Since I am contemplating an imminent - and possibly permanent - departure from Beijing, I have been reminiscing about the 'good times' had here in the past, and two related 'Top Five' themes occurred to me in regard to my experiences in bars here.
First, a list of the bars in which I've seen the sun come up, or, more accurately, from which I have emerged into the grey light of dawn.
Top Five Beijing Bars Where I've Seen The Dawn Come Up
5=) Club Football
This somehow hardly seems to count, since it was a place where one only went to watch the climax of the football season - Champions League games not winding up until 4.30 or 5 in the morning! I do miss it, though: the best - the only decent - sports bar I've known in Beijing; and it had the best pub grub too. I probably had more of those stumbling home at dawn experiences on exiting from Club Football than from anywhere else.
Ah, but it's not the quantity but the quality of the all-night experience that really matters. This ill-conceived restaurant-bar-"lounge" project just off Wangfujing didn't survive very long, but I went there half a dozen or so times for music events in its spacious cellar bar. And on one of those occasions, I completely lost track of time talking to a gorgeous young woman and, finding it daylight outside when we finally left, we went to Gui Jie to get some breakfast together. This is a tale that deserves a fuller telling one day - in the 'Great Dating Disasters' strand!
4) Huxley's (Yandai Xijie)
I'm not sure I ever did stay here until quite dawn, but - in that glorious year or so when Jackson Bai was running the place and it was my first 'local' in the Gulou area - I did several times hang out there until 3am or 4am, and find the sky was starting to lighten by the time I'd finished my 20-minute stagger home. Indeed, one such occasion provided the substance of one of my first-ever posts on here. (I do miss those glory days of Huxley's. It's odd how you can miss something that much more acutely when it's still there, but has now turned to shit.)
3) The Den
Again, I have reservations that this doesn't fully qualify, since The Den is not the kind of place where one would spend an entire evening (it's too bloody expensive when the 'happy hour' runs out at 10pm), but an enticing final stop - especially for an 'early breakfast' - after a long night of debauch elsewhere.
About the only place where you can see the dawn come up while you're still drinking, sitting outside in the little courtyard... Alus curled up asleep on a bench, The Weeble wobbling, The Poet suggesting one more drink...
1) The Pool Bar
Probably the most frequent (non-football-related) of my all-nighter venues, and the one with the richest trove of memories (and memory losses).
And now a list of bars in which I have fallen asleep...
Top Five Beijing Bars In Which I Have Caught Some Zzzzz's
5=) 12 Square Metres
Scarcely eligible, but I wanted to give it a mention: this was a calculated recharging (quite early in the evening!) in one of the comfy chairs rather than an uncontrolled lapse - which is really supposed to be the theme here.
Only once, only briefly (darn, those armchairs are so comfortable!) - but Alus will never let me forget it.
Head down on one of the tables outside, for almost the entire duration of one of England's games in the 2006 World Cup. After that experience, I realised I needed to go and see my buddy The British Cowboy in America, so that I could watch the second half of the tournament in a more amenable timezone.
3) The Den
Hasn't everybody fallen asleep in The Den at least once? That's what it's there for, a temporary haven when you're too tired to go home. I've never been all that fond of the place, but my buddy Big Frank would often drag me there at the end of a long evening's session, and once or twice he managed to exhaust my stamina so completely that I just folded my arms on the table - in the approved style of Chinese office workers everywhere - and gave in to a nice long zzzzz.
2) Suzie Wong's
The most unlikely entry on the list, since I would not normally be caught dead in this pretentious and painfully expensive 'nightclub'. Indeed, my impromptu snooze there may have been the occasion of my last visit, and that is some 6 years ago now. It was the farewell bar crawl for my buddy Big Frank (how have I not yet got around to writing up that epic session??), who used to live just over the road from Suzie's in the Green Lake Gardens apartments. We had started at the (old) Goose & Duck, abusing their 4pm-8pm 'happy hour' with numerous draught beers and Jack Daniel's chasers. Frank insisted on checking out Suzie's next. I think it was a Monday, the place was deserted, and we didn't stay very long - just long enough for me to lay my head down on the bar and get in 15 minutes' shut-eye.
1) The Pool Bar
The most spectacular and abject of my rare public surrenders to slumber: I once passed out spreadeagled on one of the tables (NOT the pool table, obviously; I have far too much respect) for a full 90 minutes.
I don't think there are many other cities in the world - even in China/East Asia - where this kind of all-night indulgence is such a commonplace event. But perhaps I should go and find out....