Tonight, Beijing went wild.The music started. The acrobats appeared dancing dressed in jeweled Lycra. So many acts, so many contortions. Some hung from the ceiling, others jumped through hoops to form human towers. They piled high and flashed passed on moving bicycles. A woman dressed as a snake bent herself completely in half whilst balancing herself on one arm. I saw the human body do things in that dark room that no one should ever see.
Last night we went out close to the Worker’s Stadium. Surrounded by modern elegant glass sky scrappers and shops, it is here that expats and locals revel and drink into the early hours of the morning. What I had seen up until now had undoubtedly been an ordered, controlled and conservative state and peoples. Perhaps it was the heat or even a change of moon, I don’t know. But tonight we would see things which would rock my perception of China and its people to the core.
Steam was vented, shots and drinks were downed. From our dance floor we starred blurry eyed into the distance and saw many, many a party on the roof tops of the skyscrapers and through the penthouse windows where music and lights blared out. Strobes and electricity pulsed through the night air. The festivities and madness exposed itself to the stars, loud and visible from where we now stood but had just minutes before been hidden and hushed up. We were young and we were free. The children of the Revolution and tonight the night was ours.
Reggaeton and elektro-house, zombie cocktails that were so strong after a couple we could barely stand up. It was hot and the room and the heavens heaved with our activity. It was my friend Toni who had bought us here. He was a tennis player and we had lived and played together in Barcelona. Now he studies a masters in Beijing.We lived such parallel lives for a time and then our paths diverged. Tonight, we were reunited and for a brief moment our fates careered forwards once again on the same course.
In the early hours we found ourselves back down in the narrow streets. Sellers and food vendors cooked their meats and sizzled eggs on metal slabs. Red tuk- tuks waited patiently and offered their services to staggering groups. The party upstairs was wild but still sophisticated.
Down here, mixed with the earth, dust, the smoke, the litter and the dimness the wild grew wilder. Shouting broke out! Aggressive, loud! We heard a massive crash, glass breaking. Then another, high pitched against the droning back noise. It was all very hazy, a man stood erect in the street and aimed a full liquor bottle at an invisible target. He pulled his arm back and threw and then scuttled away. Out popped some heads from behind a car and another bottle was thrown from that direction at top speed – aimed to hit, aimed to hurt. This one smashed dangerously close and set off a car’s alarm. We drifted through this cloud of madness. A police car siren pierced our ears and in a puff of smoke all ran away and the scene dispersed as it was just part of a dream.
We ate chips and other things, but I can’t remember what they were. It was good, it was grimy. We sat outside and waited for our friend who had returned to the bar to try to locate his lost phone and wallet which he had only just noticed had disappeared. The workers started to pack everything up. It was late, even for this area of town. This was our queue to get going.
Taxi drivers turned down our custom left right and center. The combination of foreign, alcohol and a dodgy address was too much ,even if one of our party was half Chinese and spoke the language. It was getting light, we would have to walk back towards the bus stop and wait for the buses to start up. Our tiered party set off down the deserted boulevard. For us the night was over, we just wanted to get back into our beds and sleep. But somehow the madness and the revelry hadn’t quite finished. On he other side of the street construction workers started grappling. A girl looked on in horror, perhaps she had been the spark that had ignited the barrel. Spades were drawn. Really? Did that guy just hit the other guy with a giant spade? The moment felt surreal and it wasn’t the alcohol that made it that way.
We got caught between two stops when the first bus eventually passed us. By then we had been walking over an hour. When we got back to our hostel around 10am. We collapsed into the warm soft duvets and pillows and took the feet off our aching shoes. People were stirring from their slumber but we slept like logs and nothing could wake us. This little episode didn’t help our jet-lag and we woke up around 5pm to a smiling hotel receptionist who laughed and wished us good morning.