Sunday, 16 November 2008

One Night In Wan Chai

Waking up with a hangover is a very unpleasant experience. I been afflicted by hangovers quite a few times in my life and have come to realise that the older you get, the more powerful the effects. In my youth, I would wake up with a headache and a feeling of nausea. The headache would feel like a lazy woodpecker tapping a rhythm in time with my heartbeat – annoying but nothing more – and would be easily curable with an aspirin. The nausea would be overwhelmed by a good old full English breakfast. By lunchtime I would be human again.

Now, in my mid-forties, hangovers are dreadful. The woodpecker has been replaced by an army of maniacs with road drills; the nausea is now a tsunami of gut-wrenching mayhem. The cures are the same but the effects last longer.

Why am I telling you this? Because on our third day of our recent holiday to Hong Kong I woke up with a hangover. Combined with my age and the effects of jet lag, the hangover took on a life of its own, beating me up relentlessly and mercilessly. Mrs PM and I had planned to spend the day roaming around the wonderful city. The excesses of the night before put paid to that, not least because we had slept until one o’clock in the afternoon. The only consolation was that Mrs PM (who is incidentally seven years younger than me) was just as bad.

How did this come to pass? How did a supposedly sensible and mature man like me allow myself to get so horribly drunk? I made a mistake – I allowed the teenager in me to take control.

It all started off so innocently. We had vowed to attempt to beat the jet lag and stick to our rough plan. Ten years ago, during a three month stint working in Hong Kong, we used to visit numerous restaurants and bars in Causeway Bay and Wan Chai. Our plan was to have a dignified meal in Causeway Bay and pop to Wan Chai to visit the Old China Hand and perhaps have a beer or two in another bar somewhere before retiring sensibly to bed at a reasonable hour.

It all started so well …

The meal was very lovely, a nice steak in a restaurant in Times Square in Causeway Bay. Mrs PM and I chatted about old times in this wonderful city, remembering favourite restaurants that had disappeared, others that were still there and reminisced about our first few weeks together.

After the meal, I noticed that it was getting late (around ten o’clock) so I suggested paying a visit to one of my favourite old haunts in Wan Chai, an Australian bar called Carnegie’s, for a night cap. Mrs PM concurred and later we found ourselves stepping out of the MTR station on Lockhart Road. To my delight, Carnegie’s was still there and still rocking as it used to. What’s more, they had a promotion on vodka, which proved to be very appealing to Mrs PM and to me too, since alcohol prices in Hong Kong aren’t cheap.

I had a beer and Mrs PM had vodka and cranberry juice. The rock music was loud, the atmosphere was vibrant and the clientele had started dancing on the bar and generally having a good time. I remembered good times from my time there and was captivated and consumed by the atmosphere. Before I knew it I had ordered another beer, then another.

Eventually we ran out of cash and, led astray by the alcohol, I volunteered to find an ATM, leaving Mrs PM to enjoy her drink.

For those of you who don’t know, Wan Chai is a very lively area and also full of strip clubs and girly bars. I was a solitary male, walking around on my own, searching for an ATM. To the women trying to attract men into the strip clubs and girly bars, I was prey. I walked past one such bar with an old woman sitting outside persuading men to come in. When she saw me, she leapt off her seat, grabbed my arm and tried to haul me into her club. Waiting at the door was a voluptuous young Chinese women with open arms waiting to ensnare me and drag me into her web of debauchery. I panicked and tore my arm away from the old woman screeching apologetic excuses. I managed to get away but before I had walked five yards, another old woman from another girly bar had launched herself in my direction. Somehow I managed to stumble away from her before she grabbed my arm. I’m sure that never used to happen in Wan Chai ten years ago.

Eventually I found an ATM and returned to the safety of Carnegie’s where I related the tale of my narrow escape to Mrs PM who, in deep sympathy, laughed her head off. At this point I encountered a drunk Australian who walked up to me, clapped me on the back and said “Jimmy! What are you doing here?”

“My name’s not Jimmy,” I replied.

“Bloody hell,” he slurred. “You look just like Jimmy. Are you sure you’re not Jimmy?”

“Positive,” I replied with a smile.

“You look just like a bouncer I know called Jimmy,” he continued. “Are you sure you’re not Jimmy?”

His mates joined in, trying to convince me that I was indeed an Australian bouncer called Jimmy. Eventually I returned to Mrs PM and she laughed at my expense for the second time that night. I can see her point; I do not possess any of the qualities that a bouncer requires, such as build, aggression, height and strength, plus, despite evidence to the contrary, I do have a personality. I could possibly be a bouncer but only at a club for children under ten – and even then I might struggle if one or two ate too much sugar.

Back in Wan Chai, we were having such a good time, that we decided to visit another old haunt, an Irish pub called Delanie’s, where we had another quiet drink. Across the road from there was a lively bar called Amazonia, featuring a live band covering hits by the Beatles. This was too enticing to walk past. As we settled down with yet another beer, a new band appeared playing classic rock hits. I was struck by the number of men in the bar, my age or older, who were cavorting with young Chinese women – it looked ridiculous so we decided to return to Carnegie’s for the infamous “one for the road”.

I have no idea how many more we had or what time we left. I do have hazy memories of being in a taxi and listening to the driver ranting about how terrible it is to be a taxi driver in Hong Kong.

As we left the taxi, the teenager within retired for the night leaving the mature person back in charge, giving me the opportunity to buy two bottles of water from the 7-11 next to the hotel. I knew we had had far too much to drink and would benefit from quaffing a large quantity of water. Thank goodness there was a sensible part of my addled alcohol-soaked brain still working.

The following morning (afternoon), as I prised my tongue from the roof of my mouth with my toothbrush, stared at the creature in the mirror with wild hair and bloodshot eyes and fought the hangover with every weapon at my disposal (water, aspirin, self-pity), I began to regret my over-indulgence. Mrs PM was also feeling very sorry for herself.

United in pain we faced our hangovers and ventured out of the hotel to Lan Kwai Fong where we found a pub that served English breakfasts all day. Armed with bacon, eggs, sausage, toast, gallons of orange juice and coffee, we did battle and eventually won. We were able to face the day as human beings – or in reality, two aliens pretending to be human beings. Our hangovers dissipated and we reflected on our night in Wan Chai.

We both agreed that we had overdone it. That teenager inside me has a lot to answer for. But, I tell you what – Mrs PM and I both agree - we had had a fabulous night.


Anonymous said...

Welcome back PM---you were dearly missed!

I'm so sorry to hear of your alcohol misfortune, but most of us middle-aged or older go through it at some point. It's a confirmation that "Okay, I can't do that anymore." But it's nice to try and live to tell about it. Loved your tale of a night in the fast lane and isn't it fun to reminisce with your loved one about the good old days? W. and I do it often, though usually sober!

Plastic Mancunian said...

Thanks very much.

I totally agree, it is fun to reminisce about the past, especially in such a wonderful place. I still love to have a beer or two but on that particular night, I simply forgot that my body would struggle to cope. As I said, I'm not a teenager any more.

Still, it was worth it. We did have fun.