[update march 09]
Check out this new map to see where everything is! Nightlife MAP
Welcome to the nightlife capital of Shandong Province. Oh god do I wish that really meant something.
The Western Bars
First and foremost, we’ve got LeBang. It’s one of the few places that I consistently go (too often). If you’re a noob in Qingdao, you are guaranteed to meet drunken expats here. It’s usually busy Fridays and Saturdays cause they have an all you can drink deal, and a DJ spinning the retarded love child of house and top40. It is acceptable the first time, but if you go as often as I do, it starts to smell of Vieux Boulogne. The highlight: Seeing drunken eurotrash try to get with Chinese girls and fail miserably, then get beaten up by said Chinese girls’ boyfriends.
Another popular place along the same lines is Corner Jazz Bar. I rarely step foot in there because I can’t stand the crowd of businessmen and Russian hookers that usually spawn after New York Bar shuts down. I don’t know what the deal is with their washrooms but I’m near certain that the mob’s choppin’ up bodies in there. It fucking reeks. Music is strictly top40 pop and some Korean tunes too because that group always has a presence. Doesn’t get busy till about 1am and during weekdays don’t even bother. It’s a given they sell fake booze. The highlight: Hourly catfights between drunk over possessive Korean girls.
Moving along, there’s the upscale Qbar and New York Bar on HK road, both of which are located in hotels. I avoid NY Bar for aforementioned reasons. Qbar has a ladies night on Wednesday that I used to frequent for the booze that I managed to sequester from lady friends. Besides that, it’s too expensive for Qingdao, and although the hip-hop cover band is better than average, they play the same music every night. Also the bartenders WILL try to jack your change; so don’t forget to get it. The highlight: The washrooms. I would hold my crap all day just so I could dump a load off in there. Seriously, it was nicer than my own damn bathroom, and you can high five the bathroom guy on the way out.
Then there’s also OldJack’s, New Jack’s and King’s Head. These three bars are virtually the same: dimly lit, not very large, and populated by old guys talking about, watching, or fantasizing about playing soccer. The pub style atmosphere if that’s your thing. I’m not into these places on account of four reasons: all older people, more expensive drinks, no music, and most importantly no girls. The highlight: Ordering sushi from the place next to Old Jack’s and getting them to serve it straight into bar, and watching as every other barfly looks at you like you’ve invented the wheel.
Finally there are two other western bars worth mentioning. Lennon Bar is a two-floor place that at one time was a full of hookers. The owner or more likely the police kicked out all the floozies and now all that remains is a big empty shell with the Beatles playing in perpetual rotation. On the weekends and possibly on the weekdays there are live cover bands, most likely there will be so few people that you’ll be able to get them to play songs for you instead of the 80′s-90′s bullshit that the musicians have been robotically programmed to play. Charlie’s Bar is across from Soho on Jiangxi Rd. and is similar atmosphere to Jack’s, but they have more reasonable prices, younger crowds, music and open bar on the weekends. The highlight: Watching the owner at Lennon slowly get drunk over the course of the night and then have to deal with the police showing up for the inevitable “noise complaint” a.k.a. the we need money to support our mistresses visit. Oh and Lennon has really good Chinese food.
The Chinese Bars
If you’ve ever wondered what working in the Chinese manufacturing industry is like, just go to one of the clubs. Big, loud, smoky environments await you. The product is you; the consumer and they want to “make” as many of you as possible. Hence you’ll be rushed to a table and pushed into buying only bottles of liquor, and they would prefer if you’d order 6 packs of warm beer instead of per bottle. You might wind up with a big gay plate of fruit on your table if you’re swindled into ordering your bottle in a combo or special.
On Jiangxi Rd. across from Charlie’s bar is Soho. This place used to be more Western/Korean, but was gradually overrun by locals and morphed into a Chinese bar. The music was once almost exclusively hip-hop, now it’s mostly Asian pop tunes. Some of the dancers are dudes in tight pants and makeup, if that’s what floats your boat (it sinks mine). Actually, it should be barred as counter-revolutionary activity. Drinks are cheap; but they really don’t know how to make anything other than bar rails. The interior is clearly steampunk inspired which I think is hilarious, although it is a franchise, so the owners probably had no idea what they were doing anyway. This is still somehow the best Chinese bar in town.
Right near LeBang, is the former Babyface, which has now become SOS. This bar is the newest of the big Chinese clubs in Qingdao. Take a shipping container full of LED lights, 2 hits of acid and really cheesy tastes you’ve got the interior design of this place. Upon entering you will be hounded by staff to sit at table and order drinks. Par for the course really. Music is sporadically hip-hop, which is why I’ve been there more than once. Almost always it’s garbage technopop though. Not often is it very busy, and the crowd thins out around 11pm.
Further up HK road towards the schools, you’ve got the massive Feelings. This is a large cavern of a dancehall, buried deep under an office building where it belongs. Same shit technopoop that never changes. Same annoying waiters. But this place for some reason or another is always RAMMED with people. I’m not sure why, maybe because it was the first on the block and the club kids here have rabid brand loyalty, or maybe they put crystal meth in the drinks. They do have one of those bouncy dance floors so maybe that’s the key.
Back down HK road, across from Carrefour is Feeling VIP. I only mention this place because people undoubtedly get it confused with Feelings. As far as I know the two are not connected in anyway. If you want to go to one of them (have mercy on your soul) it’s probably Feelings and not VIP. VIP is smaller and not as busy. Although I must confess I once knew someone who would give me a free bottle of vodka every time I went, so as you can imagine, I went often.
There’s other Chinese dance clubs scattered about the city, but those are the three main ones. I wouldn’t go to other ones, simply because they are going to be exactly the same as these three. What you should check out though, are the BEER GARDENS. Yes Qingdao is the home of Tsingtao Beer (captain obvious to the rescue!), and because of that we get some of the best draft beer in China. These places aren’t that hard to find. Just look for courtyards squished in between old apartment blocks, and then look for the giant stacks of kegs and you’ll know you’ve struck oil. You grab a small table, little chairs made for midgets and get your beer on. The price? 1.5RMB for a PINT. That’s 23 cents for 500ML of beer. And this is super-fresh, came from the brewery today beer. Far cheaper than what you pay in the stores for the crappy over carbonated junk, at half the price. You can also order to go, and take your beer home in a bag. Unfortunately these places are only open from late spring to early fall. Another downside? They often close up shop before midnight.
The Korean Bars
Korean bars are a different beast altogether. Thanks to the quarter million some odd Koreans in this town, they add another dimension to the nightlife. The people are mostly students and 20 somethings. They serve a few different brands of Soju (vodka-like liquor at 20%), maybe some sake, and big bottles of Tsingtao. All will be served ice cold. The deal is that you gotta buy a couple of dishes of food depending on how many people you’re with. Good news is the food is all pretty damn good. It ranges from the obvious nachos and nuggets to the more obscure live octopus tentacles that will still be squirming in your mouth as you chew away. Keep in mind that the menus will be in Korean and Chinese without English or pictures. The best bar I can recommend is Yakibar, it’s right next to the horrible sumo sushi in HK Garden. They have good servers who speak fluent Chinese and maybe a little English, but there will usually be someone who speaks English well. They also hook it up with free fried eggs and seaweed. Pure class.
Filed under: booze related