Beijing Travel Essentials: Gay & Lesbian Beijing
Beijing Gay & Lesbian Scene
Beijing is usually seen as playing second fiddle to Shanghai when it comes to gay friendliness and fun. Nevertheless, what is often perceived as the dourer sister can by no means be said to let the gay or lesbian visitor down.
Gay sex is not illegal in China, and homosexuality is openly and officially recognized (if not exactly endorsed), especially now that Aids has become the No. 1 killer disease among infectious disease in China.
However, when at play, this does not excuse lack of commonsense caution, whether it be playing around in public or using condoms or whatever.
Beijing has changed tremendously over the past 5 years, especially with all the infrastructure built for the Olympics in 2008.
Getting around has never been easier, with cheap taxis, and subway and bus routes a-plenty.
The gay and lesbian scene has also opened up with bars, clubs, saunas, spas, webcasts, and even an LGBT Centre. A whole new generation of young Beijingers have appeared on the scene without the inhibitions of their older 'comrades' (The Chinese for comrade, tongzhi, has been adopted by the gay community, while lesbians are referred to as 'lalas').
Beijing has a population of around 17 million so that means a potential number of up to 1.7 million gays. The number of internet users across the whole country is around 300 million, mostly young, male and living in urban centres. A third of those are mobile net surfers.
Despite a recent crackdown on 'vulgar' web content, the amount of information on gay and lesbian entertainment, culture, events, meeting places and businesses is mind-boggling for what is officially a socialist state. You can find advertisements for dating sites, saunas, massage, sexy underwear, penis enlargement and much much more. Most information is in Chinese, so ask a local!
However, for every tale of blissful encounters with beautiful Beijing men (or women), there is one of false pretenses and potential danger, so please don't let your libido get the better of you! Also remember that the vast majority of ordinary citizens, even in the capital, do not really understand homosexuality.
Although education and discussion on gay issues has been more open in recent times (a legislator even tabled a resolution a couple of years back to legalize gay marriages), the mindset of society is still firmly anchored in traditional culture (boy meets girl, marries and has at least one son to carry on the family line), a tradition which goes back several thousand years. So, as with so many things in China, you need patience for this society of over 1.3 billion people to change.
Here are some of the prime spots of the mainstream Beijing gay scene.
Destination is Beijing's one truly international club in the best and worst
senses of international. Pricier than most Beijing venues, but also
much bigger and slicker, and with a very up-to-it, young, well-dressed
crowd, white rice queens, rent boys and their admirers, and fag hags
a-go-go. It is spacious, divided into several noisy lounges, with happening,
well-stocked bars, a chill out room for chatting, and a full and fashion
conscious dance floor.
With a friendly, laidback kind of atmosphere, the Secret Garden
bar is a pleasant "family" hangout in the youthful Sanlitun district.
It is not specifically gay or lesbian. Free entry.
This minimalist bar within a luxury hotel, The Opposite House, has become a
popular meeting place on Thursday nights, attracting a mixed (literally)
crowd of white collar professionals, both local and foreign. The Thursday
night session was started by proMen, an "English speaking gay professional
social network for those who are tired of weekend clubbing," to use
their own words. proMen is no longer involved in the organization of
this Thursday night event, but still exists as a yahoo group. Happy
hour with half price drinks before 11pm has just been changed to before
9pm, so it remains to be seen if the pink crowd will drift to pinker
pastures. Before that happens, try to get there before 9pm and order
enough to last you (and him) for the whole evening.
Literally moored to the side of a canal, the Liangmahe, The Boat bar has a
uniquely romantic setting and quirky interior design, which should make
the recently started Friday gay nights popular. Two floors of dance
floor and bar, no entry fee. A handsome new Taiwanese manager has just
been recruited, and he is in the process of revamping the gayness of
the place. Let's hope it can stay afloat as a welcome addition to the
The Bear Den
This bar as the name suggests caters for the 'bear' market, mainly locals with
a sprinkling of foreigners. It was established in Oct 2007, and organizes
special events to pull in the crowds at the weekends.
This club is located on the Gong Ti Xi Lu strip where a large slice of Beijing
nightlife is concentrated. Although basically not a gay club, some young
locals can be found here who want a change from the scene at Destination
across the road, and like the challenge of sorting out comrades from
Mention should also be made of 'Queer Comrades', which is a series of webcasts on LGBT issues, involving interviews with local and foreign gays and lesbians in Beijing. There are often serious and interesting discussions on a variety of topics ranging from adoption to long-distance relationships to HIV/Aids. This is currently in its third series, previous podcasts being available on YouTube. After their successful launch party at the end of Apr 2009 for the 3rd season, it is planned to hold monthly showings at a bar to be announced (rumoured to be The Boat, see above). Watch this space if you like cultural and slightly more intellectual events!
There is of course an underground scene of numerous massage parlours and a sprinkling of spas and saunas which are quite openly advertised on the internet, mostly in Chinese. There are also a huge number of outdoor cruising locations but some of these are hard to find and can be dangerous, so are not recommended for foreigners going alone.
For lesbians, the scene is much more discrete and underground.
Paw Paw Bar
Lala Night @ Paw Paw Bar (ground floor of the City Hotel) is for lesbian/women
only. It is located in the Sanlitun area, inside the City Hotel), next
door to The Den (near Hooters). ENTRY: 80rmb (includes open bar). Note:
Men are charged 100rmb++
J Bar is a newly opened centre near San Yuan Bridge on the East Third Ring Road, with 200 sq m of floor space for watching films, drinking, reading, karaoke or just generally cooling out.
West Chamber (Xi Xiang Fang)
This large bar attracts a wider range of locals and foreigners of all ages,
especially busy at weekends.
This bar is located in the Pipe Caf 100 m east of the south gate
of the Workers' Stadium on Gong Ti Nan Lu, on the north side of the
road. Saturday night is ladies night, though it is said that the in-crowd
have moved to Paw Paw bar.
There is a Feng Club just opened in May 2009 also at this phone number and/or 13911899374 which aims to serve as a cosy meeting place for local lesbians during the week. The premises are an apartment in a large residential compound, Hou Xiandai Cheng, Block 10, Entrance 2, Flat 711, Baiziwan Lu, Chaoyang district.
The above information has been supplied by ChinaMango, a specialized gay and lesbian friendly travel service offering quality private tour guide services for the discerning traveler. ChinaMango can offer day and night tours, with standard sightseeing spots for the first time visitor, as well as locations off the beaten track More exotic possibilities include Chinese cookery classes, tai qi lessons, calligraphy and acupuncture, or surrounding places like Tianjin, Chengde (Imperial Summer Resort) and Pingyao (UNESCO World Heritage site). The program for each client is tailored to his or her needs, and discretion and reliability are assured.
For further details contact Jet at jetchina0602[at]hotmail[dot]com or phone 0086 13552 949596
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