When I decided to come here, I decided to be open to whatever culture or adventure I found, and to try as many new things as possible.
Before I left I rarely drank. I’d been drunk less than a handful of times. I’d never used any form of tobacco, and certainly no illicit drugs.
Beijing has a huge culture of drinking. Everyone does it and for every reason. Bars line my neighborhood streets selling beers for 3 quai (less than a dollar) or that give shots away, especially to women or foreigners. People carry open alcohol around on the street, taking swigs as if from water bottles, carousing on even the most serious of work nights. You can purchase a hookah in loud restaurants full of semi-drunk revelers. Cigarette smoke spills through the air, mixing with the more pleasant odor of cigars and the faintest whiff of weed. Music pours from every street corner, barely discernible over the sounds of cars and bikes honking at anyone who dares walk near the street, strangers bonding over a shared language barrier, food carts sizzling as the workers sell goods, merchants and shoppers and commuters and neighbors all slowly bustling one way or another, pushing through the thick crowds.
It’s vibrant and exciting, and I am here to sample it all.
So when I found myself, after work one evening, in a seedy bar dancing in my seat, I decided to throw caution to the wind and try the local culture. Tequila is my preferred poison, and I tossed back a few shots before grabbing the tube coming from the hookah on the table and taking a hit. It tasted like… coconut and smoke. It was a weird sensation, holding a flavor with no weight in my mouth and then watching it stream out like Caribbean scented dragon smoke. I’m not sure I got anything out of it. I don’t think I see the draw of it, but it didn’t linger painfully in my lungs the way I thought it might. I would certainly consider trying it again.