China’s recent economic boom has given this city of 27 million people a high-tech makeover of mammoth proportions. Shanghai hosted the World Expo in 2010. After the building boom, Shanghai is now relatively easy to navigate by taxi, metro and on your own feet. The face of the city constantly evolves weekly as roads are ripped up, subway lines added, and new skyscrapers built. Shanghai is bisected by the Huangpu River, with the older town (Puxi) on the west bank and most of the brash new development on the east side (Pudong). The space-age Pudong skyline is dominated by the bold (some might say hideous) skyscrapers of the Lujiazui Financial District.
Shanghai’s cosmopolitan past has given the city an eclectic architectural heritage. The historic shikumen houses of the now-trendy Xintiandi area fuse Chinese style with European design flair, and the city also has one of the richest collections of art deco buildings in the world including the Majestic Theatre.
As a result of the numerous concessions, Shanghai sometimes has the feel of Paris or London, while Tudor style buildings give a German flair, and the 1930’s buildings put you in New York or Chicago. Nowhere else in China is the contrast between old and new China so striking – sidestep from a glittering shopping parade into a narrow pedestrian alley and 15 seconds later you are in another world. Housewives dry their laundry outside, beat carpets and take more than a few breaks to gossip and laugh with neighbors.
Throughout its brief history, many foreigners chose to live or just experience the adventurous charm of Shanghai. They included Albert Einstein, Bertrand Russell, Czar Nicholas II, Prince of Siam, Aga Khan, Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks, Doris Duke, George Vanderbilt, Marlene Dietrich, Noel Coward and Bernard Shaw to name but a few.