In my time traveling and working in many different places in China, I visited the big, vastly populated cities such as Shanghai, Beijing and Shenzhen and also the smaller, less well known cities such as Wuxi, Hangzhou and Yixing.
Unfortunately my work schedule required me to live in some of the smaller cities; many of these were generic, less exciting places with no other foreigners apart from me. I would regularly take 2-3 hour bus rides on the weekend to some of the bigger, nearby cities. The majority of my friends were Europeans, Americans, and Canadians and as most people do on the weekends, we’d check out the bars and clubs on offer.
In each city you would tend to find a slightly different set-up. Shanghai became famous for its “All You Can Drink” clubs where you’d typically pay 150-200 RMB (15 British Pounds/$20 USD) to enter, then you could drink as much as you wanted from the bar until 2 AM!
Shanghai’s turnover of clubs is also well known-there are over 40 city central clubs with around two new ones opening each month and two closing down each month due to poor business. Shanghai also set the trend for international DJs such as Armin Van Buuren, Tiesto and Goldie to headline nights at some of the top clubs in the city.
Hangzhou is one of the most upmarket cities and is the setting for some fantastic clubs. The Nanshan Road area by the West Lake is a perfect example of this and there are a number of glamorous venues where some of the China “new-rich” hang out to splash their cash.
Most of the clubs in Hangzhou are “table” clubs requiring a guest list for entry which is a trend starting to be seen in clubs in other Chinese cities. Guest list clubs are prevalent in other cities worldwide like Las Vegas and London (for example London’s well known Chinawhite Guestlist) where guests agree to pay a minimum amount in exchange for a seating area in the club with a waiter or waitress bringing magnum bottles of vodka or whiskey to the table. A favorite in Hangzhou is Chivas Regal whiskey with green tea!
One commonly found club gimmick I would see in the smaller cities was the “bouncing-dance floor” club (the entire dance floor would be on springs!). These aren’t seen as much these days, most likely due to increased health and safety regulations being introduced.
Hopefully this post will encourage you to visit some of China’s nightspots and see for yourself. There are always some new and innovative bars and clubs being established-some fun, some dangerous, but usually memorable and different compared with those in the west.