A bit of London in Shanghai’s lanes

Shanghai has been enjoying spectacular weather over the last two days. Slim puffy white clouds drifted across clear blue skies, basking in brilliant sunshine. The brisk cold air added to the freshness of air and mind.

Staring out from my side of the skyscraper with a cup of coffee in my hand, you could see the never ending horizon of building upon building that define this sprawling metropolis.

Unaccustomed to such clarity in weather, it was as if Shanghai was featured in technicolor like a 1980s photo.

I tapped happily into my phone to a friend, “It makes you fall in love with this city all over again.”

The change in weather has lifted the general post-(Western) New Year glum and hectic work schedule. Chinese New Year holidays are round the corner, and office workers take long strolls after lunch to enjoy the sun chatting about plans.

I ducked out over lunch to Huangpu district to visit a small lane that had been lingering in the back of my mind. It wasn’t anything spectacular, I knew a family and wanted to hand them something. Outside their courtyard, I came upon this London-styled telephone booth which amused me. The city’s euphoria over a spot of nice weather reminded me of the Big Smoke enjoying a rare rain-free spring day.

I asked one of the neighbors if he owned it. “They were going to toss it after tearing up some roads for a new development. I had a friend bring it back here on a truck. I’m deciding how to sell it.”

I grinned and swung the little booth door open. “You’re like a little London tourist spot here in the shikumen lane.”

He laughed, deep and jolly, and shouted to his wife in the back of the house, “You hear that, old lady? We’re like London! I told you the telephone booth was worth it!”

The wife emerged, wiping her hands on a cooking towel, and rolled her eyes, unconvinced. But the weather was too beautiful and teasing too light-hearted, she giggled a little and nodded.



  • Reply January 16, 2014

    Graham Bond

    This box looks a little like the one recently removed from the (English) village in which I live. This may not signify very much. Or it may signify a fascinating little sub-branch of the endlessly fascinating global trade in leftovers and throwaways (the recently-published tome by Shanghai’s own Adam Minter springs to mind).

    So, to clarify, this phone box was, ahem, ‘sourced’ from local government in Shanghai? Do you know which street/district the box was originally planted in? I distinctly recall seeing a British post box (albeit painted green) on the Bund a few years ago but don’t recall ever glimpsing a British red phone box on my many wanderings. This is some sight. Thanks for sharing.

    • Reply January 20, 2014

      Sue Anne

      Graham, excellent link to suggest that this may not have come from the city itself, but all the way from London! Bravio, I should flag this up to Adam for his investigation. He’s actually criss-crossing UK now on his book tour. I hope you have a chance to hear his talk.

      I’ve seen British-esque red phone boxes in Shanghai though not quite as detailed with the emblem on top. Never thought to question it until you mentioned. Passed by it yesterday when I returned to the neighborhood, looks worse for wear now that the ‘hood is being torn down.

  • Reply February 5, 2014


    Always nice to read your stories Sue Anne. Short but insightful
    I’ve recommended your blog to one of my ex-colleagues and a couple of friends who live and work in shanghai.

    Happy new year and look forward to what the blog brings in 2014.

    • Reply February 5, 2014

      Sue Anne

      Kathy, thanks for your support and for sharing with friends. Have you left Shanghai? Hope the blog delivers warm reminders of its best side.

  • Reply July 4, 2014


    Can you say where the address and cross streets are? would love to visit it before it vanishes.thx

    • Reply July 6, 2014

      Sue Anne

      Dom, I’m sorry but this area has been razed, the telephone box has long been destroyed. Some older lanes still remain, you can go to Fuxing Lu in between Shunchang Lu and Huangpi Nan (South) Lu. Do walk around.

Leave a Reply

Time limit is exhausted. Please reload the CAPTCHA.