Boonna Cafe, Huai Hai Lu – 5 years of blogging

The first post in Shanghailander about Boonna Cafe was written about 5 years ago, being on the very first posts on the this blog.  The current one is like marking the 5th anniversary of Shanghailander, written in  the lastet Boonna incarnation. The original post was about this particular cafe, but also about the lack of similar places at that time. Boonna Cafe, along with Vienna Cafe and a very few others were a refuge from both the constant activity of the city and the ever growing empire of global brands such as Starbucks. The original Boonna Cafe on Xin Le lu has long beeing chased out by rent increase and the abundance of clothes shops on the former Rue Paul Henry. Fortunately, it has recreated itself a few time, the last incarnation being the South part of the former Avenue Joffre (today’s HuaiHai Lu). The current Boonna Cafe still has the same characteristics as its ancestor, being located in an old Shanghai house, red inside walls, hanging photographs and plain simple design although it is about twice as large.  The main change from my 5 years old post is probably the crowd.

2006 central Shanghai was still burgeoning, 2011 Shanghai is running full speed. Old Boonna’s consumers were often foreigners, trying to find a bit of home and comfort. Today’s Boonna’s consumers are mostly the young educated 20 something Shanghainese crowd. The cafe culture of Shanghai has come back with a vengeance and pioneers like Boona are not the only kid in town anymore. Besides the ubiquitous Starbucks coffee giants Costa has joined the game, followed by numerous other locals. Xin Tian Di is not the only mixed food, bar and retail area, as Tian Zi Fang as developed along with a few others. Opening of retail to foreigners and waves of oversease chinese and students coming back have created a new face for Shanghai shops and bars / restaurants. The local joint good for breakfast, lunch and any coffee and web browsing stop in the middle is not a rarity anymore, but rapidly becoming the norm in central Shanghai. The 2010 expo has not only left its traces to the city landscape, but also to the city’s culture bringing the world to the city as well as more foreign exposure. Another profound change is that buying power has increased enormously and the younger generation often has disposable income to spend, often in shopping and food.

Shanghai has not only moved on in terms of modernity, it has also got much more in touch with its past. Shanghai history was mostly the interest of scholars and a few crazy foreigners when this blog started. Multiple movies were since made taking place in old Shanghai (such as Tai Tang Kou, Shanghai) as well as TV series (such as Shanghai Shanghai). Novels from the period have been republished and are now really popular (see “Love in a fallen city” post). At the same time, numerous books about Shanghai history have been published both by foreigners who actually lived in the city (like Liliane Willens’ stateless in Shanghai) and local people showing an interest. Although I don’t really read it, I know numerous novels in Chinese have been published. The cherry on the cake being that copies of 1930’s sidecar have become cool thanks to a series of advertising for a chewing gum brand (view it on youtube). All of is has recreated a glamorous image of Old Shanghai, hopefully helping to preserve its remains (See post “Somebody finally got it”).

Shanghai in the last 5 years has deeply changed. It has become modern, more cool, more international and closer to its past. Although transforming, it is also becoming more like what the old Shanghai used to be, a city at the confluence of the East and the West,  the Chinese door for the West, one of the center of the XXIst century. Shanghai is definitely becoming one of the world cities.

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