We just came across the website for Unlike.net, which offers customized digital city guides to a number of global cities, such as Amsterdam, Berlin, and our very own Shanghai. We haven’t tried it, but here’s the concept: you choose the general domain of interest, e.g. nightlife, arts, etc or else the type of mode you want, e.g. “Weekend Escape.” These guides are supposedly written by local connoisseurs. You pick the one that you want and order it via credit card and then have it delivered…digitally, we suppose, to your mobile device, computer, etc. Before you order anything, you’re supposed to further customize things from a drop down menu, where you can choose if you are a male/female/couple/group, what kind of food you like (are you vegetarian? Or the adventurous eat anything type?), and how you party (like Rockstar? Shanghaiist 30-something hipster with no kids and a drinking problem?), and Unlike will take some time (2 days) to further customize it for you.
On an internal page we see an introduction to a guy named Rob Jameson, a “nomadic polymath” who might very well be one of the guides/local connoisseurs that writes or compiles these guides. It sounds like Mr. Jameson knows his Shanghai though we might take issue with the one statement he makes in the little about blurb:
“All that foreign influence has made Shanghai more open and tolerant. But it also makes it hungrier for progress. One day, the officials will wake up and realize they shouldn’t have destroyed all this historical beauty: they’ll end up rebuilding fake versions of it. Sometimes it’s like the Cultural Revolution is happening all over again.”
Call us nitpicky, but although there is a certain disregard for the value of history in all this destruction and demolition and Xintiandi-esque gentrification, we wonder whether or not that in itself merits any comparison to the Cultural Revolution. Maybe it don’t matter.
In any case, their website is slick and very sociable (lots of ways to email or share the info), and while we can’t vouch for the quality of the guides (we haven’t tried it), we think the idea is kinda neat and maybe worth trying if you’ve got relatives or friends coming over, or if you’re headed towards Copenhagen or Sao Paolo and want to read travel guides more targeted to your interests.