Shanghai Notes 上海同志酒吧简介
There are also numerous gay dance halls meetings, KTV’s, sauna, gyms and other similar meeting places, but since the vast majority of these are frequented by 99% Chinese only, or just covers for sexual hookups, so I won’t go into detail.
Generally, the bar scene is very old-school, about a decade behind major international cities, and split between dance clubs with live DJ’s with really bad ‘drag’ shows. I found that the smaller the bar, the higher quality fun can be had.
Weirdly, in Shanghai, they consider drag to make oneself look more like a women (aka cross-dressing transvestite look), sadly popularized by the TV show RuPaul’s Drag Race which vies for straight audience Neilson ratings by having 80% of their cast / characters perpetuating this form, rather than for the more traditional fun of the comedy send-up, popularized by Hasty Pudding over 100 years ago, and evolved to hilarious effect globally since as sassy, brassy and sometimes classy.
Surprisingly (and joyfully), you CAN find good drag performers and shows in some smaller cities such as Nanning and Chengdu – in both of these cities, I’ve also witnessed real singers (not lip-syncing) dressed in hilarious drag, providing great fun for their gay bar audiences. (think deep voices, hairy armpits, lipstick smears, 1 boob dangling out, 1 eyelash upside down, and a sassy comedic personality as they sit on the bar wearing a massively oversized hat with a miniature of their city on it, and call out fun gay vulgarities (in a mix of Chinese, Thai, Japanese and English) throughout the night.
Further, cocktail bars generally serve a mix of fake/real booze (fake booze is not typically the fault of the bar owners, more a problem with unscrupulous distributors) — general rule of thumb, drink bottled drinks or top shelf liquor and avoid mixed drinks from the bar well. Also, in smaller more local bars, expect ‘talking boys‘ who expect you to pay for their services with drinks and tips. You will quickly learn about how to identify and deal with them.
Most of the bars have at least one staff member that can speak some level of English, but be prepared in the smaller bars to have patience and use WeChat translation, while keeping your requests simple.
Method of payment is typically by scanning QR code for WeChat or Alipay.