Tuesday, November 21, 2006

$7 Guiness in Hangzhou

It's tough to find good beer in Hangzhou, so when I do find it, I'm willing to pay a premium. Seven bucks (58 RMB) for a pint of Guiness does seem a bit steep, though. That's what I paid for liquid dinner tonight at the Night & Day bar on Hangzhou's main drag for nightlife, Nanshan road, along the shore of West Lake (Xi Hu). Along with six of my colleagues, we arrived at about 8 pm, and we were the only patrons in the pub. After an inexplicably long debate with the server about how to seat 7 people in a completely empty bar, we settled in to relax. Another prolonged Mandarin conversation resulted in one pint of frothy Guiness for me, and 6 empty glasses for the rest of the crew. No matter how much I sang the praises of the liquid gold from Ireland, my Chinese colleagues refused to join me in partaking such a hearty brew. A few moments later, a wooden mini-keg of sufficiently light and easy-drinking Tiger beer arrived at our table for my compatriots.

The atmosphere here is interesting. Electronic club-ish music, in English, fills the room -- loud, but not quite loud enough to require shouting. One TV shows Chinese basketball, and another displays some dancing girl show that seems like it could only have been staged in Vegas, featuring topless dancers in wild feather dresses, juggling magicians, and crococile wrestlers. A bit later, a 4-person band takes the stage, consisting of one caucasian keyboardist and 3 swaying Chinese vocalists performing covers of western tunes in English and phonic Espanol.

Want a shot of whiskey? They've got Jack Daniels and Johnny Walker black label, not to mention Macallan 12-year Scotch, but you've gotta buy the whole bottle. No single servings here, mister. No worries if you don't finish it. Just take your claim check, and they'll keep your bottle safe and sound for you to return and finish some other day. If a pint of Guiness costs $7, you can bet a full bottle of quality imported Scotch ain't cheap.

If the tunes aren't enough to keep you entertained, never fear! They've got Chui Niu, which literally translated means "blow cow". A better translation would be "blow your own horn". This is a dice game where two players each roll 5 dice in an overturned cup, then one player declares how many of a particular number he/she thinks are showing. The opponent can choose to agree with the count, call "BS", or raise the number. Whoever gets caught bluffing or guesses the wrong count must take a drink as punishment. Never a dull moment.

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