China’s Gay Sex Clubs Exposed – Part 2

“Where the Boys Are”

From what we learned in Part 1, Connie Francis’ 1960 pop hit could now in part refer to China. In the earlier article we outlined the activities of gay KTV clubs featuring naked guys that have sprung up in some of China’s major cities. Now we look at the views and feelings of those who attend and those who perform.

Plush Shanghai KTV Lounge - smartshanghai.com

Plush Shanghai KTV Lounge – smartshanghai.com

There used to be a commonly held feeling outside China that being gay in China is totally unacceptable and often punishable by the authorities. This was only partially true. Despite many examples of homosexuality throughout Chinese history, even reaching up as high as some of the Emperors, age-old culture in China has dictated that sons marry, have children and in the absence of any form of social security look after their parents in their old age. As we all know, there must be millions of men who have married despite being aware they were either gay or bisexual.

Popular 2016 Gay-Themed Chinese TV Series “Alternative Love”

Popular 2016 Gay-Themed Chinese TV Series “Alternative Love”

I recently had an extended correspondence with one 33-year old countryside shopkeeper who was married with two young sons. He had never had sex with another man but had become aware since his teens that his feelings for men were greater than for women. He had recently divorced. Now he is totally conflicted because of his various obligations: to provide some financial payment to his ex-wife, to look after and bring up his sons, to manage the family’s small business, help care for his grandmother and eventually his parents – and yet meeting up with gay men in his neighbourhood is almost impossible. Life can certainly be unfair!

Themed KTV Clubs are Popular Everywhere as in This One in Sydney

Themed KTV Clubs are Popular Everywhere as in This One in Sydney

The Chinese values of Confucianist moderation come into play in any discussion of being gay in China. As Zhang points out, this basically means

‘I’ understand ‘you’ and give ‘you’ respect, but ‘I’ do not like to get involved in ‘your’ business or be influenced by ‘you’. Different from most countries, being homosexual is not an inherent sin of human nature against religion or society; it is more of a moral problem in China. This leads to an understanding attitude towards homosexuality on the surface of Chinese society but an avoiding and abandoning attitude deep inside. Nevertheless, these moderate but inconsistent attitudes crack some social space for homosexuals in China to survive and produce their own leisure spaces.

As noted in Part 1, these spaces inevitably keep a low profile. Zhang then asks how widespread the gay KTV business is in China? Are they confined to the main cities? How about the incomes of the Xiaodis? Is it a good business for them, even if they are not “offed” by a customer?

More Guys Ready to Entertain KTV Chinese Customers – Click to see full sized image – tumblr.com

More Guys Ready to Entertain KTV Chinese Customers – Click to see full sized image – tumblr.com

Foreman NF: “There are gay KTVs in cities such as Beijing, Shenzhen, Chengdu, Hefei, etc. . . . Shenzhen is fine, but it attracts more customers from Hong Kong, who are difficult to deal with. Chengdu is quite a gay city, but due to the less developed economy, the business there is not so good. Hefei gets this kind of place because most Xiaodis in Shanghai are from Anhui, so it is easier for recruitment. But the level of consumption there is lower than here [Shanghai].
MZ: “How about customers here? Why did you say that here earns more than those for female customers?
Foreman NF: “Those who are able to consume here are not poor for sure, They are usually in their 30s at least with stable incomes. You know it is not cheap to consume here, with hundreds of yuan one night at least. But they know the price here, and know they have the capacity to consume . . . Also most of them have a higher education, so they are better behaved in KTV. Not like female customers in their KTVs, they are really horny customers and can play hard. Here, if Xiaodis finished their basic routines and had fun with customers, they were willing to pay more tips. Also male customers consume more wine than female ones; with commissions from wine, Ziaodis would earn at least three to four hundred per night. So, as you can see, they earn a lot and here is easier than where there are female customers.”

Customer With Some KTV Xiaodis - tumblr.com

Customer With Some KTV Xiaodis – tumblr.com

So with commissions on drinks, the Xiaodis can earn between US$45 and $60 per night. That is before customers’ tips. Although no estimate is given in the thesis, my gut feel is that these will be at least the same amount. So, most Xiaodis can probably clear over $100 per night even without an “off”. For Shanghai that is not a big amount. For money boys mostly from the countryside and with little education, it is very nice indeed, thank you!

In the thesis, Zhang interviews seven customers who had visited gay KTVs over between 1 and 10 years. Their ages range from 32 to 60 with five in their 30s, one aged 50 and another aged 60. It is hard to know if the views expressed by these customers are true or not for some are clearly more reluctant than others. Here is one view.

Customer BS (33 year old PhD student): “I do not go to KTV for sex. If I want, I can find it online or go to a massage parlour. I go to KTV to have fun with friends and find company for myself. Just imagine, there is a group of naked boy standing in front of you and your friends, and people have games and performances together, that is exciting enough. I do not think it is necessary to have it further.”

Gay KTV Hosts Starting a Game with a Customer - tumblr.com

Gay KTV Hosts Starting a Game with a Customer – tumblr.com

Another is prepared to go further and admits he may want to have sex with one of the guys.

Customer ZZ (40 year old company employee): “If I want further activity, I can do it in a toilet cabin. You know it is kind of like a rule that when the customer goes to toilet, the guy accompanying him has to go with him as well. It does not only to make you feel well served or to help you if you are drunk, but also implies that further activities, such as oral sex or masturbation, can be taken there.”

Karaoke Everywhere

Karaoke Everywhere

This appears to suggest that oral sex does not take place in the open group rooms. On the basis of the internet videos and the comments from other Xiaodis, that is not true.

Especially interesting are the comments from the Xiaodis themselves. Those interviewed were aged between 19 and 24 and had been working in gay KTVs for between six months and three years. Most are not gay. Yet there seems to be an open acceptance that dancing naked in front of other men, oral sex and becoming involved in sex games is just a job and nothing to be ashamed of. Anal sex is not permitted on the premises. If both customer and guy are happy with an arrangement, they can leave together. But there is no obligation. Some will probably want to return to girlfriends when work is over, and still plan to get married once they finish as Xiaodis.

Xiaodi GG (22 years old): “I do not think being naked is a huge thing. We are all men. It is like when you go to a bathhouse, where there are all the naked men . . . It might be difficult for the first time, and then you just get used to it.”
HL: “So what if I ask you if you are gay, what would be your answer?”
Xiaodi GG: “I do not think to define myself as homosexual or heterosexual matters now. Sex is now just some movements, and makes no difference for me with whom I have it. But I still will find a girl to get married and have children in the future.”

Like Chinese, Japanese Enjoy Time at a Bathhouse

Like Chinese, Japanese Enjoy Time at a Bathhouse

Gay Asian Network

Even their attitude to the terms ‘straight’ and ‘gay’ seem ambivalent as shown in this conversation.

HL: “Do you think you are gay?”
Xiaodi FZ (23 years old): “You can define me as whatever you like; it does not matter for me. I can make both male and female customers happy here. I am really good at this.”
HL: “So do you have any bottom line of working here?”
Xiaodi FZ: “I can do anything.”
HL: “So don’t you find kissing and masturbation matter for you?”
Xiaodi FZ: “It is just a kiss, no big deal. You do not lose anything. Don’t you masturbate yourself? So what if someone is doing that for you or you do it for someone else, like you help with your buddies. Everyone does this here.”

So are any of the Xiaodis gay? Zhang found one and learned of his reluctance to be openly gay in front of his friends and KTV colleagues.

Chinese Themed Karaoke Lounge - wikipedia.com

Chinese Themed Karaoke Lounge – wikipedia.com

HL: “Do you think being gay makes you easier to adapt to the work here?”
Xiaodi JR (20 years old): “I have my self-esteem, so I could not accept everything at first. It was not easy for me to get naked, give an oral sex to the customer, and further services. I have to tell myself repeatedly that this is my job and only if I do it well that I can make more money, live the life I want to live, and support my family . . . I can also tell myself that I get my demand satisfied. Then I feel better about it, and indeed work better here.”

So there you have it! I expect you will be as surprised as I was. I would love to find one of these gay KTVs, but as I do not speak Mandarin and have no friends who would know of their location, I would be a non-starter. I also doubt if non-Chinese will be permitted entry. Maybe I could start checking out gay KTV clubs in other countries to see what they offer.

Shinjuku’s Notorious Kabuki-cho District where All Types of Night-time Entertainment can be Found - flickr.com

Shinjuku’s Notorious Kabuki-cho District where All Types of Night-time Entertainment can be Found – flickr.com

Or perhaps best just to keep a gay KTV experience as a fantasy. Something tells me the authorities may not be so pliable in the future as greater international publicity alerts those higher up the political chain to their spread. But then, who knows what night happen in China? Certainly not me!

AsiaGuys.NET has quoted extensively from Zhang Hao-li’s thesis in the preparation of these two articles. It is openly available on the internet here

Permission to quote from Zhang’s work was not sought, although we happily credit his extensive input.

Read More: Part 1 – Part 2

(c) AsiaGuys.NET

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China’s Gay Sex Clubs Exposed – Part 1

The Extraordinary Tale of China’s Gay KTV

Some of the more intriguing short videos I occasionally come across when going through gay tumblr sites are those allegedly set in gay KTV clubs in China. Obviously filmed with a cell phone and of poor quality, they nevertheless are way more than eye-popping. Decades ago it was common to watch guys dancing naked in Bangkok’s gay go-go bars. Nowadays the only nudity you are likely to see is during the nightly shows. Yet these KTV videos show large numbers of young Chinese guys dancing totally in the nude. Even more surprisingly, they interact with customers with mutual blowjobs, games, masturbation and even the collection of cum in a glass!

Young Guys Waiting Naked in a Chinese Gay KTV – Click to see full sized image – tumblr.com

Young Guys Waiting Naked in a Chinese Gay KTV – Click to see full sized image – tumblr.com

KTV clubs are to be found all over Asia. They are primarily places where individuals and groups go to drink and sing karaoke. Getting drunk and parting with a sizeable wad of cash is part of the ritual. Having made a few visits to Beijing and Shanghai, I know of its gay bars and small number of gay-friendly saunas. But gay KTV was so off my gaydar I did not believe so many young men were actually cavorting so openly in China. Surely it had to be another country?

Perhaps it might be Taiwan, I thought. Back in 1990, one City Councilman said, “Taipei is a city of lust!” I knew that the many barber shops with spinning red and white striped poles outside once offered male customers a lot more inside than just a shave or a haircut. Nowadays it is in many straight KTV clubs where such services are offered.

After a quick check on the internet, I realised I was wrong! Whatever happens in any gay KTV establishment in Taiwan (if indeed any exist), it is nothing compared to the sexual activity going on in those in China. Originally, like Taiwan, KTV was where men could enjoy the company of young ladies. With a population of over eight million, KTVs in the industrial city of Dongguan between Hong Kong and Guangzhou are known to be a major den of female vice. Now the KTV market has expanded with clubs in many cities catering to men wishing to spend time with men.

KTV Guys Waiting to Go to Work – tumblr.com

KTV Guys Waiting to Go to Work – tumblr.com

Helix Studios

Quite by accident I came across a fascinating but extremely long 44-page dissertation on the internet, a 2016 thesis written by a Chinese expatriate, Zhang Hai-lin, for his doctorate at the University of Wageningen in The Netherlands. Titled “Space, Sexuality and Power: Producing a Gay KTV in China”, I almost dismissed it. Once I had started reading, though, the more fascinating it became.

The writer is a gay man who had lived in Shanghai for 20 years and had participated in the gay scene for ten. He tells how this has been influenced partly by changing attitudes to the LGBT agenda in the rest of the world, but more by those in Hong Kong and Taiwan. In explaining the background to these KTVs and what happens within, much of what follows are exact quotes (in blue) from Zhang’s thesis.

Unlike those KTVs in Western countries where there is only one stage for a small number of people to sing and others to watch, KTV in China provides a large room, which is to some extent a private space, and several kinds of entertainments for different groups of customers, and makes it a very popular place in China for friends to gather.

Straight KTV Clubs Take Kitsch to Extreme Lengths (note the da Vinci!)

Straight KTV Clubs Take Kitsch to Extreme Lengths (note the da Vinci!)

In gay KTV Clubs, he explains, there are the managers, foremen and Xiaodis.
‘Xiaodi’ means ‘little brother’ in Chinese. Usually customers are senior to those who provide erotic services; the social appellation for them in Chinese culture is ‘Dage’, which means ‘big brother’. ‘Xiaodi’ and ‘Dage’ not only show the age gap between the serving and the served, but also the hierarchy in a way that ‘Xiaodi’ immediately makes customers feel superior and assures the obedience, and the friendly tone of ‘Dage’ narrows the distance between two sides. Another reason they become the appellations to the two sides in gay KTV is because they desexualize what they do. Other appellations, such as ‘money boy’, which directly show the money-exchanged sexual relationship between them, are hard to be accepted by either actor in gay KTV; ‘Xiaodi’ and ‘Dage’, in contrast, are neutral and have no implications of sexual relationship.

KTV Club in Harbin in North-east China - wikipedia.com

KTV Club in Harbin in North-east China – wikipedia.com

The foremen are the equivalent of mamasans in Thai go-go bars. One foreman explains that there are at least three or four gay KTVs in Shanghai. None is in the central area but all are easily reached by public transport. Equally all are in inconspicuous buildings. The owners realise they are treading a fine line with the authorities. In the Q&A excerpts that follow, the initials HL stand for the author Zhang Hua-lin. MZ is a 33-year old man, a frequent gay KTV customer who assisted Zhang with the interviews. The interviewees are also identified only by their initials.

HL: “As far as you know, how is the relationship between KTV and the police?”
MZ: “Just bribery, so that they will not go and find trouble for KTVs; also if there is inspection, the police would let KTVs know in advance, so that they can cover.”
HL: “Will it ensure the safety of KTVs if they have this relationship with the police? Under what circumstance they will still get inspected?”
MZ: “Then it might because you were not able to reach the higher level of the police, or the competitors give more money to the police. But even if one gets shut down, they can still open at another place with a new name and the same boss easily.”

Guy Waiting to Entertain KTV Customers – tumblr.com

Guy Waiting to Entertain KTV Customers – tumblr.com

Tea money to the police authorities seems an Asia-wide practice. This foreman denies that what they offer in the gay KTVs is basically illegal, but adds the owners have to be careful not to push the boundaries of acceptance too far.

MZ: “What is the background of the boss of a gay KTV, and how would he have a place like this?”
Foreman NF: (42-year old with 5-years experience in the gay KTV business): “Bosses of the earliest gay KTVs are those who own businesses like gay bar, sauna or massage parlours. They earned some money from this, and know some money boys, so opened a place like this to broaden their business. Later some bosses outside the industry wanted to do some investment, so they just put money for it and don’t get involved in the running of the business.”

Returning to the issue of the police and the possibility of raids, Zhang probes further.
Foreman NF: “Let’s say we are now inspected by the police; we have to know how to deal with it. For example, Xiaodis can be naked, and we can say people are having fun; it does not matter since people in the room are all men, that does not count as a crime of obscenity. And we try to prevent anal sex in the room, otherwise it is a crime of group licentiousness. Beside, as a foreman, I do not get involve with customers’ taking Xiaodi out; it only happens on their voluntary willingness. I do not get commissions from this, so it is not a crime of organizational prostitution.”

Police Vice Raid on a Straight KTV Club in Dongguan close to Hong Kong - cnn.com

Police Vice Raid on a Straight KTV Club in Dongguan close to Hong Kong – cnn.com

Yet again there is the similarity to Thailand where prostitution is also illegal. The Chinese KTVs and Thai bars do not get involved with what happens after a guy agrees to go with a customer for a more intimate sexual encounter or with the tip that will be provided.

MZ: “What about foremen then? How do they enter the business?”
Foreman NF: “There are two types of how a foreman enters the business. One is, for example, like me, who used to work in a heterosexual KTV, and I happened to know the boss here, so I moved here. Gay KTV earns more than heterosexual ones. My advantage is that I already have resources of money boys who I can introduce here. It really does not matter for them who they serve. Also I am better at persuading new Xiaodis, to teach them some skills. Another type, which is becoming more and more common, is experienced Xiaodis who are able to recruit their own teams and promote themselves to foremen.”

Scene from the Movie “Lost in Translation” showing Bill Murray Singing in a Japanese KTV Club with Scarlett Johansson – Focus Features

Scene from the Movie “Lost in Translation” showing Bill Murray Singing in a Japanese KTV Club with Scarlett Johansson – Focus Features

In Part 2 next week, we will look in more detail at Zhang Hai-lin’s discussions with the two most important groups in a Chinese KTV Club – the customers and the Xiaodis. To whet your appetite, take a look at these two links and get a glimpse of what really goes on inside these Chinese gay KTV clubs.

Both Links Contain Nudity: VIDEO 1VIDEO 2

Read More: Part 1Part 2

(c) AsiaGuys.NET

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Garden Surprises – and They’re Not Gnomes!

Suzhou’s Magic

All big cities have their own almost unique irresistible charm, culled from a blend of architecture, ancient and contemporary cultures, town planning, cuisines, shopping – and inevitably crowds. They are usually great for bars and nightlife, with eye candy a-plenty when cruising around in the malls. Depending on the city some of those cute guys might even be happy to join you for a drink or, if your luck is in, a bit more.

I’m ready for more! - weibo.com

I’m ready for more! – weibo.com

Boykakke

But cities tend to have their limits. One mall is much like the next and Chinatown in New York does not differ that much from the one in London – although I think its restaurants win hands down! So you’ve done most of your sightseeing, you’ve spent a night or two with some lovely guys and you still have time to spare… what next? One suggestion is to take a break for a day.

If your vacation is in a city by the sea or a large lake, escaping from the crowds is usually just a matter of jumping on a ferry. Sail a few kilometers off Hong Kong’s south coast, up New York’s Hudson River or Honolulu’s Waikiki Beach and you are all but on your own, the hustle and bustle of city life virtually a world away.

Sailing off Waikiki

Sailing off Waikiki

If water is not nearby, buses and trains usually are. And it is one of the joys of travel that even short day trips away from large urban conurbations can be akin to a complete breath of fresh air. Take Shanghai as an example. Shanghai is not merely China’s largest city with 24 million residents as of 2016, it is in the handful of the largest cities worldwide.

Thanks to China’s rapidly expanding network of high-speed trains, day trips from Shanghai are increasingly in demand. Go west for an hour to the great lakes of Hangzhou, once the capital of the country during the Song Dynasty and described by Marco Polo as “the finest and most splendid city in the world.” Or for a shorter distance, 30 minutes takes you northwest to the Venice of the Orient, Suzhou. Not surprisingly, some 42% of its area is covered by water.

One of Suzhou’s many small canals

One of Suzhou’s many small canals

These two cities are linked by more than just their beauty. Both are actually massive cities in their own right, and yet neither appears so to the casual visitor. And both are situated on China’s own Grand Canal, the longest in the world at over 1,700 kms and now a Unesco World Heritage site. Completed during the Sui Dynasty around 600 A.D. this enabled commerce to flow south as the country’s population migrated away from the increasingly unstable north.

The Ming Dynasty Beisi Pagoda in Suzhou

The Ming Dynasty Beisi Pagoda in Suzhou

Like all cities on important trade routes, Hangzhou at the southern end of the Grand Canal and Suzhou became of increasing importance in matters of trade and commerce. Suzhou’s merchants and ruling elite soon became fabulously wealthy. One source of that wealth was silk.

They promised me this was Suzhou Silk - but I’m not so sure! - tumblr.com

They promised me this was Suzhou Silk – but I’m not so sure! – tumblr.com

For centuries Suzhou has been the centre of the Chinese silk trade, much in demand within the country as it was in later centuries when the western powers discovered it. Soon every European lady of standing wanted Suzhou made silks, brocades and embroidery for the many elegant gowns they would wear each year.

An example of Suzhou Embroidery

An example of Suzhou Embroidery

Over time many merchants returned some of that wealth to their native city by creating large classical-style gardens of supreme beauty, many of which remain today. Hundreds were created, of which some 70 remain, the largest at almost 14 acres boasting the quaint title The Humble Administrator’s Garden. Constructed during the Ming Dynasty in 1509 and featuring a maze of interconnected pools, a variety of pavilions, grottos and classical bridges, this is one of the most famous and most visited of all China’s gardens. And if the title sounds quaint, some of the structures within the Garden are more so, as for example The Hall of 36 Pairs of Mandarin Ducks!

Pavilions in the Humble Administrator's Garden

Pavilions in the Humble Administrator’s Garden

Other gardens have equally strange-sounding names – the Lingering Garden, the Lion Grove Garden, the Garden of Cultivation, the Couple’s Garden Retreat, The Master of the Nets Garden, and the Retreat and Reflection Garden. They may have many similar elements, but all are laid out in their own special arrangement. The oldest, the Canglang Pavilion, dates as far back as 1044 during the Song Dynasty.

Suzhou Tea House

Suzhou Tea House

The beauty of Suzhou is that just a short taxi ride from the high-speed rail station you can take in a quick trip along the small canals, have lunch, visit several of the gardens – including the Humble Administrator’s Garden, grab a coffee and still get back to Shanghai well before dinner and the next round of bar hopping.

The Master of the Nets Garden

Should you want to spend the night, the gay guides all mention massage services, a gay bar and one gay sauna in Suzhou, although the latter sometimes has money boys and is not especially clean. Better just to return for nocturnal adventures in Shanghai – unless of course you happen to have bumped into the cutest guy in one of the gardens. In that case, go for him – don’t be humble!

Garden Surprise - JQ Vision

Garden Surprise – JQ Vision

Contributed by Alex Cummings

(c) AsiaGuys.NET

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Gay Shanghai – Part Two

The Melting Pot of Communism and Capitalism

Shanghai sits at the junction of the eastern delta of the mighty Yantze River and the smaller Huangpu. With the end of the Cultural Revolution and the appointment of a succession of progressive Mayors, the Shanghai that a visitor would have seen in 1980 is now virtually unrecognizable.

Keeping an eye on Shanghai's development - JQ Vision

Keeping an eye on Shanghai’s development – JQ Vision

Indeed, I cannot believe any city in the world changed so dramatically in such a short time. This photo comparison illustrates how much development took place just in the Pudong District in the 20 years from 1990.

Shanghai’s Pudong District in 1990 (top) and 2010 (bottom) – Foreign Correspondent’s Club Hong Kong

Shanghai’s Pudong District in 1990 (top) and 2010 (bottom) – Foreign Correspondent’s Club Hong Kong

Now one of the world’s most modern cities, Shanghai is more fascinating, more exciting and with more energy than even Hong Kong. It is also by common consent the largest with World Atlas suggesting the total population is now 34 million. Being the mecca for China’s gay community it’s hardly surprising there are a lot of horny guys around!

Two visitors on the Bund

Two visitors on the Bund

Gay Asian Network

Depending on your airline, for your arrival you may have a choice of airports. If you are staying in the west of the city, try to arrive at the old Hongqiao airport. On the other hand, arriving at the much newer Pudong airport east of the city you can hop on the Maglev, the world’s first commercial magnetic levitation train with a top speed of 431 kph during the main daylight hours. It covers the 30 km trip to town in just 7 minutes and 20 seconds.

The Maglev train speed counter showing it travelling at almost top speed

The Maglev train speed counter showing it travelling at almost top speed

Rather inconveniently the line ends in the middle of the Pudong district. But once there you can transfer quickly to three subway lines. Or on more than a dozen visits I have always found plenty of taxis. Using the Maglev the total cost of getting to your destination is still a lot less than a taxi direct from the airport!

Start your first day at People’s Park. It’s not as imposing as Tiananmen Square in Beijing, but much more people-friendly. Before the revolution this was the racetrack in the British concession. On the northwest corner is the Shanghai Grand Theatre. This much-praised multi-purpose Opera House opened in 1998. The square shape of the glass-fronted building represents the earth while the striking curved roof the heavens.

Shanghai Grand Theatre - Arte Charpentier

Shanghai Grand Theatre – Arte Charpentier

In the centre of the Park is one of the world’s great Museums housing an exquisite collection of Chinese art and artefacts in addition to visiting exhibitions. From People’s Square, take a longish walk east down Nanjing East Road. Soon you will see the tops of the skyscrapers that now cover the Pudong side of the Huangpu river.

The top of the Grand Hyatt on the left and the Park Hyatt on the right

The top of the Grand Hyatt on the left and the Park Hyatt on the right

Then after you pass some older buildings with designer boutiques and fashionable restaurants you are at The Bund, one of the most famous boulevards in the world with many of its century-old buildings now restored and back in use.

The former China Merchants Bank Building (1897) on the Bund

The former China Merchants Bank Building (1897) on the Bund

Not far away is one of the more recent trendy areas for wining and dining at Xintiandi. Although there is a wide selection of eateries and bars, most are not cheap – but here you will certainly find some of Shanghai’s beautiful people.

A must-see is the Yuyuan Garden. Laid out in the mid-1550s, the British all but destroyed it during the second Opium War. It was finally restored and reopened in 1961. The lovely smallish garden includes six scenic areas with pavilions, rockeries, ponds, courtyards and cloisters.

Pavilion in a corner of the Yuyuen Garden

Pavilion in a corner of the Yuyuen Garden

Its most famous attraction, set above a large pond and approached by a zig-zag walkway to prevent ghosts from entering, is the Huxinting Teahouse with its perfect picture postcard look – or it would be if only the hundreds of tourists would get out of the way!

The Huxinting Tea House

The Huxinting Tea House

Whenever I visit, my gay friends always take me to some of the newer restaurants serving Shanghainese food, almost my favourite Chinese cuisine with dishes including the famous fatty pork, pepper duck and steamed pork dumplings. And how I love the Shanghai soup dumplings! You must be careful to get these into your mouth without puncturing their thin dough covers. Once inside bite down to release the warm soup. Positively orgasmic!!

Soup Dumplings for afters? - JQ Vision

Soup Dumplings for afters? – JQ Vision

Shanghai has thousands of restaurants of all types. For authentic Shanghai cuisine in a quaint setting Ye Olde Station Restaurant in the Xujiahui District is renowned for having two old railway carriages in the garden.

Ye Olde Station Restaurant

Ye Olde Station Restaurant

One is from the train commissioned by the Dowager Empress Cixi at the end of the 19th century; the other for the widow of Sun Yat-sen. The main part of the restaurant is a converted French Monastery with a lot of memorabilia on display. To be sure of ‘royal’ treatment by dining in one of the carriages, call and book in advance! Even though a little kitsch, it’s worth a visit.

The carriage of the Dowager Empress Cixi

The carriage of the Dowager Empress Cixi

In terms of LGBT acceptance Shanghai is the most advanced of Chinese cities, although many gays still feel the need to be discrete and there is clearly a long way to go before the gay community becomes more open. In 2005 the prestigious Fudan University commenced the country’s first Introduction to Gay and Lesbian Studies course, only four years after the Chinese Psychiatric Association had removed homosexuality from its list of mental illnesses.

In 2009, the country’s first Gay Pride Week was held in Shanghai. No marches are permitted, but the week includes a gay Film Festival, an LGBT Theatre Festival and a series of meetings and conferences.

VIDEO: Aussie Electronic Pop Band Empire Of The Sun performing Walking On A Dream which was filmed in Shaghai. Its rumoured that Nick Littlemore is gay.

A Shanghai institution for more than two decades and the city’s first bar to cater exclusively to the gay community, Eddy’s moved to its present location on Huaihai Road in 2002. Although small, this is a warm inviting place to while away an evening where owners Eddy and Michael will happily chat and introduce you to any Chinese guys who might have attracted your attention. Unfortunately, though, the atmosphere is distinctly smoky.

Might we see him at Eddy’s? - Artitude Shanghai

Might we see him at Eddy’s? – Artitude Shanghai

Equally unfortunately, the underground labyrinthine gay Shanghai Studio just across the street closed suddenly two years ago. Closures have marked Shanghai’s gay nightlife for years and not always due to official decrees. Often it’s assumed to be a result of rival owners tipping off police about drugs or underage drinking, real or imagined.

But the gay scene is typical of Shanghai – always reinventing itself. The area near Eddy’s is often called the “gayborhood” since here you find other bars and clubs. Gay-owned Lucca Café and Lounge also manages Happiness 42. Above Lucca is Telephone but it’s only open at the week-ends. Next door to Happiness and just a block from Lucca is the H42 gay sauna. It’s more restrained here than many other Asian gay saunas so don’t expect too much.

Love to see him in Shanghai - Artitude Shanghai

Love to see him in Shanghai – Artitude Shanghai

The biggest gay sauna is Ding Lin Men’s Club. Members only, you have to join for 50 RMB the first time you enter plus the entrance of 20 RMB. That’s still only just over US$10 at present exchange rates. Note also that although open 24 hours, foreigners are not permitted to stay after midnight. For more on gay Shanghai, please visit Travel Gay Asia.

As we have seen, old Shanghai was both the Paris of Asia and the whore of the Orient, a creation of west and east. Now it is sparkling new Chinese mixed with western luxury – and by far the better for it.

Read More: Part 1Part 2

Been to Shanghai or have a Chinese boyfriend? Please post your comments below

Contributed by Alex Cummings who has been a regular visitor to Shanghai for many years.

UPDATE: Since this article was written, we have learned that Shanghai’s gay venue closures have claimed another victim. Please note that Eddy’s Bar has now closed permanently, but there are still plenty of other venues in Shanghai’s gayborhood.

(c) AsiaGuys.NET

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Gay Shanghai – Part One

The Paris of Asia? Or the Whore of Orient?

Which was it? A city of sophistication, elegance, grace and beautiful buildings? Or one where low-life and vice flourished in all its multifarious forms?

In today’s Shanghai it’s not so easy to flip through the many-layers of this utterly fascinating Asian destination, now the gayest of China’s many mega cities. So let’s start with the analogy to Paris.

Gay Shanghai - The Art Deco Entrance to the Whampoa Club Restaurant on The Bund

Gay Shanghai – The Art Deco Entrance to the Whampoa Club Restaurant on The Bund

From the end of the 19th century through the first decades of the 20th, Shanghai was not merely the financial, most civilized and fashionable hub of China; it was a global capital. Shanghai was the most famous cultural outpost east of Suez and would become home to the country’s publishing, media, film and entertainment industries as well as its performing arts. Those who enjoyed life in the city were a mélange of Europeans, Americans, Russian émigrés, Jews and some increasingly rich and powerful Chinese. To these residents and the thousands who visited, this was indeed the Paris of Asia.

Gay Shanghai - Mock-up Model of early 1900s Tea House with Opera Stage above - Shanghai History Museum

Gay Shanghai – Mock-up Model of early 1900s Tea House with Opera Stage above – Shanghai History Museum

Among those who arrived were Noël Coward, Douglas Fairbanks, Charlie Chaplin and Christopher Isherwood. In 1938 with Japanese troops on the outskirts, Shanghai still offered an infinite variety of pleasures. Isherwood later wrote: “The tired or lustful businessman will find here everything to gratify his desires. You can attend race meetings, baseball games, football matches . . . If you want girls, or boys, you can have them, at all prices, in the bath houses and the brothels. If you want opium you can smoke it in the best company, served on a tray like afternoon tea.”

Gay Shanghai - I Promise you it’s just Tea! - JQ Vision

Gay Shanghai – I Promise you it’s just Tea! – JQ Vision

So Shanghai enjoyed an equally justifiable reputation as the wickedest city in the world. In its unrefined underbelly, gangs and triads ruled. The most infamous, run by the so-called “Three Shanghai Tycoons”, was the Green Gang Triad whose huge profits through its control of the opium trade were legendary. By the 1920s, Shanghai was the most gangster-riddled city anywhere, Chicago included. Yet the foreign elite barely noticed, living in great style and comfort in their mansions filled with cheap Chinese servants and enjoying their country clubs, bridge nights, cocktails and nocturnal outings to lavish parties, dance clubs and cabarets. By 1936 there were more than 300 cabarets and casinos in the foreign concessions alone.

Gay Shanghai - Shanghai's Dancing World Book Cover - Chinese University Press

Gay Shanghai – Shanghai’s Dancing World Book Cover – Chinese University Press

The concessions were a direct result of the Opium Wars of the 19th century. Shanghai was soon basically several cities in one. Through force of arms, Britain along with the French and Americans opened settlements in Shanghai, each “concession” administered not under Chinese laws but those of their home countries. Not surprisingly, each colonial presence brought with it its own culture, architecture, fashions and societal structure. A few prominent Chinese remained within each concession slowly helping drive the city’s openness to Western influence.

Gay Shanghai - Dreaming of Shanghai - tumblr.com

Gay Shanghai – Dreaming of Shanghai – tumblr.com

Boykakke

Outside the concessions was another world entirely. Each year 30,000 poverty-striken Chinese simply died on the streets. Isherwood noted how the children in some sweatshops, chained to their machines, “already had blue lines in their gums – a symptom of lead poisoning. Few would survive longer than 18 months.”

Gay Shanghai - 1933 Map of Shanghai with approximate boundaries of the International Settlements - wikipedia.org

Gay Shanghai – 1933 Map of Shanghai with approximate boundaries of the International Settlements – wikipedia.org

Many Chinese spent their days in the opium dens or became prostitutes. High-class brothels offered ‘First Night Virgins’ of both sexes not yet in their teens, all ‘guaranteed’ free from disease. At the other end of the scale were the streetwalkers who offered quickies wherever convenient. With the police in cahoots with the gangs, vice spread its tentacles throughout the community. The special skills and tricks of those Shanghai prostitutes were to become world famous. It has been alleged they were acquired during the year spent in China by Wallis Simpson, the double-divorcée whose marriage to Britain’s King Edward VIII led to the abdication crisis in 1938.

Gay Shanghai - Wallis Simpson with her husband the former King Edward VIII - Getty Images

Gay Shanghai – Wallis Simpson with her husband the former King Edward VIII – Getty Images

Some of the decadence of the 1930s can be seen in one of my all-time favourite films, “Shanghai Triad” directed by Zhang Yimou. A wonderful movie director, Zhang was later to direct the stunning opening and closing ceremonies of the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Gay Shanghai - DVD Cover of Shanghai Triad

Gay Shanghai – DVD Cover of Shanghai Triad

Shanghai retained its “sin city” title even after the Japanese invasion, for the foreign concessions were – for a time – safe. The ongoing struggle between the Nationalists under Chiang Kai Shek and the Communists under Mao was another matter. Chiang had captured Shanghai in 1927. Earlier, through his cunning and trickery, he had succeeded Sun Yat-sen, the Father of the “new” China, as head of the Nationalist Party, the Kuomintang. He had even married Sun’s sister-in-law, the soon-to-be extremely powerful Soong Mei-ling.

Gay Shanghai - Room Service Sir? - JQ Vision

Gay Shanghai – Room Service Sir? – JQ Vision

With the help of the gangs and triads Chiang beat off the rapidly growing communist movement and retained control until the Japanese troops arrived. He made particularly good use of the Green Gang, frequently hiring them to break up union meetings, end labour strikes and assassinate rivals. The Green Gang even helped finance Chiang’s activities against the Communists.

After Chiang lost the civil war in 1949, he and nearly 2 million of his followers fled to Taiwan. His wife, a Christian speaking fluent English, soon became a regular in Washington as she lobbied editors and Congress to back Chiang against the communist regime in Beijing. With Taiwan a pawn in the Cold War, for years it worked. Then Nixon made his historic trip to Beijing and Madame Chiang became just another speck on the landscape of world history. In the meantime, her sister, Sun Yat Sen’s widow Soong Ching-ling, remained in China where she would become a potent symbol for the new regime.

Gay Shanghai - Religious Dignitary visits Shanghai c1930 - Louis-Philippe Messelier Archive

Gay Shanghai – Religious Dignitary visits Shanghai c1930 – Louis-Philippe Messelier Archive

The Soong family, which included their financier brother T. V. Soong, was one of the great dynasties whose wealth and power dominated pre-revolution China and subsequently American policy towards communist China. Today, tourists can still visit Sun Yat-sen’s villa near Shanghai’s Fuxing Park, set on one of the loveliest streets of the old French concession, then named the Rue Molière.

Gay Shanghai - Sun Yat-sen’s Elegant European Style Villa in Shanghai - Photomatix

Gay Shanghai – Sun Yat-sen’s Elegant European Style Villa in Shanghai – Photomatix

Following the revolution, Mao promised Shanghai’s business community they could continue as before. After just two years, he reneged on that promise, resulting in many prominent Shanghai businessmen fleeing to Hong Kong. Here they helped develop Britain’s colony into the major business and financial centre that Shanghai had once been.

Gay Shanghai - Chinese Spring Beauty - JQ Vision

Gay Shanghai – Chinese Spring Beauty – JQ Vision

For the next three decades, Shanghai returned to a being just another sleepy Chinese city struggling to survive under communism, the only remembrance of its more illustrious past being the elegant commercial buildings on the Bund on the west bank of the Huangpu and the mansions of the French concession. In 1980 there was just one medium-sized high rise building, the 22-storey Park Hotel built in 1934, and lamplighters lit up the streetlights at dusk. In her novel “Night in Shanghai”, Nicole Mones describes how in the 1970s and early 1980s Shanghai was just a ghost of a once-great city with little having physically changed from its “glittering heyday”.

Gay Shanghai - Shanghai’s Pudong District today

Gay Shanghai – Shanghai’s Pudong District today

How the city was to change so quickly and dramatically and become the one city gays want to relocate to in China is the subject of Part 2.

Read More: Part 1Part 2

Been to Shanghai or have a Chinese boyfriend? Please post your comments below

Contributed by Alex Cummings who has been a regular visitor to Shanghai for many years.

(c) AsiaGuys.NET

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72 Hours in Gay Beijing

Is it or isn’t it? The answer is frequently given as fact: the Great Wall is the only human structure visible from space. Alas, that verdict was disproved when the first of China’s own astronauts, Yang Liwe, could see no sign of the Wall on his journey around the earth.

Gay Beijing - Kublai Khan

Gay Beijing – Kublai Khan

But the view from space is immaterial. For this massive example of human determination and endeavour was built specifically to keep other humans out. And for centuries it worked. Then in 1279 the Mongols, led by Kublai Khan, grandson of the great Genghis Khan, finally invaded and vanquished the 319-year Sung Dynasty. The new Dynasty only lasted 79 years before the Han Chinese retook control in 1368. Again, though, the Wall did not do its job. One of its Ming Dynasty generals opened the gates and allowed the hated Mongols to invade. The Mongol Qing Dynasty took power in 1644 and was to be the last to rule China. It ended in 1912.

Gay Beijing - Beijing Opera Masks

Gay Beijing – Beijing Opera Masks

Today there are regular invasions of the Great Wall, but by tourists heading to see one of the wonders of the world. The most crowded part is at Badaling, partly because it is the most restored section and partly because of the Ming Tombs can be visited en route. If you have a day to spare, there are other sections now open for tourists. So forget Badaling and head instead for Mutianyu where there is a cable car if you prefer not to hike up steep stretches. On clear days you will have spectacular views.

Gay Beijing - Chinese Guy Studying

Gay Beijing – Chinese Guy Studying

But there’s the rub. The Great Wall was pretty effective at keeping out mankind. It is hopeless when it comes to the forces of nature. The Gobi desert may be some 450 kms away but global warming is seeing it move slowly south. Just 160 kms north of Beijing, the village of Langtougou has all but disappeared under great mounds of sand. The Chinese themselves were also at fault. Following the revolution huge swathes of forest were cut down. Now spring sandstorms engulf the city with increasing regularity. Add to that the pollution from factories built during Mao’s regime and a massive increase in road traffic and you end up with air quality that is way above acceptable levels on many days each year.

Gay Beijing - Main Entrance into the Forbidden City

Gay Beijing – Main Entrance into the Forbidden City

Yet that is no reason to avoid one of the world’s most fascinating cities. Just make sure you avoid late spring and Beijing’s incredible summer heat and rain. Instead, opt for the cooler autumn months of September/October or even the crisp, cold days of winter which I like best because there are not nearly as many tourists. Whenever you go, make sure you avoid the weeks around National Day of October 1st when half China seems to be in Beijing!

Gay Beijing - Forbidden City Interior Gate

Gay Beijing – Forbidden City Interior Gate

So you are now in gay Beijing, perhaps on your 72-hour visa free entry. What to see? The list is really quite obvious. At the top is the 600-year old Forbidden City. You enter this vast complex of courtyards and palaces at the north end of Tiananmen Square under the portrait of Mao. Soon you come to the official entrance where you pay your fee, get an audio guide and start a two- or three-hour wander through the entire length of the City. Some tour companies offer guided tours enabling you to skip any queues. But frankly, if you arrive early in less peak periods, that shouldn’t be necessary.

Gay Beijing - Frozen Stream inside the Forbidden City

Gay Beijing – Frozen Stream inside the Forbidden City

After exiting at the north end, cross the street and take a gentle walk up the hill to the Wanchun Pavilion. From here you have a stunning view over the entire Forbidden City complex. Nearby you will find an interesting clutch of sites – the large Lama Temple complex, the Temple of Confucius and the Mansion of Prince Gong. In this area, too, are some of the few remaining hutongs – the old narrow alleyways leading to simple family compounds.

Gay Beijing - Hutong House Decorated for the Lunar New Year

Gay Beijing – Hutong House Decorated for the Lunar New Year

Beijing is bisected by the multi-lane dual highway, Chang’an Avenue. For a half-day trip, cross to the other side and east of Tiananmen Square for a visit to the enormous circular Temple of Heaven. This is where the Emperors would come to pray to intercede with the Gods. You can avoid Beijing’s notorious traffic and get close to most of the main city sights using one of its many subway lines. For a full morning or afternoon, take subway Line 4 as far as Belgongmen (all the stations are marked in English) and take a walk to the Summer Palace.

Gay Beijing - One Way to Attract Customers

Gay Beijing – One Way to Attract Customers

Once the most beautiful collection of architecture and art anywhere in the country with fine Palaces and other buildings filled with cultural treasures, most were destroyed or looted in an act of revenge by British and French troops in1860. If Muslims cannot forget the barbarity of the Crusaders as they invaded the Holy Land letting loose rivers of blood, the Chinese regard the destruction of the Summer Palace as forever a stain on Britain and France. The Empress Dowager Cixi had some of the Summer Palace rebuilt and it is still very much worth a visit. If you’d like to have a quick look at the famous Bird’s Nest Stadium, on your way back change from Line 4 to the Circle Line 10 at Haidianhuangzhuang and again from 10 to Line 8 at Beitucheng. The first station north is Olympic Sports Centre where you take Exit D. You are right there.

Gay Beijing - Waiting for Dumplings - JQ Vision

Gay Beijing – Waiting for Dumplings – JQ Vision

With a population approaching 20 million, there are many gay guys in Beijing and an expanding gay scene. The apps will always attract quite a number of guys for no effort, most of whom will be delighted to visit your hotel. If you want to be more sociable, in the evenings make your way to the Sanlitun District for its bars and clubs. Not really a gay scene here, apart from Kai and one of gay Beijing’s original bars – Adam’s which opens at 11:00 each night.

Chinese Guy Enjoying Time with a Friend

Chinese Guy Enjoying Time with a Friend

Gay Asian Network

But check out the famous Mesh Bar in the minimalist Opposite House Hotel. This is a hangout for middle class professionals, many gay. Great eye-candy but it’s expensive. Funky Bar can be fun, but it’s a long way out west near the Beijing Zoo. By far the most popular gay destination is just that – Destination! This is a huge bar/club with lots of rooms and great looking waiters situated close to the Worker’s Stadium in Chaoyang District. At weekends it overflows on to the street, mostly with young, tall and in-shape Chinese, many utterly stunning! While many go in groups, there will always be some individuals hanging out, so you may attract a smile or two. Beijing also has a lot of gay spas with handsome masseurs offering both in and out-call. Usually the mamasans will speak some English although the guys may not. For additional info about gay venues in Beijing, please visit Travel Gay Asia and CN Traveler.

Gay Beijing - Chinese Gay Love - JQ Vision

Gay Beijing – Chinese Gay Love – JQ Vision

Two caveats. Homosexuality is not illegal in China. Paying for sex is. Secondly, never pick up anyone from the street, no matter how good-looking. Beijing attracts more than a million immigrant labourers desperate for work. Some have learned how to scam gay tourists and a few can be dangerous. As Dionne Warwick says in her famous hit, “Just walk on by!”

Gay Beijing - Eyewitness Guide Top Ten Beijing

Gay Beijing – Eyewitness Guide Top Ten Beijing

Lastly the city is so spread out, you need a guide. For a short stay, you will not do better than the pocket-sized DK Eyewitness 10 Best Beijing.

Gay Beijing - New China Central TV Building

Gay Beijing – New China Central TV Building

Been to China or have a Chinese boyfriend? Please post your comments below

Contribution by Jason Fairchild who is a Gay Travel Writer and Photographer who has traveled throughout and lives in Asia.

(c) AsiaGuys.NET

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How I Found Shangri-La

I wonder how many towns and cities in the west have changed their names in the last few decades? I suspect none, especially if the change was to commemorate a book. That is precisely what the authorities in China’s southwesterly Yunnan Province did in 2001. The small city of Zhongdian had never been very popular with tourists. With no train service and winding mountain roads, it was difficult to get to unless you took flights from secondary cities like Chengdu in neighbouring Sichuan Province or Kunming, capital of Yunnan Province.

Shangri-La Looking towards the Himalayas

Shangri-La Looking towards the Himalayas

Gay Asian Network

And then someone had a bright idea. Zhongdian was relatively close to the area described in James Hilton’s 1933 novel “Lost Horizon”. This alludes to the existence of Shangri-La, a mystical sort of utopia supposed to be located somewhere high in Tibet. Since Zhongdian borders Tibet (about 150 kms away), overnight Zhongdian was renamed Shangri-La. Although lots of Tibetans live and worship in this region of China, the reason for the change was typical of the new thinking in China since the rise of Deng Xiao-Ping. Economics! Would you go well out of your way to visit a town called Zhongdian? Unlikely. Shangri-La, on the other hand, breathes sensuality and conjures up images of the exotic Orient. Of course you would at least think about adding it to your itinerary!

Shangri-La Prayer Flags are Everywhere

Shangri-La Prayer Flags are Everywhere

Shangri-La city has 130,000 inhabitants. From what I could see there is absolutely nothing to attract the visitor! The real reason why it has become popular with tourists is its proximity to what is unquestionably the finest Tibetan monastery outside of Tibet, the Ganden Sumsteling Monastery (sometimes called Songzanlin) built in 1679. Getting visas to enter Tibet is difficult for visitors on short stays who therefore cannot view the famous Potiala Palace in Lhasa. The awe-inspiring Sumsteling Monastery then becomes a very attractive alternative.

Shangri-La Ganden Sumsteling Monastery

Shangri-La Ganden Sumsteling Monastery

Surrounded by hills and mountains with the Himalayas easily visible in the distance, Shangri-La is situated at a height of 3,380 meters above sea level. That means taking care to avoid mountain sickness. However, since almost the only way to reach the city is from another town or city at a slightly lower elevation, you will have acclimatized slowly and will encounter no problem. Just make sure you do not make an immediate connection in Kunming and jump from sea level to Shangri-La in a matter of hours. Definitely not recommended!

Shangri-La Monastery Interior

Shangri-La Monastery Interior

I made a nine-day trip starting in Kunming – elevation 1,900 meters, population three million and lots of guys on the gay apps as I discovered, as well as at least one gay bar and disco. Getting there is easy as Kunming has direct flights from most major Asian cities. I then took a short flight (but you can also take a regular bus) for a couple of days near the town of Dali with its famous Three Pagoda Park and several other attractions, followed by a shortish bus ride to the city of Lijiang with its quite fascinating Unesco World Heritage Old Town. Lijiang is at 2,200 meters. So I was ideally prepared for the more rarified air in Shangri-La, a five-hour bus trip away over mountainous roads.

Shangri-La My Room at Songstam Lodge

Shangri-La My Room at Songstam Lodge

The utterly majestic Monastery is mercifully not in the city itself. It’s about 5 kms away soaring above a small village. There is only one hotel here about a kilometer away. Decorated in Tibetan style and facing the back of the Monastery whose golden roofs glow in the evening sunlight, the lovely Songstam Retreat is now part of the MGallery, a series of small luxury lodges in the Accor Group. Not that the luxury here is the gaudy glitziness of the Shangri-La Hotel chain. Far from it, although the rooms have everything you need to enjoy a stunning stay. Indeed, simplicity is the key.

Shangri-La Ganden Sumsteling Monastery Entrance

Shangri-La Ganden Sumsteling Monastery Entrance

Most visitors are here to seek peace, calm tranquility and even meditation. The staff were all warm and helpful, so much so that I felt I was a guest in a private home. The restaurant was excellent with a mix of Tibetan, Chinese and Western cuisine. Apart from a shuttle service into the little village and the monastery, the hotel offers trekking trips and a host of other nature activities. On my three afternoons, though, I just enjoyed relaxing on my small porch sipping ginger tea, the only sounds being the swishing of the trees and the chirping of the birds – and totally unable to take my eyes off the monastery. This was indeed my own personal Shangri-La. It was bliss!

Shangri-La Monastery Back View

Shangri-La Monastery Back View

I had taken advantage of a special offer of 3 nights for the price of 2. Even at full price, though, the Songstam Retreat is where you have to stay if you come here, and you should be able to find reasonable rates. If you approach Shangri-La as I did via Kunming, Dali and Lijiang, you will then enjoy an experience that is totally Chinese but wonderfully different and uplifting. And hopefully, you will have one or two very enjoyable encounters at least in Kunming!

For additional information about Gay Kunming, please visit Go Kunming and World of Nonging.

Also, an article about the fire the almost destroyed Shangri-La at Nomadic Boys.

Been to China or have a Chinese boyfriend? Please post your comments below

Contribution by Jason Fairchild who is a Gay Travel Writer and Photographer who has traveled throughout and lives in Asia.

(c) AsiaGuys.NET

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What’s Big and Furry and Looks Incredibly Cuddly?

Located in Sichuan Province on the border of the country’s southwest regions, Chengdu hardly seems the most obvious city in China for a long weekend break. Well, there are in fact several reasons, of which one is at the top of most visitors’ lists. Giant pandas! On the outskirts of this huge city of more than 12 million people sits the large Panda Reserve where visitors can see dozens of these amazing creatures, including the extremely rare Brown Panda. Its full name gives a better idea of the importance of the Reserve – Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding. Mercifully this is no zoo where the pandas are confined to small enclosures.

Panda Reserve - By Callum McLeod

Panda Reserve – By Callum McLeod

The complex covers 92 acres and was created to give the pandas a natural habitat to encourage breeding. Less than 2,000 giant pandas exist in the world of which some 1,600 live in the wild. So ensuring the continuation of the species is the prime reason for the Reserve. An additional 300 acres are now being developed to create conditions similar to the wilds of Sichuan where the pandas can live until being released back into the forests.There are also other zoos around the world taking part in panda breeding programs such as Adelaide Zoo.

Panda Eating Bamboo - By Callum McLeod

Panda Eating Bamboo – By Callum McLeod

Latin Boyz

You enter by taking paths through archways of bamboo, the staple food of the pandas. One panda will consume up to 15 or more kilograms each day. The trails then lead you through various compounds in the park with many opportunities to watch pandas in their natural environment. If you have US$150 or so to spare, you can even have your photo taken with a baby panda in your arms, one of the few kitsch touristic elements, along with a host of other merchandise. Yet the income from this makes up an important part of the funding of the Reserve.

Panda Reserve Colourful Spider - By Callum McLeod

Panda Reserve Colourful Spider – By Callum McLeod

I happen to loathe spiders. Yet, walking along one of the many pathways and admiring the morning dew on the leaves of a long hedge, my eye was caught by this tiny creature, the most colourful little spider I have ever seen with a body less than 1 centimeter long. My camera is auto-focus and I became infuriated when it just would not come into focus. After 10 minutes of trying, though, it finally worked and I got what I thought is a rather nice photo!

Relaxing at Wide and Narrow Street - By Callum McLeod

Relaxing at Wide and Narrow Street – By Callum McLeod

Another reason to visit Chengdu is its 72-hour visa free entry available to the citizens of 45 countries including most European nations, the USA, Canada, Singapore, Australia and New Zealand. Within Chengdu itself there is a lot to see. I enjoyed an afternoon in what is quaintly named Wide and Narrow Street. This is exactly what it implies – an old-style long Chinese street that meanders through a park. On each side are mansions and old buildings offering different foods and crafts. There are open-air cafes and even an open-air Chinese Opera Theatre. Of course it is all just a reconstruction and there is an initial feel of Disneyland about it, the more so when one of the first shops you come to is Starbucks! But I gradually got caught up in the spirit of it all. It was fun!

Chengdu Guy - www.thehotpotblog.com

Chengdu Guy – www.thehotpotblog.com

Like all large Chinese cities, there are plenty of temples and museums to take up each day, including one of the largest dinosaur museums in the world just a short train ride away. I must also add here that in terms of meeting gay guys, Chengdu was the most amazing of all the Chinese cities I have visited. The apps just kept buzzing! I had made one major mistake. I am normally very picky when it comes to the location of hotels. Having had the Holiday Inn Express recommended and knowing it was close to the centre, I went ahead and booked it. Most unfortunately I had not realised there are three Holiday Inn Express hotels, and mine was much closer to the airport! Despite the location, there were far more guys wanting to meet up than I could possibly see on my four days and nights. With some 20 universities in the city, most of those getting in touch were students or recent graduates. When I had to inform one really nice student that I just had no time, he asked when I would leave the hotel for the airport. Learning it was midday, he asked if he could come round at 9:00 the next morning! I was exhausted when I finally got on the plane!

Tibetan Prayer Flags at Jiuzhaigou - By Callum McLeod

Tibetan Prayer Flags at Jiuzhaigou – By Callum McLeod

One of the great things about Chengdu is that it is within striking distance of several amazing sights. 150 kms away is Mt. Emei, known as one of the four sacred Buddhist mountains of China. Nearby is the Giant Buddha of Leshan, the tallest stone Buddha statue in the world. But the most impressive I reckon is a short 40-minute flight away. The airport of Jiuzhai-Huanglong is set at 3,500 meters amidst amazing peaks on the Tibetan plateau. I have experienced landings at Hong Kong’s old Kai Tak Airport and the zigzag approach to Bhutan’s airport at Paro, but nowhere is as striking as Jiuzhai-Huanglong. Indeed you virtually land on the top of a mountain with sheer drops at both ends!

Clear Lake at Jiuzhaigou - By Callum McLeod

Clear Lake at Jiuzhaigou – By Callum McLeod

The airport links two natural wonders. On one side are the stunningly stepped calcified pools in the Unesco-listed Huanglong National Park. You can hike up alongside the pools or take a gondola. But if you go there on arrival, don’t even think about hiking for the altitude will kill you. Better first to go downhill a thousand meters to Jiuzhaigou. This is just a road packed with hotels and guesthouses on each side. The attraction, though, is another Unesco-listed Jiuzhaigou National Park. Set amidst three valleys, it rises to 4,000 meters. Don’t worry, though. From the moment the Park opens at 7:00 am, a fleet of minibuses whisks you to near the top so that you can leisurely walk down amongst some of the most glorious natural beauty anywhere. There are lovely waterfalls, beautiful colours and the clearest water I have ever seen in a multitude of glacial lakes. Feel peckish? Just walk over to the little road and a bus will soon appear to take you back to the entrance where there are various restaurants before you continue your exploration in the afternoon. There will be many thousands of Chinese also visiting, yet it is very easy to escape the crowds and gently wend your way down in absolute peace. A perfect interlude in a fascinating week.

Hell on a Tibetan Prayer Wheel - By Callum McLeod

Hell on a Tibetan Prayer Wheel – By Callum McLeod

Chengdu airport is now served by a wide variety of airlines. There are non-stop flights from many Asian capitals including low cost carriers. Intercontinental carriers include British Airways, KLM, Lufthansa, Qatar, Etihad, Virgin Atlantic and United.

Chengdu Gay Kissing Competition - www.gmw.cn

Chengdu Gay Kissing Competition – www.gmw.cn

I’ve heard about the Chengdu Gay Kissing Competition but I haven’t been able to confirm if it was a one off or a yearly event. For more info about gay Chengdu visit Travel Gay Asia and also read the article The Gayest Little City in China.

Been to China or have a Chinese boyfriend? Please post your comments below

Contribution by Callum McLeod who is a Gay Travel Writer and Photographer who has traveled throughout and lives in Asia.

(c) AsiaGuys.NET

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China’s Ancient Silk Road

Look at any website, talk to friends and you will know that the three most popular sites in China are The Great Wall, Beijing’s Forbidden City and the amazing Terracotta Warriors in Xi’an (pronounced ‘she – ann’). For overseas visitors, the Terracotta Army is quickly approaching the No. 1 spot. Yet its existence has only been known for little over 40 years.

Xian Terracotta Army

Xian Terracotta Army

As the Cultural Revolution was finally winding down, a group of poor farmers in 1974 started to dig a well east of the tomb of China’s First Emperor Qin Shi-huangdi who had died in 206 BC. Emperor Qin was a fascinating, determined but also worried figure. At the age of just 13 he came to the throne of his native Qin Province determined through battle and negotiation to finally unify the seven central states and create the core of present day China. The name ‘China’ comes from his name – ‘Q’ in Chinese is pronounced ‘Ch’ in the west. Having complete power, his next goal was to consolidate it through diplomacy, military might and a host of reforms including standardizing currency, weights and measures, and a unified system of writing.

Xian Wall at Night

Xian Wall at Night

It is often thought that Emperor Qin built the Great Wall. This is not strictly accurate for parts of the wall already existed. His major accomplishment was in assembling hundreds of thousands of men to link all the parts together, a project that took about nine years. The other achievement for which he is universally recognised today, though, is the astonishing army of terracotta warriors found by those famers in 1974. At first they had no idea what they were digging up, just fragments of pottery. Yet, the more they worked, the more surprised they became. Chinese archaeologists were summoned. Soon they had uncovered what was to become one of the great wonders of China. The area has recently been extended to cover four sites – or Pits. The first has about 6,000 life-sized warrior figures including cavalrymen, horses and weapons. Wandering through the Museum complex, you come to three other smaller Pits, one with the figures still broken in large fragments.

When you enter Pit 1, the first thing that astounds you is its sheer size. ‘Enormous’ hardly does it justice. Then look at each of the soldiers and it’s obvious these were not mass-produced, for every face is different. Clearly the figures were all individually produced over a very long period of time. It is estimated that the entire Mausoleum and its surroundings must have taken 700,000 artisans working nearly three decades to complete. Excavation continues around the site, but so far the Mausoleum of the Emperor himself has not been touched due to possible lasting damage resulting from Xi’an’s very dry air.

Xian Bell Tower

Xian Bell Tower

Yet, why was it built? Throughout his life Qin’s main worry concerned not life – but death. Whilst alive he desperately tried to finds means of extending that life. At the same time, like many Chinese of his day he believed that inanimate objects could be animated after death. His terracotta army would therefore be with him on his journey in the after-life.

The Museum complex is situated about half an hour’s drive from the centre of Xi’an. So it can easily be ‘done’ in half a day. I highly recommend booking an organized tour since the guides point out a whole host of facts to bring the army to life. Xi’an itself, though, is not just noted for the terracotta warriors. Now a huge city of more than eight million inhabitants, it is along with Athens, Cairo and Rome one of the four major capitals of ancient civilization. Xi’an was home to the ruling houses of no less than 13 Dynasties between 221 BC until 908 AD.

Xian Drum Tower

Xian Drum Tower

Around 120 BC, a route was established from Xi’an which developed trade links with western countries. Thus the earliest Silk Road came into being with Xi’an as its eastern terminus. One of the best-known travellers was Marco Polo who on his return to Venice in 1285 described Xi’an as “a very great and fine city.” Today’s tourists can thank Emperor Lui Bang for making the city so accessible. In 194 BC, he ordered the construction of the 26 km city wall to protect the inhabitants. With a base between 12 m and 16 m thick, the wall still exists and is a visitor attraction in its own right. Indeed many walk or cycle around it. The wall, its entrances and many guardhouses present an imposing spectacle at night when all are lit up.

Xian Big Wild Goose Pagoda

Xian Big Wild Goose Pagoda

The most impressive sights are therefore all to be found within the perimeter of the wall. These include the Bell Tower marking the symbolic centre of the City and constructed in 1384. Built around the same time and standing close by is the Drum Tower. About 4 kms to the south stands the 65 meter tall Big Wild Goose Pagoda. Dating from 652, this simple, elegant structure is a masterpiece of Buddhist construction. One area you must visit is the colourful old Muslim Quarter. The practice of Islam was permitted in 651 and there exists today a large Muslim population and ten functioning mosques. The centre of the Quarter is the bustling Beiyuanmen Muslim Market with a multitude of inexpensive eateries. Situated very close to the Drum Tower, bordering its main 500 meter-long street are buildings mostly constructed in the Ming and Qing Dynasties (1364-1911). For centuries foreign diplomats and merchants providing goods for transport over the Silk Road lived here.

Xian Muslim Quarter Courtyard

Xian Muslim Quarter Courtyard

Getting around Xi’an is relatively easy. There is a subway system but you will still have to walk a bit or take taxis to some of the sights. The only sight I suggest you avoid is the heavily touted Cultural Show at the Tang Dynasty Theater Restaurant. There are much better and less expensive ways of seeing the country’s culture than in a venue packed with tourists trying to enjoy a second-rate meal! In any case, I’m sure you will want to explore the city’s gay scene. I did not have time, unfortunately. but I certainly walked past a host of handsome guys. Check out thre Utopia Asia Website for more info about gay Xi’an. Or you can also contact Bangkok’s Purple Dragon Website which organises tours for gays visiting Xi’an. Since they don’t include the air-ticket, you can pre-book a tour for after your arrival. The site promises a personal guide for one of your days, LGBT-friendly accommodation and a sampling of the local gay nightlife. And of course you will find the gay social networking apps useful. Xi’an may be an ancient city, but it has been quick to adopt modern technology!

Xian Beiyuanmen Street

Xian Beiyuanmen Street

Been to China or have a Chinese boyfriend? Please post your comments below

By Guest Writer Jason Fairchild

(c) AsiaGuys.NET

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Harbin’s Amazing Ice and Snow Festival

Harbin Midday Temperature - By Jason Fairchild

Harbin Midday Temperature – By Jason Fairchild

Way back in the dim and distant past, only three airlines regularly plied the trans-Pacific route from US gateways to Asia – Pan Am, Northwest and Japan Airlines. A thought: Northwest was gobbled up by Delta not so long ago, but does anyone now remember Pan Am? By the mid 1980s its glory days as a travel pioneer were far behind it and assets were being sold as fast as the market could snap them up. Not that it was doing much to court passengers by then, though. On one of its last flights, I flew from Tokyo to New York in what was euphemistically billed as business class. When the stewardess (as they were then called) came round to offer lunch, a surly voice rasped, “meat or fish?” “What is the meat?” I politely enquired. “No idea” was the reply! In 1986, in one ill-considered last throw of the dice to concentrate exclusively on the increasingly competitive transatlantic market, it sold off its Pacific routes. United picked them up in a deal that included 18 747s for just US$750 million!

Even then, before the advent of the long-distance Boeing 747-400, most trans-Pacific passengers had to use Tokyo as their Asian transit hub. And it was the final sectors out of Tokyo that were the killers – up to six sleepless hours that passed so slowly. When you looked at your watch certain that an hour had passed since you last checked and discovered it had been only 15 minutes, the disappointment was palpable! Now, of course, travelers have a much greater choice with non-stops into several cities and airline alliances that present an opportunity to stop-over in many other cities before reaching their final destinations. Nowhere is this more true now than in China. Want to see the terracotta warriors in Xi’an? United has a non-stop service from the West Coast to join its other non-stops to Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu and Hangzhou. From there, Air China and a host of other airlines will get you to Bangkok or wherever. China’s offering up to 72 hours visa free stop-overs in some gateways now makes it easier and less expensive to visit some of its huge number of sights.

Harbin Russian Orthodox Cathedral - By Jason Fairchild

Harbin Russian Orthodox Cathedral – By Jason Fairchild

One known worldwide is all but unique – the famous month-long Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival in the north-eastern city of Harbin. The scale and scope of the displays are absolutely extraordinary. The Ice Sculpture Park sees many international sculptors creating huge palaces, temples and other structures for over a month prior to the Festival’s opening. These are no ordinary sculptures. Carved using hundreds of huge blocks of ice, holes are drilled to enable lights to be inserted prior to assembly. So you should visit the park both in daytime and at night. On my trip a few years ago, there was even a Thai-style temple. The centerpiece of the park was an enormous ice Russian-Orthodox Cathedral. Harbin’s affinity with Russia goes back to the days following the Russian Revolution when thousands of White Russians took to the railway and ended up in Harbin. Even today, the city centre boasts a large Russian Orthodox Cathedral and most major street signs are in three languages – Chinese, English and Russian.

Amazing Ice Sculpture at Harbin - By Jason Fairchild

Amazing Ice Sculpture at Harbin – By Jason Fairchild

Latin Boyz

The Snow Park some distance away has some massive sculptures up to 50 or more meters long and 20m high – as well as a vast variety of medium and smaller ones. The scale is utterly breathtaking and you need a full morning or afternoon to take it all in. Not far from the Snow Park is the Siberian Tiger Reserve with over 500 of these beautiful animals, including the rare White Tiger, of which at least 100 can be seen by visitors. Within the city itself, the pedestrian street leading from the Holiday Inn Express – ideally positioned and quite reasonably priced – down to the river has ice carvings every 20 meters or so, and the frozen river itself is a hive of ice-related activity, from carriage rides, to ice skating and a form of ten-pin bowling.

Harbin Snow Park is Very Popular - By Jason Fairchild

Harbin Snow Park is Very Popular – By Jason Fairchild

For the gay traveler, greater Harbin has nearly 11 million inhabitants and that means a lot of gays! I knew there were a couple of gay bars, but I just did not have time to try and find them in the freezing weather. I did make several contacts on the dating apps, though. My one disappointment is that two students were anxious to meet up. Sadly the dozen universities in the city were closed as I was there just before the long Chinese New Year holiday and these lovely guys had returned to their home towns. If making gay friends is on your agenda, then check the University holidays before finalizing your bookings. And make sure you avoid Chinese New Year at all costs when a gazillion Chinese descend on the city!

Cute but Cold at Harbin - By Jason Fairchild

Cute but Cold at Harbin – By Jason Fairchild

I tacked my 3 days in Harbin on to a business trip in Beijing. So it was relatively easy making my own flight and hotel arrangements. I was lucky, though, as tour agents tend to block book most of the rooms in the popular hotels, especially at weekends. Much less easy was arranging taxis to the various parks and getting them to hang around for me. The parks are outside the main city and the very last thing you want is to get stuck with no transport back! So I strongly suggest a tour company to organize an inclusive package for you. The excellent China Culture Travel Company has 2-day tours with fixed weekend departures from Beijing on January 17 and 31 next year.

Harbin Ice Park at Night - By Jason Fairchild

Harbin Ice Park at Night – By Jason Fairchild

Quite by accident, I did meet three lovely young guys when going for breakfast on my last morning. Groups had arrived the previous evening and the breakfast room was packed. The only seat available was – surprise, surprise! – at a table occupied by these three guys. They were happy for me to join them, although not as happy as I! They turned out to be tour guides about to set off for a day of sightseeing with their various groups. So sad that I was leaving in the early afternoon!

Harbin Snow Park Group Photo - By Jason Fairchild

Harbin Snow Park Group Photo – By Jason Fairchild

I reckon the only other problem in going up to Harbin en route to warmer tropical climes is clothing. The temperature in Harbin in January rarely rises above minus 12 degrees Celsius during the day and falls to minus 25 at night. Layered clothing, ideally starting with mountaineering underwear, is vital as are thick socks and a sturdy pair of warm boots. If you are adventurous and can afford the extra luggage charges, though, there is no doubt you will be gob-smacked at seeing one of the great events in Asia.

Harbin Street Sculpture - By Jason Fairchild

Harbin Street Sculpture – By Jason Fairchild

Alas, poor Pan Am! With the floods of tourists now travelling across the Pacific, it could have been making a mint. But its gamble failed. A mere five years after selling its Pacific routes, the once proud airline that had persuaded Boeing to produce the revolutionary 747 ended up in that great graveyard in the sky.

Pan Am Clipper Great Republic - Boeing 747SP - wikipedia.org

Pan Am Clipper Great Republic – Boeing 747SP – wikipedia.org

Been to China or have a Chinese boyfriend? Please post your comments below

By Guest Writer Jason Fairchild

(c) AsiaGuys.NET

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