The Spot – hangouts you should visit at least once in your life.
There is generally something quite puerile about sky bars. Let’s face it, they rely on spectacle in a way not too dissimilar to how little boys are easily impressed with world records and anything that is unusually big, tall or fast. Furthermore, until the recent revival of the form, most offerings – largely a fad of the 1960’s– had started to look faded and sorry affairs. They were kept alive only by a constantly revolving cast of gawping tourists trying to get away with the cheapest drink possible in order to experience the amazing view.
With Cloud 9 on the 87th floor of the Grand Hyatt in Shanghai’s Jin Mao Tower, things are a little different. For a start, it’s distinctly tricky to find out how to get up there. You have to switch elevators somewhere at about the 50th floor, then alight at floor 85 before finally ascending to the sky bar in dedicated elevators. This involves enough complexity to weed out the more herd-like tourists. Also, since it only opens in time for sundowners, there’s little in the way of leftover daytime sightseers.
But, there is also something different about Shanghai. The enthusiasm with which the Shanghailanders have embraced the possibility of the city as a futuristic urban landscape – sci-fi made real– has a charming naiveté about it. And there’s something infective about this lack of cynicism or jaded scepticism in believing that your city can be a new and exciting adventure. When you’re in a bar that actually enables you to see the curvature of the earth, it dawns on you that people actually decided to build something like this and then did. Now they plan to enjoy it. Only a curmudgeon wouldn’t want to join in. Or people with a fear of heights.
In much the same way that the Chinese state made no distinction in encouraging its people to feel the same pride in their agriculture as for the nation’s space programme, so too does the way in which Shanghai has embraced the challenge to be a major 21st century mercantile metropolis have a sense of shared purpose. And there’s nothing like quaffing a martini with this view to get the barroom philosophy flowing. Out there, beyond the windows, China’s economic miracle takes the form of a shimmering, endless urban wonderland. What, one wonders, has it taken to make it happen?
But, for those who prefer not drinking and thinking alone, the Cloud 9 Sky Bar offers a lot of other things to get the party going. Since the very location is a special occasion it specialises in champagne, a large selection of which can be bought by the glass meaning that you can merely drop in to toast the sunset en route to dinner somewhere else. But, if you want to linger, it’s actually part of a sky-high eating complex that means that you can take your supper with the view. If you need to sit comfortably at a dizzying height or are fearful of the effects of a too rapid descent, look in on the piano bar with its comforting sofas some 30 storeys below.