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Thursday, July 14, 2011

Thames Town: Surreality

Last week I went on a self-guided tour of the Xuhui District of Shanghai, where I saw Longhua Temple & the Xujiahui Catholic Church on the same day. I had so much fun that this week I took another itinerary from the Travel China Guide & went out to Thames Town, an English-style community on the outskirts of the city.

I had heard from others that Thames Town was an empty carcass of a tourist community that was built & then abandoned just as quickly - a veritable living ghost town - but I wanted to see it for myself.

Songjiang District is situated southwest of the Shanghai downtown area. One of its main attractions is the famous Thames Town on North Sanxin Road of Songjiang New City. This imitation of a British traditional old town is actually a community and was completed in 2004. It offers a tranquil oasis from the hustle and bustle of the city, and is worth a visit whether one has been to Great Britain or not.

Tranquil is a good word.

Subway No. 9 has stops at both Songjiang New City and Songjiang University Town. One can get off at either of the stations and take Songjiang public bus No. 14 or a taxi to the town, which is 4 kilometers away.

From where I live it took me an hour & a half to get to the Songjiang subway station. There I found plenty of taxi drivers waiting in a queue outside. Of course none of them understood me when I asked them to take me to Thames Town. I didn't have the Chinese name for it, so I called it the English-style town. That worked.

Thames Town has an area of about 1 square kilometer. It is equipped with everything that the residents need. Lakes, rivers, and trees surround Georgian and Victorian style villas and apartments.
There is a 4 star Liston Hotel (Tel: 021-37721998) by the lake, a Gothic church, advanced kindergarten and school, supermarket, clubs, and clinics.

It's really a beautiful town & could be something wonderful - if there were anyone there. In Shanghai, no matter if it's day or night, you're pretty much guaranteed to bump into someone every few yards or so as you walk down the street. But here in Thames Town, you're free to wander collision free.

Walking in the community, it is like being in a wonderland and many newlyweds like to have their wedding photos taken here.

One of the few shops open for business was a photography studio. It was easy to see why - the town has become a humongous backdrop for deep, meaningful glances.

Even with the lack of activity in the town, I spent a good two hours walking around, entertained all the while. Thames Town takes up a mere one square kilometer, so I ducked in & out of every nook I could find.

Tucked away where no one would find it was the Songjiang Art Museum. I love museums anyway, but the cool breeze of the air conditioned interior was irresistible. I saw more people in the museum than any place else in town.

幸福 Happiness

Inside were woodcut prints commemorating the 90th anniversary of the communist party, elaborate watercolor paintings on long silk scrolls, and a whole room dedicated to local photography.

After a few hours of walking around I sat at one of the few establishments open for business & drank a German beer. Europe's Europe, right?

Getting to Thames Town was easier than getting back - no people means no taxis - so I walked about a kilometer to the main road where I caught the bus back to the subway station.

Even though the town was quiet, it still held that China charm, & was well worth the visit. 

Not Harry Potter - No glasses or lightning bolt
Random bus dressed up like a dragon
Making a movie about rain


Scott said...

Wow, how cool and odd is that?! Or maybe it is how odd and cool... ;-)

Nancy Lewis said...

Nearly every day see something odd & cool here. Shanghai certainly has a unique personality!