Jun 9th, 2010 Contributed by: Ivette Figueroa

BEIJING, PRC–Just off busy Ping’anli Street, a slate-grey stone-tiled plaza spreads out towards the gleaming waters of Qianhai lake.

Every inch of it is crammed with groups of people playing Chegi (a game in which a giant shuttlecock is kicked around like a hacky sack) or couples ballroom dancing.

Even more people cluster around to watch or hawk handmade products like attachable shoe-skates, hats, you name it.

Once you navigate through the mass of people, a traditional Chinese-style blue and red gate welcomes visitors to He Hua Shi Chang.

He Hua Shi Chang (Lotus Lane) consists of Qianhai Lake and Houhai Lake, which are better known for the extensive restaurants, shopping outlets, pubs and bistros that line their outskirts.

A bit of history

Under the leadership of the first Prince Chun, both lakes were former Imperial Pleasure Gardens that were once off limits to the general public.

After China’s Revolution in 1949, however, the area was officially opened to the public and has become a very popular and romantic recreational area.

“Lots of couples come here to eat and ride the paddleboats across the lake,” said Ling Zhen, 23, a Beijing native. “The restaurants here have really good food.”

Qianhai today

Today, Qianhai is noted not only for its cool summer waters, but also for its latest attraction, “Lotus Lane,” which opened on October 2003.

Lotus Lane is a short, but lively strip of modern and luxury bar-restaurants strung along the West bank of the Qianhai.

The lane begins, oddly enough, with a Starbucks, but the rest of the venues along the lake more than make up for it.

Nightlife here goes on well into the early morning, with crowds that consist of a variety of night crawling internationals and local Beijingers alike.

“I love the fact that there are so many locals here,” said Georgia tourist Monica Stanley, 22. “It’s so hard to find decent nightlife that isn’t packed with tourists.”

Nightlife highlights

Right next to Starbucks is the eye-catching “Blue Lotus.” The main floor is dominated by giant red-leaf chairs and its smoky atmosphere is reminiscent of the dingiest of Miami bars. The second floor, however, offers a spectacular view of the Qianhai Lake as well as the nearby Bell and Drum Towers.

“I like the funky decorations,” said Californian tourist Becky Landon, 23. “And the Thai food here is really good.”

Club Shining Town, a basement-level nightclub on the northern end of Qianhai Lake, is a tiny, dimly lit affair that caters to men looking for a little live entertainment in the form of dancing women and expensive drink menus.

The rest of the Lotus Lane strip is filled with similar restaurant-bars, the odd tea-house, a moderate-sized shopping venue and some true nightlife in the shape of the Hou Ai Paradise Club & Bar.

This upscale, western-decorated nightclub boasts DJs that play anything from American hip-hop, house and trance, and even some Spanish tunes.

“The music here is really good to dance to,” said Beijing native Xiao Li, 28. “It’s one of the best spots to grab some drinks and hang out.”

Private alcoves line the outer perimeter of the club with a long fully-stocked bar dominating the rear and a decent-sized dance floor by the entrance.

“I think the prices here are decent and the music really gets people going,” said Alex Elghazali, 27, from Lebanon. “My Chinese girlfriend told me about this place. She said she likes to come here often with her friends.”

Whether you enjoy a glitzy diner by the lake, a private showroom-like bar, or a jumping dance floor, Lotus Lane has something for everyone.

Reposted from The China Journalism Project, University of Miami: labs.com.miami.edu/china

Popularity: unranked

You Should Also Check Out This Post:

More Active Posts: