Rise and fall of Five Color City in Dalian

Updated: 22 Jul 2011
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A Brief History
 
The first stores, restaurants, bars, and coffee shops started to open in Dalian’s Five Color City in 1988 in the New Development Area, and it was immediately touted as one of the most interesting places in Dalian. Tourist agencies throughout the city began to market the area for its architectural distinctness and as the first in Dalian to open a Western restaurant. Soon tourists from all over Northern China began to flock to Dalian’s Five Color City, expanding it until the mid 90’s, when the steady stream of visitors stopped. Suddenly the tourists were no longer interested in Five Colour City’s “Western charm.” They were much more intrigued by Dalian’s beaches and modern downtown. Businesses in Five Color City steadily closed down one by one until the year 2000.
 
 
Luckily, after a few years passed foreign businesses like Microsoft, Intel, and Neusoft began to open in Dalian bringing foreign expats with them. A few ambitious business-men saw the influx of expats coming and decided to re-open businesses in Five Color City.
 
Today, Five Color City is flourishing with new businesses, but it is not the same as it was in the early 90’s. Now, instead of catering to the throngs of Chinese tourists, it survives off of the growing but still relatively small community of expats and their large wallets.
 
An Odd, Unique Architecture
 
The name “Five Color City” doesn’t do this area justice, as the different buildings are painted at least twenty vibrant, clashing colours. The owners of these buildings have also attached thousands of different coloured tiles onto their walls to make the architecture look even more unique.
 
However, Five Color City offers more than just different coloured buildings. Imposing cathedrals jut out of the ground, reaching for the sky. Oversized knick-knacks, like the bronze time machine attached to a bar’s wall grab the eye alongside marble statues of naked women, singing bumble-bees, and a twenty foot sculpture of a smiling cat.
 
 
One section of bars is a particular must-see (don’t worry that Five Color City doesn’t use any street names to guide the traveler). When exploring the place, you would be hard pressed to miss it. In this part of town a giant blue crab trying to crawl into a window vies for attention with a chain of sunflowers strewn across the walls of several bars, and a huge watering can below it all.
 
There is nothing quite like Five Color City. It’s as if a group of first grade students designed the buildings in crayon for a classroom art project. Enjoy the peculiar architecture, and then take pleasure in the many amenities Five Color City has to offer.
 
Current Businesses
 
Five Color City has the sleepy feel of a bizarre American college town during summer vacation. Dozens of foreign bars are packed in to this small area, but never get too crowded. High quality foreign restaurants offer loads of different foods (I’ll discuss this in greater detail later), but more often than not your party will be the only customers in one of these fine establishments. There are a lot of sparsely packed dance clubs and one “almost” strip club called Focus Bar where the girls just dance in bikinis.
 
There are KTV clubs and an outdoor stage in the center of Five Color City. The stage serves as a roller skating rink most of the time, but also hosts Kung Fu performances, dance shows, and comedians. Lastly, there are lots of seedy looking sex shops and tattoo parlors that may or may not give you a nasty infection a few hours after you’ve finished inking up.
 
The Low Down
 
There are too many different restaurants, bars, and dance clubs in Five Color City for a full list. So, in order to give an accurate account of the best places to visit, I interviewed a young man who’s lived in the area for several years, named Itamar Manes. He told me about the most popular spots, which I subsequently checked out.
 
The two trendiest restaurants in Five Color City are The Real Eddies and Lucky Restaurant. The Real Eddies offers a wide variety of dishes. You can have a hamburger, lasagna, a sandwich, Thai food, and Mexican food. If you are having a craving for Mexican food The Real Eddies might be the only restaurant in Dalian to offer authentic Mexican food. Lucky Restaurant also offers a wide range of food, but their Italian dishes are the most popular among locals of the New Development Area.
 
 
Different bars make up the majority of the businesses in Five Color City. Some of these bars are; Smile Bar, Desire Bar, No Name Bar, Second Floor Bar, and Dolphin Bar. The two most popular bars in Five Color City are Vienna Bar and Samsara Bar, because they have pool tables, foosball, and good food.
 
There are also a few dance clubs strewn about the area. They are all pretty similar and easy to find, so if you are looking to go dancing any of them will do the trick.
 
Why?
 
Although Five Color City has all of the ingredients needed for an amazing night spot, this potential is seriously hampered by its inconvenient location. Five Color City is in The New Development Zone, an hour away from downtown (about 45 kilometers). If you don’t have a car there are only three ways to get to Five Color City: You can go by taxi, though good luck finding a willing driver, and it will cost over 100 RMB before 22:00 pm and 150 RMB after. You can take the blue New Development Area bus (there is no number on this bus) to Five Color City and back for 12 RMB round-trip, but it stops running at 19:20. Lastly, the most popular and convenient way to go to the New Development Area is by light train. Just go to the light train station in downtown Dalian and buy a 6 RMB ticket. Inside the train, all of the destinations are marked in English and Chinese and the arrivals are also announced in both languages. Get off the train in The New Development Zone and exit the station to the main road outside. Turn left on it and walk five minutes, after which you’ll see Five Color City. The only problem with the train is that it stops running at 20:00.
 
 
Five Color City is far from downtown and all of the public transportation stops running very early in the night. Consequently, all of the bars and clubs packed tightly into Five Color City remain un-crowded, because the people who live in downtown Dalian know it’s very difficult to find a way back to the city late at night.
 
Five Color City is a great place to visit. Go and see the amazing buildings, have a great meal at one of the many restaurants, have a relaxing drink in a bar, but don’t expect a crazy party atmosphere, and don’t stay past 20:00. 
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