The Single Dude’s Guide to Guangzhou, China (2016 Update)

Guanzhou skyline“You can’t always get what you want. But if you try sometime you find, you get what you need.”
-The Rolling Stones

Three years is a long time; many things have changed over the span of 1,000-plus days since Guangzhou was originally reviewed by the Single Dude travel team. One thing that has not changed is that Guangzhou is still indubitably not ideal Single Dude territory. The expat community is tiny; the nightlife is lagging when compared to what can be found in Shenzhen and Shanghai. The weather is absolutely depressing, making Seattle seem like Long Beach, California. Strikes one, two and three. As Dean Wormer said in Animal House, “Fat, drunk and stupid is no way to go through life.”

However, Guangzhou is far from the post-apocalyptic wasteland both our single dude forefathers and the above paragraph have portended it to be, especially when sampled in small doses. As the lynchpin of the world’s largest urban agglomeration and megalopolis, the Pearl River Delta, Guangzhou affords the intrepid and worldly Single Dude outrageous opportunities just based on an unfathomable sample size. This is a repeating motif in China.

As the theme song from Malcom in the Middle opines, ‘Life is unfair,’ and you may find yourself stuck in Guangzhou (GZ for short) for work or play if you are on the way to Hong Kong or Shenzhen. If you work for one of the many foreign companies who source products from Guangzhou’s factories, you may be based in Guangzhou on a permanent basis. So, if you are in the ‘zhou on a Friday or Saturday, or for weeks or months, what should you do? What bar streets and establishments in town offer the most opportunities for socializing and exploring the town for the intrepid single dude? Read on to find out; Guangzhou 101 for the single dude is in session.

Tolerable (dare I say, pleasurable) expat bars in GZ, DAFFS need not apply

We will begin with the unpretentious, expat-oriented bars. There is a Holy Trinity of these establishments in Guangzhou, all near the Pearl River New Town area:

Hooley’s Irish Pub: Located on the super busy and lively Xing Guo Road bar street, the Bourbon Street of Guangzhou, albeit with less nudity than both before, during and after Mardi Gras.

McCawley’s Irish Pub

The Brew

All are within walking distance of each other and offer more or less the same atmosphere, dining options and drink prices. On a weekend, any of these places will be packed to the gills with foreigners and Chinese alike from all walks of life. Notice the single dude truism of sticking your head inside the Irish Pub when all else fails is still applicable here.

Since Guangzhou is the nexus of all the factories spewing out the plastic widgets crowding the Wal-Marts of nations everywhere, you can find someone of every nationality when you go out. Each nation has their fingers in the cheap export pie China is baking in Guangzhou, which means the amount of human diversity seen on the weekends in these places makes the cantina scene from the first Star Wars film look more monocultural than a Donald Trump rally taking place on the 18th green at the Augusta Golf Course.

Star Wars Cantina Scene

Star Wars Cantina Scene

We will continue with the one discotheque and actual nightclub in town worth visiting…

The Nightclub located inside the W Residences

Obnoxious EDM music… check. Strict dress code… check. High drink prices… check. Hordes of insanely gorgeous women… check. This parking lot of this place on the weekend looks like a cross between a Ferrari dealership and a fantasy uncorked from the mind of that dude from The Wolf of Wall Street. Every moneyed Chinese man in Guangzhou comes to posture here, its where every gorgeous Eastern European woman will be on the weekends to the point where the stage performances look like the auctioning scene from the first Taken film. Unfortunately, the dance floor looks like a casting call for Jersey Shore: New Delhi Edition.

And lastly, the best date spot in town, Hope and Sesame Speakeasy Bar, located right outside of the Dongshankou metro station. This hidden bar has a great atmosphere. Enter through the false wall just to the right of the freezer. It is an excellent and classy pregame spot that will wow your date. Cocktail prices are also reasonable here as well.

Also, I have to give an honorable mention to Revolution Cocktail Bar, Rebel Rebel, the Party Pier and Mr. Rocky. All are safe bets on the weekends. Mr. Rocky has many locations throughout the city. Revolution has a prime spot on Guangzhou’s main bar drag, Xing Guo Road, but is populated by guys who look like they took their life cues from the YouTube video ‘My New Haircut. Rebel Rebel is great for live music fans.

Caveat Emptor

Be sure you are in the Tianhe area; you want to be as near as possible to the Liede and Pearl River New Town as possible. Failure to do so will ensure your entertainment for the evening will consist of watching old men play Chinese checkers.
Uber is no longer a thing here. It has essentially merged with its main competitor and is now in Chinese only. Your best bet is to flag down taxis now, which is a scary proposition. To paraphrase a quote from Tropic Thunder, the taxi drivers in Guangzhou couldn’t find a Dixie coonskin with an Ohio hooker showing them the way. Good luck, my friends.

Thought the nightlife is lacking, the cuisine in Guangzhou is second to none. If you skip town before trying dim sum (点心), you aren’t doing yourself any favors.

The Perry’s locations here are nowhere near as good as they are in Shanghai and other places in China. Stay away and keep to the locations listed above and you should be just fine.

Connor Frankhouser

Connor Frankhouser is an American expat and the world's only Dallas Cowboys fan who isn't a terrible person. He also wrote this entire bio of himself in the third person.

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