Shopping in Shanghai’s French Quarter! Chinese cute art shops, Toilet themed restaurant.

white neoprene dress, chinese fashion blogger

I’m currently in Spain (as you can see on my @lacarmina Snapchat and Instagram) — but have so many posts still to share with you from Asia. In this one, let’s explore Shanghai’s French Concession and go shopping in two of China’s coolest districts, Tianzifang and Xintiandi.

(I am wearing a Shakuhachi Future Minimal dress – this season, they have a similar white kimono dress.  The skull and pearl necklace is from Hong Kong jewelry designer, LLazy Bonez.)

china fashion style blog

So far, I’ve been showing you China’s emerging trendy side. Remember my photoshoot inside my penthouse suite at Cachet Boutique Hotel? Here are a few snaps from the lobby, which is decorated in the same “ancient China meets mod art” aesthetic. 

shanghai skyline buildings

From Cachet Hotel, we walked to the French Concession. This district belonged to France from the late 19th century to 1943. Even today, the European influence is seen in the architecture and character of the streets.

female travelers, girl travel

Melissa and I stopped to take in the old brick buildings, and the new skyscrapers rising above them. China’s changed enormously even in the past decade. Business and development are booming.

shanghai french quarter trees

The French Quarter remains the most peaceful and chic area of Shanghai (and arguably all of China). These trees — all imported from France — form a leafy canopy above the international boutiques and restaurants.

shanghai sex health shop

While China is modernizing, there remain strange remnants of the past. Communist China doesn’t officially allow sex shops, so this one put up a “health” sign.

china motorcycles

Another example of this juxtaposition. The French Concession feels as clean and contemporary as any European boulevard. And yet…

puppies dyed with stripes

… we came across a woman selling puppies in a box. She poked at them, to make them seem more lively for potential customers. And one was dyed with tiger stripes… Despite other modernizations, you’ll still see practices like these, in the open.

cute china stores

On the positive side, I enjoyed the calm vibe of the French Quarter. We passed by many artsy shops and cafes, like the one above.

french concession shanghai

I recommend spending at least a few hours walking around at random, and popping into boutiques. (The sign above says that this building’s foundation is sinking, and urges people to consider the health and safety of residents.)

halloween donuts asia

Seems like cute food is popular all over Asia. We were there around Halloween, so I spotted these skull, ghost and pumpkin donuts. 

shanghai red telephone booth

Shanghai converted about 500 old red telephone booths into WiFi hubs. Funny how they transformed an obsolete technology into something functional for today.

My white neoprene dress is similar to this one also by Shakuhachi.

retro china 1930s makeup

We stopped by Xintiandi, an upscale district that was the site of a controversial urban redevelopment project. This project transformed a slum into a business and residential space, while preserving the historical architecture. Unfortunately, it also displaced thousands of Shanghai residents.

xintiandi souvenir shops

Everywhere I went, I felt a strange mix of new and old. Tianzifang is an artsy area that has preserved its old alleyways and buildings.

Tianzifang shopping stores

At the same time, it’s become a tourist destination. Nonetheless, the little stalls — selling handicrafts, tea and other goods — are fun to browse.

Shanghai Tianzifang, taikang road

Prices in China are notoriously low, but you can (and should) try to bargain them down more.

miyazaki spirited away iphone case

Be wary of poor quality and knock-off items. These cell phone cases are cute (love the Mario and Spirited Away ), but are constructed from glue and felt. I’m sure they’d fall apart within a day.

chinese cats art

Other shops sell intriguing art, and traditional souvenirs — like the Chinese cats above.

shanghai cat statues

Colorful characters, painted in vivid colors. (Photos by me and Borderless Media — check out our global travel videos on their site.)

cute scottish fold cat purse

In one shop, I saw a Scottish Fold coin purse, with tiny folded ears (on the right).

funny chinglish fake sneakers tag

You can flatly assume that all “designer” items here are knock-offs here. Look close at the tag, and it reveals the truth about these “brand-name” sneakers. You can’t make this Chinglish up: “never expose to intense meat or hot vehicles!”

street food Taikang Lu

Tianzifang is packed with street food and little restaurants, serving all types of cuisine.

more than toilet theme restaurant

Look what we ran into… the More Than Toilet theme restaurant! As the male/female sign indicates, this is a poop-themed restaurant. (Address: Tianzifang, No. 5, Lane 274, Taikang Lu)

china toilet themed cafe

This restaurant concept is similar to Taiwan’s Modern Toilet. Customers sit on toilet seats and dine on such “delicious and happy” concoctions, like a swirl of chocolate ice cream, served in a urinal. 

In the glass case, you can buy stuffed toys shaped like a big dump, with cute faces on them (of course).

big toilet bowl seat

We didn’t eat here, but saw others feasting on dishes like “Stool #1,” a mix of brown sweets served in a toilet bowl.

If you’re interested in reading more about bizarre Asia theme restaurants, check out my book about them.

chinese street style clothing

Travel isn’t always always positive and easy. In fact, some of the most memorable trips are the ones that leave you feeling challenged. Some of Shanghai’s contradictions were hard to wrap my head around, but I’m glad I came here. I’m curious how the city will continue to change in the next years and decades.

Have you visited China before? What was your experience with the culture here?


  1. Engy Riddle
    Posted August 4, 2015 at 3:42 pm | Permalink

    awwh beautiful dress!! <3

  2. Kavie
    Posted August 4, 2015 at 3:44 pm | Permalink

    Amazing! We wish you a fanastic time.

  3. af
    Posted August 4, 2015 at 3:45 pm | Permalink


  4. Barran
    Posted August 4, 2015 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

    Good pics La Carmina!

  5. Geroge
    Posted August 4, 2015 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

    join us Monday Aug 3rd at 12 pm (New York) for #TWWT travel chat we are in Japan and we will be chatting about this destination

  6. Faster Master
    Posted August 4, 2015 at 5:53 pm | Permalink

    Shanghai same for me,not favourite place I go to.

  7. Alan
    Posted August 6, 2015 at 7:15 am | Permalink


  8. Oapa
    Posted August 6, 2015 at 7:16 am | Permalink

    That is not so nice about the puppies :-(

  9. Cthulu
    Posted August 7, 2015 at 11:56 am | Permalink

    Pretty one.

  10. Helena
    Posted August 7, 2015 at 11:57 am | Permalink

    Everything is not what I expect of China. It looks more modern.

  11. nay nay
    Posted August 7, 2015 at 11:57 am | Permalink

    I went maybe like 13 years ago. It was not as cosmopolitan like the commentator said.

  12. Jill
    Posted August 7, 2015 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

    Nice dress for summer.

  13. Varis
    Posted August 7, 2015 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

    I love your style!

  14. jaellehanako
    Posted August 7, 2015 at 6:52 pm | Permalink

    Shame about the sneakers. I always expose my shoes to intense meat. :/

  15. Shirou
    Posted August 9, 2015 at 3:59 pm | Permalink

    good morning to you ~! so nice to see this when I just woke up xD

  16. Callada
    Posted August 11, 2015 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

    Cute style

  17. andy
    Posted August 11, 2015 at 1:26 pm | Permalink


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