by Ellen Jin
Pre-dating Shanghai by over 1,000 years, Songjiang District was once imbued by prominence. As time passed, the tables turned. Back in 2001, the ‘One City, Nine Towns’ project was set in place to decentralize the city by building nine satellite towns modeled after foreign cities. However, the plan seems to have fallen through and faded into the background.
Thames Town was completed and open to the public in 2006. Originally planned to house 10,000 inhabitants, it’s currently home to only a handful, and is sometimes called a ghost town, except for the newlywed Chinese couples being photographed in this quirky place.
Around an a hour from downtown Shanghai, once there you will be greeted by an overwhelming revelation of rural Shanghai-turned-facsimile of olden days of British-living. The town’s architecture is comprised of an eclectic selection of Victorian, Georgian and Tudor. Lots of Tudor, in fact.
Amidst the two-story houses, the ‘Christ Church of Bristol’ is eye-catching; the doors and windows are bolted, however, as are many local boutiques. It seems that a great majority of the town is mere decor.
Regardless of functionality, Thames Town still stands shockingly indistinguishable from suburban Britain. Luckily, right when you start to forget that you indeed are still in Shanghai, the image of Chinese brides posing with statues of Winston Churchill will jolt you right out of your English trance.
The Jaccaci family (featured on the previous page) is part of the “handful” of residents that make Thames Town home. Tony Jaccaci believes things are changing in Thames Town: “Yes, it used to be a ghost town, but it is actually really picking up especially on the weekends and can be a fun place to visit.”
With two hotels, the Liston and Finity, more restaurants, tea houses and shops, Jaccaci recommends a visit and shares some of his favorite things to do in Thames Town.
What to do:
Thames town can be easily explored on foot or by bike. Three-person bikes are available for rent.
Pack a picnic and sit by the picturesque lake.
Visit the Thames Town Museum in the center of the Thames Town complex. Inside see a diorama of Songjiang and also learn how Songjiang was the "original Shanghai." Stop in the City Café attached to the museum for a decent coffee.
Play a game of spot the statue: Can you find the following statues in Thames Town? Look for 007, Lady Diana, Harry Potter, Winston Churchill and Shakespeare
Even more fun, try playing ‘spot the bride’ -: See who can find the widest selection of bridal and groom outfits. Extra points for the Spanish Rose/Matador combo.
Where to Eat
Salo Ukrainian Bar and Grill - 1007 Thames Town: Wonderful Ukrainian fare and drink with very friendly service (Sasha). Ask about the private karaoke bar in the basement.
Apex Foods - 1045 Thames Town: Delicious imported pastries and specialty foods and drinks. The very friendly owner, Patrick, will talk to you about a variety of subjects.
Rose Bar - 817 Thames Town: The best pint in town.
Ciao Pizza - 1049 Thames Town: Standard Italian fare for a mid-day snack.
Address: Thames Town, Songjiang District, 松江区泰晤士小镇
Getting there: Line 9 to Songjiang South Railway Station, taxi to Taiwushi Xiaozhen泰晤士小镇
Photo credit: Red Rooster Photos