Forbidden pleasures

A little over a month ago I visited the Starbucks in the Forbidden City in Beijing. I was mildly embarrassed about doing so, but it was, a local friend had told me beforehand, ‘a godsend’. So I thought I could go proudly, celebrating the success of the free market over the surrounding communism… And so I paid standard global Starbucks prices for my cup of coffee. The following day, my friend and I had a delicious meal for two, with large Tsing Tao beers, at an (admittedly very primitive) back-street cafe, for substantially less than one of my cups of coffee. OK, I admit it – I had two. And they were, indeed, a godsend.

And now it’s gone. It was, actually, very discreet; I had a hard time finding it and I knew it was there. But even that was too much, apparently; everything in Beijing is being ‘tidied up’ in preparation for the Olympics and I guess this may have been a casualty.

But frankly, for any country, hosting the Olympics seems like a much bigger folly to me than hosting Starbucks…

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