"This is basically like wandering around some rich person's massive house for hours and hours", said one friend the first time they went to Qianshen.
For two years, I've gone to New Star at least once a month to disconnect and detox. But now I've found a better bathhouse.
On my first visit to Qianshen (Shallow Deep), north of Zhongshan Park in underrated Putuo District, I stayed for eight hours. That's enough time to explore the seven floors of baths, pools, hot-stone rooms, oxygen rooms, pass-out-in-front-of-a-TV-watching-action-movies rooms, a gym, a game room with a pool table, a hotpot restaurant, and one of the nicest rooftops in Puxi, where you can lay on pillows under the stars, order BBQ, and sip cocktails and draft beer.
The vibe is low-key and quiet, the language of choice is Shanghainese, and the preferred TV show is overwhelmingly World of Dance, which you can watch on a ten meter screen while jumping from bath to bath under thatched roofs and calming blue lights. Around the bath and sauna area are five-star hotel level "rain showers", a fruit bar, ponds of lucky-fish, sculptures, and four kinds of tea.
The hotpot restaurant is decent enough. The food isn't even Haidilao level, but they don't charge a fee for the pot. So you can fill up on vegetables, a plate of lamb, and cold dishes for about 100rmb. Avoid the jiaozi.
Been to New Star? Here's where Qianshen is better. First, everything is noticeably cleaner. You have to wear sandals everywhere. The staff are younger and nicer. Shampoos and soaps are higher quality, as are the showerheads. All the lights are warmer. The boss really seems to care about details. The pools stay open 24 hours a day. There are no children running around. The crowd is white-collar, middle-aged, and quieter (let's keep this place chill). And as a foreigner, they won't kick you out until 2am. They even have hotel rooms with private pools starting around 500rmb a night.
Unfortunately, unlike New Star, they don't enforce a no-phones rule in the naked area. Why does anyone need to bring a phone into a hot tub?
There are probably much nicer bathhouses in Shanghai, with silk robes, free-flow hairy crabs and Maotai, and jade bathtubs filled with Fiji water. I'm not ready for that level yet. For now, Qianshen is perfect.
SmartReviews is SmartShanghai’s crack squad of amateur reviewers, eating their way around the city and writing about it. They have been chosen from a large pool of applicants and given a set of strict guidelines to follow to make sure their reviews are honest, informed and fair to both potential customers and the restaurants themselves.