The dirty-fun guide to Hong Kong's Wanchai bars
At Wanchai bars in Hong Kong, we could be sipping a rare craft beer out of a sweaty crystal chalice and still feel like we're doing something dirty.
Not quite able to shake off its history as a port of call crawling with prostitutes, Wanchai is one nightlife hot spot where the "World of Suzy Wong" image of Hong Kong still feels alive. In fact, the 1960 movie was filmed here.
Today, flashy new Wanchai bars and clubs sit in a backdrop of aging topless bars on the Lockhart Road bar strip. No matter how the chrome shines at the grand opening of a Wanchai nightclub there is always an undercurrent of sleaze.
And it's great. A Wanchai party just feels more uninhibited than other parties.
Drink prices are also attractive -- often half of those in Lan Kwai Fong -- drawing drinkers to Wanchai bars like fat flies to hot dung.
It all makes Wanchai the unofficial post-game party district for the upcoming Hong Kong Rugby Sevens weekend on March 23 to 25.
This is what people will be getting up to in Wanchai.
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Embracing the dentist’s chair
The first bar to hit on Lockhart Road is Coyote's, which has more than 75 margaritas made from a choice of 35 tequilas.
This Mexican bar and restaurant also happens to have one of the last remaining dentist chairs in Wanchai. For a while, dentist chairs were really hot after the English football team tried one out in Hong Kong in 1996.
The antique chair at Coyote's is usually hidden in the back of the bar and brought out on request.
After handing over HK$50, lie back on the chair and think of Cancun as the obliging barman bathes your tonsils in a four-second deluge of Triple Sec and tequila direct from bottles.
A group of visiting American servicemen and women were making full use of the chair when we visited and they all gave it the thumbs up.
“Everyone knows I LOVE to drink," said Flo, from Jacksonville, Fla. "But I’ve never done anything like this. Holy s***, it’s awesome!”
Coyote’s Bar and Grill, 114-120 Lockhart Road, Wanchai, 2861 2221 www.coyotebarandgrill.com
Loving "Club 7-Eleven"
Cast aside preconceived notions that drinking outside a convenience store is something that hobos and underage kids do. “Club 7-Eleven” is a Hong Kong institution.
The franchise sells everything from Cabernet Sauvignon to Hennessy XO. Prices are low. Customers are allowed to linger.
Sounds like a great watering hole to the average Hong Konger.
“People in Hong Kong are really economical, we don’t have a big concern about drinking outside if we can get a good deal out of it,” said local Hong Konger Dan Lau, who we found tipping back a bottle of Guinness with a crowd by the 7-Eleven outlet on Luard Road.
“It’s the Hong Kong thing to do.”
There are three 7-Elevens within one block of Wanchai, forming a sort of Bermuda triangle of cut-price self-service booze.
7-Elevens in Wanchai party area: 20 Luard Road, 42-50 Lockhart Road, 64 Lockhart Road.
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Dancing on bars with railings
One of the most popular 18-year-olds in Wanchai, Carnegie's has been propping people up on top of its bar since 1994.
In fact, as dancing on the bar top at Carnegies is so popular, the owners installed brass railings to prevent any inadvertent stage dives into crowd or staff.
With its unpretentious, grungy American rock atmosphere, Carnegies generally brings in a younger crowd than one typically found in Wanchai bars. A mix of university students, tourists and international school kids pack the place.
Whether it's a school night or not is irrelevant in Wanchai.
Carnegies, 53 Lockhart Road, Wanchai, +852 2866 6289 www.carnegies.net
Being seen at "The Corners"
The busiest and most boisterous parts of Wanchai are “The Corners," two intersections of Lockhart Road, one by Luard Road and one a block away at Fenwick Street.
The areas of congregation are centered around two of the more upscale, less sleazy bars in Wanchai. Mes Amis, an open facaded bar, is generally considered the epicenter of Wanchai.
Mes’ central location on the corner of Lockhart and Luard make it a great meeting spot and crowds spill onto the street. Further up Luard Road, on the corner of Jaffe Road, there's Irish pub Delaney’s and the somewhat less reputable Amazonia, both adding to the allure of this corner.
The Fenwick-Lockhart junction is not as central to the ‘Chai but draws crowds around the nautically-themed Typhoon bar. Free shots are given out here during a Typhoon 8 warning. Hong Kong is a place where people want terribly bad weather.
And even if the weather is fine, Typhoon's barman Paul would like us to know that “it’s the best party here, especially during the Hong Kong Rugby Sevens, it gets crazy.”
Mes Amis, 83 Lockhart Road, Wanchai, +852 2527 6680 www.mesamis.com.hk
Typhoon, 37-39 Lockhart Road, Wanchai, +852 2527 2077
Rocking out from dusk till dawn
Wanchai's children of the night flock to Dusk Till Dawn for the after party. It starts to get crowded in here well past midnight and the dancing doesn't stop till it is time for breakfast.
The interior has a curious Mediterranean-theme-meets-Tarantino vampire flick with mellow yellow walls and pale purple wooden shutters.
None of it really matters when the Filipino cover band starts playing. Some say they are the best in town, pumping out near-perfect live renditions of classic rock hits from Guns N' Roses to Gloria Gaynor.
Dusk till Dawn, G/F, 76 Jaffe Road, Wanchai, +852 2528 4689
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While the above features some of the relatively wholesome parts of the neighborhood, there are many Wanchai bars that people don't want to admit visiting. It isn't anywhere like Thailand's Pat Pong, but there is prostitution, there are strip clubs and you can watch a lady take a shower.
But without actually going into any of those Category IV clubs, there are basement discotheques in Wanchai that feature women who are not necessarily prostitutes but are looking for a transaction of sorts. They will be awfully interested in your conversation mainly because they receive commission on the overpriced drinks that they convince you to buy them in exchange for some chit-chat.
Neptune II and Escape are two such places. With big male bouncers at the door and thumping techno beats in their underground caverns, customers who venture forth find themselves suddenly the focus of much feminine attention.
Yes, it’s darn seedy, but fun and legit. And that is Wanchai.
Neptune II, B/F, 98-108 Jaffe Road; Escape, LG/F, East Town Building, 64 Jaffe Road, Wanchai
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