Home' LOTL : July 2007 Contents 33
Giant photos of naked girls cavorting underwater
decorate the split-level China Doll, one of the city’s
newest cocktail lounges. A short, very steamy,
video plays on an eternal loop. Two women, also
submerged, caress each other in black underwear.
Yes, Beijing is sexy.
While, China Doll is essentially a straight joint,
the city has grown a definite gay friendly streak.
Cocktail lounges accommodate homo nights,
and there are half a dozen queer pubs and
clubs, including dyke nights, girl’s teahouses and
raucous drag shows.
From a background of Communist Army kitsch–
think Red Azalea – China’s dyke culture has been
harnessing a homegrown lesbian chic. Young
butch lesbians goth it up with spiky black hair
and piercings; the main lesbian club night has a
stripper who gets off on a chair in fishnets and
a thong; while a girls’ social club is sewing the
seeds to start the city’s first drag king movement.
Sites like the Great Wall and the Forbidden City
draw the tourists, but Beijing’s main charm are
its hutongs – winding tree-lined alleyways of
courtyard homes, some of which date back 500
years. A handful of these hutong residences have
been renovated and converted into hotels. The
budget Lusongyuan Hotel (US$44 upwards, www.
html) is set in a Qing Dynasty-era courtyard home,
with a pretty garden, and just around the corner
from the Forbidden City. Slightly more upmarket
is The Red Capital Residence (US$150 upwards,
www.redcapitalclub.com.cn/) which has furnished
its luxury courtyard suites with Mao kitsch and
Qing era antiques. If history doesn’t do it for you,
Beijing has just opened its first so-called boutique
hotel, a block or so east of the Forbidden City.
Hotel Kapok (www.hotelkapok.com) employs a
minimalist approach to its funky rooms; much is
made of glass, bamboo and glowing lights, and,
some claim, Ikea-esque furniture.
EATING & DRINKING
Beijing has more restaurants than you can
shake a chopstick at. The quintessential dish
is “Peking duck” – slices of roast bird, garlic,
and shallots, hand-wrapped in pancakes and
smeared generously with plum sauce. Quan Ju
De (14 Qianmen Xidajie) has been cooking it
up since 1864. The romance of the courtyard
setting also stretches to dining. The CourtYard (95
Donghuamen Dajie), one of Conde Naste’s top
50 restaurants in the world, has a menu of fancy
fusion food and is housed in a hutong house next
to the Forbidden City. Less affluent diners plumb
for Pass By (108 Nanluo Guxiang, near Houhai),
a cosy courtyard café serving decent Italian and
Chinese food. A lesbian couple take care of the
menu at top Brazilian joint, Alameda (Nali Mall,
Sanlitun Bei Lu), while those with the late night
munchies should head to Bellagio (6 Gongti Xu
Lu), a gay-friendly Taiwanese canteen that is open
24 hours and has very cute tomboy waitresses.
West Wing (Xixiangfang in Chinese; Deshengmen
Tower) is fairy-light spectacle inside an ancient
city gate. There’s courtyard karaoke in the
summer, games and books on the first floor, and
a basement bar with some kickass speakers.
Dyke night is Saturday night at Pipe Café (Gongti
Nan Lu). The city’s longest running lesbian party
is almost always packed with young girls (16-22
years), has a floor show and a small dance area
for those into heavy hip hop. When the chicks go
home to their folks at midnight, it’s only a short
trip around the corner to Destination (7 Gongti
Xilu www.bjdestination.com), the city’s main gay
club. Stray dykes can sometimes be found hiding
in the heaving mass of muscle boys. Wang You
Ge (A place to forget your worries; Yingdingqiao
Hutong, Houhai) is a cute little lesbian living room
with beer and tea. Despite its prime location, just
off Houhai lake, this place is usually pretty quiet.
The free Beijing Time Out magazine – in most
Western restaurants and bars – has a gay and
lesbian page with updates to queer events (written
by the author of this article).
The heart of the city is in the iconic Tiananmen
Square. From here you can pay your respects to
Mao’s waxy remains in his mausoleum, or cross the
road to the Gate of Heavenly Peace which bears
his famous pasty portrait. The gate marks the
entrance to The Forbidden City, a massive Ming-
dynasty palace complex, where the concubines
used to get up to all kinds of Sapphic fun. Beijing’s
biggest park is home to the beautiful turquoise-
tiled Temple of Heaven, where emperors used
conduct sacrifices to ensure bumper harvests.
The 798 factory complex in Dashanzi is where the
funky art types hang out – in between the working
warehouses is Beijing’s biggest concentration
of contemporary art galleries, peppered with
some French wine bars. The Great Wall of China
is probably obligatory. Avoid the tourist crush
by heading for the Huanghua section rather
than Badaling. Beijing is organised in concentric
oblongs marked by ring roads.
THE FORMER CITY
RULE IS NOW
OF FUNKY BARS
WHEN TO GO
Winters are bitterly cold,
summers are scorchingly
hot and spring is the season
for bitching sandstorms.
In autumn, the city is at its
best. With 1.3 billion people,
China creaks under the
weight of domestic tourists
during national holidays, so
avoid Chinese New Year in
January or February, May
Labour Holiday, and October
Qantas (Qantas.com.au) flies
to Beijing for $1443 return
from July 16 – August 31.
Photo: Ben McMillan
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