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Shanghai House of Blues and Jazz

The House of Blues and Jazz, on Fuzhou Lu just near the Bund, is a treasure for jazz-lovers. It’s Shanghai of the 1930s, like we all imagined it used to be, elegant, swinging, and happening, all at once. The intimate space has a mahogony bar, dark wood furniture and a smoky atmosphere, with the eclectic crowd arranged at small tables around the stage. The owner, Lin Dongfu, is the coolest cat in town and spends his evenings watching over proceedings from a quiet corner wearing a well-tailored suit and trilby (always a trilby) and smoking his pipe. 

Last night we caught The Cangelosi Cards for the third time, and they are seriously GOOD. This 5 part band play an intoxicating brand of old-time New Orleans Jazz, with the ethereal and completely unique vocals of Tamar Korn adding an edge to the smoky smooth harmonica and double bass. The Cards are from New York and will be playing every night except Monday until mid-June. Pull up a seat, tap your toes, order a martini and re-live the good times.

Shanghai Taxi Drivers, I Love You!

I never really liked Shanghai taxi drivers that much. They spit out the window, they have grubby uniforms and grubbier cabs, and occasionally they get out of the cab to take a slash against the front wheel. While you’re sitting in the front passenger seat. 

Compared with Beijing taxi drivers however, I now know that I simply didn’t realise how much I love my Shanghai taxi drivers. It’s as if I was blind to their charms because they were always right under my nose. Or up my nose. Whatever. I don’t want to start any kind of turf war here, but these are the facts. As I see them.

1. Shanghai taxi drivers use the lines painted on the road as a form of decoration. They are not, at any time, to be driven between. You will find, as I do, that this makes for a much more interesting taxi ride. In Beijing, everything is very orderly and frankly quite boring. 

2. Despite their artistry with the roadways, Shanghai taxi drivers never get creative with the meter. In Beijing, they will try and rip you off hell west and crooked. Look out. 

3. In Shanghai, if you need a taxi, just step out from the curb and raise your arm to waist height. Now flap your hand vigorously. A taxi will stop. In Beijing, the only way to get a taxi is to hijack one at traffic lights, climb in and refuse to get out. 

4. Beijing taxi drivers hardly ever use their horn. What’s that all about? When I’m travelling in a taxi I like every other vehicle, pedestrian and small animal to know that I’m there. 

Sort of:   ‘BEEEP…here I come….BEEEEEP…coming through!…BEEEEEEEP….passing you now….. BEEEEEEEEEP BEEEEP BEEEEP….driving straight through this red light….BEEEEP BEEP…..coming to a stop!’ 

I like the full audio experience that Beijing taxi drivers cannot offer.

5. Shanghai taxi drivers UNDERSTAND me. Not in a deep personal sense, but in a ‘shemme lu?’ (tr. ‘where are you off to fair lady?’) kind of way. What language do they speak in Beijing taxis??? It sounds like grunting whilst eating a plum, and it’s definitely not mandarin.

(Can you tell I’m glad to be back in Shanghai?)