Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The hand of Fate....

My old college buddy Richard and his Mrs (they who first lured me to China all those years ago) are visiting China at the moment. Having tired rather of Beijing and Shanghai after many visits over the years, they took an impulsive decision to base themselves this time in Dalian for a few weeks, and they have urged me to pop over and join them. (Dalian somehow feels as though it's pretty adjacent to Beijing, a little way up the coast to the north-east. In fact, it's a good long way north-east, almost on the North Korean border. Its latitude is - surprisingly - just a little south of Beijing, since it's on the tip of a long peninsula that separates Bohai Gulf from the Korean Gulf and the Yellow Sea. But it must be getting on for 300 miles away as the crow flies, more than half of it over water. That's a very long boat journey [though I think it might be fun to try it one day], and a very, very long train journey if you go all the way around the coast; flying is the only practical option for getting there.)

Desperate to escape the soul-sapping lack of sunlight and exhausting humidity we've suffered in Beijing for the past week or two, I had been planning to head up there this last weekend, but.... well, online weather forecasts suggested that the weather there was going to be just as bad: the whole of north-east China was in the grip of a huge cell of thunderstorms for the last few days. So, I put back my getaway to this week.

And guess what? I discover that - fortuitously, I hope! - my visit will coincide with the opening of the Dalian Beer Festival!!!

Who even knew they had one? No-one that I spoke to about it! And we're all 8-, 10, 12-year China veterans now. How had this passed us by?

Well, there are beer festivals all over China these days, you see. Heck, we've got about three - blink and you'll miss 'em - such events on in Beijing this summer. But the famous one, the only one that's really got some worldwide recognition, is the Qingdao Beer Festival which happens in the middle of August.

It probably doesn't help the name recognition of the Dalian event that, officially, it bears the grandiose title of the China International Beer Festival. It also doesn't help that it is impossible to discover an official website for the event - under either Dalian or China International Beer Festival - using an English-language websearch; presumably they don't have one, or it's in Chinese only. Such English listings as there are (quite a few, but all very brief) give little more than the dates; and even on that, there's some imprecision, with the kick-off day this year being variously cited as the 27th, 28, or 29th.

However, the Festival is now in its 13th year - very nearly as venerable as that of its down-the-coast rival Qingdao - and online pictures suggest that it is a well attended event (and, unlike the Qingdao one, it's slap bang in the middle of the city -  in the famous Xinghai Square).

I confess to being a little apprehensive. I worry about possible transport difficulties, and perhaps being unable to enjoy any leisurely sight-seeing around the city centre because of the crowds. And I went to the Qingdao Beer Festival a few years back, and thought it SUCKED (few if any foreign beers available, Chinese beers all fairly shite, inadequate toilet facilties, quite expensive...).

However, there will be beer. And two very good friends. And a city I've never visited before. Fasten your seatbelts, it's going to be a bumpy ride.


John said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
John said...

The Chinese drink beer? I didn't think they even understood the concept of a night out? Sounds like a case of imitation yet again but then little advertising in English? Hmm, they're a strange lot. I fear it's going to end up as just one great big piss-up, like the "exercise club" in the excellent Paul Merton in China (Channel five) but I hope you manage to get at least some R&R (you deserve it from what I've read recently). As for any possible tasting- if the Chinese add Cola to expensive wine I very much expect they can do worse to a decent ale as well.

Froog said...

Well, the 'night out' is generally conceived rather differently here - although Western style bars and, even more, discos, are starting to become very popular. However, most Chinese do their drinking in restaurants rather than bars (or in KTV lounges/brothels, if they're going for an all-nighter).

I suppose beer is a foreign introduction, but it's been around well over a hundred years, and is now very popular (but all the German lager style, and all very weak): it has almost completely displaced rice wine - or whatever the hell they used to drink before. Although they still tend to prefer their disgusting native white liquor, baijiu, for hardcore drinking.

I've never seen that Paul Merton show, though I've heard a lot about it. I very nearly met him when he was here making that; one of my buddies was doing translating on the project.

I haven't seen the Chinese adding stuff to beer (well, other than baijiu depth charges - which they term 'submarines' - which are, suprisingly, not too unpalatable), although their tastes tend to run towards the sweet. The new big hit down at my local, 12 Square Metres, in recent weeks has been a Belgian raspberry beer: sweet, fruity, fizzy, and low in alcohol (it's mainly the girls that go for it, but not only...).