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OutUK's Adrian Gillan has visited Beijing, capital of China and a country that's home to one in four of the world's gays!

WHERE TO STAY

Beijing's modest scene falls into three main parts, two of which lie near each other in the Chaoyang district just east and west of the Worker's Stadium, itself just east of city centre and therefore a good place to make your base; the third, final and most indigenous scene is that of tucked-away bars, saunas and cruising - both online and in the bush - which is far less known to non-locals.
Chilling on The Great Wall.
As said, an obvious place to accommodate yourself would be anywhere around the Worker's Stadium near the Dongsishitiao subway. There are several classier hotels where the strong pound will buy you a lot for your money. But if you're on a real budget, then there are several budget and 3 star hotels in the Worker's Stadium/East Second Ring Road area, starting from 200 RMB (around 22.50 pounds) a night. You can find them at an online booking service like ctrip. You'll experience a constant parade of "People's joggers" and Tai Chi fitness fans - and a good place to actually meet, talk and debate with real Chinese people up from the provinces. You can have a slap-up meal anywhere in Beijing for under 5 a head including drink - and the airport shuttle bus passes conveniently nearby.

EATING

If you're peckish after the ten hour flight from Heathrow and a bit thrown by the eight hour (seven hours in summer time) time difference on top of that, you can get a caffeine kick at various nearby cafes, including Starbucks and Costa Coffee, just opened one block north in the Oriental Ginza Mall, Dongzhimenwai. Gongti Xi Lu, the road between the Worker's Stadium and the Worker's Gymnasium, a drum shaped building just west of the Stadium itself, is home to various Chinese and Western restaurants offering plenty of choices at very reasonable prices. If you're looking for something more upmarket, you could try the Japanese restaurant Morio in the luxury boutique Hotel G in a small side street just behind the premier gay bar in town, Destination on Gongti Xi Lu. For some people-watching, you could go to Bellagio, also on Gongti Xi Lu, for Taiwanese food and super desserts.

The Gold Barn, an upmarket, atmospherically-lit tea house with a folksy-yet-modern interior, has lots of interesting furnishings and lamps and a large collection of Chinese and English books to browse. Again, The Barn is mixed but - because of its location - groups of gay friends come here to play cards, sip and chat in cosy and relaxed surroundings, with fab service. Further east on Gongti Bei Lu is a large Starbucks with outdoor seating area at the Pacific Century Place. This has a very mixed crowd of young professionals, businessmen and shoppers looking to chill out and relax.

BARS, CLUBBING & MORE

But if you fancy a serious drink by now, next to the Barn you'll find the not so secretly named Secret Garden - a trendy, gay-run bar (not exclusively gay by any means) with Garden of Eden style botanical interior and half-private alcoves formed by see-through nets - all a bit over the top and, again, pricey by Beijing standards.
However, by far the most popular place in town is Destination ('Mu Di Di' in Chinese) on Gongti Xi Lu. It seems to have forced all other competitors into obscurity or bankruptcy. Gongti Xi Lu itsef has become the Sunset Strip of Beijing, with numerous bars and clubs which come alive after dark - busy traffic and taxis blocking the street after midnight. Destination Beijing Destination - Beijing's most popular gay club.
Destination has expanded several times and is now a series of bars and lounges (even one labeled as 'non-smoking' but not always strictly enforced) spread over two floors, and a crowded disco with guest DJs. It consistently attracts a diverse crowd of young locals, expats, some ladies and the occasional rentboy. It is packed out on Friday and Saturday nights after 10 or 11 p.m, and quieter during the week. There is an entry charge at weekends and on some days with special events.
If a noisy disco bar is not your scene, then you could try the Thursday night half-price sessions before 11pm at Mesh bar in The Opposite House, an upmarket hotel halfway up the bar street on the west side at no. 11 San Li Tun (The Village North). It has no name on the front but the hotel frontage is made up of seemingly green and grey square panels. This gathering is not exclusively gay, but became a legacy of a Yahoo social group called proMen who used to meet there. Mesh Bar Beijing Mesh in the trendy Opposite House Hotel.

One of the most stunning views on the water is The Boat, a funky bar located at the side of the Liangmahe canal, north of the Sanlitun bar street. This is an alternative place to meet mainly on weekend evenings.

A further recent addition to Beijing's gay nightlife is the third season of Queer Comrades (previously called "Queer as Folk Beijing" QAFB). The plan was for regular showings at a Beijing bar of podcasts on issues affecting the LGBT community. Two years earlier a couple of young Chinese gay men started QAFB, the country's first independent video podcast dedicated to discussing the issues that affected them and other members of China's LBGT community. They have already produced 35 talk show episodes and have attracted more than 5 million hits. They use a mix of entertainment and free-wheeling discussion to document the intricacies of the burgeoning LGBT community, as well as the challenges many of its members still face. Although not busy their website continues to list some events.

If you're a bear or an admirer try the two-floor Bear Den bar. They often organize events and shows at the weekend when the bar can get quite crowded. It's a highly local crowd that's a rare mix of young, mature, and chubs; or maybe even check out Fengfan Weiye Club in Guang An Men Wai, known locally by its previous name Da Fan Sauna. It's south west of Beijing on the West Second Ring Road and really only reachable by their receptionist guiding your Chinese-speaking taxi driver in on your mobile.

MORE INFO

OutUK's online hotel Bookings system offers a choice of luxury Beijing hotels from 50 a night. A visa is required for UK citizens.
This guide has been updated by ChinaMango who offer a professional, gay-managed tour guide service with qualified local English-speaking guides. They give a highly-recommended discreet, individual service tailored to your needs at reasonable rates, whether as a first time visitor, or a more adventurous traveller wanting special excursions to neighbouring sights such as in Chengde, Tianjin or Pingyao. No timewasting on shopping or factory tours unless you want to! Apart from a conventional day tour, ChinaMango can offer a night tour including kungfu show/acrobatics/Beijing Opera and visit to a bar (which can sometimes be difficult to find if you can't speak Chinese) to make new friends. It's also indispensable if you want to keep up with the rapidly changing scene! ChinaMango's Jet Liu A tour guide from ChinaMango.

THE LITTLE BLACK BOOK

Beijing Official Tourist Info Website
Bear Den Bar (12 Yumin Lu, North Madian Flyover, North Third Ring Road; T: +86 10 8225 0548)
Bellagio (6 Gongti Xi Lu; T: +86 10 6551 3533)
ChinaMango Travel Website
Ctrip Travel Website
Destination (7 Gongti Xi Lu; T: +86 10 6552 8180)
Fengfan Weiye Club or Da Fan Sauna G/F Bldg 4, Xiao Hong Miao, Guang An Men Wai, Xuanwu district; best way of finding it is via phone T: +86 10 6346 5852)
Gold Barn (52 S Sanlitun Rd, Chaoyang; T: +86 10 6502 5142)
Hotel G Beijing (A7 Gongtixilu Chao yang District; T: +86 10 6552 3600)
Jing Fa (188 Chengshousi Rd, 3rd Ring Rd South, Chaoyang; T: +86 10 5723 3836)
Morio Japanese Restaurant Chaoyang; T: +86 10 6551 6999)
Oriental Ginza Mall (Dongzhimenwai. Gongti Xi Lu; T: +86 10 6416 8877)
Pacific Century Place (Chao Yang Qu, Bei Jing Shi)
QueerComrades.com Gay Website
Secret Garden (6 Sanlitun South Street east side, Chaoyang District; T: +86 10 6508 3188)
The Boat (8 Liangmahe Nan Lu, Chaoyang district; T: +86 10 6468 0735)
The Opposite House (China, Beijing Shi, Chaoyang Qu, Sanlitun Rd; T: +86 10 6417 6688)

Revised November 2023.

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