So it went like this:
Wanda Plaza cinema, or whatever that place is called. Well, I suppose it's a good sign, amidst all this talk of inflation, that plenty of Chinese people feel confident enough to go out and splurge on Christmas Eve. I mean, those ticket prices aren't cheap.... But the combination of long queues and high prices and all the tickets for the film at the top of our list (Feng Xiaogang's new one, 《集结号》 (English name? Assembly?)) being sold out (unless we waited for the ten o'clock session... nah. We both have to work today) meant we decided to flag it. I mean, the cheapest ticket going for 70 yuan? I know it's the CBD, but come on, that's overdoing it just a tad, don't you think? And by the time we got through that monster queue (it was 1,675,492.6 miles long. I measured it.) all the tickets for all the films would've gone. Oh well, wait for the buzz to die down... then buy the DVD.
一湖春/Yihuchun Hunan restaurant, up the back of Wanda. Alright, it wasn't cheap, but we were in the
International Settlement CBD, so the prices were quite reasonable. Portions were a bit on the small side, though, but still, we left feeling full, so not bad. But the key thing was the food: Good. Damn good. Definitely one to go back to. It wasn't as spicy as I would've preferred, but we are in Beijing, and if it were up to proper, Hunan, sear the roof off your mouth and cause your toes to spontaneously combust HOT then the restaurant probably wouldn't have been so full and we would've heard only Hunan accents, not the mix of mostly fairly standard Putonghua that was being spoken around us. Anyway, good food, and despite the lack of kick you in the guts, drag you out the door, and throw you to the dogs fire, the food did give a pleasant, warm burn that lasted through the meal and for some time afterwards. Enough for a gentle chilli high, if not a full on rush. Still, it did leave lzh bright red and feeling so hot she had to stand outside in the cold to bleed off the excess heat. I was just about ready to reach for a fire extinguisher, but we got outside in time. Still, she is a northerner, so what do you expect?
The start of dinner was marred by service that was to busy to notice us for a time that was verging on unacceptably long, but they got to us, and once our order was placed, they were very efficient. And some drunk guy who was making a commotion at the door trying to get inside when his friends and the male members of staff were adamant he was going somewhere else. This guy wasn't just drunk, he was rip-roaringly, aggressively, obnoxiously pissed, so far gone I was expecting him to leave a nice, big, unpleasant mess in the doorway, not too far off from needing a trip to the hospital. I hope his mates got him home alright, he looked like quite a handful. Not a pleasant drunk at all.
But the key thing is: The food was really, really good. Go there.
Beijing, London. English pub my arse. That's the fakest attempt at a pub I've seen since I lived in Taiyuan. Thing is, that was the kind of pub I would go to when I was in Taiyuan, because there wasn't any other choice. But no, the places I frequented in Taiyuan were much better. It's only two or three doors down from Yihuchun, but should definitely be avoided.
The DVD store. Bugger the movies, just buy the DVDs. For 44 kuai we got five films, much better value than 70 kuai for one of us to watch one movie at Wanda. But this place we found, on the southern side of the same courtyard as Yihuchun and the fakest pub in the world, called Tiger DVD if I remember rightly, was great. Another one to go back for. Awesome range of DVDs, they all look to be of professional quality (it's too early to say for sure, though), good prices, with most films going for 8 kuai (Lust:Caution, which is supposed to be the uncensored international version, and 《苹果》(English name?), also supposed to be the uncensored original version, cost 10 each).
Conclusion? I need to hurry up and get ready for class. Umm, and yes, despite not everything going our way (but you can't win 'em all), it was a good night and a surprisingly successful, and pleasant, trip to one of my least favourite parts of Beijing. And I need to get out more, but I knew that already. I mean, I shouldn't have been so surprised at the sheer amount of traffic, vehicle and foot, around the CBD last night. That area is taking off, and I knew that already, but still... I need to get out more or I'm going to lose all my knowledge of Beijing and I'll turn into a grumpy old curmudgeon sitting in this small corner of Chaoyang ranting about a city that no longer exists.
And 平安夜？No, this is not a Western holiday. It's a Chinese holiday taken from the Western Christmas Eve but given a thoroughly modern, urban Chinese make-over, to the point where it no longer has anything to do with any Western holiday or festival, and really does not seem to match the Chinese name. But that's ok, everybody needs to let their hair down every now and then, nothing wrong with that.