Early in November Sean and I went to check out Thames Town (or “Hameston”, as it seems to have become). It was fashioned in quaint ye olde English style, being one of the new satellite towns designed as part of Shanghai’s “one city nine towns” program (read more about it here). A 1.5 hour trip by metro & cab transported us out of Shanghai and into what felt like an abandoned film set:
In spite of a banner on its website claiming that “Commercial area is opening”, we came across all but 1 convenience store, 1 cafe, and several wedding costume/photo stores containing any sign of life. Since the temperature had gone from about 25C the day before to a windy 10 on the day, we were left with little choice but to slip inside the two-storey cafe, where we were one of two groups of customers. The fare wasn’t cheap or particularly good, but presentation was loverly:
[Two groups of Americans came in at various points in our stay, wanting hot chocolate to go. The first group, quite possibly NYU students on exchange, were told they didn’t serve it, but the second (a little older) succeeded in their quest, perhaps because they actually made an attempt at Mandarin, a toneless “wo yao hot chocolate”. They went back outside to wait for their drinks, playing hacky sack to pass the time. Remarked Sean: “One of the things I don’t get about white Americans is why they love wearing t-shirts and shorts in winter weather.” Anyone?]
Although the town was meant to house some 10,000 people, the place was practically deserted, save for a group of youngsters playing a Chinese version of red-light-green-light, security guards in red British guard uniform (minus the hats), and clusters of Chinese people in wedding/English period garb posing for photos, with their respective photo crew. As the wintery gusts mangled my hair into knots, I said a prayer for these women’s backs.
Strange and eerie as this veritable ghost-town was, it provided a much-needed break from the rest of humanity back in Shanghai proper, and that quality alone is enough to induce me to make a second trip.