Saturday, September 22, 2007

Trip to China: Part 3

I wish I hadn't been warned. I wish I had walked into the Pig and Thistle English Pub on my own accord, as it was the only bar in the hotel with any patrons, and bought a beer as I looked around and slowly figured out what was going on. I wish I had suspected nothing as I started to tip back my first swig of Tsungtao and my eyes scanned the room to quickly compile the patterns that made me start to question my surroundings. "There are a lot of 40 and 50 year old men in this room talking to a lot of young and slutty looking Chinese women." I wish I had had that moment, the only moment from the movie Blade that I remember, where the ravers look around the room and suddenly realize they are surrounded by vampires. "Hookers!", I wish I had thought. "This room is full of hookers!!"

It would have made the story so much better. And it would have made me look less creepy for having ventured into the Pig and Thistle at all. The truth is, I was warned. I was sent a light-hearted email by someone from my company that highlighted all the do's and don't's while entering the country. It told us how to get a cab if we needed one, and what to do when we got to the hotel. It also half heartedly warned us to avoid the "Pig and Thistle" bar or the "working girls will get [us]". I had a conversation with the senior guys in my group about the Pig and Thistle and they said I had to go just to experience it. Almost like it was a zoo, or a freak show. In a way it was.

So last night when the old guys went to bed, I blogged my brains out, then headed downstairs to see what troubles I could get into. I had more than the P&T on my mind, but it was certainly on my list of sights to see. I had no interest in leaving the hotel without someone that I knew, so I had 5 places to drink at that I knew of:

1) The Executive Lounge, which was closed when I ventured out of my room at about 11pm. This surprised me a little.

2) The Lobby Bar, which was a fancy looking bar located above the lobby restaurant where we ate breakfast that morning. It's also where I got the coffee drink that day. It also happens to be the bar that had no patrons besides me, and 5 people served me my coffee drink. As I walked by it, from the ground level it sounded and looked dead again.

3) My brightest hope for a good time, the Texas Steakhouse of earlier blogging fame. If this bar was for some reason packed with people, it would have been a hilariously good time, I have no doubt. I passed the P&T on the way, and there were patrons literally spilling out of the bar, including a man and woman of indeterminable national origin, he a European looking and sounding man, and she a dark skinned black or Puerto Rican looking woman, talking "business". She was the fairest of the hookers I saw last night, but you'll hear more on that later. For now I was on my way to the Texas Steakhouse. My biggest disappointment of the evening. The Steakhouse was closed. And all my dreams of Chinese cowboys and cowgirls looking funnier and funnier as i polished off more and more Tsungtao vanished like a tumbleweed across the hotel hallway.

4) The Outside Bar where we ate the first night. "Buffet a la Roach" if you recall. I figured that if I stuck to bottled beers, I was golden. Plus I was there without the company of my older traveling companion who likely would not have taken the joy in mocking the band through enthusiastic singing and dancing and in term start to love the band in a not-mocking way. It was my responsibility, nay, my solemn duty as a member of my team of friends, to go it alone and be the only ass "enjoying" the band. I stiffened my lip and headed out the doors to the bar where a few hours earlier I had seen the same band from the night before butchering some more classics from the great american songbook. What's this?!! There sat the empty stage as the workers packed up the last of the barbecue items. Closed for the evening.

5) It seemed the Pig and Thistle's fate and mine were to be crossed that night by some alignment of the stars or will of the gods. I stepped through the patrons that clogged the doorway, and very quickly looked for a place to sit, grab a beer, and watch the rugby game where I could clearly view the goings on in the room without becoming a part of it. Unfortunately the bar was so packed with customers of the bar and customers of the ladies that there was no such place to be found. "Think quickly my boy, you've been in tougher spots, but you don't want to be spotted in the doorway looking around like your realizing what is going on in the bar and are deciding whether or not to leave. There, a spot at the bar you can squeeze into to buy a beer, then turn and watch the rugby match. Go now!" **see the sidebar below after you read this story** I staked my claim on the nook at the bar, and was within earshot of an entertaining conversation. A German man was actually haggling with a Chinese woman on the cost of her going back to his room, all in bad English from both sides. It was way better than watching Chinese HBO in my room [no porn joke intended because there's not porn in chinese hotels] [only hookers apparently] [I don't know how I know that] On it went. They started off holding hands. She whispered something in his ear. He replied, "No no, I think it cost too much" (I'm not making this up, people) He let go of her hand so she put it on his chest and whispered something else, presumably a lower offer. He seemed vexed with the moral and financial dilemma. If you know me, this is the kind of moment I live to see. I was front and center for one of the most awkward transactions that takes place between humans. It was happening all around me I suppose, but I was now invested in this particular episode. He said he would think about it and come back. As he walked away her sweet and smiling face melted to a cold and longing look. I assume she gave that face to her dad a few times growing up as he walked out the door. Too honest? Sorry, I'm way too deep into this blog to fluff it up with feel goods. I very much wondered if the guy was playing hard ball and was really going to come back with a counter offer. I'll never know. I put down my beer and headed out of the bar. I saw everything I came to see that night.

On my way back to my room, I saw the lights of the Lobby bar were still on, though it still sounded dead. I actually took about 3 steps up the large curved staircase before thinking "What's the point" and headed back to the elevator that would take me to Jackie Chan on TV and my comfy bed. I began rolling around at 3am and was up at 4 again, typing this post. Then I almost died as you'll read below. What a night! And now I am going to start my day. The Forbidden City and the Pearl Market. This trip is sounding more and more like Indiana Jones. What adventures lie ahead today with my fearless tour guide Zhong Yuming (or "Bob" as I dubbed him before I could remember his name). Stay tuned!!


**as I typed this story I heard someone bump into my door. It is 5am now and no one has any good reason to be trying to get in my room right now. And yet, there is my door, shaking with someone on the other side quietly trying to open it. I really had no idea what was about to happen. All I knew was that my room is pitch dark, and I am sitting at the desk typing as my silhouette is highlighted by the computer's glow and I was frozen looking right, waiting for the handle to turn. I'm not a very good fiction writer people, if this is freaking you out, know that it's because it is real and I was rather shitting my pants a moment ago. The quiet shaking of the door stopped and the shadow under the door moved away. I finally breathed. It occurred to me that yesterday morning someone hung a newspaper on everyone's door in the hallway and I was immediately relieved. My startled and tired mind must have exaggerated what I heard into someone trying to open my door. I tip-toed to the door and opened it to find my door handle, and every other door handle, bare of a newspaper. Shit. I closed the door, and a few seconds later my door started to shake again, I shit you not. I'm likely giving you a play-by-play of my murder as I type. Cool! (but I guess not really likely) This time I made my way to it, but the person walked away before I got there. I clearly heard a man say "Damn" as he walked away. When I got to the door, the eye hole had a piece of paper jammed in it from the inside, so with a trembling hand I quickly removed the paper and shoved my eager eye to the hole. No one. I wanted the man to come back so bad so I could, A: see him and B: hit the door loudly to scare the shit out of him and make him go away. There is one irrefutable fact, a second ago some man wanted in my room enough to try it twice. My rational mind is now telling me it may have been some drunk guy trying to find his room. But I'm in fucking China people, and I'm groggy and jet-lagged in a dark room alone. [Boom] I just heard another room door open and shut rather loudly. This tells me he probably just found his room, and if he was looking for a random room to kill someone, he was being very loud about it. {phew} Sorry for those of you who read this before finishing the hooker story. It may now seem boring. Back to that.

1 comment:

Angela said...

I followed instructions and read the hooker story first. And you were right, Part III was incredibly entertaining. :)