There are some national pastimes that are so particular to their country of origin that no one born outside of its borders ever thought about playing it. Not many non-Americans (and to a lesser extent Japanese and South Koreans) will ever hold a baseball glove. The majority of non-Scots will assume Shinty is a leg injury. Argentineans are left to their Pato and the less non-Afghans know about Buzkashi the better. But sometimes, this isn't the case at all. Some days you can indeed be walking down a dark garbage-strewn street in China and – despite the myriad of cross-cultural equations that the universe must have solved to make it happen – you can in fact suddenly find yourself in a bowling alley—a bona fide, 100% real, US-equipped balls-and-all bowling alley. This has happened to me twice while living in Shenzhen. First was on a dusty side street in Yantian District's Shatoujiao neighbourhood (just across from the historic Zhongying Street that marked the old border between China and British-administered Hong Kong) and the other was after a hellish Chinese bus ride several miles in the wrong direction that deposited me somewhere in Bao'an District, very lost and very far from home. Both times, seeking shelter, I ended up walking straight into the familiar polished-wood smell of a bowling alley. In Shenzhen. As if by magic.
Bowling in China
As with many things in Shenzhen, when you think about it for a minute or two it all begins to make sense. Bowling is flashy, a status symbol, and young Chinese are starting to come to bowling alleys as an alternative to the brash KTV clubs. The LA Times recently did a piece on how Communist Party officials, under scrutiny from anti-corruption brigades for their over-opulent banquets view a night of bowling as an appropriately modest gesture of hospitality for guests. As with many things in China, this means big business. “Because of its demographics, China represents the mega-market of mega-markets for bowling,” said Frederick J. Florjancic, president of Brunswick Indoor Recreation Group, a major player in international bowling. “There is a strong analogy to what happened with bowling in post-World War II America. As China moves from a seven-day workweek to a six-day workweek to a five-day workweek, and as the country reaches disposable income levels, bowling has become hot.”
So, where to indulge this new national pastime in Shenzhen?
1) Qiu Wang Bowling Club 球王保龄球娱乐中心 View In Map
This is the largest and most centrally located of Shenzhen's Bowling alleys. Known as Bowling King to the expat population, the alley is a standalone building just to the north west of Huaqiangbei (华强北), near Women's World. Games cost around 15 RMB and beer goes for 8 RMB, and the staff are used to foreigners, so although they might not be able to speak English, they will know exactly what you want. This is the busiest bowling alley in the city, but avoiding peak times on Saturday evenings should leave you with an ample choice of lanes.
Add: Bldg 22, Wangyuan Dasha, Hongli Xi Lu, Futian District, Shenzhen
Tel: 755 8325 4036
Opening hours: 09:00-01:00
2) Xinjing Bowling Alley 惞景保龄球馆
This is the best option for people living west of the city centre, Nanshan in particular. Situated in a large plaza and opposite a row of nightclubs (Face Alive and Royal 88 are local favourites), Xinjing bowling alley is located on the 6th floor of a non-descript building with giant stone elephants outside. Prices for games here vary depending on the time of day (early afternoon will be 6 RMB and late evening on weekends 18 RMB), but the staff are friendly and keen to have foreigners around. You'll rarely need to wait for a lane. There are plenty of Ping-Pong and snooker tables as well for those who get a bit fed up of hefting the heavier balls around.
Xinjing Bowling Shop, Bao'an View In Map
Add: 6F, Haobainian Building, Qianjin Yi Lu, 25th Region of Bao'an District, Shenzhen
Tel: 755 2785 6682
Opening hours: 10:00-01:00 (Mon-Fri); 09:00-01:00 (Sat, Sun, Holidays)
3) Jinfute Bowling Club 金福特保龄球俱乐部 View In Map
My personal favourite, this bowling alley is sandwiched between a KTV club, a church and a highly disreputable looking massage parlour, on the 3rd floor of a non-descript building just over the Luohu/Yantian border in Shatoujiao (沙头角). A game costs 6 RMB, shoes are 5 RMB, and there are never more than two lanes occupied at a time, so if you decide to come with a large group then it can end up being your own private room. Better yet, beer is cheap (5-15 RMB depending on brand), and there's an English-speaking home-style pizza place two blocks away called Windsorborough (755 2555 1211) that delivers to the alley.
Add: 3F, Bldg B, Qunli Dasha, Shensha Lu, Yantian District, Shenzhen
Tel: 755 2573 2988
Opening hours: 09:30-02:00
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Keywords: Best bowling alleys Shenzhen bowling in Shenzhen bowling in China
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