Pandas and Nightclubs: Breaking the Dry Spell in Chengdu
When visiting China, your trip will inevitably be associated with the following: pandas, eating your body weight in dumplings and taking a fuckload of photos on the Great Wall. If you happen to be travelling with little money and even less sense, your trip may also involve a free night out at CCs nightclub in Chengdu that culminates with the breaking of an epic dry spell and the beginning of a horse-riding trek covered in the sweat of your one night stand.
My travel buddy Laura and I had spent the last of our three days in Chengdu climbing up a Taoist mountain being super spiritual. The fun spiritual times wore off within an hour, and after getting lost up said mountain, we arrived back at the hostel weary and ready for bed. As we dragged ourselves through the lobby, we ran into some British lads who up until this point seemed to do nothing with their days except play what appeared to be Dungeons and Dragons in the common room.
To be completely honest, I have forgotten all of their names, so for narrative’s sake let’s just call them British Backpacker 1, British Backpacker 2 and British Backpacker 3. BB1 had been chatting with the guy behind the reception desk, who let him know that one day a week, a club in the Jinjiang district made the dreams of all hobos come true in the form of “free booze for foreigners”. Initially, I declined the invitation; we had to be on a bus at 5am and I had just eaten an entire pizza. Luckily the cheese-induced idiocy that occupied my mind when turning down that invitation soon wore off. FREE BOOZE?! I’M IN.
After almost asphyxiating our fellow dorm mate in a cloud of dry shampoo and deodorant, we set off with BB1 et al into the center of Chengdu. We had been told to ask for “Rock Panda” upon arrival, which seemed totally legit and not at all how every film about drug dealers starts. After locating Rock Panda (a slightly chubby Chinese man in a hoodie and Harry Potter glasses), we got let straight in with no trouble from the bouncers decked out in SWAT gear. I don’t just mean t-shirts with the word SWAT on them: these security guards had legitimate bulletproof vests and weapons. Not at all deterred by the possibility of getting shot in the head later that night, we proceeded to enter through a corridor lined with giant life-size nutcracker dolls and parted the bedazzled curtain that would lead us into wonderland.
Once inside, we claimed a free table next to the stage and without needing to lift a finger someone brought us over jugs of iced tea, a platter of fruit and a couple of $80 bottles of whiskey. This was, without a doubt, the greatest moment of my life. Of course, this quickly turned into the drunkest moment of my life. Scantily-clad dancers had begun performing in the middle of the stage, and at one point, I began to believe we had fallen into an Asian Lady Gaga music video. Suffice to say, I was feeling pretty inadequately dressed in my scarf that doubled as a pillow and boots with holes in them.
Around this time, BB1 had started attracting looks from a Chinese girl in the corner whose flirting tactics involved coming over to him and acting coy, batting her eyes while stroking his arm and then scolding him and running away whenever he tried to talk to her. This batshit-crazy behavior continued for some time, and while we all thought it would culminate in BB1 losing interest or being slapped, it actually resulted in her fucking him in the car park. Apparently it was just some good old fashioned courting – who knew?!
Meanwhile, those of us not getting off in a parking garage were reaping the benefits of free booze. We got invited to sit in a VIP booth with some fantastic Chinese guys who decided to make it rain with whiskey and shots of tequila. Seeing some serious eye fucking going on between myself and BB3, our Chinese VIP bank roller decided that we must be boyfriend and girlfriend and therefore we had to kiss for the entertainment of the group, because that’s what boyfriends and girlfriends did. Not put off by this primary school relationship equation, I decided I should be earning my free booze somehow, and if watching two drunken backpackers make out was going to keep this guy buying us shots, then so be it. After entertaining the masses with our mutual tongue action, BB3 and I decided that we were both excellent fucking kissers and we were going to keep this shit up all night long.
From this point onwards things started to get a little hazy, but I do recall the following: watching as BB1 was discarded by his new lady friend immediately after she had her wicked way with him; trying to buy a bottle of water, realising it was the equivalent of $14 Australian dollars and concluding that sobering up was too expensive; standing by passively as Laura’s face was eaten off by the quiet Chinese guy who worked at the hostel (who then naturally began professing his undying love for her); and finally, walking back home at 4am telling BB3 very loudly and very clearly that he was super lovely but I was definitely NOT going to sleep with him.
Exactly 30 minutes later, I found myself in the courtyard of our hostel utilising the ping pong table for everything but playing sport. It was winter in China and although I may have gotten frostbite and splinters on my exposed skin, at least I didn’t have to deal with filthy stares from my dorm buddies being awoken at 4am by two drunk and inept lovers. Needless to say, it was not the stuff dreams are made of, but it did scratch a long, overdue itch. With no time left to shower before our 5am departure time, Laura and I managed to drunkenly pack our bags in the hostel corridor and make it onto the bus amid a cloud of potent whiskey fumes. Not showering before a three-day horse trek in the mountains was a mistake, deciding to always say yes to free booze was not.
Rowan still hasn’t finished War & Peace, but she did use it to balance her dinner once. Living in London, she’s steadily working her way through the Europe’s great cities and hopes to try every wine in England before her visa expires.