65 San Hao
(Written by Nick on 3/29)
65 San Hao – A Movie Lovers Paradise
When packing to come to China, I, like most travelers, was as strategic as possible to make sure my luggage was under the required weight limit. I simply did not have the room to pack my DVD collection. Sure, it would have been nice to have some reminders of home in the form of already-seen-a-billion-times movies, but, having left my DVD collection in Columbus anyways… this ended up not being a difficult decision. Heck, I was heading to China. Home of the pirated everything. I could stock up on enough DVD’s on arrival to last me a life time.
When beginning to explore my neighborhood, I was delighted to see multiple vendors selling bicycle carts FULL of DVD’s. For my first purchase, I bought a Nicolas Cage collection. I am in no way a big Nicolas Cage fan, but this was the only english movie I could find at the moment, and he has some half way decent movies. I was slightly surprised to see that on one disc there were 9 movies, but it is China, and for that reason nothing is ever too surprising. When attempting to pick a movie from the DVD menu, I quickly realized that these movies were far from DVD quality. They were better than some person sitting in the theater filming the screen, but only slightly. The sound was slightly delayed and worst of all, 7 of the 9 movies were dubbed in Chinese! I was devastated. My internet is no where near strong enough to stream movies and every TV channel is in Chinese. How was I going to survive? I could deal with no television, but to take my movies away was a crime.
After asking foreigner after foreigner, I finally heard that there was a secret DVD shop in the electronic district of Shenyang. Not only did this shop have all english DVDs, but they were all perfect quality, some were still in the theaters, and they were 5RMB (roughly 75 cents) a pop. My friend promised me she would take me to the DVD store one day, but the logistics of meeting up with her and having her take me to this store seemed impossible as time went on. I didn’t really know this girl that well and we both had completely different schedules. I was basically screwed.
Finally, on the way to dinner with our friend, she pointed out where the store was located. It was in the first courtyard past McDonald’s, in the first door on the right, up to the third floor, and after my first right it was the first door on the left… And to make this easier, there was no sign, no address, no windows, nothing. HOPELESS!!!! IMPOSSIBLE!!!! Nevertheless, I had to try.
The following day, Leah and I set out to find this movie mecca. After miles of walking, a few phone calls, and turning around multiple times, we finally found the courtyard. 65 San Hao street. A typical Chinese hole-in-the-wall apartment complex.
There was no “door on my right” and the only accessible door I saw was the entrance to the supposed Institute of Safety Science.
“Hmm… this had to be the right courtyard” I thought, and I had to try every means possible to find this place. Into the institute we went, up three flights of stairs and to the door. Anticipation was building, my heart was racing, and sweat was beginning to form on my brow (most likely from climbing three flights of stairs in rapid succession). LOCKED! NO! Was it closed? Was I in the completely wrong place? Did they not count the first floor as a floor meaning I was on the second? So many questions raced through my mind that I couldn’t think straight. My hopes were rapidly diminishing until my friend’s words echoed in my ears, “It is so secretive that there is even a small hidden camera right outside the door”. My eyes quickly scanned the ceiling of the hallway until I saw it: A tiny camera perched above the door directly behind me.
Click. I swung open the door and was greeted by four death stares… and a bazillion DVDS!!! “Ni Hao” I said, quickly turning the death eyes into dollar signs as I was motioned to a table in the back of the room. When I say back of the room, I mean about 5 feet in front of me. This room was tiny, being no larger than the size of my bedroom, and as my friend said, there were no windows, no signs, nothing that would indicate that there was a DVD shop on the third floor of an old abandoned school. I quickly realized that I did indeed find a gold mine. Brand new movies (The Tourist, The Kings Speech, Black Swan) were quickly found as I began to start my collection. You can see from the picture below that Leah and I really found some good ones. They even had tons of old classics divided into categories. War movies, thrillers, you name it! Leah even got the whole back to the future trilogy that was conveniently rubber banded together for us.
They had documentaries, TV series, concert DVDs, and more. I grabbed as many as I had the cash for and rejoiced as I “checked out”. I put this into parentheses because checking out in places like this is showing the person with the large wad of cash how many of their widgets you are holding so they can motion to you how many yuan you owe. I gave her the 8$ that I owed and walked out, smiling ear to ear. It was a great start to the weekend and I am already looking forward to my next trip. Now the only mystery that remains is if these will work on a DVD player at home.