‘If you like our bar, you’ll love it, otherwise, you won’t give us a second thought.’ Soi Baochao (formerly Cangku) co-owner Van Gao probably hasn’t tried the famously divisive yeast-spread Marmite, but the analogy is pretty apt. This place is a treehouse hideaway for those looking for an alt-community, not just a place to drink. The slightly grimy environs – a charming hodgepodge of rock posters, Hindu iconography and homemade murals – definitely appeals to Gulou’s fixed-gear-riding, Instagram-snapping types.
Gao encourages anyone to come and play on Soi Baochao’s small stage. Pick up one of the many instruments-cum-ornaments or just relax with a Tsingtao (15RMB) and meet like-minded individuals. The mezzanine floor upstairs is full of comfy sofas that are divided into private booths by raggedy old curtains – like an inviting, hobo circus tent. If that sounds appealing to you, go join the club house. Just pull up the ladder when you get there.