In Shanghai, it feels like you can find a mall dedicated to almost any merchandise…including crickets. Cricket fighting is a popular gambling event in Shanghai and, if you want to participate, the Bird & Cricket Market is the place to get started. Vendors sell much more than just birds & crickets now but the stalls are still full of punters going through little cups, each with a cricket in it, prodding at the insect with a thin piece of bamboo to find the most aggressive ones.
It would be easy to think of the block-by-block demolition of Shanghai’s Old City as a bad thing but, for the residents, I’m not sure. Many of the homes are in very poor condition and the residents share bathrooms, kitchens, and washing facilities. This is an individual tap on a communal sink with a lock attached to prevent others from using it.
Homes aren’t the only thing being snapped up by developers and levelled. The Dongtai Antiques Market is a chaotic warren of individual street vendors with anything from old watches to Communist tchotchkes but it won’t exist for much longer. This gentleman was telling us that he’s being moved out to an antiques mall in a high-rise building. He doesn’t like the idea, though — the rent is much higher and the location is much less convenient.
Block by block, Shanghai’s Old City is being bought up by developers. They are required to relocate families into new apartments and, for many families, this is a real step up from the decaying residences and shared facilities in their current apartments. As the developers are able to move more and more people out of a block, they begin blocking off sections of it, marking buildings with what I’m told is the Mandarin character for ‘destruction’.
This is the staircase into one of the homes in the Old City. These homes have been divided, divided, and divided again — you can get a rough estimate of the number of families living in each little building from the power meters on the wall.