In our ongoing Threesday feature, Shanghaiist takes the time to count out three of….well, whatever catches our fancy that week. And this week it’s our three favorite things that have remained iconic Chinese, even as Shanghai gradually accrues the skyline of the globalized city that the World Expo expects it to become.
Even though our very own Eric Hu will be evaluating a series of hot pot restaurants for the winter season, we need to give the restaurant chain, Haidilao (海底捞火锅), a shout out for having captured the Chinese entrepreneurship in restaurant service form (even if veers very far from our Western/foregin standards of what is considered “appropriate”). If the patron has not made a reservation, Haidilao offers a variety of free services in their waiting rooms; aside from the comfortable sofas and chairs, diners may partake in shoe polishing, manicures, Wi-Fi, and even watch repair. There is a playground for kids, as well as chessboards, cards, and newspapers. And that’s before actual dining has even occurred. After viewing the elaborate display of available sauces, we knew we were sold.
2. The Marriage Market:
Each Saturday in People’s Square, every elderly citizen that is not hellbent on killing you on a transport vehicle in this city is located inside this park instead. A swarm of parents (of every age, really) with children of marrying age engage in “modern” match-making activities such as pinning a cardboard information pinned onto a piece of shrubbery or a standing plastic bag. This resumé includes their offspring’s best attributes: height, age, hometown, occupation, monthly salary, whether they own a house or not, perhaps an occasional photo. Aside from hovering family members, other points of interest include strings of personals wrapped around trees, matchmakers that will work for a fee, as well as rosters of every applicant in the market. It’s like the parent-controlled version of Match.com.
3. The People:
It’s a cop-out answer, but there is something to be said about the vibrancy of the people of this amazing city that want to make Shanghai into a global metropolis. And yes, we relish in its Chineseness, as well as all of the discrepancies of it being entirely unlike New York, London, or any other world city. We are all about the plethora of milk tea chains that decorate each road (the best being CoCo, with the highest rating on dianping.com), the almost-legendary avocado lady that offers her namesake and other imported produce at wonderfully low prices (¥10 an avocado, without bargaining? Only at 274 Wulumuqi Zhong Lu, 乌鲁木齐中路274号), the ironically endearing and utterly filthy dive bars that we tiredly emerge from as daylight breaks (such as long-time favorite C’s on 685 Dingxi Lu 定西路685号), and the aggressive shopping in floors upon floors and malls upon malls of miscellaneous items that verge onto what we would term “crap” (everything cheap at 168 Qipu Lu, 七浦路168号). These are the things we think of fondly and endearingly of each time we leave; these will be the things we come back for.