, , , , , , , ,

Slightly belatedly, but I’ve been busy enjoying my holiday and away from my computer most of the time. I’ve been writing it after a hectic week and three coffees, so my editing skills are failing today. Prepare for typos, repetitions and general chaos (very sorry for this, but I felt like it’s high time to post something). Also – you’ve been warned – this is a LONG read! Grab a coffee before you start.

Lots of night wandering in the last two posts, so here's some pics of Hangzhou by night.

The pretty parts, with channels and glowing trees...

Happy New Year, everyone. Hope you all enjoyed your respective celebrations. I’m sure I did. Not actually a big fan of New Year parties: it doesn’t really mean anything, just an arbitrary date. And all I keep hearing every year is: “What are your resolutions?” (is it very wrong to say “to continue being a bum?”), “Aren’t you going to a big party? But it’s the New Year, you HAVE to have fun!” What do you mean, I HAVE to have fun? And who says fun can only be had at a crazy party?

All in all, I’m usually more than happy to kick my feet up at home with a smorgasboard of snacks and a bunch of sloppy movies. Yet for some reason this time I did feel like going out. The result? Another series of episodes while prowling the city this way and that – just a normal Saturday night in the life of a Hangzhou expat.

Christmas Eve ended up with my bicycle being stolen, so it’s only fair that New Year’s Eve starts with the acquisition of a new one. I was lucky in being able to get one off my friends. With gears and a basket and lights and everything. Better than my previous one, only it’s one of those weird ones with small wheels. What can I say – I discover I have a very sizist attitude to bicycles: the bigger the better. This one feels like it’s so light it’s going to keel over as soon as anyone as much as brushes past me. But I’m sure I’ll get used to it soon and it’s just a relief not to be stuck at home or condemned to buses and traffic.

Anyway. Transport reinstated, I could proceed to planning the real pah-teyy. Start in Vineyard, just to wish a happy New Year to some friends. My ADD kicked in and as a result I behaved like a nasty piece of work towards a friend who heard I’m going away (Mysterious Holiday, mwahaha!) and wanted me to buy some drugs for him. “I’m not getting you any drugs!”, I said. About 24 hours later, when I woke up, I had an epiphany: he meant actual drugs. As in medicines. Well done, me, you’re a very helpful friend.

My beer-fueled happy ADD was further aggravated by a phone call from the Mother of All Mothers (Mummy!). Turns out at Christmas Eve all my family was waiting for me on Skype. Uhm, two things, me darlings. A. I’m cut off from internet at home. 2. Why assume I was spending my Christmas Eve slopping in front of the computer? Anyway, it just didn’t cross their minds that they could simply call me. Phew. 21st century my ass. Telephones too obsolete for us Poles now.

One way or another, together with some girl friends we moved on to Maya, and on the way I discovered that one of them can’t – check this out – not so much cycle, but even push a bicycle! Must be a joke. I’m not buying this. In order to get over this fact I had to have another beer. But Maya turned out to be a big surprise: unlike literally always, it was NOT packed and most of the people were Chinese. What’s wrong? Is the world ending? Still we managed to bump into some of my friends, hang out and after two hours head off (they in a taxi, me on my bikey) to Code Space, which seemed like the place everyone was going that night. Including me. This is how party-like I was that night.

Because Code Space is a club and I absolutely hate clubs. Rubbish music, you can’t see or hear anyone and people are trying to dry-hump you as soon you as much as twitch on the dance-floor. Quick question to male club-goers: how drunk and desperate must you be to think that anyone would enjoy having your parts rubbing against their bums and is it really so difficult to introduce yourself or at least say hi before you try it? I mean, look me in the eye before you attempt to… well, have a look at my eye!*

And yet this time I went, and was even willing to pay those 50 RMB for entrance. It was less rubbish than I thought it would be, but still bad enough for us to want to go out after an hour (and I still got felt up by someone who went away so quickly I didn’t even have time to slap him). So: quick hello to all friends, let’s get the countdown over with – and off with us. Just as soon as I stop confusing the exit with the male toilet. And in case the stupid club owners assume they got me: ha ha! Don’t think you made me buy the stupid Tiger Beer for 40 RMB! I smuggled in my own beers, suckers! I sneeze in your general direction!

Erm. Okay, no need to dwell on that. So we found a cab – one that was willing to take my foldable bike in the back – and moved on to Burton’s, where there was supposed to be a promotion for Belgian beers. Here for the second time Burton’s showed their craftiness in false advertising: the promotion was on, but on the EVENING of the 1st. Right, I’m sure everyone assumed that would be the case. Hmm, or maybe they actually did? Because it was eerily quiet there. We tried to do something about it by means of playing a Wii game – Dance Hero or what’s it called? The one where you have to copy dance moves from the screen. Together with a friend we performed the Robbie Williams & Nicole Kidman duo “Something Stupid”. It must be the silliest dance routine ever. Is Nicole Kidman supposed to be a mermaid? How can a dance ever look good if there are mermaids involved? They have no FEET! After that a four of us engaged in a slightly unfortunate but energetic version of “Pump It” – I’m sure those Chinese guys trying to play pool right next to us enjoyed it.

At this point a couple of our party decided to call it a night, but the rest wanted to pop by Coco for literally 5 minutes. This I refused to do. Code Space might have been bad, but as clubs go it’s somewhat classy – but Coco… Coco is the ultimate abattoir. It’s no-one’s first choice and no one wants to start the night there, yet somehow everyone seems to end up there. I’ve been once, about 3 am on a Sunday night, so it was almost empty and not too bad – but still I’m not going again. In the end we decided to split the group for half an hour and reconvene in Maya. They went to Coco and me and C. legged it. So there we are, 2-ish am on the New Year’s Night, on the empty streets of Hangzhou, walking at talking. Suddenly C. went quiet. I turned round, but only air filled the space where her head should be. C. was lying sprawled on the pavement and looking at me in utter confusion.

“I’m complelety sober and I’ve no idea what just happened!”

She tried getting up. Her bum said it was a bad idea. Bravely she hobbled on, but the fall must’ve been a tricky one. She was walking like an old lame biddy and the walk that should’ve taken 15 minutes lasted more than half an hour. On the way we picked up some other friends that were just leaving Vineyard and by the time we finally got to Maya, the Coco-going part of our group was already there and wondering where the hell we were.

The bum accident proved to be too much and C. had to be sent home in a cab. The rest of us tried unsuccessfully to argue with the waiter, Xiao He, that it’s the New Year Night and they should stay open a bit longer. Alcohol levels were high and brains were not quite working, so what was meant to be a friendly tap on the shoulder was taken for a push and the party mood got somewhat diminished, so in the end we left.

One of our number had the brilliant idea to climb a hill and watch the sunrise, so we still had about two hours to while away. But what to do with the time? Fortunately P. lives close to Maya, so while some of the group got a cab to go home and find/borrow a slightly more appropriate footwear and jackets, a three of us went to P.’s place. We ascertained that P’s flatmate was absent, and so was his (flatmate’s, not P.’s) Chinese girlfriend who apparently makes a lot of noises. The space was clear and we could calmly inspect the flat, which was nice, and P’s room, which was a sty. Then we were rejoined by the now prepared rest of the company, who brought 1) gin to keep us warm on the hilltop, 2) his computer so we could watch Arrested Development if we arrived too early and were bored and didn’t feel like talking about orgies.

And so we set off. Thinking that we’d have a meditative, quiet moment, alone with Mother Nature (and the gin and Arrested Development, of course). How wrong we were. I might have mentioned it before, but let me repeat: wherever and whatever time you go in China, some Chinese people will have arrived there before you. And so they did this time. Going down while we were still clambering up. But that’s not all. As we got closer to the top, the path started getting strangely crowded and by the time we made it, there was barely any standing room! People were squishing on a steep boulder, as if trying to recreate the famous question about angels and pin heads, with cameras and thermoses. We found a slightly quieter spot: granted, with the view blocked by other people’s backs, but it was imperative that P. sits down and doesn’t stand on that slippery, slippery rock. His speech was deceptively coherent, but his tumbling off the stony path on the way made it clear he was not as sober as he claimed. Of course he’d never admit it. He blamed his unsuitable-for-hiking brogues, wherefore he had a sudden brain wave and decided to take them off on the way down. It looked… interesting. Anyhow, at the moment the sun was supposed to rise, some guy took up a huge flag and started waving it in the air and yelling: “Now everyone, let’s sing together: HAPPY NEW YEAR!” …And everyone sang. And then he yelled: “Now everyone, let’s wave our hands to the camera!” …And everyone waved.

So that was our glorious and spiritual New Year’s Sunrise (which we didn’t actually get to see at all because of the clouds).

Slightly baffled, we made our way down and the people decided they needed 1) coffee 2) McDonald’s (yuck, blah, evil in food form – but I understand the drive to celebrate the New Year with a slightly more homey kind of breakfast). So on we went. On and on. And on. One of the girls craftily kept telling us: it’s really close, we’re almost there! And eventually we ended up not very far from my flat. Which would be brilliant, fantastic – if only my bike hadn’t been parked right in front of P.’s bloody flat! So, still breakfast-less (I refuse to eat at McD’s. And I only had 2 kuai left, anyway) I hitched a cab-lift with them, got to my bike, got on it and got home 30 minutes later. Went to bed at 10 am and woke up about 6 hours later in order to pack up for my brilliant Australian adventure (more of which you’ll read soon!). Happy New Year to ye all, me darlings!

This is how it really looks like...

And here too

 *Pardon my crassness. The pun (pun, not pub, as I wrote originally!!!) was in bad taste, but too tempting to resist.