Clowns and Conga Lines

Due to popular request or rather just the one, here’s a blog about Chinese clubbing. On our second night in Hangzhou, still jet lagged and having slept for about 6 hours in 30, we headed for our first Chinese night out.

I had absolutely no idea what to expect considering I didn’t even realize how big of a city Hangzhou is (population: 6 million), however, I think I’ve had some of the best nights out of my life in Hangzhou. I’m afraid York has nothing on Hangzhou!

We met some international students at Zheijiang University and within about 2 minutes decided to join them on their night out. One of the best parts of this programme is definitely meeting people from al over the world – Australia, Barcelona, New Zealand, Africa etc – it’s fascinating to hear why people decided to do semesters or even full degrees in a lesser known Asian city like Hangzhou: mostly circumstance but often also a genuine interest in the culture.

Considering our programme’s made up mostly of 18-22 year old students, we’ve managed to experience a fair bit of Hangzhou night life. Whilst most of it is fairly standard, if very cheap and usually involving vast quantities of free alcohol (“we must take care of our foreign guests”), there are two places that really stand out as absolutely amazing, if a little odd.

The first we went to on our first night and haven’t stopped going back since: Phebe-bar. Walking in, you’re immediately hit with not only the overwhelming smell of smoke, but also what literally feels like a wave of heat. Since the smoking ban in England, I’m completely unused to the smell of smoke, which seems to sink into your pores and smell for days after. Lovely. Once I got past the smoke, I noticed the eccentricities of the bar/club (I’m unsure of how to class it really.) Phebe-bar has one massive stage and several smaller ones dotted around it. Each time I’ve been there’s been a bleach-blonde Chinese singer, surprisingly good but who always pronounces English words just slightly off. It’s decorated with chandeliers, giant teddy bears and strange, old school propeller fans, not to mention massive massage chairs that are sat just outside the main room, odd? But surprisingly relaxing, and seem to attract a crowd in themselves. Also, for those “foreign guests” in the know, it’s possible to get a card which allows every foreigner three free beers every time they go there: I can’t imagine that happening anywhere else in the world!

Phebe bar is mostly full of Hangzhou locals and is far less international than the other places that we’ve been, which is definitely a huge draw for us as it’s a chance to spend some time with the locals, who all seem massively chuffed just to be around anyone foreign. It’s also photographic hell, because the locals can’t seem to stop taking pictures of us, and anyone who happens to be blonde is likely to be unable to see by the end of this trip, thanks to the flashing cameras.

For the most part, it seems like a fairly normal bar, until halfway through the evening when 5 clowns jumped onto stage with the now infamous bleach blonde singer, dressed in pink and white polka-dotted one piece outfits and started singing Happy “Birsday” in a mixture of Mandarin and English, and then jumped off and started a massive conga-line! Not something you see everyday. Whilst I don’t think that’s standard practice in China, it’s not something I can imagine happening anywhere else.

There’s one more club that definitely needs a mention, but I think I’ll return to that another day, as this is already getting quite long and my credit at this internet café is running out. However, I hope you’ve enjoyed the general oddities of a Chinese night out. Phebe-bar is definitely a testament to one of the first mandarin words we learnt being “jiu-bar” (alcohol bar). Keep reading!


  1. If I needed another reason to go to China that was it! Sounds like you’re having an awesome time :)

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  2. This blog is a complete joke. I find it incredible that you are performing the exact task that the chinese government want you to by giving you a free holiday in their wonderful country. Perhaps you should redress the balance by ,instead of writing a trivial, poorly written piece about clubbing and clowns (coz thats all us wacky students want to hear about right?) ,examining the myriad human rights abuses perpetrated every day in China, or the illegal occupation of Tibet. It astounds me that you could be so naive and that you could expect the rest of the people that read this blog to similarly lap up the airbrushed, sanitised perception of China force fed to you by a government program.

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  3. Marina,

    Thank you for your comment. I would like to point out to you that the purpose of this blog is to describe the “Study China Programme” which is a government funded programme to other students who might be interested. Because of the activity-centric nature of the programme, I am going to be describing the activities that we’ve partaked in. It is also a more humorous, student-focused and thus light-hearted travel blog and is not intended as an expose into China’s living conditions. Whilst I do intend to talk about the Chinese students and locals that we’ve met, that isn’t the point of this blog.

    This does not however mean that I am unaware of the problems that you’ve mentioned.


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