Shanghai is a buzzing place. If one likes cities, it’s hard not to like it. However the truth is that it’s not that developed as people like to think. Thank god the city still retains it’s coastal warmth of it’s people, dirty streets and air. Compare to Beijing for example, the air is totally different. They might have a similar level in pollution, but the thick sea breeze simply fills the nostrils and ultimately brains of these people. Resulting in a very laid back, “southern style” atmosphere. In the tall office building however, air conditioners keep business men from falling into the lazy trap of actually enjoying life.
Naturally visitors will want to get entertained. But sometimes the warn down style just doesn’t bite for westerners, and for a good reason too. Take acrobatics (the subject I so love) for example. If you enter the wrong theater you just might think you are in North Korea or perhaps you start to feel sick and leave the theater before the moist walls creep on you!
So that’s the trick in Shanghai basically. You need to balance your life between what’s needed to be luxury and what’s needed to be messed up. Living only one of the worlds will leave you with a big gap in common understanding of the city.
Go to a crappy noodle joint and you will see people with suits. Why? Because their city is their life. All the bits, be it dirty or marble stone. This is the essence you have to understand, in order to understand!
For the shows I would recommend Shanghai Center Theater since it’s the most modern and the most “not boring”. They have all the usual acrobatic traits going on and you can safely sit on “non-moldy” chairs with a pleasant conditioned air.
Despite being the most polished.. I loved the interaction with the crowd and it really seemed like they had seen great effort in making it all very very enjoyable. Not just to repeat the same thing over and over again.
But then again, some like tradition more. So why not try Huxi if you are into that kind of a thing. It’s a very small and cute theater with a very local group doing what they do best.. throw plates in the air and balance on top of chairs. You know the stuff.
It’s exactly this contrast between tradition, and modern which makes my visit pleasant. Just accept it and go with the flow. The Shanghainese way!