During the few occasions that I visit Shanghai each year, there are two things I always look forward to: the blisteringly fast 430 km/h maglev journey to/from the airport, and the chance to explore some of the city’s remaining old quarters. Last month I found myself in the backstreets of Lao Xi Men (老西门) which is located near the former West gate to the Old City of Shanghai.
Today the Old City contains some ancient but renovated sights, such as the Yuyuan Gardens, and its circular shape is imprinted by the surrounded large streets which occupy the space of the former walls – Renmin Lu to the North and Zhonghua Lu to the South.
Breaking off the wide thoroughfare you come across a maze of ancient winding streets narrowly sandwiched between traditional residences.
The area is occupied by mostly older folk and conditions are fairly basic but, despite the higgledy-piggledy appearance, not unsanitary. Bicycles are aplenty.
Along one alleyway I came across a small business hurriedly conveying flower arrangements for a wedding.
This is one mean street cleaner you don’t want to mess with!
Another chap takes a siesta from his street corner plastic bottle recycling operation.
He’s not the only one having a nap!
Chinese families take respect for one’s parents and ancestors pretty seriously (filial piety) and a community organisation exists to help the elderly of the neighbourhood.
Beers over lunch for these gentlemen sitting alfresco at a local restaurant with their speedy chariots parked alongside the pavement.
The noodles are made right in front of your eyes.
Best not to examine what happens out back too closely though…!
The owner of this bicycle seems to have given up riding long ago – lucky for any marauding photographers.
More old folk enjoying the first few days of spring/summer after the long cold winter.
Look no further if you’re in need of a replica terracotta warrior, or indeed a whole army.
If bronze Buddhas are more your thing then they have them also!
Fresh bananas by the dozen.
Or how about a hand-sewn bed mattress?
Shanghai, for all its gleaming skyscrapers, is in many ways becoming just another busy international city full of people busily searching for riches their parents couldn’t have even imagined. Inevitably this headlong rush into the future comes at the expense of the past and modern high-rise buildings are progressively encroaching on the older areas. What part this old fellow plays in the future is unclear…