One of the fabulous things about Shanghai is that there is a great abundance of places not just to chill-out in, but also find the escape that does appear to elusive amongst the crowds and frenzy of its rather busy streets. Ranging from the many modern cafes and bars that are in keeping with the sophistication of contemporary Shanghai, bars that offer the best views in the city, to teahouses that offer a feel of the more traditional side of Shanghai, there are a great variety of places that offer a contrast in the experience of chilling-out in the city.
What the two full days of the Shanghai Adventure did provide was a chance to have a feel for some of the variety of experiences, starting with the traditional and which also included an experience of the ‘high-life’ that the modern side of Shanghai does have to offer …
Set in a pavilion that in being surrounded by water to which one must negotiate a path of right angles on a bridge with nine corners is the Huxinting (湖心亭) Teahouse. Well protected from the unidirectionally inclined demons of the old world, it is where one does find an escape from the demons that now plague the new world.
In its interior, bathed in the earthy hues of its wooden walls, screens and furnishing, one finds a side of Shanghai that does seem forgotten in the city’s relentless march towards modernity.
The teahouse, now a veritable Shanghai institution, has been an occupant of the 16th century Ming Dynasty wooden pavilion for most of the time since it first occupied it in the mid 1800s. Despite the teahouse today being more of a destination for out-of-towners, it is over a pot of tea sitting by the window at one of its marble topped tables, that one does find that slice of a charming old world from which one can also observe the demons of the new that lie, at what does seem to be an arms length away, just across the crooked bridge.
A pot of tea starts off at around 60 yuan, and if you either have a preference for a caffeine free beverage or take joy in the sight of a dried flower coming seemingly alive whilst being infused in a clear glass teapot, flower teas are an option. Tea is also served with several bite-sized snacks, which include small tea-eggs made with quails’ eggs. And if you do decide to have a pot of tea, do keep a look out for a photograph of Queen Elizabeth II, having tea – not in a manner she would be accustomed to, in the teahouse.
The French Connection
An area of Shanghai that does have a huge appeal for me is the former French Concession, with its wonderful works of architecture, its history and the atmosphere one does now find in and around many of its tree-lined streets. The French Concession does also have an abundance of establishments to dine in, as well as to chill-out in, from the cafes of Ferguson Lane, to several other street-side cafes and bistros, some set in gorgeous works of architecture dating from the Treaty Port era of Shanghai.
One of the must-dos in and around the area of Shanghai’s Bund has to be to elevate oneself to the roof tops of one of the high points, to take-in some of the best views one can possibly get of old and new Shanghai on both sides of the Huangpu. Perched on the roof (levels 32 and 33) of the Hyatt on the Bund’s West Tower, the Vue Bar, for a 100 yuan cover charge, provides just that – the best views not just from the glass protected interiors, but also an open wind swept terrace on level 33 at which you can literally chill in a very inviting whirlpool and feel quite literally, on top of the world,