Sunday, June 3, 2012


A bit of price-stalking a few moths ago scored us some really cheap 'plane tickets to Shanghai for the weekend. The Chinese granted the Shanghai Concession to the French in 1849, and in 2012 I conceded yet more of my environmental conscience to getting on an aeroplane for a weekend away. With our days in China drawing to a close, it did seem like we should make a final effort to see a little more of the country's culture before we're back in Vancouver and will have to cope with only 28% of the people being Chinese, rather than pretty much all of them.

Ironically (or not, I'm never sure what irony actually is after that Alanis Morissette song) we ended up enjoying a free exhibition of Ian Rankin photos, which was really entertaining. To restore the cultural balance, there was a band of four Chinese guys playing covers of British rock songs. It's been a long time since I watched live music (Erhu twanging excluded) to I enjoyed these guys reinterpretation of Yellow Submarine (apparently in the style of "Knees Up Mother Brown"), some reggae Pink-Floyd, and Radiohead's High and Dry with the words changed to a load of nonsense. that last one may not have been an intentional reworking, but I'll give them the benefit of the doubt.

The in-flight magazine had one of those whiffly "things I saw whilst enjoying my mornings perambulation" articles written by a French Artist living in Shanghai. Unusually, the article gave the address of the tennament building complex that he had visited and found a community of artists and hip cafes crammed among the skyscrapers. We set off for a long walk to find this spot, and were rewarded with some real hole-in-the-wall hipsterish stuff. We could have almost been back in East Vancouver.

No. 87, Lane 1025, West Nanjing Road

GZ Cafe, designed for tiny hipsters

This picture tells the story
We also did the obligatory look at the big/old/significant buildings walk, which was very scenic. I've also just started reading Ayn Rand's The Fountainhead, which I had no idea was about architects until I started reading it. Maybe it won't really be about architects in the end... but this part certainly fitted with a weekend surrounded by Gothic and Romanesque buildings. All of these impressive facades were an unfortunate reminder of how ugly Yongchuan is, but YC's charms lie in its cheerful inhabitants rather that its architecture, climate, or municipal sewage system.

The Bund's bizarre psychedelic tunnel. Made in France.
French Concession Lanes
Towers of glittering delight