The Nanjing Incident
It wasn't so much an incident but a series of incidents. Again I was accompanying a colleague on a fact-finding tour. Our host provided gratis accommodation in the "government department hotel". Yep, they had their own hotel. But we are in yet another Chinese city of 6 to 8 million people.
I check into the room ... damn, no fridge. I discuss with my colleague just how are we going to keep our beer cold. He ponders and takes the big decision. Down he goes to reception and and asks, "my colleague requires a refrigerator to store some important pharmaceuticals". The desk clerk replies, "No problem sir, we will upgrade you to a better room". That got us a move upstairs into far superior accommodation, again all at no charge. Winner.
Later, we have a dinner to go to with the government department chief executive ... in the same hotel. But we have a problem. My colleague had spilled food on his tie and hand washed it. It looked like an old rag. He needed an iron. The room service charge to correct the problem cost more than a new tie. The hotel shop has no ties and it is too late to go shopping, but the hotel shop has an iron for $2. My mate buys it. For the next hour, he battles to get any heat out of the iron and almost wears the tie out. Yes, it was a $2 iron.
As usual, we go to a private dining room with the chief executive. He runs the banquet like an emperor. There are the two of us plus him and our assigned interpreter/guide. As usual, the drink flows but this time, I don't quite feel like asking to keep any empty beer bottles. He assails us with tales of his drinking prowess as a young professional. Boasts that for the last 25 years, he has taken a cold shower every morning and how this discipline has stood him in good stead in his career. And when he was younger, he would drink a large bottle of "bai jiu" (Chinese spirits) for lunch and still carry out a full days work with no reduction in performance.
This guy had it all. Snap go the fingers and the next course arrives ... snap ... more beer for the guests ... snap ... it is 8pm and the banquet is finished. Anyone who has been to business-related dinners in China knows the 8pm shutdown. You think everything is going fine then the host just cans it instantly. At 8:01pm, we are heading back to our rooms.
No we're not. A clothing change and off beer hunting. We trudged the streets of Nanjing after dark looking for action. With no idea where we were, we ended up at a student bar full of students drinking beer and watching a kung fu movie. No-one even noticed us. We were there 2 nights and I acquired 8 beers - that fridge came in handy. I am guessing but I think we might have consumed Yali Beer that night but I can't quite remember.