Picture from City Weekend.
When it becomes difficult to distinguish Shanghai’s a luxury shopping center (West Nanjing Rd) from a level of hell from Dante’s Inferno (seedy bars full of sexy time), it gets locals thinking whether or not they’re sending the world the right message about Shanghai. In 2010, in preparation for the semi-world famous World Expo in Shanghai, the awkwardly located sketchy bars of Tongren Lu began to shut down. And now, a year later, some of the old establishments are being turned into calm and quaint coffee shops that will better “blend in with the ambiance” of West Nanjing Road. City officials still haven’t released or confirmed any other future plans for the street.
Hearkening back to the former Shanghai era of expat-centered sin and vice, Tongren Lu was notorious for its wild nightlife, often serving as the epicenter for the worst in Shanghai’s Dionysian hedonism. Hosting more than 26 bars, Tongren Lu became known for drawing in big crowds of laowais and the packs of beggars that followed them. The infamous “hostess bars” began closing up shop back in 2009, with none remaining on the road today. However, popular and legitimate bars (like the Blue Frog), have moved location and dispersed across the city.
For better or worse, the red-light incarnation of Tongren Lu was a part of Shanghai for many years and may or may not evoke nostalgia for those who knew it in its heyday. Still, we can’t say we’re exactly heartbroken to see it lose its old lust-ridden character.
By Fotini Gan