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Beijing’s Nightlife (北京的夜生活)

In 1999, if you wanted to party in Beijing, Sanlitun (三里屯) was to place to be. The Embassy district was home to a bunch of Nightclubs, Western-style restaurants and a lot of action.

But Sanlitun changed. We did find the “Bar Street” (三里屯酒吧街) but I found it quite dark and depressing, not to mention seedy. Seeing “Lady Bars”, girls and a few pimps — right besides the Embassy compound — confirmed me in my first impression. This wasn’t my Sanlitun. This wasn’t the place where I had so much going to disco at barely 16. This wasn’t where I danced all night long, went bowling, munched on Wester food because I was sick and tired of eating rice.

We accidentally discovered the new heart of Beijing’s nightlife a few days later, walking around the Old Beijing. Most of the trendy bars are now in Hou Hai (后海), by Beihai. Bars, discos, restaurants and night markets are set around the lakes. It’s busy yet friendly and the lakes, in which the lights reflect beautifully, bring a cool breeze. The place was a weird mix of old and new. We walked through a few Hutong (small traditional alleys) to get there, but we spotted a Starbucks and a lot of Budweiser signs. Calligraphy brushes were displayed for sale right by the usual Culture Revolution memorabilias… and next to (fake) brand new Iphones! Once again, these are the many sides of Beijing…

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