We chose instead what we probably should have done in the first place: the open top bus tour. We want with a company that operates two routes: a red one which stays to the east of the Huangpu and has about 15 stops, and a green one which crosses the river to Pudong and has only about four stops. We started with the red one, which was very useful in orienting oneself around the city.
During it we hopped off at Xintiandi. This is a famous area of alleys and streets, often touted as the uber-trendy home of Shanghai style, particularly in fashion and food.
It was something of a disappointment. Xintiandi could be anywhere with some nice doorways. Architecturally it is modelled on the local shikamen
, which were a form of terraced housing thrown up in their thousands here in the nineteenth century. They came in rows, all facing south, and had big granite door frames housing brass doors, giving rise to the common name of 'stone gate houses'. The very small area of such housing at Xintiandi is entirely reconstruction, done to a very high standard. The detailing and quality of the work are excellent, giving a lovely context. So far so good. The content however, is clone town Shanghai. Every unit is branded, and the vast majority are international chains. There were a few, a very few boutiques, and even they were largely selling standard stuff. (Sarah will be doing a further rant on the subject of regeneration and economic development over on her blog soon, but there is no word/press access here!)
The far end of the south block of Xintiandi is often dismissed as it is a modern glass and concrete mall. Inside however, there are some of the better emerging designers. Sarah bought a lovely silk scarf in the sale at Woo
, and we had an excellent dim sum lunch. But otherwise, it really wasn't worth the visit.