Monday, February 23, 2009

Memories of Valentine's Day - Beijing Style

I hope you all had a romantic 'night to remember' with your loved ones, or perhaps you've forgotten about it already? Here in Beijing, this totally decadent western festival is now becoming increasingly commercialised by card manufacturers, flower sellers, restaurants and clubs. This is a sign not only of the increasing numbers of expats and affluence here, but also of the happy-go-lucky attitude of China's youth, the so-called post 80s and 90s (those born in the 1980s and the 1990s). The English language magazines such as Time Out Beijing, City Weekend and the Beijinger were full of articles, listings and ads on the meaning of love, and how to make the heart grow fonder, how to 'light up your fire' (massage), 'share the love' (dinner), hear 'sexy beats all night long' (disco), take part in a 'stylish romantics' party with the 'most performing couple' (the mind boggles) winning a free hotel night stay and/or how to dance dirty (stage show 'Dirty Dancing: One Night in Beijing').

A rather more Chinese-style Valentine described how to cope with both a wife and a mistress on the same day! For those with the opposite problem of having no-one to share Valentine's Day with, then don't worry. Dinner for Six has also reached Beijing, as well as speed dating. And there are numerous dating and social networking websites.

Beijing can impress in many ways that other cities can't, but it excels when it comes to food, not surprising since eating out is a national pastime. For example, on offer were dinner with nightime views over the Olympic sites, (drink bird's nest soup whilst overlooking the Bird Nest stadium) , or over the Imperial Palace (indulge in some forbidden fruit whilst overlooking the Forbidden City?). Other unconventional restaurants include 'Whale Inside' which serves unremarkable fusion food but is remarkable for its lack of lighting, so if you fancied fumbling or being fumbled in the dark, that was the place for you, a truly blind date. 'Chef Table' is literally a one table restaurant set up to satisfy your every whim. That's real exclusivity for you and certainly a good way to impress your Valentine. If you wanted to get your Valentine drunk, then the 10,000 bottle wine cellar at the Hilton Wangfujing would have been a good place to start.

Of course all this costs serious money, and I think the 8-course dinner in a private room of the 5-star Marriott at 9,999 RMB (around 1000 pounds or 1470 US dollars) per couple beats the lot! To put that into perspective, the average per capita disposable income in Beijing is only around 1,700 RMB/month. For those of you affected by the financial crisis, then perhaps a chocolate fondue instead would do, at a mere 138 RMB. For laid off employees and others really hard up then a Chinese meal for 2 would cost around 40 RMB at a variety of 'neighbourhood nibbles' reviewed by Time Out. And for the really mean and/or unromantic, there's always MacDonalds all-day breakfast for only 16.5 RMB, the same price as 10 years ago. Who said that inflation was a problem in China?

So much for the Western Valentine's Day - Beijing style. The real thing though as far as the Chinese are concerned is their own 'Lovers' Day' on the 7th day of the 7th (lunar) month, but that's another story you'll have to wait for. If you are coming to Beijing, and would still like to sample any or all of the above, do get in touch with ChinaMango!

1 comment:

  1. getting too westernised I think, look forward to reading about Chinese Valentine's day.