Most people go to the beach or skiing during the winter holidays. Not me. Always up for an adventure, my wife and I traveled to China where we visited friends and family, saw the sites, ate, shopped and got lost. As always, my eyes were open for insights on culture, consumers, branding and marketing - you'll find them in this set of posts - most starting with a bit of business, followed by some fun (and strange) trip stories. (3rd in a series)
Insights - Today we hung out with Archie Hamilton, a partner in the Chinese concert promotion outfit Split Works. With offices in Beijing and Shanghai, Split seems to be holding it down in China for indie and progressive music. They’re currently producing the Jue Festival in both cities, which features Chinese and international music and art.
For all my sponsors reading this, you should be all over the Jue Festival.
We also found some pretty cool brands you might not know about. Not the $5 “Zegna” ties, although they were plentiful. I’m talking about Hi Panda — a Sino-centric pisstake on Hello Kitty — and Produc-T, owned by an award-winning designer whose propaganda-style graphics featuring surprisingly subversive messages. The one I bought said “Never forget the life we had under a planned economy. But is commercialism the answer?” I didn’t think you could say things like that in China.
Trip Notes - Saturday in Shanghai, and the top priority on my agenda is dim sum! If we’ve never eaten together, let me tell you now that dim sum is near the top of my favorite meals list (By the way, LA has some great spots, so hit me up if you ever want to join us.)
Dim sum is Cantonese, and is typically associated with Hong Kong, not Shanghai. But Time Out said the city’s best dim sum was either at Crystal Jade or Din Tai Fung, both foreign chains with locations in Xintiandi. Since I’ve been to Din Tai Fung in Arcadia, off we went to Crystal Jade.
The main difference from the dim sum we know was that there were no carts. That’s kind of a bummer, since I consider ordering off a passing cart central to the experience, and because it ruins the “no waiting” advantage, but the food was very good. Maybe not Yank Sing good, but very good. The roast duck was awesome, and Christie loved the red bean cake.
At the table next to us was an American couple. From Detroit, they had been living here since summer, and were understandably happy to be away from Detroit. Not only for the weather, but the guy worked for “a major supplier to the automakers.” He wouldn’t say which one. They told us about a little arts district nearby called Tai Kang Road.
This was our last day in Shanghai, and we had big plans to hit the Jade Buddha Temple at the west end of the city, find a tailor who could make me a custom suit, take the subway to the Science & Technology market, which apparently sells the best “designer” bags, and again, be in Pudong for sundown. But, the arts district sounded really cool, so we went there first. Once we found it, the adventure began. There were easily a dozen tiny streets that seemed woven together like an MC Escher painting.
After an hour or so of trekking through the maze, we stumbled onto the Wines of Chile store, which was handing out free tastings. Wine in China is still many steps behind the US, and I was thirsty for a good taste in addition to being intrigued by the concept of a Chilean wine shop in the middle of Shanghai, We tasted a cab that was actually very good.
Click here to see more pics from Shanghai.