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WUHAN (武汉)

Wuhan is the capital of Hubei province, located in central China and China's ninth largest city, though not many have heard of it. It was previously comprised of three separate cities, Hankou, Wuchang, and Hanyang, which today make up the three parts of this sprawling metropolis. Hankou is the most commercial and happening area. Wuchang feels more suburban, full of students. It has a few clubs but nothing extraordinary. Hanyang is mostly industrial, not much reason to go there.

I called it home from September 2010 till February 2012.

GETTING AROUND

Wuhan is infamous for its traffic. Thirty to forty-five minutes at a green light during rush hour is not uncommon. Avoid the rush hour at all costs. If you have never experienced soul-crushing traffic, you might not take this warning seriously, so read it twice: avoid the rush hour at all costs.

Buses cost 2 RMB ($0.31) but unless you can read Chinese, you won't be able to figure out where you're going. Wuhan is not Shanghai, and you will not find any pinyin on signs anywhere, nor will you find many people who speak English. The way to get around here is by taxi.

Taxis start the meter at 6 RMB ($0.94) and it then goes by distance (compare with Shanghai, where the meter begins at 12 RMB). A short distance cab ride anywhere within, say, Hankou, should run you about 10-15 RMB ($1.57-$2.35). If you are going from Hankou to Wuchang or the other way around, it will cost, on average, 60 RMB ($9.41), depending on which route the driver takes. During rush hour, he might cut around the lake and get you there faster but travel longer, in which case you pay more.

Most cab drivers were good people. I often got slightly taken for but if you're going there with foreign currency, what do you care if you paid a few extra cents. What you must watch out for is the ones who do not turn on the meter. If you do not see it running, point at it and look inquisitive, as if to say, “What about the meter?” There is a chance it really doesn't work but don't take the risk. Get out and take another cab.

If you see an empty cab stopped and the driver refuses to take you once you get in, don't worry, it's not 'cause you're a foreigner. Different drivers share the same cab and sometimes people catch them during shift change, or if you are going too far, he won't have time to return the cab to the next driver.

Have your important addresses printed out in Chinese and show them. No cab driver will be able to speak English with you. If your Mandarin is good, you'll still have trouble understanding the Wuhan dialect, which nearly all cab drivers speak.

SAFETY

Like most of China, violent crime is rare. Just don't get into any drunken pissing contests with random Chinese guys at clubs, especially the bigger, fancier ones. They might be triads and they don't fight fair. Other than that, there's absolutely nothing to worry about.

Petty crime is, supposedly, rampant but I have never had anything stolen from me, even when placing my cellphone in my back pocket on a bus packed like sardines. When something finally did get lifted, it was the nice older lady who cleaned my apartment every week for nearly a year. She took my girlfriend's cellphone that was left lying around. Don't create an opportunity and you'll be fine.

NIGHTGAME

Hankou

Like I said above, Hankou is the place to be. Over there by the water there is a long row of night spots ranging from mid-size clubs to big, two-floor venues. Smaller bars can be found but are not so easy to spot.

Return 97 (回归九七)

The name refers to the return of Hong Kong in 1997. Two floors. Top sometimes has live acts but usually a DJ. However, the bottom is where you want to go. Beautiful, quality girls everywhere. Be aware hot Chinese girls do not speak English.

Like most venues in China, the inside of clubs can make approaching difficult since every group is an island unto itself, securely ensconced inside their table area. Dance floors are small if they exist at all. People usually dance right by their table or in the narrow path between tables.

To find this venue, print and show this to the cab driver: 汉口,回归九七 (Hankou, Return 97). If he doesn't know where it is, he's incompetent or trying to rip you off. Get another cab.

Other venues in Hankou come and go and tend to be interchangeable. Find Return 97 and then walk up and down along the river. You'll find plenty of places to go. Ask other foreigners once there, since clubs rise and fall in popularity for various reasons just like any other place.

Wuchang

As far as Wuchang is concerned, if you are simply passing through Wuhan and want to sample what the city has to offer, I couldn't think of any compelling reason you'd want to go there as far as nightlife goes. But if you do find yourself around those parts, here are four venues to visit:

VOX

Sizable dance floor and a small upstairs room in the back with couches. Usually has live music until 11pm, the cover charge averaging around 30 RMB ($4.71). With few exceptions, most of the live acts aren't worth seeing. At 11, a DJ takes over and the party starts. If it's going to be a packed night, it'll pick up by midnight and be in full swing by 1am. However, if the crowd doesn't like the DJ, such as the one that started doing Saturdays shortly before I left, you might walk into a practically empty venue. It's hit or miss. Unlike Return 97, VOX and Prison (below) are foreigner hang-outs.

Prison

This is a bar right around the corner from VOX, tucked away in the alley. Posters of Bob Marley and awesome playlists on the speakers ranging from '77 punk to shoegaze. Once you find VOX, ask anyone standing in front of it where Prison is. It really does feel like an authentic American dive. For many, Prison was a solace.

Grammy

On the other side of Guang Gu mall (see below) along Minzu Dadao (民族大道) there is a club open on Fridays and Saturdays called Grammy. Mostly rap type stuff with a predominantly black crowd. The great majority of blacks in Wuhan are students from Africa. The rest of the week, Grammy is a karaoke bar.

Helen's

There are two Helen's at any one time and it doesn't help that they keep closing and re-opening in different spots. The one you want to go to is by the East River, a short five-minute cab ride from VOX. The decor is all wooden, a bit like a tropical feel, with a bar and tables. Go there around 8-9pm to get a table with your friends and enjoy a burger, which is as good as you'll find in China. By eleven it'll be packed. Even though it's a restaurant/bar and not a club, it's actually a great environment for socializing. As the night progresses, you befriend people from adjacent tables and the groups mix, with people moving over to new tables or inviting you to theirs. I liked Helen's. Plus, you can hear yourself talk.

The usual routine is Prison for drinks around ten and then Vox around midnight. After two o'clock, the crowd moves to Grammy. In fact, Grammy is a ghost town until at least 2am, so don't go there early.

There are other clubs that have opened recently but they are mostly Chinese, meaning logistically difficult to reach tables which do not promote social connection. Ask around and you'll find them if you want to explore.


DAYGAME

Wuchang: Guang Gu (光顾) mall aka Optics Valley. Any cab driver should know it. If he doesn't, he's incompetent or swindling you. Get another cab.

Hankou: Jiang Han Road, the main shopping street. It's not very long but you'll see plenty of nice girls going shopping, especially during nice weather.

I did day game up and down Jiang Han road and surrounding malls with a female Chinese wing, having set an arbitrary goal of three numbers per hour. We got tired of looking for targets and only got five. Girls were shy, which is normal. Some looked honestly perplexed as to why I'd want their number. (Duh...) Others gave it readily.

GENERAL

Getting phone numbers is easy. Getting her to come out is the challenge.

There is an inverse relationship between a girl's English level and her attractiveness. The super hot girls at Return 97 will not speak English. The homely chicks at Vox will.

Some Chinese girls are simply “afraid” of foreigners, don't take it personally. Others are into them.

She might act shy and stand-offish but that won't stop her from coming to your house and blowing you on the first date. Nor will it stop her from refusing sex afterward because you aren't “boyfriend and girlfriend.” Chinese girls are funny that way. Just persist and you'll get past the LMR. You are dealing with very naïve people, it's not that difficult.

It doesn't matter how reluctant or "nice" she looks: if she's in a club frequented by foreigners, she's either looking for or, at the very least, open to foreign dick. Believe it.

SIGHTSEEING

When I am in a new place what I care about is people and culture so I can't give a very detailed list. Anyway, you are not reading this for the same old information you can get on any popular travel site. Off the top of my head, the Hubei Museum in Wuchang is a popular attraction. There is also the Yellow Crane Tower, which is actually a reconstruction. It's nothing special, nor does it provide any particularly breathtaking view. There is some nice mountain scenery if you go out of the city, such as Lu Shan (庐山) mountain, though I never went. Do look at Lonely Planet or Wikitravel and you'll find many suggestions.

WEATHER

Stifling humidity in summer. Winter can be harsh, though not as bad as I'd been led to believe. Go in spring or autumn.

TL;DR: Wuhan is a gritty, blue-collar second tier city in central China. There's no special reason to visit, but if you do find yourself in the 'Han, you can still have a good time. Go to Jiang Han Road for day game and Return 97 at night, both in the Hankou district.
Wu Han is seriously fucking hot I am told. I hear the northern girls are better looking than the southern girls, they are taller, better facial features. I suppose central girls are like in the middle, maybe?
Yes, I've heard girls are taller in the north. But I rarely saw any noticeably tall girls in Wuhan.
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