Surviving the Bars in Suzhou Industrial Park!
This article was written for and is the copyright of echinacities.com
All the venues mentioned below have been visited by the author and no free drinks or meals have been accepted. Mark Whitworth
It’s a surprise to many that Suzhou’s Industrial Park (SIP) is worth visiting at all, let alone for a beer or two. The charms of the old town are many, yet most western ex-pats live and work to the east of the old town in the glitzy, modern and highly functional SIP. This has become home to a plethora of bars catering for all tastes.
Nestled between Jinji Hu, a large lake, and historic Suzhou, the pubs mainly cluster in a single area about a kilometre square. A rash of new bars has recently opened up and these bring the total to over twenty and we’re still counting. All the pubs mentioned are open from at least lunchtime until late unless otherwise stated.
To single out all the drinking venues would make for too long a list but kicking off with Singha Plaza, which was the original hub of the then embryonic nightlife in SIP, makes sense as it’s still a favourite amongst the foreign residents. This strip has extensive outdoor seating a range of restaurants and bars and is decidedly child friendly.
On Singha Plaza, Mister Pizza has been around for many years and whilst it is technically a restaurant, this is where many ex-pats gather to watch big sporting events. The owners seem to have TV feed from anywhere and they are quite happy to provide late night viewing if more than a couple of people are interested. As is evident from the title, pizza and other dishes can be purchased as an accompaniment to the drinks, which are some of the cheapest in Suzhou; 10RMB buys you a large bottle of Tsingtao. A great outdoor drinking venue, the extensive courtyard is regularly packed, with the exceptions of the height of summer and the depths of winter. Open all day – every day!
The Blue Marlin III sits at the crossroads of Shi Hui Lu and Xing Hai Jie, now dwarfed by the twin towers rising to seventy storeys going up across the road. The Blue Marlin is part of a chain of bar/restaurants with outlets all over Suzhou. In this incarnation it has a large, distinct, bar area, with a pool table, sport’s TV and a resident band provide live music seven nights a week; this is separated from the restaurant by a sliding partition. The prices are not particularly cheap unless you happen to take advantage of their happy hour between 4.00-7.00pm each day. The Blue Marlin has crept onto the pavement in the last few years and now provides outdoor seating with sun umbrellas. The Blue Marlin is open all day.
Just to the west, down the business street running parallel to Shi Hui Lu, tucked in amongst a rash of restaurants, can be found Suzhou’s only truly American bar, the Black Mirage. Run by a real eccentric on the run from South Carolina, this is the place for great music, be it rock, blues, soul or pop, and a range of liquors to make the eyes light up.
The Black Mirage has a well conditioned pool table, TV feed from the USA and upstairs can be found The Attic, a small restaurant serving specialities from the Deep South. The small staff are welcoming, always friendly and happy to provide competition on the pool table if you forget to bring your own! The Black Mirage is definitely the place to chill out, zone out and escape back Stateside for a while. Dancing on the bar is not always encouraged but is optional on Ladies night! The Black Mirage opens at 5.00 p.m. every day.