Friday, April 30, 2021

Phebe: mysteries unraveled..

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Pre -read reference: 

Shoo: make (a person or animal) go away by waving one's arms at them, saying “shoo,” or otherwise acting in a discouraging manner (source: Oxford dictionary)

Caveat: It's been a while that we've hit the club scene and maybe that’s why we may sound so excited here

We were so out of sync that we realized we were humming 'wheels on the bus' while starting off from the hotel. Phebe was chosen for the sole reason that it was near to the hotel and thought we'd be getting back quick. No there is no mis-spelling here, kindly refer to Sona's picture here.

Once we got to the place, I was a bit skeptical. The place was huge; even from the outside. The car park was envious: A Lamborghini Urus, funky Beijing BJ 40, Cadillacs, Porsches and even a couple of heavily modified Japanese humbled our VW cab.

We darted in and started posting our enquiries: was there an entry fee? Could we see the menu please? (fact of life - always be prepared on what your bill in going to be) and so on. The petite lady would have none of it and shoved us inside. The interior was a different world. A lot more than what a Saturday party place should be.

The smarty lady led us to a table near the DJ, where many ladies were already seated. With a couple of shouts, she shoo-ed them away with sharp words. In a manner that would make a shepherd and his sheep grimace. She installed us at the table and started talking to us.

However, I stood my ground. I would not yield without seeing the menu and being apprised of what a drink/ table would cost. I shouted, she shouted, and all of our words - regardless of the language, were drowned by the music. The smarty girl finally yielded and decided to hand us over to the master Shifu and the manager - Mr. Bin

A suave chap, he had us impressed with his stylish moves with his phone and with sign language - he managed adding us on text. Presto! Now we could type and communicate over translator! After some communication a short menu appeared out of nowhere.

The situation was summarized as follows: the table that had been allocated to us (after shoo-ing those ladies) was a good one and we ought to order from that specific menu - with a minimum order being for couple of grands.

I revolted vehemently. I explained my life's mission statement, my budgetary policy and expressed by willingness to exit and head to Liyang street pubs.

But our suave Shifu Bin would have none of it, he took us to another 'tavern' table which offered a different menu. Once we got here, he mouthed an earful to another group of youngsters seated - who hurriedly vacated the table, rushed to the stage and started dancing. This phenomenon of shoo-ing people was getting strikingly peculiar. Sona later solved this one, but more on that later.

So for now we are at a new table and a different menu was summoned magically from air by Bin. The menu had something that was in line with my retirement fund and I requested for two pints. Now, Bin was not convinced. He almost got cross at us at the prospect of two measly beers - they could only get one so much happiness and offered us a peculiar deal: for 20% more - we could get a 12 beer pack and a gigantic platter. This time, I got concerned about HIS financial model and bottom line; but took the bait.

We glanced around: The DJ had switched this time and people were gathering near the stage for another showman who was taking over. Guys and girls - all of them were having a good time, and we were also settling into the mood.

As I got my eyes back to our table, I found another slim debonair guy staring at me. Bin had disappeared. The new guy's eyes conveyed a mystical determination and never left mine. I tried to look around but I could still feel those new set of eyes drilling at me. When I realized I was not going to be able to shake it off, I found the courage to look back in his eyes. Our eyes met. Without leaving his gaze, he pulled out a pint, opened the bottle and poured out in two glasses. His job, and stare done, he glided away into the dark.


As our eyes were adjusting to the dark and quirky lights, and we were getting a better feel of the place. Everything was likeable. The debonair glided in again, emptied the bottle and opened another one with that stare.  

For a while at least things were fine. Next, a towering and well-built figure appeared. No mistaking that uniform - he could have been from security or from an official authority. 

He politely waved us to step out and we knew at once that this was not one of those situations to bargain or argue.
In my life's journey, I have been in trouble amply; and consider myself a decent judge of deciding on when to run and when to comply with the authorities. The voice inside today leaned to the latter

Once outside, we were explained that in the mayhem of (a) we trying to figure out about the place and (b) the manager's concern to settle us in, we had skipped the security and the COVID-19 code check protocol. So we held out our devices and tried to get our government codes. Tsch tsch.. The club acceptable one was the provincial health code. Now came the problem: this particular one was not designed well for foreigners and we struggled to fill the online Hanzi form.

After a while, we realized we were not getting anywhere. We then flashed our hotel key - requested the security Shifu to call our hotel to fetch get the codes (which they already had from our check-in). 

Well, as per his process document, this was acceptable as an exception, with the following conditions:

  1. That we fill up a physical form and declaration, giving the details of our passport, train details, train time, hotel details, Shanghai address and our genetic codes.
  2. Protocol also stated that we be given fresh masks lest our masks carry infections from elsewhere.

Lambo Urus & Beijing BJ40

For point #2, the macho fellow headed to his macho SUV - a modern day red Beijing BJ40 (not a fan but impressed by this barebones Humvee look-alike) and fetched two fresh masks. He made sure we disposed our old masks carefully in the designated bin in front of him. Now we could head back.

As we got back, the scene had changed again. The color theme was different and music had switched from English to local and club mix. Seeing us return, some youngsters meandering on our table were shoo-ed again by the debonair and we found our next glasses already readied. 

The dance floor in front of us was a bouncy one (no kidding - a springy one indeed) and the people were filled to the brim and dancing in sync. Behind us, there were people standing on the platform above our heads and dancing. (Think of the YMCA moves done by Hard Rock Café staff on higher platforms/ bar counters). Some were moving to the music, some with fancy Chinese fans : an amazing blend of tradition and modernity.

This time, a woman manager of a different kind came by and shouted scathingly at two ladies dressed in red at the platform dancing behind us. They immediately got down and drove off to mix with people.

Now Sona hypothesized - some of the crowd could be hired. By Jove! It all fit and as the point drove home - I started seeing around with new lenses: One particular category - I could place as students, being called in to drive up the cool factor. One group of ladies in red, were clearly there to spruce up the glam factor and possible companionship for patrons. 

As it struck to me, one of the red lady appeared next to me. A drink went by and I could still feel someone behind me. I hugged Sona tightly to make a point and stayed there until the threat passed.

We did not know the time, but our debonair guy made sure we were never without a drink and kept the other round ready - to avoid any blasphemous scenario of we being kept waiting for a drink.

Between us, we have seen some places and could list some common factors between Vegas & Amsterdam, Mumbai, Pune, Bangalore & Brussels, etc. However, this was an experience phenomenally 'different' from what we had ever witnessed.

Maybe we have been away from the scene for a while, maybe we are getting old. But there is no point thinking about the reason of our excitement.  Phebe will remain an unforgettable place.

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