I remember arriving at Pudong airport, with the sweaty odour of my co-passangers still in my nostrils and the screaming of a crying baby still ringing in my ears, when I got into a car and drove to my new home. I was too excited to sleep but the desolate highway landscape didn’t offer much comfort to some of my fears of leaving comfortable Brussels for communist China. Then I finally arrived in Thames Town and for a moment I though I had been dreaming for the last 24 hours and never left Europe in the first place.

Some days I wake up in this surreal place and I think I live in Disney land, but then I walk the dog and it all comes back to me.  The first person I usually run into is a member of the queens guard, one of the many Thames Town guards dressed in a heavy red cloak and a chauffeurs hat.  Next I nearly get run over by a bike which is held together by tape and bamboo, carrying a giant pile of cardboard or some other valuable resource.  By the time I reach the towns center I will have passed about 20 wedding couples getting their pictures taken- Thames Town has become China’s most desirable backdrop for wedding photography.

Roughly 70% of the villas inside the four compounds surrounding the city centre were already sold when Thames Town consisted only of floor plans and 3d renderings. Mostly by Shanghainese businessmen, the villas were bought as investment. Because of the distance and daily rush hour the house owners live in Shanghai of course and as a result the shops, which have already been named and given an inviting facade, haven’t had an opportunity to open for business as no potential costumers live in the town.

Luckily this has changed over the last couple of months, other than the insane amount of wedding photography studios, more and more real shops have opened. There are now some ‘high-street’ fashion retailers, art galleries, corner shops and a variety of emporiums selling things too odd to list.

Even the church is now open to public with it’s very own priest and christian ‘relics’ store. Like many buildings in Thames Town it was copied 1:1 from a church Bristol. Even the fish & chips storefronts had been copied and even given the same name as the original in England (much to the dismay of the originals’ owners), these however have since been converted into wedding photography and couture shops.

Thames Town also features a great park for taking a walk with your girlfriend or family. It’s quite small but is kept in good shape and has lots of bridges, statues and other monuments. It is built right by the Lake offering a great view on Songjiang.

900 Sanxin North Road Songjiang,Shanghai