Tuesday, December 14, 2010

– the little Vienna - Tilanqiao - 提篮桥

“请问提虹口篮桥往那个方向走。 我想要到'小维也纳'和以前日本人居住的地区去" – I asked the two elderly volunteers.

(Hi, could you point to me the direction to Hong Kou, Tilanqiao. I would like to go to ‘Little Vienna’ and the place where the old Japanese settlement was)

It was Sunday 29Oct morning. I left the hotel early - 7-Day-Inn in Guizhou Road - 贵州路 - heading north and east - crossing the Suzhou River.

The old post office – now the Shanghai Post Museum - was visibly the most imposing colonial style building on the north bank of the river. The clock tower and the tall columns basking in the morning ray were visible from afar- revealing a façade of Old Shanghai that aficionados of heritage buildings would lap with joy.

The two elderly volunteers were seated on a low chair along the pavement across the road from the museum. They should be at least in the eighties.

I knew that I was headed in the right direction – as I had just checked the map from the free internet logon in the hotel.

Furthermore, as with the previous trips with a map in hand, I love to explore the city on foot – and would get my orientation correct.

The Hongkou - 虹口-area in the NE sector was one part of city that I had missed in the previous trips, and on the itinerary this time – other than to visit the World Exposition – was to explore this area.

I had read of Hongkou as the Japanese settlement. A google on Hongkou also yielded Tilanqjiao - 提篮桥.

To escape persecution this was that part of Shanghai where most of the Jews from Europe were headed to prior to & during the WWII period in the 1930’s and 40’s. It also stated that this was the one last frontier Old Shanghai - where the old European style buildings were very much intact.

Bingo!– I thought. It added to my excitement and expectation as I stepped out enthusiastically into the cold morning.

The elderly guides looked at me expressionless – & thinking perhaps they might not have understood what I said - I repeated :

"提篮桥 ‘小维也纳’, 以前日本人居的地区".

(Tilanqiao –the ‘Little Vienna’ and the old Japanese settlement)

Then one of them pointed me across the road - in the direction of the old post office where I came from, and said :

"往前走。 在前面的那条小巷,跟着那条后面的小巷往前走去。那条小巷.."

(Head straight . In the small lane in front – follow the small lane behind and go straight. Follow he small lane. ..)

I thanked them, and trusting what he said, I wandered forth. After a while I thought to myself –to go to Hongkou and Tilanqiao I should be heading towards the direction of the morning sun. However, crossing the road and into the little back lane – it was headed towards the direction I came from in the westerly direction, and away from the destination.

I then realized that - I could have been duped by these old gentlemen. He particularly emphasized to head towards the small lane and repeated - 小巷 – xiaoxiang .

I thought - these two elderly men could not - NOT have known Shanghai well, and being in the neighborhood of Hongkou and Tilanqiao – all the more they should know where these places were.

Tilanqaio – as I later got to pass by –had another landmark – the old Shanghai Prison .

Recalling the nuances and the way that he emphasized & repeated –小巷- xiaoxiang - the small back lane - these two elder men were taking a quick one on this visitor, I concluded.

Perhaps – Hong kou, Tilanqiao, Little Vienna – Japanese – were something not be to asked of– to these old gentlemen.

Well, Tilanqiao –Little Vienna did not disappoint. It’s a time tunnel into the 1940’s…you could chanced upon Zhou Xuan -周旋 - too..
Remember to bring along your GPS ….


1. 7-Day-Inn