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Shopping Small In Tianzifang

8,008 km so far.

My continuing obsession with shikumen houses was fed today by a visit to the hipster-tourist shopping district of Tianzifang. This is the less polished counterpart to Xintiandi. While Xintiandi is all sterile chain stores housed in immaculate rebuilds of the old shikumen, Tianzifang squeezes its tiny boutique shops into the original shikumen structures, leaving everything a little more rough around the edges.

Since we can’t really fit anything else into our panniers, a visit to a shopping district is not a big draw for Stephen and me, but we found enough to hold our attention for an hour or so.

Like the charming signs along the lanes, advertising everyone’s wares…

Signs in the lanes at Tianzifang, Shanghai.

Signs in the lanes at Tianzifang, Shanghai.

… and the colourful decorations outside some of the shops…

Mailboxes at Tianzifang, Shanghai.

Mailboxes at Tianzifang, Shanghai.

…complete with heartwarming messages en français.

I really do, Tianzifang, Shanghai.

I really do, Tianzifang, Shanghai.

We even ventured inside a couple of stores. Stephen finds it hard to pass by a Tibetan shop without taking a quick peek inside.

Tiny scales at Tianzifang, Shanghai.

Tiny scales at Tianzifang, Shanghai.

I couldn’t not go into the goth / vampire / Buffy store. After all, we are only biting distance from Fangbang Lu.

Charms in Tianzifang, Shanghai.

Charms in Tianzifang, Shanghai.

And, of course, there was our daily Angry Birds impression.

Kids easy chopsticks in Tianzifang, Shanghai.

Kids easy chopsticks in Tianzifang, Shanghai.

Since about 75 people have told us to visit this district, I was expecting the adorable lanes filled with tourist shops. What surprised me, though, was the amount of real life happening in the midst of this tourist attraction.

The rooms above the shops all still seem to be inhabited, and plenty of houses still have people in them on the ground level, too.

This lady was preparing her lunch about three feet away from the luxury Cashmere pashmina shop.

Lunchtime in Tianzifang, Shanghai.

Lunchtime in Tianzifang, Shanghai.

I wonder how she feels about swarms of tourists milling around her front door every day. Although, if it weren’t for the shop owners and the tourists, the district would have been destroyed several years ago, so I guess you take the smooth with the crunchy.

As with almost everywhere in China, the electricity looks like it could use some updating.

Wire highways, Tianzifang, Shanghai.

Wire highways, Tianzifang, Shanghai.

The outdoor lighting has been here for a while, but it obviously still works.

Death trap, Tianzifang, Shanghai.

Death trap, Tianzifang, Shanghai.

Presumably that’s partly thanks to these two.

Maintenance, Tianzifang, Shanghai.

Maintenance, Tianzifang, Shanghai.

In this city of contrasts, we didn’t have to walk far from these humble shikumen before the modern Shanghai took over once again.

Modern art-chitecture, Shanghai.

Modern art-chitecture, Shanghai.

We are thankful every day for the modern amenities available in the city. Especially those offered by our favourite coffee shop, Sumerian Coffee.

Green art, Sumerian Coffee, Shanghai.

Green art, Sumerian Coffee, Shanghai.

Here, we can get the city’s best coffee (Sumerian’s own roasts), great bagels from Egghead Bagels, and real homemade cookies by Strictly Cookies, all while being entertained by the staff’s lively banter.

Stephen at home, Sumerian Coffee, Shanghai.

Stephen at home, Sumerian Coffee, Shanghai.

Of course I just go there to see Burrito’s latest outfit.

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For those of you following along, this was today’s photo assignment, which I am calling Just Take Some Damn Pictures. I have been getting a little bored with my highly specific shoots, so I decided to remove all constraints today and just – yup, you guessed it – take some damn pictures.  

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3 Comments

  1. Michael Moldofsky says:

    The lady making lunch… Her place is worth 1.5 million USD

  2. David B. says:

    Thanks for the very nice ‘damn pics’, always interesting to follow you along during your peregrination!

  3. Liisa Peltokangas says:

    Happy to hear about your daily Angry Birds impression.