A whim on the E-Bikes took us to Club Shang Shang. As soon as we reached the bouncy dancefloor we gained a Chinese patron that constantly handed us fresh beers. He also made us dance with his girls, one of which he seemed involved with. I instinctively distrusted him but respectfully drank all alcohol that came my way. Er Dong, as he later introduced himself as, then drove us to a fish restaurant for food. Introducing us to his friend, the boss of the place, we noticed they had similar thick gold necklaces. He would not explain in detail what this was but later told us that it cost 70, 000 Kuai (7000 quid).

A few weeks later we were invited to his home. Far from Ningbo, somewhere in the countryside, he took us to a large complex to meet his wife, son and aunt. In a living room surrounded by glossy family portraits he sat us down and played his wedding video, which also included shots of the same pictures. Next was dinner with his mum. He never allows us to pay. Instead, a man, again with the gold necklace, produces a man bag filled with wads of cash. A diversion on the way to KTV (karaoke) took us to get our hair washed, of all things, complete with head massage and chewing gum. We were apparently supposed to be well groomed for the next activity.

This was not the KTV we had been accustomed to; lines of women with small suitcases lined the long, elegant and dimly-lit corridors, bowing to greet us as we passed. As we settled into our plush room, we were served beers, whisky and snacks. Er Dong introduced his girlfriend to us then the line of girls arranged themselves in front of the plasma screen as he told us to pick our favourite. Those that didn’t choose were given a random girl. They were our hostesses: laughing at our jokes, singing, dancing, drinking and kissing, if you so wished. Bidding farewell to our girls, we were then taken to get some food along with the mamasan, and some other randoms that had occasionally popped in to join in with the frivolity, one of whom turned out to be a police man. Man bag man then drove us back to Ningbo. We are still speculating over his intentions with us…

Chris Berragan

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