I am in the Huada district of Canton (Guangzhou) in China in the early part of the 21st Century. It is very strange and difficult: Nobody here speaks English, and I am having trouble locating a pub / bar and have drink by myself at bar and wallow in my alienation. I am still looking for Mystery Sock.....
Allright, well....thass a beginning, but it is true: They don't have European/American style bars here where I could go and sip some pints and wallow in my alienation!! Soooo.....I notice this next door to Hotel Super 168:
OK.....well, this, I'd imagine, hasta have a bar in it! A bit concerned, though, as I'm dressed the typical E slob (T-shirt and shorts), and it's attached to a bit of a posh-looking hotel. So I go up to the guys in shirts-and-ties standing in the car park and try to grunt-and-point the question "AM I OK to go oin there dressed like a total fucking slob"???
They proceed to nod vigorously and wave me in (probably figuring that a Yank, ANY Yank, even one dressed like he should be homeless, has more ca$h on him that the average Guangzhouian earns in a month, soooo.......).
So, as I walk in and up something literally resembling thee Grand Staircase, this line of, like, ten girls in traditional Chinese attire start shouting something in unison and clapping and smiling at me as I walked past 'em. Either chanting "Welcome, friend, it is good to have you here!!!" or "Yankee Imperialist pig, exploiter of the worker, GO HOME!!!"
Sorry, you're just gonna hafta take my word for it. Didn't bring my camera, figuring that you'd really care less about seeing pictures of me sitting at a bar by myself, moping about my alienation.
So, I walk up to something VAGUELY resembling a bar-stand with ZERO stools. OK. Well, I point at the Budweiser and say "P.G.O." and I get one. Well, there was no standard, typical bar there!!! BUT there appeared to be a little waiting/lobby/lounge area with cushy chairs in it. So I walked over there and sat down with my pint and lit up an Export A Green.
Suddenly, like six people surround me (remember earlier post: Guangzhouians, when trying to assist you, often do so in committees of six to eight....NEVER in fours, though) and the one who speaks a bit of English asked "Can help you, sir?"
Well, shit....gravy train's up, I figured. Those two lads in the car park in shirts-and-ties were gonna get the sack for actually allowing me in dressed like a Lonely Planet reading neo-hippie!!
"Uhhhh.....yeah.....*mope*....uhhh, I just wanted to have a pint and a smoke and....
"You here by self?" Where are you friends? When they come here?"
I didn't want to explain that my friends are in Portlandia, Seattle, Buffalo, London, etc. etc., so I just said "I have no friend."
"Oh. You come here. Please follow....." and I got led into a dimly lit small room.
SHIT! This is where I either get the shit kicked outta me by the Triads for having no friends or I get propositioned for love me long time! Neither sounded terribly exciting right about now.
Well, I got handed a hot, steaming towel, and was told to sit down and relax (OH NO!!! Love me long time coming up!) and the English-speaking guy came up and sat down and we just had a friendly conversation. Nice guy! So I told him to grab a beer on my tab.
I then figured out that this is exclusively a KARAOKE club. Oooooh....OK. And this guy just felt sorry for me. Ahhhh......all right. No wonders there was no typical bar set-up. Still, though: Yet another observation!! They don't have European and North American-style bars. The Chinese don't like initiating conversation with other Chinese that they don't know and generally don't even like hanging around with them.....and thus, prefer a bunch of their closest buds together in a private little room singing songs and getting drunk!!
But he took the pint, which I was happy about, and I wondered why he was drinking on the job. Then this girl came in, they talked briefly in Cantonese, and he explained that this was his boss. Sweet girl.....very friendly.
"Well, shit, Mr. Han (can't remember his first name for the life of me, but in order for you to pronounce it correctly, I would have to rip out your tongue), grab two big-ass buckets full of tins of Budweiser, bring 'em in here, and go grab a bunch of your co-workers an git their asses in here!!!!"
Next thing I knew, we had two big-ass wastepaper bins full of Bud, more food then one could possibly consume (including chicken feet - I had one, and found out that my friend Phena is correct: They ARE rather gummy.), and, like, eight people in the room (ALL of which worked there, including one of those shouting girls in the front lobby), and they were all doing Karaoke and drinking!
It rapidly deteriorated into a drinking game involving dice, and, by the end of the evening, crescendoed with me standing on the table screaming along to Gene Vincent's "Be-Bop-A-Lula" at 120 decibels.
It was roughly at that point where we all ran outta Bud. I ordered another couple bins full, but they all kept saying (veeeerrrry gently) "no more beer. Here: Have green tea."
Total cost for all that shit: 400 Yuan = Fiddy five buxx!
Renting eight Cantonese friends who got drunk whilst at work: Priceless!!
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SOMEHOW woke up the next morning, somehow wedged all my stuff back into my knapsack and my man purse, and took off for the downtown Guangzhou rail station. What a bizarre scene!! Like, THOUSANDS of people hanging out or LITERALLY, camped out in this mammoth front courtyard in front of the station that was about the size of two football fields! Had a bowl at the local Kung Fu restaurant for lunch (it was identical to Ikano Bowl, for anyone who's ever eaten there in Denver), and got a "Soft Sleeper" ticket to Nanning. Waited in the "Soft Sleeper" lounge which was a LOT more comfortable the the "Soft Sleeper" berth I got on the train. I plugged in my EEE pc there to charge and several people were gawking at it. I ran up, implored them to open it and have a look and they were reeeaaaalllly appreciative!! One person spoke English, and asked where I buy this?? Is it in China?? Told 'em that I got it in The States, and that, sadly, the closest place where they can grab one is from their close, dear friends, the Taiwanese, who manufactured the EEE pc. He asked me how much I pay? I told him $2500 Yuan ($400). Poor lad almost fainted.
It's amazing some of the shit you take for granted......
The waiting area for soft-sleeper class (above) was nice, but I couldn't really get a comfortable sleep on the soft sleeper berth on the train, but I eventually got to Nanning 12 hours later. Teamed up with the only three Crackas on the train (Two Dutch girls and an older Gordie gent) in Nanning the next morning, took a four hour journey in the "Hard Seat" class to a town 10 miles from the border called Pingxiang. Got to Pingxiang at noon-ish.
By this point, I was almost beyond all human endurance! I told muh three Crackas that I'd had it! Anheiser-Busch and Gene Vincent tag-teamed up on my ass and took the Intercontinental title belt from me and killed me!! I is gonna die in this Pingxiang town at a hotel.
My new traveling companions implored me to trudge on, and, when I got to Pingxiang and saw pretty much NOTHING even resembling a hotel, I wearily agreed to trudge on to the border.
Took a taxi minivan to the border and, on the ride, basically lived an issue of National Geographic......
Coming up next: Hanoi Ernie crosses the border!!!