Friday, August 10, 2007

Sun sets for the Red House

The rooms were spartan but clean. The price - at RMB250 - a bargain. But it was the location of the wondrous Red House that made it my home from home whenever I was in Beijing over the last decade.
On the ground floor was a North Korean art gallery run by the wacky chaps from Koryo Tours, whose office was on the third floor. Also on a wing of the ground floor was the China Football Club, where Yanjing beer flowed freely, footie was permanently on the telly, and pictures of the likes of Ian Rush at the Great Wall adorned the walls.
Across the way was a great Xinjiang restaurant with scrumptious hand pulled noodles. 15 minutes walk took you to San Li Tun, the bar street, where, with its convivial atmosphere and wireless internet, the Bookworm café continues to serve as my de facto office when residing in the Chinese capital.
Shopping, in the form of the cavernous Yashow market, was similarly nearby to stock up on cheap clothes, even cheaper DVDs and ludicrous trinkets.
And two minutes to the right as you headed out the door of the Red House was a blind massage joint. An Albino lady there performed wondrous things to my knotty back.
So it was with no small amount of horror and indignation that I rocked up at the green doors of the Red House the other day to see rubble everywhere inside, the whole place gutted and odds and ends thrown out on to the street. The Red House, like far too much of my once favourite city in China, has been set on the ‘path of progress’. The character chai (tear down) stamped on its wall, like thousands before it, earmarked for bigger and supposedly better things once it has been pulled down.
I am told it will become a KTV bar. I’ll only be singing sad songs in there.

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