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Stumbling in Xi'an E-mail
City Life - Nightlife
Written by Daemon Borek
“I’m Doug Stanhope and that’s why I drink.". If you have ever watched Charlie Brooker’s “Newswipe” you will be familiar with the statement above. If not, you get the general idea. Sometimes the reason to drink can be as simple or complicated as all that utterance entails. And in celebration of the hapless liquor pigs around the world, let’s do a little something about boozing it up Xi’an style.

I’ll start off with the normal options and slowly move into the less traditional and infinitely more interesting ones. There are a plethora of options available in Xi’an when alcohol is involved and I truly feel sorry for people in Xi’an who don’t drink. Drinking is a time honored tradition in Western culture and thankfully heavy boozing in Xi’an is not like England in the 1800’s.

We can rest assured that we will never wake up from a rum bender and find ourselves in the Royal Navy, although, I have found myself in places that could be considered just as weird and disheartening.

The Normal

Bars and clubs have been sprouting up like weeds in Xi’an and I can’t keep track of all of them anymore so let’s just stick to a general experience. The clubs in Xi’an are identical; I have seriously hit 3-4 in a night and been unable to distinguish one from the other. The music is the same, people are the same, and the prices are same. They are great for a large crowd of friends and a benefit of living in Xi’an is that in most places buying a bottle of Johnnie Walker Black gets you semi-VIP status.

I don’t care what anyone says, it is fun to just walk into a club, order a bottle and get treated like B-list Celebrity for an evening. Who cares that everyone else is getting the same treatment. If you are in a club you are probably so hammered you don’t notice. The downfall of the club will always be the music though. It’s just deafening. I’m a big fan of loud music but seriously, I’ve been less deaf coming out of Death Metal shows. Just because I am having trouble speaking doesn’t mean alcohol is messing with my hearing as well.

The bars in Xi’an have improved since I arrived and some seem to be getting better. But, a vast majority of them are still just silly. The majority look like they were decorated by a schizophrenic RuPaul on a ten strip of blotter acid. They are always playing sappy Chinese ballads till I walk in then “Westlife” comes on. This combination of mind-boggling decoration and horrid music tends to drag my desire to drink out behind the barn and shoot it like Ole’ Yeller. But, there are a few I’ve found myself in from time to time with excellent draft beers and some quite decent music.

I usually end up in these places with a small crowd of 2-4 people and have found that the later it gets the better they get. Standing at the bar is always the best place in the house and the bartenders are always fun people who up for a chat. On more then one occasion, I have found myself behind the bar organizing Irish Car Bombs for everyone. It’s one of the things I have always loved about Xi’an; it’s got a small town feel to it.

People are generally very nice and friendly and always up for bending the rules to watch the silly foreigner drop shots of Jameson and Bailey’s into glasses of Guinness. The problem is that they sometimes don’t close. Falling out of a bar at 7am into the brightness and noise of the city center is like getting tasered in the eyeballs and it does tend to ruin the rest of your weekend. 

The restaurant experience is strange to a foreigner on so many levels. The Baijiu, the odd drinking games, and the private room where you can’t see across the table because of the smoke, these are the things I always remember when I think of the restaurant drinking in this city. There is something hilarious about drinking with the Chinese in their element. When done well with good people it can be one of the most fun times you’ll have here in China.

My favorite part of the experience is that there is always one guy who everyone gangs up on and forces to drink. Then, when he tries to escape the room with the finesse of a rhino with its legs tied together, everyone goes on a search and destroy mission to find him and drag him back for more. Two hours later they will mercifully let him pass out in a corner and just continue till everyone decides it’s over. The downfall of these nights is the stench that emanates from every gland and pore in your body.

Baijiu sweat soaks into cotton and clings like a nothing you have ever experienced before. And the hangover is usually so bad you convince yourself it’s just easier to cut your losses, burn the clothes and buy new ones later.

I have only thing to say about drinking in a KTV. Don’t bother. Instead, just flush 400 RMB down the toilet, pound 10 piss warm beers in ten minutes, have someone kick you in the balls, and then wander down East Street with no pants on. This will accurately recreate the nausea, pain, and general loss of dignity a KTV experience will give you.

The Non-Traditional

I had mentioned in a previous article “The Loop”. This can just be a general walk-about through the city, or you can have a planned out route ahead of time. With the availability of cold beer and mixers in the summer and China’s lack of open container laws this is simply a no brainer. Load up and wander. Nothing is better than having a cold “niner” can in your hand and exploring the back alleys. These areas are filled with nooks, crannies, and places you’ve never been or seen before.

A backpack should always be standard gear on a walk-about. It can hold a bottle of Stoli and the variety of ice cold mixers lead you to some interesting new concoctions you would never try on your own (flower tea and vodka is surprisingly good). And if you get sick of the Stoli, the beers are everywhere. The backpack also comes in handy as you are definitely going to buy some stupid shit on these wanderings. We used to make up rules before we went out for these walkabouts like “You can only cross main roads, the majority of the time has to be spent in side roads and alleys” and “By the time you get home you need to have purchased and be wearing a new outfit, head to toe” (underwear is a tricky one).

All up, the walk-about is still one the best ways to drink in Xi’an, and there is no better way to get to know your city then by pounding the pavement.
Beer Pong should have died for me when I was 22, but for some reason it didn’t and I’m ok with this. Again, this is a no-brainer. There are ping pong tables everywhere in China and your Chinese friends will absolutely love this strange new version of their national pastime. I’ve played in houses and parks and it’s always a winner, although I do prefer playing at someone else’s house. There is nothing worse then waking up with a gut full of beer rot and a yeast head only to find yourself standing in 2 inches of flat beer in what used to be your living room.
Living in such close proximity to the mountains it was only a matter of time until someone started organizing all manner of tours. The best one to drink on is the rafting tour. They drop you off in the middle of some beautiful mountains in a tiny village next to an ice-cold river. Nothing beats drinking in the mountains and with the added thought of rafting; beer literally falls down your throat. The rafting is not what you would get back home but it is fun in its own right and I highly recommend the 2 man boat.

The nice thing is that after the rafting you can swim in the river, choose which chicken you want for dinner, and the fish farms are everywhere. When the sun goes down you can just pass out in a dorm room style mountain “hotel” for 10-20 RMB per bed in peace and fresh air. I love going to the mountains and am always visibly upset when we finally have to leave to get back to the city.   
Spring Festival in Xi’an is sometimes boring as a foreigner. Your friends all travel or go home and the city shuts down a bit as people prepare for and celebrate the holiday. But this is really just an opportunity to re-visit every teenage boy’s ultimate fantasy. Cheap beer mixed with cheap and abundant fireworks! There is something special about wandering the city streets loaded, with the equivalent of a few sticks of dynamite bouncing in one’s backpack.

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The best part about this time of year is that everyone else is running around setting off fireworks as well; so your hammered ass just blends right in. Yes it’s immature. Yes, it’s wildly dangerous. Yes, I tend to act like an ass. The downside is obvious, losing fingers and other body parts. That coupled with the fact that some foreigners believe I am disrespecting an ancient Chinese tradition. I say live a little you whiny hippie, I’m buying my fireworks off a three-fingered Chinese guy. And the other million plus people doing it are just as hammered and reckless as me. What could go wrong?  

The Scavenger Hunt has to be one of the simplest ideas I have ever had while living in Xi’an. We used to do them in University and I had just forgotten about them for at least 10 years. Then one day it hit me. Could there be a better place to put together a list of random things you need to do and get than Xi’an? I think not! A buddy and I came up with a list of 75 things you had to get or do, grabbed a bunch of friends and set off. I spent 10 glorious hours having one of the best days I’ve ever had in my life. We made each team bring a digital camera to document the completion of each event. Even a few years later, I can still glance over those pictures and just roar with laughter.

My only warning for anyone wishing to try this is, do not drink Jägermeister all day, you will wake up with a new tattoo. What can I say, it was on the list and Jager and I decided we really wanted to win. The funniest thing is that only one guy out of all of us woke up without a new tattoo, and yes, my team lost.

I hope this article has inspired or informed you. The summer is coming to a close and soon we will all be bogged down by the smoggy Xi’an winter. Get out there and find a new and fun way to get wrecked in this wonderful city. And, if you ever get worried that the boozing is getting a bit out of control just look at a picture of Shane MacGowan, as long as you don’t look like him, you should be ok. But, if you’re still worried, let me leave you with the words of Old Blue Eyes himself. 

"I feel sorry for people who don't drink. When they wake up in the morning, that's as good as they're going to feel all day." (Frank Sinatra)

Our valuable Editor Daemon Borek has been with us since Saturday, 24 July 2010.

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+2 #2 Peter 2010-10-29 07:56
I love reading articles like this. Makes me remember things I tend to forget.

Being someone who has attended 1+1 more than 100 times in the past year, I can vouch for the blandless other clubs continue to produce.
+2 #1 Jeff Dotson 2010-10-09 07:42
all truth

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