Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Taikang Lu - stuffwhitepeoplelike

I've become a big fan of the website Stuff White People Like. It catalogs the interests and concerns of the Caucasian hipster set, and I like to think that it "keeps me real," as it were, after living years in Shanghai. For better or for worse, a lot of people in Shanghai just don't share the hipster aesthetic.

Taikang Lu is the best place to immerse myself in a hipster setting. A semi-converted shikumen full of cafes and boutique stores, I think it's the stuffwhitepeoplelike center to Shanghai. You could look over the updated list from their website, compare it to what's available on Taikang Lu, and probably check off 90% of it. You couldn't do much better even in the US, unless you were in the Mission District, Brooklyn, or downtown Portland.

Taikang Lu is not particularly convenient to get to. It's south of the uncool foreigner hub Xintiandi, which is itself South of the Huangpi Nan Lu Station. The walk from the station is about twenty or twenty five minutes. It's a short street, and really what people care about when they say "Taikang Lu" is the shikumen and buildings starting around Alley #210. However, the street has an interesting mix of down-market restaurants, up-market bars, and a local-style vegetable market:

These shikumen are a really interesting setting. I've talked about them before. It's a brick building structure, with shops on the outside street, and on the inside a series of narrow alleys, common courtrooms, and small apartments. It's really quite beautiful, and these shikumen are well preserved:

However what was formerly people's apartments has often been converted into trendy shops, such as this store selling ethnic chotchkies, scarves, and handbags:

Or a very, very large number of cafes, of all kinds: small little nooks, to larger chains - Maui Coffee has a couple branches:

And similarly, there's a large number of art galleries of all different sizes, here's a small one:

I don't want to continue along these lines too long. What else is there? A large amount of foreign restaurants (including a burrito stall, but it's not good), a number of boutique fashion joints, a Tibetan jewelry stall where the jewelry was owned by famous Tibetan lamas and now goes for thousands of dollars, and small cocktail bars. There's English speakers and English menus to everything, and most places have outside seating.

A couple favorites includes an eclectic Chinese antique store, which has things like 60s sewing machines, and Projection 216, a fashion design studio that cheaply shows art movies on their projection TV, during the weekend, in a very small room. Unfortunately, they're taking a break for the summer.

Anyway, the area is also interesting because it's only been half-converted into a retail space. It's still very much in use as a residential space, especially towards the back, and it's a fun way to check out what a real shikumen looks like, while being ignored by the residents. They're going about their lives oblivious to the tourists wandering around, and often snapping pictures of everything in site:

And there's the ubiquitous laundry, getting hanged up on a sunny day:

So I hope I give a good impression of the area. Taikang Lu's shikumen is definitely one of the best places for a foreigner to go in Shanghai. And don't get me wrong, I recommend my Chinese friends to go, and they enjoy it too.

No comments: