Friday, August 18, 2006

Near Jing'An Temple

I'm not sure what would be the epicenter of downtown Shanghai. I've heard people say it's the Huanpi Lu station area, but really I think Jing'An temple is as good as any of 3 or 4 other candidates. Like a lot of Shanghai, it's very large and it's growing quickly. Behind Jing'An temple you can see a lot of office towers going up:

Immediately surrounding the temple are bunch of Subway exits, Jing'An temple is on Shanghai's #2 subway line, that goes between Zhongshan Park and the recent Pudong development. There's lots of offices in Pudong, and lots of apartments near Zhongshan Park, so the subway gets spectacularly crowded around rush hour. A lot of the time there's street musicians playing in or near the subway station, mostly it's more traditional Chinese music. Here is an erhu player, and like a lot of street erhu players he's blind. Maybe with the background chaos of the video it's hard to appreciate, but he's really great at it.

On the opposite corner from the temple is an old-time Paramount theater. It looks a lot like the old-time Fox theater near my old place in Oakland. It's in good shape, but it doesn't play movies. I believe it sometimes houses performances of plays, but most of the time it's a ballroom dance hall, how cool is that! Definitely I would go if I knew anything about ballroom dancing. There's even taxi dancers, like the 1930s or something. I'll have to check it out sometime, it seems about as "Old Shanghai" as Shanghai gets.

Speaking of old-time, while there are definitely some cute old brick houses around the area, there's also some shikumen. I'll be the one Westerner to cast a stone against Shikumen, a distinctive Eastern-Western early 20th century style of housing that adds character to neighborhoods, but would obviously be a terrible place to actually live in. A lot of them must have been torn down to make way for the new developments. 5 or 10 minutes walk north of the temple is a collection of shikumen, for the most part they're hidden behind a large wall!

Trees line the streets around the district - it's typical to areas of the former French concession, which the district borders. There's also a few smaller parks. The one near Jing'An temple is basic but I really like it. There's a Bali-nese restaurant looking over a small pond, shown in the picture on the left. It's beautiful, but my Indonesian ex-roommate says the food is expensive and horrible. There's also a lot of benches just to chill out, and additionally it's a popular place for tapdancing clubs to work out their routines:

Just because I like the video, and also for means of comparison, here's a tapdancer near my old apartment in Oakland, at Pat's Bar - he's better than the video, though.

Near the station is a grocery store that sells imported and boutique products, it's definitely too expensive but sometimes it comes in handy - there's also a Beard Papa, a Japanese chain selling cream puffs. They're better than I expected. By the exits to the station is a pretty lively series of street stalls, dominated by people selling bootleg CDs or DVDs, as well as Tibetans selling various chotckies, they almost all sell more or less the same stuff:

Finally, restaurants in the area! I'm still learning what's good and I must admit my dinner today was one of the worst meals I've eaten in a long time. The area around Jing'an temple is notable for lots of foreign style restaurants, inluding all the American fast food like McDonald's, Burger King, and KFC...

There's also plenty of pretty-nice Chinese restaurants that would be great for going out with a group of friends. But my preferences run towards low-key, everyday style restaurants, like won ton soup joints (although this chain isn't my top choice) or Muslim style eateries:

1 comment:

Emily said...

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