Sunday, January 08, 2006

Ping Yao, Part IV: New Year's Eve

Back at our guesthouse, we had a few drinks and talked about our plans for the evening. A European man was talking to a Chinese man at a table near the window and we heard him say, "tonight is our European new year," and smiled to ourselves. It was almost 7PM when we went to our rooms, planning to meet in the lobby in about 30 minutes before going out again. We wanted to look for another place to have a drink and, perhaps, eat dinner. Angela and me returned to our room and rested on the kang for about 20 minutes before Dawn knocked on the door. We left the guesthouse and walked up the street, looking in windows for a more comfortable and lively place in which to entertain ourselves. It seemed as if every guesthouse had the same kind of seating—wooden benches, which are not so comfortable to sit on for any length of time. Finally, at the end of the street, we found a place, Sakura's, which looked nice and had padded benches with backs.

A large group had arrived before us and filled nearly the entire room—about 20 of them, and us, looking for seats. There was a large oil drum made into a wood stove and a couple of the waitresses were feeding it long planks of wood. There were many CD inserts decorating the walls and the music was a great mix of old reggae, international music, and alternative rock. Wanting to escape the large group, we walked into the back room, which had many tables and benches and a wide bar with a variety of imported alcohol, but was otherwise quite empty and very cold. There were fire pots filled with coals next to each table in an attempt to warm up the cavernous room, although they didn't seem to help much. It looked like we wouldn't be able to escape the large group in the front room, and we returned there to fight for a table. It was much more festive around them and just plain warmer.

We sat down and ordered beers. After a while, Dawn and Angela wanted to learn how to play poker, and I taught them a number of games: Texas Hold 'Em, 5-Card Draw, 5-Card Stud and Pass-the-Trash. It wasn't much fun to play without anything at stake and, as I had heard some people shaking dice in plastic cups, I suggested a game of Liar's Dice. Angela and Dawn agreed to the idea and the waitress brought us three cups of dice. Near the end of our first game, I noticed a bloke watching us, wished him a happy new year, and Angela asked him if he wanted to join the game. Chris, as we later learned his name, was from Switzerland and beginning a long trip through China and Southeast Asia. We talked together and played a few more games. Chris didn't say much, but he understood the game. We also learned that he was a banker, and he looked like a banker, aside from his clothing. He wore small, thin-rimmed spectacles, had thinning wisps of blonde hair and a scruffy unshaven face. We finished our game and said goodbye as we were going to return to our guesthouse to eat, mentioning that we would probably return here after we ate...

Ping Yao - New Year's Eve - Tian Yuan Kui GuesthouseAngela and Dawn ordered a number of dishes (it was 10PM) while I ordered a magnum of Chinese Champagne: Changyu Sparkling Cider. We didn't know if it would be good or not, but it passed our taste test with flying colors and we were off and running. There was another large group eating and celebrating here, so the atmosphere was festive. About halfway through our meal, the large group began dancing. They had brought their own music and had the volume turned up. It put smiles on all of our faces to see them dancing. Their ages ranged from about 15-50, and it really got us into the new year's spirit. We joined in with their dancing, having decided to stay here for the rest of the evening rather than go back into the cold again, when Chris walked in and sat down with us. We ordered another magnum and danced and celebrated until midnight. The large group (I had spoken with one person who'd said that they were from Holland and Angela had spoken to someone else who'd mentioned that they were from Poland) had a countdown, which seemed a bit premature by our watches. So we waited a few more minutes and had our own countdown.

We moved to the other room to escape from their celebration, which was quite loud. The Dutch/Polish group had also begun lighting sparklers. I was beginning to feel a little sick at that point from having danced too energetically after eating, and wanted to go to bed, spoiling the party a little. Angela talked me into smoking another cigarette first, to which I complied. We wished Dawn and Chris a happy new year, they had ordered another beer, and left them at the table.

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