Thursday, September 26, 2013

This Old Town

Even though most of Shanghai is industrialized and modern, there is still a lot of beautiful and ancient oriental architecture. Today we went to what is called Old Town. This huge section in a tiny part of Shanghai is like a step back in time. Street and alleys are filled with buildings that one would perceive and believe to be Oriental. In the center of this area lies the traditional tree house surrounded by water. Shops line the streets with everything from silk to jade, wooden Buddhas to traditional paper cuttings. You can find the real things or cheaper items. The sales people can be quite intimidating, coming at you from all sides sometimes, demanding that you buy something. You better know how to bargain and haggle though or you'll probably be paying 70% more than you should.
One of my favorite places here in Old Town are the tea shops. There is a tea shop about every three shops, filled to the ceiling with different teas, tea pots, tea sets, sifters and everything to do with tea. The smells are heavenly, with each brewing up tasters of jasmine tea, black tea, green tea, oolong tea, and tea's I've never even heard of. The ceramics and the decorations on these tea sets and cups are beautiful, each having its own design and in scriptures. I wish I could bring them all home. I hope that before I leave I'll have the chance to work on my bargaining skills.
Its weird though as you walk along Old Town, all the old architecture and everything takes you back in time, but you won't believe how many Starbucks, KFC's, and McDonald's, as well as a Dairy Queen and other restaurants there are. It interesting because even though the food is about three times more expensive than any other restaurant here, they are always full. In China there's a big gap between the rich and the poor and the rich like to showcase this in everything they do. For example, coffee is very expensive here, about four times the price of tea. Yet, you see a lot of people in Starbucks or other coffee shops, sipping coffee or surfing on the internet because this is a sign of status and position in the society. You‘re someone if you can sit in a cafe with your laptop and have a coffee, which most people cannot do. 
I think an interesting aspect here in China is people put a lot of emphasis on status and position in society and not loosing face. You can especially see it in their consumer patterns. I think this also leads to why a lot of foreign companies have trouble doing business here. In China, people go after what society thinks is luxury. Therefore when you go to Pizza Hut here, its not just a pizza place, you can order wine and beer and the meals are quite extravagant. Many wealthy people here also don't buy as many Louis Vuitton's any more and other designer brands because "everyone" has them now. They aren't special anymore and having a mere Channel bad doesn't hold the same standard as they once did. Yet at the same time, China has such a big gap with the poor, that consumers are very price conscious. Its interesting to see these two extremes and how businesses and people work here. I've decided I'm waiting till I get back to get my caffeine fix. 

Here's a look:

Inside one of the stores, they have just about everything you can imagine

I thought this was really cute. They have Buddhas of all sizes, shapes, materials, but I thought this one has been the cutest so far

Street along the Old Town

Inside the Mall
Last week I was there and there was no ship, but this one is beautiful

I love the selection of suitcases
Everything here is very cartoon based it wouldn't surprise you to see an adult walking around with one of these. Chinese especially love Hello Kitty, you can find it on everything and everywhere.

Bubble Tea! At first very weird to drink since the bubbles are made of jelly, but after a while it's quite good.
This one is Caramel Green Tea with Coconut Jelly

A view of the Tea House in the middle of the center. It was crazy crowded here since everyone was celebrating the Mid-Autumn Festival (Moon Festival) and so everyone had the day off. It was a challenge just to walk across the street. I thought I had seen a lot of people, but nothing like this

Another view of the Tea House

I still haven't figured out what kind of instrument this is, but all day he's hitting something and sometimes it even sounds good. Many people make something out of nothing here

Another week has gone by and I can't believe it. I've been here a month already and it still feels like I got here yesterday. Before long I'll be heading back, so I'll be on my way, hopefully I get to see all of Shanghai and China before its time.
Hope your enjoying reading, I'll be back soon.

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