Blowfish & Donkeys

After a long day at the factory, we headed into the city & with a quick stop to check in at our hotel we were off to dinner. When we walk into restaurant the host leads us into a room that looks like a cross between a buffet and an exotic aquarium. David tells me that it’s my turn to pick out dinner and sends me around the room to figure out what’s what and how much of it we want. I should note at this point that at every meal we have had enough food for a group twice our size. I don’t even know where to start with the ordering, much less where to stop. Winnie senses my state of bewilderment and jumps in to help. “You must try that one in that tank. It is a blowfish.” O.K. blowfish it is. Now I just have to figure out what goes with blowfish. Apparently gigantic stone crabs, a whole duck, some unidentified pork parts, some dumplings, and several kinds of vegetables are needed to round out the meal… and some soup thrown in for good measure.

In most Chinese restaurants there are a number of private rooms. This is normally where we find ourselves for dinner and tonight is no exception. It’s nice to have the privacy, but I kind of like the people watching aspect of being out on the town, so it’s a bit of a give and take.

David is in a very good mood tonight after all that we accomplished today, and decides that we should order some wine. But what do you drink with blowfish and duck? I soon find out that this is a bit of a trick question due to the fact that in China wine translates as liquor. We end up with some 90 proof hooch that burns a bit more than the Petit Verdot you might have been thinking of.

Within 15 minutes we’ve had three shots and Nick is mostly drunk. David and Winnie have a fair amount of fun at his expense, and nobody feels it’s appropriate to fill me on what’s so funny. So what do I do? I start snacking on the complimentary appetizers that the chef has sent up to us. “What’s this?” I ask Winnie in between jokes. “It is donkey… you know donkey?” Shit. Yes I know donkey. I just didn’t know it was edible (barely by the way). I smile my way through another bite and wash it down with 3 ounces of Chinese fire water. Lesson learned. Ask first or don’t ask.

The rest of the meal flows by smoothly with David and Nick taking turns teaching me inaccurate Chinese lessons, and Winnie warning me that “What they say does not mean really what they say it means.” The blowfish by the way is delicious, but the skin has an exceptionally odd texture that is honestly exactly what you would expect to feel if you looked at a fully inflated blowfish and thought about eating it.

By the time dinner is over the bottle of “wine” is empty, and we are headed out for another adventure. This time instead of going to the bar we are headed to get an authentic Chinese Foot Massage. Score one for the good guys.

I have no idea what to expect from this experience, except that it’s bound to be a good thing. We get set up in yet another private room with super fancy Chinese Barcaloungers and promptly have our bare feet in tubs of hot water and pretty Chinese girls bringing us little plates of sunflower seeds and tiny cups of tea. So far so good.

Eventually the massage team comes in and gets to work beating the ever-living crap out of us starting with the soles of our feet and finishing with a full body percussion jam that would have impressed John Bonham. At one point they actually brought out rubber mallets and started beating us with them. Now, I don’t want to give you the impression that this was a miserable experience by any stretch of the imagination. Despite the fact that I had to hold back a couple of screams, and couldn’t help but flinch a few times, this was actually a treat. By the time they left us there with heated bags of beans behind our heads, I felt more relaxed than I have in quite a while.

However, I was not quite as relaxed as Nick who fell asleep about 15 minutes into the massage and caused quite a bit of laughter from the whole group of us as he snored through a fair amount of abuse. At a couple of points I was pretty sure that the girl working him over was digging in extra hard just to see if she could wake him up… which she couldn’t. Needless to say, by the time we shook Nick awake, it was time to head back to the hotel for a solid night’s sleep with another busy day looming ahead.

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