendors selling a little of this and a little of that.
Xujiahui is most famous as the best place to buy electronics in Shanghai. There's huge advertisements for electronic companies, and the glass sphere has been converted into an Adidas soccer ball:
There's also smaller advertisements all around, listing offered prices. These listed prices are more a recommendation than anything. The large electronics malls of Shanghai operate like bazaars, containing large numbers of small stalls, where the people will bargain to sell you things. Each stall has a specialty or two - maybe computer speakers, or iPods, or a particular brand of digital cameras.
It doesn't matter how hard you bargain, it's still not cheap. You'd think that with electronics being made here they would be cheaper here, but by some strange regulation, electronics made for export to, say, Japan, must be shipped there, then shipped back. They get a big luxury tax, in addition to import/export charges. I haven't done any serious study but I believe the mark-up is 10% to 25%, depending on the item. Supposedly it's best to get electronics from the US, and have them air-mailed!
There's more to Xujiahui than electronics, though. They also have large malls and boutique stores - definitely it caters to the wealthy, although it's not as elite as Nanjing Xilu or some other areas of the city. Perhaps to address this, they've added statues here and there, I guess they're supposed to give a vaguely European air to strolling the streets:
It still has the bright lights and the fast food restaurants you expect from any rich part of Shanghai:
It's hard to make out, but the decorations from above aren't there the entire year: they mark Chinese New Year's, which is coming in a couple weeks. It's referred to as Spring Festival and is a week-long celebration, it has to do with China's traditional lunar calendar. Many stores and districts are rolling out the red decorations in force.
Xujiahui also has some impressive older brick buildings scattered about, such as this large Concession-era church - most older buildings are limited to the more central downtown area and the French Concession to the West. And you wouldn't want to go in the rain, but Xujiahui does has a small but pretty cool park dedicated to a Confucian scholar.
And you can play this game in almost any area of Shanghai, but here is a picture of Xujiahui from 20 years ago. Except that there's lot of streets coming in at weird angles, the area is completely unrecognizable - it's all been replaced.