Ever since I started my Big Girl job, my waking moments are spent as follows: 70% office, 20% home (both locations are within 30 minute walk of each other), and 10% at some bar/club/restaurant/café in or around the French Concession. Gone are the days where I had ample time to walk around around the city and appreciate its vivacity and uniqueness.
My favorite way to travel is having a vague destination and wander aimlessly – discover the backstreets, and observe how people live. I’ve learned to adopt this way of travel into my city life. I’ve fortunately lived in some of the most fascinating metropolis in the world – London, New York, Shanghai, and there is something quite refreshing about walking around the city with the eyes of a tourist. There is always something new to discover, and the city never seize to surprise.
Sunday was unseasonably warm for this time of the year. I was meeting friends at the opposite side of Shanghai, an area that I seldom explore. I took the opportunity to discover my city once again, put on my walking shoes and brought my camera along to document what the city had to offer that day. I took the backstreets whenever possible because the most fascinating activities in Shanghai often take place within the few remaining old neighborhoods that have yet been bulldozed and built into dull high rises.
During my walk, it’s astounding to see the progress of development even within this past year that I’ve lived in Shanghai. High rises are appearing everywhere, and there is a constant stream of construction taking place somewhere in the city. It never ends, and it is really rather hard to keep up. Some streets that I haven’t walked on in a few months are already different than what I remember them to be. It’s truly incredible.
Every now and again, I came across an area that I had once visited, but since forgotten. It’s nice to step into a place that trigger old memories. Last year, exactly around this time of the year, I went on my first wander in the city with a friend who was much more familiar with the city’s layout. I let him lead me and thus had no idea where I was at any given time, other than that there were interesting stuff to see. Stumbling upon the Antique market again this weekend after a whole year gave me a big ah-ha moment. It not only triggered memories of that walk from a year ago, but a nice validation to realize how much better I’ve gotten to know this city, and this time around, I know exactly where I am.
So much focus in the media is on how rapidly China is developing, yet so little is discussed on how quickly the culture is disappearing. I love old Shanghai, or what remains of it today. I, and the city at large, is desperately trying to hold on, but they are slipping away quickly to globalization. Corner stores are being converted to 7-11, wet markets are turning into mega supermarkets at a rapid speed. Is it selfish to want to hold onto the history and the culture? Perhaps, but I’ll hold onto them for as long as I can.