December 16th: Gothic Karaoke Swimming Pools, Part 2

Bron in Haven... All peaceful before the other guests arrive

Bron in Haven… All peaceful before the other guests arrive

To be fair, all birthday invitations were sent out with a disclaimer: “This could be the best/worst night of your lives”.  I’m hoping in reality it wasn’t that black and white, but I’m certainly leaning towards the former.  So on Friday night, 2 days in advance of my actual birthday, I and 25 other people (colleagues and Shanghai friends) were entertained by a giant karaoke screen and a small swimming pool, featuring a swim-up bar and a shiny metal horse.  So far removed from anything I would ever do in the UK that it had to be done.  In fact, I’m pretty certain that if anyone had invited me to such an event in the UK I’d have steadfastly refused to take part in anything so crass and vulgar.

We had a great night.

The only photo of the night I'm going to upload!

The only photo of the night I’m going to upload!

Earlier in the year, Rachel, Grace, Bron and I had a meal in Haven, a gothic-styled restaurant and had a wander around afterwards.  We discovered the swimming pool at the top of the grand, sweeping staircase.  Discovering it was available for private hire, it seemed the right thing to do to reserve it for a strange birthday party.

With only a few willing to brave the pool at the start, by the end of the night the large majority were in the water.  Even those who had neglected to bring their swimming costumes (nothing dodgy here – the venue offered guests free bath robes, probably not intended to be used in the pool, doubling as impromptu bathing outfits) felt the urge to take a dip.  I think those present would agree that we don’t really need photos of people in swimming attire plastered over the Internet – so I’ve uploaded just one photo from the night from a safe enough distance!

Stefan left a few belongings there and went back on Saturday to collect them.  “That was a wild night last night!” said the staff.  I don’t think I’ll ever have another birthday celebration quite like it.

Welcome to Thames Town...

Welcome to Thames Town…

Today (Sunday) Bron, Stefan and I went out to Thames Town – a bizarre area of English-architecture inspired buildings and housing on the outskirts of Shanghai.  Built in 2006, the town was supposed to attract up to 10,000 residents but instead lies pretty much empty; a ghost town featuring a man-made Thames river and unoccupied fish & chip shops.  Probably the fact that it’s so far out and 3 miles from the nearest Metro has a lot to do with it.  Worth the visit though – yet another one of Shanghai’s many bizarre tourist attractions.

And How can it be 5 degrees one day and 18 degrees the next?  This isn’t normal.  I only do summer (t-shirt) and winter (t-shirt and coat).  This is confusing.

September 9th: Gothic Karaoke Swimming Pools

Meal at Haven

Bron, Rachel and Grace at Haven

“Shanghai’s first gothic restaurant” (and only, I think), claims Haven’s website, “and we will close our doors forever after 666 events”.  Gothic in architecture, not in music (with creepy jazz rather than creepy Cure being played in the background), Haven offers its patrons a unique, vampire-esque experience in a city of copycat, overcrowded eateries.  Our table was in the middle of the huge dining hall, with high-backed chairs and only candles for lighting to continue the theme.   Sadly, the food during our meal with Grace and Rachel on Wednesday night wasn’t spectacular; I guess we were paying for the setting rather than the cooking.

Vampire Karaoke

The bar at the end of the Haven swimming pool

So what do vampires like to do once they’ve finished eating?  In Haven, they obviously climb the grand, sweeping staircase and enter the mysteriously lit door at the top of the stairs.  Behind the door lies a small swimming pool, complete with TV display in the ceiling for bathers to sing karaoke.   Vampire Karaoke.  Again, only in China.


Duck Blood

Duck blood

An impromptu Hot Pot meal on Friday night with Andrew and Richard saw yet another new addition to my list of “Foods to try once only”: duck blood.  Congealed and served like meat loaf.  Possibly a delicacy, but probably never again for me.


Shanghai is split on two sides by the Huangpu River, with Puxi – where we live – to the east, and Pudong to the west.  We rarely venture over the other side of the river, since to us it largely seems to be made up of huge ex-pat compounds, multi-lane highways and more importantly: a lack of taxis.  Early Saturday evening, we met up with the work gang at an Internations barbecue at a bar called “Face” over in the dark side of Pudong.   A well-attended event, with free drinks all evening long once we’d paid the initial £15 entry fee.  Followed by a taxi back to the normal world for a few more drinks and games of pool.
Only four of us left at the end of the night; a new temporary addition to the late-night gang; Alex, our HR representative in the UK, over here for a month to help out.  So 9 hours after meeting up, we called it a night.

* Hot pot: A communal pot of hot soup into which you put raw ingredients.  Usually thinly sliced pork, beef, etc.  But sometimes duck blood.