Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Weekend at BeiDaiHe

This last Friday me, Wen, Leilei, and Sam took a bus to 北戴河[běidàihé], a beach resort in 河北 Héběi province. The weekend was intended to be a relaxing stay on the beach, but turned in to a program of drinking Chinese alcohol (白酒 [báijiǔ] lit. "white liquor") and representing our foreignness to local officials.

The trip was rather spontaneous so we couldn't get a train ticket. The bus we took was supposed to take two hours but was a four hours sweaty and frightful experience.

During the trip Wen contacted one of the girl she shares a dorm with, and she in turn contacted one of her father's colleagues. Soon after having abruptly jumped off the buss in the middle of a deserted street, this guy came to pick us up.

Being a man employed by the railway gives you certain benefits. He first took us to one of the railway's hotels and set us up there. Then it went off to one of a series of pretty akward alcohol orgies. We should have known that the free place and the free food would come with a price: our freedom to decide what to do this weekend. Now we were stuck. This guy was the host and we were the guests. No escape.

The first evening was the reintroduction of baijiu to Sam. That was a start of a passionate hate for this stinking chemical. I was trying to keep up with a conversation I soon figured out was mostly about showing how great China is and how hospitable Chinese people are, dressed up in questions about our foreing countries. Thing is, it WAS very hospitable and generous of them, but nomatter how well-intended, rather painful.

Sam taking pictures at 老龙头[lǎolóngtóu], "The Old Dragon Head"

The end of the wall

On Saturday we got off on our little tour, thinking that we had paid our dues of showing gratitude and appreciation and could go on. After have visited the newly (re-) constructed (in 1987) wall and kitchy tourist trap at 山海关[Shānhǎiguān] and the 老龙头[lǎolóngtóu] (the Old Dragon Head), we went on to 北戴河[běidàihé] and our goal, the beach.

Johan and Wen on a tandem-bike (双人自行车)

Me and Wen went on a nice tandem-bike ride to a deserted beach. There the phone rang and the guys were coming over to let us taste the baijiu that we had discussed the evening before. There is a brand of baijiu that the Swedish table-tennis superstar J-O Waldner makes advertisement for in Hebei! This time he did not only bring along numerous bottles of wine and baijiu, but also some of his drinking buddies, including a government official.

Sea food feast on Saturday.

干 杯[gānbēi] Bottoms up! We learned to first stand up, make the toast, then sit down and drink it all. If you don't sit when drinking you have to drink another glass. Probably some Hebei custom.

We were taken to one of the seafront restaurant and were served a great feast of seafood. This would have been fantastic if it wasn't for the never ending 'gan bei' and talk about 'foreign this ' and 'foreign that'. Sam very soon realized that there was no escaping the baijiu, just ways to minimize the damage. We went on with numerous emptied glasses of beer. After the meal I was already way over my limit.

Karaoke or KTV. In Chinese it is '卡拉OK' There is actually words in Chinese with letters!

Next stop was a KTV place. Outside I got so sick that I puked up every thing that I had eaten and drunk that evening. It was a little trip around the corner with the guys accompanying me and after my quick business I was handed a tissue, and we went in for further drinking.

Some seriously weird dancing

Inside we pretty soon had some additional girls accompanying our hosts. Sam, who also went to the bathroom to empty his stomach, was howling in the microphone and dancing with the fat guy to everybody's amusement. It was a very surreal experience with the whole room spinning, really bad singing, load music, and Sam going "Aaaaaaassssss" in the microphone. He was really wasted and wanted to take the piss out of the whole thing. When the fat guy started to sleep, he abruptly woke him up and made him dance again to take revenge of all the suffering they had made us go through.

When we finished and it was time for 肉串 [ròuchuàn] "meat on a stick", we were both down for counting. I couldn't take more alcohol and I just wanted to go to bed. Still we were made to go and eat some. The guys, whose blood was a lot deluded by alcohol, got into their cars and speeded across town with us.

Crossed-eyed I tried to eat a few things and not fall over until we finally were driven back to the room and I hardly remember how I ended up in the bed.

Last lunch with our best buddies

Sunday by noon they came to pick us up again. This time it was to a fancy hotel where a lot of weddings were held at the same time. We were put in a small room and a range of delicacies were served. All the guys toasted us individually and then we toasted them back. By the time we got to rush to the train I was already wasted again, this time in the early afternoon.

Only when sitting on the train I was starting to feel a little relaxed again. Interesting weekend. Great food, too much booze, and too much Chinese entertainment. All I wanted was some relaxing time on the beach, but things almost never turn out as expected around here.

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