On Taikang Road, in Shanghai’s Taikang Lu area, just a few metres beyond an American style diner that blares Robbie Williams from its street speakers, is a relatively nondescript alley with people milling about its entrance. Turn right and head down the cobbled, slate path. You are entering Tianzifang, Shanghai’s little art ‘district’ – a maze of inexplicable layout, crammed with exquisite boutiques, exotic jewellers and shoemakers and Oriental-meets-Western restaurants and cafes.
This is a truly marvellous little trove of artistic and culinary treasures. Photography studios sit alongside tiny galleries. Tee-shirt art, delicate handmade shoes, jewellery and eclectic boutiques showcase Shanghai’s emerging fashion scene. Cafes, bars and restaurants fuse French, Chinese, American and Italian cuisine and aesthetics. And in amongst it all, locals and tourists trip down the tiny laneways, lost in a maze, itself surrounded by the taller buildings of Taikang Lu with the customary strings of clothes drying on the balconies giving the smoggy sky dashes of unexpected colour.