• Alexandra Sieh / For the Colorado Daily

    A peach daiquiri over at Roots, a reggae bar near the Houhai Lakes that claims a Class A Latin house band. China can be a real head-scratcher sometimes.

  • Alexandra Sieh / For the Colorado Daily

    Alex Sieh



When the lights came on, I blinked. We’d been dancing in the dark for an hour, and as Charlie Puth finished his chorus, I was truly lost to the music.

“Thanks, everyone, for an excellent night,” the event organizer announced. We’d spent the last hour dancing to a playlist ranging from Michael Jackson to a Chinese pop star named Wookie. Thanks to my sweet dance moves and a slight sweat I’d gained on the dance floor, my scarf was on a banister nearby. I’d wanted to discard my shrug but worried my tanless, almost translucent skin would detract from a purposefully dark setting.

As we gathered our things, I smiled. Unlike nights I’d spent at the clubs in my Wudaokuo neighborhood, I’d leave without having ingested copious amounts of alcohol. No man tried to bump rumps. No cliched techno beat drove the masses to mosh until you weren’t sure whose sweat you had on you.

This was an hour to dance — however poorly — surrounded by nothing but great music and darkness. Pitch the coordinators 50 kuai, all donated to a great cause, and you could dance your ass off with no judgment for meters.

Thank goodness No Lights No Lycra had arrived in Beijing.

Of course, this was just one of many nights out I’d found to blend Western bar life with Chinese … ness.

The craft breweries, as delicious as they were compared to my towers upon towers of Tsingtao, were distinctly Chinese. 京A (JingA) had great beer, advertised through Chinese translation on their menu.

Dancing at Sensations nightclub, I lose myself to Drake’s latest beats only to be brought back to reality by a banana-eating contest (a moment I won’t describe, much to the chagrin of my male readers), that’s followed by a medley of Chinese rap.

Any night spent at Lush or Steps Bar is a night where we puff on shisha (hookah), sip discounted Yanjing and try to ignore the blatant English typos on the menus. Chinese language whirls around your ears until it’s almost unnatural to say “Thank you” instead of “谢谢” (xie xie) upon drunkenly stumbling out of the bar.

As typical as I’d found life here now, further review made clear how perfectly not typical it all was. I mean, this was a major international city where I could roam the streets with a tall bottle of beer in each hand, drinking and laughing loudly at whatever time of day I found suitable for alcohol consumption. As lovely as I found Boulder, it wouldn’t let me step into my own parking lot with a brew without fearing the po-po would sweep in, slap the pale ale out of my hand and haul me in, all the while pleading the (drunken) fifth.

Beijing was a city where I went clubbing in the same outfit I would teach in earlier that day. Back home, it was ample eyeliner or bust when it came to Absinthe House.

Here, I hopped from bar to brewery to club, wearing whatever the hell I’d brought with me, never giving a second thought to my teacher sweater or lack of makeup. No one cared for miles, and that suited this booze-loving lass just fine.

You can take the girl out of the Colorado nightlife scene, but you can’t take the Beer Girl out of the bar.

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