Christmas in Chengdu
Trip Start Nov 15, 2005
248Trip End Aug 15, 2008
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Although Chengdu is a lot more westernised / foreigner friendly than Nanjing, the mass marketing and packaging of Christmas still hasn't caught on here, for which I am grateful. Besides the occasional Santa in a shop window, the (blessedly few) places that decided to torture my ears with Christmas songs played at volumes similar to a jumbo taking off and the line of eight people to say 'Merry Christmas' at Carrefour - who says there's a labour surplus in China? - there was little to show that anyone even knew what time of year it was
Much as a chance comment resulted in a party at the last night at the old Sim's, a similar remark ended up with a party on Christmas Eve, although perhaps not what you might think of as a typical Christmas party. Christmas songs unfortunately made an appearance, as did the epitome of haemorrhage-inducing aural cheese, the Chinese take on the Christmas song. The free beer and barbecue was much appreciated; the Tibetan costumes and dancing were unusual (especially to the Tibetans that turned up), but seemed to make a strange sort of sense after a few beers.
As you might have already gathered, Christmas in Chengdu consisted of an awful lot of drinking for me. The Chinese lessons took a bit of a backseat as a small group of us set out to explore Chengdu's nightlife almost every day of the week, and discovered it's actually quite reasonable. There are a few bars a cut above your typical Chinese standard, notably Hemp House and the Little Bar, though for some reason most people wanted to go to the local Irish bar, Shamrocks (which I find quite lacking in any sort of appeal), and a even few clubs that are tolerable (after quite a bit to drink)www.proximitybutterfly.com - are well worth checking out.
One of the best days of this period was spent at an oddly under promoted music festival, right on the outskirts of the city. For all of 30 kuai (about 2 pounds), we got to see about a dozen local bands over 10 hours, ranging from some fun pop to rock and metal. The heavier bands all seemed hugely popular, and the locals were into moshing in a big way, though they were really quite gentle about it all - no fists, no elbows, and they even politely stopped for a while so that someone could search for his lost glasses (which didn't survive). Also, I don't think I've ever seen synchronised headbanging before. Or a Chinese person with dreadlocks, for that matter; I saw three in that one day!
As the New Year approached, I was beginning to burn out a little, and lose my enthusiasm for drinking. Not a good state to be in for the busiest night of the season, especially given the usual disappointment of New Years' Eve. I was quite lucky then, that another option presented itself that promised a very different experience and a break from city life.