by Savitha C Muppala on  April 26, 2010 at 5:37 PM Lifestyle News
 Nightlife Livens Up in Shanghai
Shanghai, the city which is hosting this year's World Expo, is livening up what it was once known for - nightlife.

The march of communism in the mid-20th century wiped out most of the pleasures previously associated with Shanghai -- and the brothels and opium dens that went with them.

But as the city showcases China's proudest achievements at this year's Expo, visitors will see the colourful nightlife for which the "Paris of the East" was once legendary is making a return.

Shanghai's night scene now ranges from the world's highest bar -- a dizzying 91 storeys above the city -- to another deep underground in an air-raid shelter.

Some cafes, with their jazz sounds and chic, intimate lounges, evoke the elegance and exclusivity of a past era when the city was dominated by foreign concessions.

Others have a harder, more frenzied beat and welcome a mix of expatriates and the new generation of moneyed Chinese.

Foreign concepts such as "ice bars", where the temperature is kept at minus five Celsius (minus 20 Fahrenheit) even in the scorching summer for optimal enjoyment of vodka, are rapidly being introduced.

As are business concepts such as the M1NT shareholders' bar, an import from the West, where such clubs boast Hollywood celebrities in their line-up of hosts.

The M1NT bar, which opened in 2008, features huge bay windows offering a 360-degree view from the 24th floor, and has an annual 950 dollar membership fee -- twice the average Shanghai monthly salary.

Visitors walk past an aquarium 17 metres (55 feet) long containing 20 small sharks.

While the club's 3,000 members and 500 shareholders are predominantly foreigners, "the target today is Chinese clientele," spokeswoman Esther Zhou said.

One of the magnets for Shanghai's upmarket new nightlife is the Bund, the famous colonial-era trading district which runs along the Huangpu River.

Today it is Taiwanese entrepreneurs who have ploughed massive investment into the area, which overlooks the glistening present-day business district of Pudong across the river.

But today's Shanghai does not match the abandon of the 1920s and 30s.

Events generally finish relatively early and retain a polite decorum, with the clientele restricted to an elite few.

A typical event at the refined Lounge 18 under the slogan "Sexy" begins at 8:00 pm and the young clientele are adorned with gold masks. An outfit worn by one Chinese patron comprising vinyl trousers and a hat is received as the height of daring.

In the same UNESCO-listed neo-classical building dating from 1923 another event titled "French Decadence" is under way at the Bar Rouge, which has twisted the slogan "Liberte, Egalite, Fraternite" (liberty, equality, fraternity) to read "Egalite, Fraternite, Perversite (perversity)".

The dress code is hardly shocking however: "beret and striped t-shirt."

"The big game is to run from one event to another and take photos to post on one's blog. It's about saying 'I was there'", said Antoine Bourdeix, a French public relations consultant based in Shanghai.

He prefers the mahogany and ageing leather of Yongfoo Elite in the grounds of a former British consulate building.

In Shanghai's young nightlife scene, venues are closing down as quickly as they are opening.

"The difficulty is to get established as a niche institution," said Paul Pairet, celebrity chef at Mr and Mrs Bund, which, like the neighbouring Bar Rouge, is owned by Taiwanese group VOL.

"We welcome more the parents of the gilded youth, who appreciate more and more Western cuisine. They form 50 percent of our clientele," said Rene Pol Bouldoires, the manager of the restaurant, where a meal costs around 90 dollars.

"Shanghai will end up like New York with all the cuisines and all the clubs possible," says Peruvian chef Eduardo Vargas. The serial restaurateur has six restaurants and two catering firms "aimed at the Westernised middle class".

Source: AFP

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