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Drinking in Shanghai

by Shanghai Sally

As Delhi is to Beijing, then Bombay is to Shanghai. In both countries, the guys and girls in the south believe their northern neighbours to be a bunch of unsophisticated self- important politicos bathed in the “Don’t you know who I am?” syndrome. And, to be honest, not only don’t we know…we don’t care. What we do care about is the standard of our clubs and pubs, and in both countries, the guys to the south win hands down.

The similarities between my old home, Bombay, and my new one, Shanghai, are striking. Both are port cities, and their respective countries’ financial centres. Both are modern and vibrant, and both are chock full of great bars. But I have to admit, as much as I miss Copa and Indigo (oh for a kiwi margarita at the Sunday brunch), there are so many great bars in this place, I just don’t feel homesick; to be honest, I never did.

The first thing to do when you arrive in Shanghai is get a copy of one of the free listings magazines floating around. The best are “That’s Shanghai” and “Quo”. In each you’ll find listings for over 200 bars and clubs, and believe me, that’s just scratching the surface. There is a bar and restaurant on every corner is this big fabulous city, and drinking can be as cheap, or as expensive as you want to make it. There are so many bars here that we resolved NOT to go to the same one twice for our first two months here; we needed to try them out, and a little discipline was called for. Here’s what we found.

Drinking here is cheap; it can also be damned expensive. Just about every type of beer is available in the supermarkets here (there is also a supermarket on every corner, and most are open 24 hours). There are plenty of other local brands available apart from Tsingtao for the same price. One of the best is Reeb, which is basically Heineken in a different can or bottle. If you don’t fancy the local brew, you can buy just about every other foreign brand you care to mention. So there you have it; the supermarkets resemble Aladdin’s Cave.

Things get a little more expensive when you step in to a bar, but they don’t have to break your wallet. Put simply, if you drink where the locals drink, you pay local prices; drink where the expats drink, and you pay expat prices, and that means about three times more than you need to pay. If the drinks menu is in English it is usually a licence to triple the price.


There are ways to eat and drink on the cheap in Shanghai. Firstly “go local”; the locals here eat and drink cheaper than the Farangs. The catch is that you might not know what you are eating, much less like it. If going Chinese is not an option, most pubs and bars do cheap lunchtime menus where the prices are at least 50% cheaper that they are at night. Also most pubs and clubs have a happy hour. Most offer a “buy one, get one free” policy for about two to three hours a night. If you don’t fancy that, make your own deal with your favourite bar. The deals are out there; all you have to do is ask.

Well, the most popular bar in town is O’Malley’s. The boys at this famous Irish bar know how to run a piss up in a brewery; and they do it in style.








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