On the way back from the great wall many of us were tired and wanted to rest quietly. The rest of the passengers were tired and wanted to sing loudly. I didn’t mind the singing so much, until Carl’s turn was over. After he sung, the quality of performances fell consistently. Eventually a large number of the singers were just yelling. At that point we (the non-singers) started yelling too: abuse at the singers. At some point we all stopped and the bus ride continued in relative quiet.
After much driving we reached our destination (wherever that was) and got off the bus. We were immediately herded into away into a building marked “Beijing Steel”. I didn’t know what to expect.
Turns out we were there for dinner. On maybe the 10th floor (wasn’t paying attention) there was a really flash restaurant, complete with stage, elevated tables and chandeliers. The roof and walls were splattered with small windows, giving the effect of a starry sky. To enhance this further, there were clear bulbs of glass suspended in strings from the ceiling. It was very nice looking.
The food was not quite at the same standard as the decor, but as I would be heard saying throughout the trip: “You try cooking the same meal, at the same time for 200 people who are always late, and see how THAT tastes”. When dinner was over, we bleated and kicked our way back to the bus, then were driven to the hotel.
After a short rest, Carl Jason and I ventured out: to McDonald’s. We took a cab, which was cheap. Carl and I had “Number 2 Meal”, because it was the only one we could read – 第二餐. It turned out to be a double cheeseburger. And it was great, even the chips! Jason had a sundae, because it was the only thing he could read. After finishing our meal we returned to the hotel.
Carl and Jason went to bed. I wasn’t willing to miss out on any fun activities, so I hung around the lobby waiting for something to happen. Two Hungarian guys came down and started asking the main organizer what they could go out and do in Beijing. The organizer basically said that the only place worth going to at that time (10:30PM) was “Bar Street”. None of us were interested in drinking, as we had to get up at 6 AM the next day to fly to Changsha, but we couldn’t miss this chance to pay money to get driven somewhere so we could wander aimlessly.
The guide demanded a map from the hotel receptionist, and drew a dot for the hotel and another for Bar Street. We thanked him and went out to find a taxi. The ride to Bar Street cost about 37元, and took about 30 minutes.
Immediately after exiting the taxi I was approached by an older gentleman who began trying to get me to go to some bar. I declined repeatedly. After he got the message he began blatantly offering me a prostitute. This I also declined. I also stopped being so polite and just walked off. Within one minute we were propositioned like this (bar, then prostitute/”lady bar”) over five times. One gets used to it after awhile. The Bar street was really a group of three streets that encircled a lake. The fourth street had no bars, as it was a rather large main road.
We walked around the lake, sometimes fast, sometimes slow, depending on the amount of harassment. Most bars had 2-4 people wandering about outside, who were apparently tasked with getting as many passers-by into the club as possible. They tried everything. Mostly they offered either cheap drinks or naked women. We didn’t go into any.
The best place on bar street was a small stall where a woman was selling paintings. At first I thought the paintings were screen-prints, as there were piles of apparently identical works for sale. Upon closer inspection I discovered that these piles consisted of non-identical but similar paintings, which I found much more interesting. There were many different designs – ranging from awesome to incredible. After looking at all the artwork for some time, we left and continued to wander.
Turning a corner we saw five policemen on motorbikes slowly cruise past. We passed many more bars, and were propositioned many more times.
As we walked the final stretch I almost demanded we go back to the artist’s stall as I really wanted to buy a particular painting. A quick glance inside my wallet changed my mind.
Finally sick of being offered prostitutes, we decided to take a different approach. We told the pimps that we were gay. They immediately stopped trying and walked off, every time. If you’re ever in a similar situation, I recommend this technique.
After that, my two gay Hungarian friends and I returned to the hotel.