Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Back in Beijing

(pictured - Chris, Gracie & Mrs Wood at the now defunct Forbidden City Starbucks)

Back in Beijing for 3 days attending a book fair and adventures.

Adventure #1 - Nightclub. The buyer for Amazon China, Gino, invited me & my friends to the hottest club in town - Angel Club (also linked to Club Queen and Cutie Club). This is where the young, rich & restless hang out.

You first notice the parking lot - porsche, mercedes, hummer, range rovers. This is unusual in a country where the avg yearly income is under $4,000. I give the info to the straight-from-prada-catalog security dude w/t the ear bud thing, and were whisked inside to Gino's private table. The club is set-up like this. Raised DJ platform on one side (4 DJs, always female) with giant video displays behind them. Rectangular bar in the middle, surrounded by dance floor & stools. The back, in 3 different raised levels, are the private booths, each with surrounding sofas that looks like fuzzy dice with tables in the middle, where the in-crowd sit around playing dice and drink a mixture of Chivas & green tea (taste is mellow with a hint of sweetness; the bitter alcohol taste is completely gone). Music is mostly hip-hop with the occasional dance remix. Crowd is decidedly hotter-than-thou. Guys in designer t-shirts, jeans & styled hair. Girls in skimpy top, short skirt and fancy shoes. All constantly checking their latest Korean mobile phones. Gino's friends are all into car racing (tricked up STI, Audi, EVOs), good looking and fun-loving. During the course of evening the boys were constantly joined by different female companions stopping by to say hello, and most were introduced to us as either models or actresses. It was certainly an unique experience in Beijing.

Adventure #2 - Karaoke, or, the national past-time of China.

My friend Mark from China Publishing Group invited us to this place called Party City. If the name suggest some tacky thing in Queens think again. Party City is a super structure with the latest modern design and high-tech to the till. We went to a floor of private rooms where for the next 5 hours drank cheap Chinese beer and sang toons by Elton John, The Beattles and James Taylor while Mark fired up the Chinese power ballads. The highlight was when Mark brought up music videos of Chinese communist party propaganda. The videos ranged from songs & images glorifying the Long March during the War of Liberation (otherwise known as when the communist defeated the Nationalist in '49) to scenes of the People's Liberation Army doing martial arts and assembly ballistic missles. My colleagues from New Zealand, Canada & the States were very amused.

Adventure #3 - clandestine suit buying in a dim lit garage.

Acting on a tip from Lance, the director of BEA, my buddies Scott, Jim and I go off in search of the mythical Tailor Ma. Once we tracked him down by mobile phone, he bought us into this rather dark & dingy basement garage where in the back of his suburban he produced reams of fabric samples. As he hooked us deeper and deeper into promises of tailor made suits and dress shirts at the cost of a lunch in NY, Tailor Ma spoke constantly into his mobile and cars would occasionally show up where the driver would hand over more fabric samples. In the end we bought 2 suits, 3 sports jackets and 8 dress shirts and handed over wads of cash. All that was missing was some flying pigeons in slow-mo. Scott will pick up the goods after I leave Beijing so as of this writing I do know whether I really got a good deal or have been completely ripped off. All of us certainly are going to remember this experience.


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