Uh, no thanks….

June 3rd, 2007

Walking past Chaoshifa supermarket yesterday on our way to getting some photos printed off, we saw the usual promotional stands outside the supermarket. But this time one of the stands was for one brand of yoghurt or another (I forget which brand, but I think it was that weird aloe vera-flavoured stuff). Hmmm, let me think about this….. yoghurt that has been sitting in 30 degree heat since probably opening time and it’s now two in the afternoon? I think I’ll pass on that.

And continuing this blog’s fine tradition of dumping several completely unrelated stories in one post: Google might be evil, but at least it works. Over the last week or so, Yahoo has been giving me more and more trouble. It slows down the entire internet connection, making it extremely difficult for me to get to any website. And just trying to check my Yahoo email has been nearly impossible some days. Today for example. I got far enough to see there was one email in my inbox and who knows how many spams in the bulk mail box, but getting any further than that? Forget it. I’ll try again later.

But I can cope with an unreliable Yahoo. If it gets too bad I can just abandon it. What’s most frustrating is how trying to get into Yahoo interferes with the everything else. Logging in to this blog, checking my gmail, reading the news (china.org.cn! Yes, it even gets in the way of Chinese government sites! You know your connection is in a bad way when you can’t open even Chinese government media sites!)

There was one other thing I was going to add to this, but now I’ve forgotten…..

Oh, yes! Big Pizza. It remains our favourite Western restaurant, but last night was not good. We went there and found a crowd waiting for the buffet. A crowd so huge and thick you could be forgiven for thinking you’d been teleported to Tiananmen Square on National Day. Bugger that. We wandered off looking for an alternative, wandering past such fine, esteemed establishments as Laojia Roubing, Yonghe Dawang, and McDonalds. So we decided to go back to Big Pizza, forget the buffet, get a downstairs seat and order one of the set meals.

Well, we had to chase a few buffet waiting people away from a table to get a seat, then wait for quite some time to get a menu, then eventually we were allowed to order. We got a set meal and a draught beer. The food arrived bit by bit. The bottle of Pepsi and the chicken bits arrived within a couple of minutes of ordering. The beer, the salad and our change took maybe ten, fifteen or twenty minutes longer. It took at least half an hour for the pizza to show up.

Huh, the draught beer. It is, of course, and as I’ve mentioned before, just your regular, standard, party-issue Chinese draught beer. All Chinese draught beer is the same, formaldehyde-laced, rough-as-guts liquid that vaguely resembles beer. At 10 kuai per draught, well, it’s a bit steep, but if it came in a half-litre/pint glass, it’d be reasonable, as in about what you’d expect in Beijing. But no, after Spring Festival Big Pizza got rid of all its half-litre glasses and replaced them with pathetic 300-ml jobs. Why? I don’t know. I can’t figure it out. Most people go there for the buffet, and anyway, many places make a profit selling the same beer in half-litre glasses for maybe 8 kuai, often even less. 2 or 3 kuai in some smaller restaurants.  At the buffet they’re charging a flat fee for all you can eat and drink, which could perhaps eat into their beer profits, but I don’t see how changing the size of the glass would help. Big drinkers will simply pour more glasses and consume at least the same amount of beer. The only result is that those sitting downstairs ordering a specific meal, be it a set meal or their own selection from the menu, have gone from paying a high, but reasonable considering where they are and the kind of restaurant they’re in, price for their beer to being thoroughly ripped off. And not offering any kind of choice in beer really doesn’t make things any better.

Anyway, we ate, we drank, we stopped off at the Watson’s in that big fancy shopping centre over the road, we went home and watched Lassie. Big Pizza remains our favourite Western restaurant, but really, unless you’re going for the all you can eat and drink buffet, it’s not worth it.

And the other irritation about Big Pizza last night? The unusually large number of Little Emperors. Well, we were in one of Beijing’s wealthier areas. Logically, there should be no connection between parents’ wealth and offspring’s “quality”, but as any foreign teacher, and many others besides, can confirm: The more rich kids in your class, the more spoilt brats you have to deal with. It got to the point where we called over a waitress to ask her to do something about a group of apparently unaccompanied 10 year old boys, and she said, “Sorry, we’ve told them several times already, and they just won’t listen. Don’t worry, they’ll be going upstairs in a minute.” Oh, sure, boys will be boys, kids are just kids, but these kids’ behaviour was so far beyond the pale of what any sane person would be called acceptable that had their parents been present I would have been very sorely tempted to start mashing their faces into the floor tiles. The parents’ faces, that is. I’m sure with a proper re-education the boys could’ve been turned into fine, upstanding citizens. Too late for the parents, though.

Ah well, enough ranting. We got pizza, we got fed, once the dinner-time rush for the buffet settled down we could actually hear ourselves think and could even manage a conversation again.

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