The View From Your Window Contest: Winner #216


A reader starts us off with an enviable recent vacation:

Sao Paulo, Brazil. Was just there for the World Cup, and the view seems exactly like it – perhaps the green areas are part of Jardins or Jardim Paulista, and the high rises and skyscrapers are coming up near Avenida Paulista on the right of the photo. The building in the right side, middleground of the photo with two white towers, capped by black pyramids are definitely in Berrini district, or Morumbi just adjacent. I’m positive I was able to see them, while in Berrini district. I could be wrong, but this feels so like Sao Paulo.


This one was frustrating. It seemed simple but did not turn out to be (at least for me.)  I kept wanting it to be Kuala Lumpur, but couldn’t make it fit.  The language uses characters, so this should be somewhere in Asia.  There is the tower in the background, which looks somewhat like the tower in Macau.  It also looks a tiny bit like the one in Harbin, but this does not look like Harbin’s climate as I see some little palm trees down there.  The tower also resembles Kyoto’s, but the rest of the city doesn’t.  So I’m going with Macau.  No clue which window, and no more time to put into this.  Gah.

Another player is also wrong but more cheerful:

It’s Milan! I’ve never played before and I know that some clever Dishhead will produce coordinates, building, room, ambient temperature and a brief review of the grocery just around the corner, but for one fleeting moment I feel like I’m in this thing! Hope I’m not wrong for all the exuberance.

A veteran player of the contest shows off:

Just thought I would send a snap of my Dish t-shirt:


Read his winning entry here. And buy your own official Dish t-shirt or polo here. Back to the contest:

Mexico City, based only on the population density and pollution, plus that church center-right dwarfed by the high-rise apartment building.

Another nearly nails the right country:

This one turned out to be tougher than it looked at first. Everything is so new! It’s got to be one of China’s pop-up cities or a boom area near a more traditional one. Having been to Shanghai and Shenzhen, it looks a little like Shanghai and Shenzhen (but then again, what doesn’t). But it’s all a little subdued for China, and a little bit short on outdoor advertising. And maybe the roadways aren’t quite prominent enough.

Guessing Singapore. Google maps shows a bunch of different neighborhoods that look like they could be right, but as close as I can get is to guess somewhere in the Redhill/Bukit Merah neighborhood.

But most other players did correctly peg the People’s Republic:

The photo immediately says “China” – no where else has such a hodge-podge of skyscrapers. Problem is all the cities have the same hodge-podge. Looks more like a 2nd tier city, so will go for Chengdu.

The skyscrapers weren’t of much use, it seems:

I’m pretty sure we are in China for this week’s contest, given the amount of tall structures, architecture, and what my be Chinese script on some of the buildings.  I also think it is likely not a large city given the absence of super-tall skyscrapers (though perhaps it is just the view).  But otherwise, I am completely stumped.  Despite many hours spent on various skyscraper related forums, Wikipedia, and Google Maps, I can’t narrow things down any further.  I thought either the tall red roofed buildings or the white tower with a black core would be identifiable either through skyline images or the database at, I’ve had no luck.  So I’m guessing Changsha, China.

The key challenge this week was clearly China itself:

How can a city be so simultaneously huge and utterly unfamiliar at the same time? Almost certainly by being in China. The sign on the red peaked roof near the upper left of the photo seems to bear this out. There are some palm trees amongst the foliage in the foreground. Lots of smog. Still, none of the images I look at of Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, etc., seem to match up. Surely this is one of the biggest cities in the world, right? I’m guessing Shenzhen, because why the hell not? Though it feels absurd to be guessing with such a wide view.

There was another difficulty zooming in on China as well:

At +/- 5,000 feet the Google Earth images are crisp. Somewhere around 2,500 feet the images get milky & grainy, plus the buildings also flip orientation making it very hard to make out any details. Then at around 1,000 feet you can’t zoom in any further. This is much higher up than practically anywhere else. Google must have had a very interesting conversation with the Chinese Government.

Another contestant:

I’m pretty sure I’m wrong, but at least it’s one for the heat map! Qingdao, China – Badaguan neighborhood.


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Another reader nails down the city:

I have worked on this on and off for three days and I’m getting nowhere. Google is of no help to me.

  • There are highrises on the left with red mansard roofs, one of which seems to contain Chinese characters. This could be a Chinese city. Or it could just be a city with a Chinese company. At least now I know what Palladian windows are.
  • Evergreen coniferous trees – a northern climate?
  • On the left edge, halfway down, there’s a partial logo; the name is blurry, but if it’s the western alphabet, it looks like it ends in -here or -hare or -nere or -nare. I did a slew of Google image searches for the logo and came up empty.
  • In the midground, in front of some conifers, there are Western-looking buildings. One looks vaguely Dutch; is this a former Dutch colony in Asia? Or another city with a former Western presence like Shanghai? Or this is actually a Western city?
  • There are a bunch of short buildings with red roofs.
  • It looks vaguely like an ex-Soviet central Asian republic, one of the -stans. Or somewhere else in Asia. For all I know it could be western Canada. Or I could be completely wrong.

This seems like a place either you know or you don’t. But Shanghai has lots of 19th-century Western architecture, so I’m going with Shanghai.

Another reader:

Lots of newish and modern dense pack high rise residences. A few older ones with external air conditioner units predominant in Asia. Lots of red roofs and what looks like Chinese characters on the top of one building on the left side.  I have never been there but Shanghai is the best I can do with so few distinctive features. Smog is probably obscuring more detail.

My father was a career Army officer and served with the Joint US Military Advisory Group, China in Shanghai during 1948 until being evacuated to Tokyo in January 1949 as the Chinese Nationalist Army was collapsing in the face of Mao’s communist forces.


Oh, man. The poor folks trying to triangulate the actual window from this week’s view. I’m guessing a lot of people will tease out Shanghai, as it apparently boasts the world’s largest skyline, but that could also make finding the few distinctive buildings in the frame truly difficult. I think I got lucky by tracking it down inside of an hour – some weeks just go like that, and I was owed some luck after last week.

The view overlooks Jiaotong University. Props to this week’s submitter who was clearly angling for a contest view by narrowly clipping the nearby Grand Gate towers, just out of frame to the left and somewhat of a giveaway.

Another thinks he’s got the hotel:

I think this week’s content will prove to be a challenge. There are Chinese characters on one of the buildings. So, this must be an urban area in China. But which one? My initial guess is that this is Shanghai. But we see none of the iconic Shanghai skyscrapers. Making things more difficult, Shanghai does not have StreetView. On top of that, Google’s aerial view of Shanghai of a bit offset from the underlying base map. After looking around the city for a while, I happened on a rooftop that matched the building in the lower center of the view.

This week’s view comes from the Hengshan Picardie Hotel in Shanghai, China. The view is looking west-southwest towards Jiaotong University. Here is the layout of the view:


And here is my guess for the window:


Nope. But our favorite (and only) GIF-making player nails it:


Found it by Google Mapping the top twenty universities in China. Shanghai Jiaotong University was number seven. In trying to find a good image of the building, I discovered Baidu, China’s google. Their 3D maps look like Sim City! I’ll guess the 20th floor for no reason at all.

A veteran contestant has another angle:

This week’s picture was taken in Shanghai, China, from the west side of the Jian Gong Jin Jiang Hotel, in the Xuhui district; as for the floor, let’s say the 28th (the floor under the penthouse). Here is the same view, from a different angle:


This one was tough but doable; ideally suited to rebuild a little self-confidence in your contestants after last week’s débâcle, isn’t it?

Debacle? They can’t all be easy! A VFYW team:

At first we thought … awe crap, a massive skyline with millions of tall buildings and some Shanghaivaguely Chinese looking writing.  There are over 100 cities in China with more than one million people! This is going to be impossible.  But the buildings in the foreground had a vaguely university-esque feel. From there, some Google searching and the university (and then the hotel) were identified. However, unfortunately China is not included in the Google Street View database. So we learned about and tinkered with which, while being a good substitute for Google Maps, unfortunately is only in Chinese. Anyways, after some fumbling through the map we identified the best possible street view of the Jiangong Jinjiang Hotel Shanghai.  Let’s say its the 23rd floor.

Chini had to take a deep breath this week:

VFYW Shanghai Overhead Marked - Copy

I’ve been worried that we’d get one like this for a while. Normally when you narrow it down to a city finding the viewer’s location isn’t too much trouble. But with certain developing cities, like Sao Paulo for example, the sheer number of high-rises means that finding one specific building can take a lot of work. So when this one popped up I was really hoping that we were somewhere else in China; Wuhan, Tianjin, anywhere with a more modest skyline. But nope, we’re in the biggest one of them all.

VFYW Shanghai Actual Window Marked - Copy

This week’s view comes from the Xujiahui neighborhood of Shanghai, China. The picture was taken on roughly the 23rd story of the Jian Gong Jin Jiang Hotel and looks almost due west along a heading of 267.03 degrees over the roofs of the former French Concession.

Only one player, a former winner, correctly guesses the right floor of the hotel:

This week’s photo comes from the Jin Jiang Hotel in Xuhui district of Shanghai, China, located at 691 Jianguo West Rd.  I’ll guess the 27th floor.  It took a while to find the hotel, but this picture displaying some of the distinctive skyscrapers in the contest photo greatly helped find the location.

vfywc_216 with labels

In the photo, we are looking west over the Xuhui campus of the Shanghai Jiao Tong University. The university’s original library building and more recent centennial monument are visible in the middle of the contest picture.  NBA great Yao Ming is currently enrolled at this prestigious university which boasts former leader Jiang Zemin as an alum.  The university excels in technical fields and, allegedly, offers its expertise to assist the People Liberation’s Army spy on U.S. and other western companies.

For some reason, the discussion of the university’s involvement in cyber spying disappeared from its wikipedia page a couple of months after newspapers reported on the matter.  It seems a user named Bwfrank removed the discussion from the page and abruptly stopped revising wikipedia pages.  Prior to that, Bwfrank focused on editing the university’s page, articles on the Chinese and US space programs, and Japanese anime.

This week’s winner, though he doesn’t name the hotel, IDs the building and was one floor off with a long record of correct guesses without a win:


The occasional bits of writing viewable on the buildings appeared Chinese to my untrained eye, so that was where the search began.  Shanghai, Shenzhen, Guangzhou, Beijing, Tianjin, even Hong Kong. After a lot of frustration I ended up looking around the Pacific Rim:  Phnom Penh, Bangkok, Hanoi, Ho-Chi-Minh City, Manila, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Jakarta.  At this point all I had really learned was that Southeast Asia has a crapload of tall buildings, and after a while they all start to look the same.

Fortunately my wife is more astute than I am and found a similar view from a hotel near Jiaotong University in Shanghai: the place I had searched first and long since given up on.  The lack of Google Street View makes it hard to be precise, but this was taken from around the 26th floor of a building across the street from the Hengshan Picardie Hotel.  It looks like an office building.  The view is looking west-by-southwest over the university campus.

It seemed at first like it should be an easy one, but not being able to read Chinese was (unsurprisingly) a big handicap when searching.  I’ll be curious to see how difficult other people found this.

Congrats! Details from the photo’s submitter:

The view is of French Concession West, Shanghai. Taken at 8am from room 82707 on the 27th floor of Jian Gong Jin Jiang Hotel.

I thought when I took this shot it would be a great VFYW contest: before seeing this view I don’t think I’d have even guessed the right continent, and I suspect there are plenty of people familiar with Shanghai who wouldn’t be able to place it either.

This was my first visit to Asia. I was a tourist in Shanghai for nine days, spending much of my time walking around and seeing the city up close. It’s a wonderful city and I can’t wait to go back. I live in New York, so being in a megacity wasn’t a novelty, and Shanghai’s culture and architecture are heavily European influenced, so I didn’t experience too much culture shock. What DID shock me, though, was the fact that I never once felt the slightest bit threatened, physically or materially (although I always take proper precautions against pickpocketing), even in the grittier parts of town. I don’t know if that’s peculiar to Shanghai or if it’s the same elsewhere in China, but I have never felt safer anywhere else in the world.

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