As soon as we land and get off the Airchina number 944, I recognize the acrid mixture of Gobi desert’s sand and pollution from the factories that surround the capital.
“Nice to meet you again Beijing,” I think.
I could get a cab, but instead I walk till the Airport Express train that, I know, will only cost me 27 kuai.
An hour later, I’m at 魏公村 (Wèi Gōng Cūn) subway station.
Two years had passed since last time I was in West Beijing and I admit I’m a bit thrilled.
I climb the stairs till the exit D, cross the street trying to do not get knocked down by a random taxi driver – I had forgot how Beijing traffic is, – turn right and walk West through Wei Gong Cun Road. I pass by the Wang Ba – an Internet Cafe where you cannot get any coffee – and the red light massage shop, with the girls in pink underwear that play with their phone or check over and over again their make up while waiting for customers.
Poor girls, they always seem so bored.
Then I turn left: I’m arrived at 民族大学西路 (Mínzú Dàxué Xī Road), a small street named after Mingzu Daxue, the University of Ethnic Minorities. I keep walking and I notice that a new Japanese restaurant has opened while the old supermarket that seemed to only sell plastic flip flops and blue mops has been replaced by a shiny Korean store that promises you the best soju – the drink from South Korea that tastes as Absolut Vodka with Seven Up – in town, even if I bet it’s the same soju you can find in any corner of 五道口 (Wǔdàokǒu), the Korean neighborhood located three subway stations North from here.
Luckily the málà tàng fànguǎnr, an eating house that only serves the spicy soup from Chongqing, and the Old Bike, the glorious Western Bar where we used to drink way too much Carlsberg, are still there.
I feel better now.
What a shame I have no time for a beer today, it would be interesting to discover how many of the old waitresses are still working there and – more important – how many of them remember me!
I cannot avoid to notice the massive garbage collecting point beside the back door of 北外 (Běiwài University) that emits night and day a grey liquid that smells of death and, just across the road, one of my favorite spots. I’m talking about the tiny Lanzhou’s 拉面 (lāmiàn) restaurant, where an old woman from Gansu province cooks the only noodles (that is “lamian“) that can compete with a plate of Italian spaghetti.
But no time for lamian today!
I keep going till I spot 西瓜 (xīguā) Man, as we used to call him (xigua means watermelon, we never put too much effort on finding nicknames) and the open air barbecue, where a guy that most luckily speaks ئۇيغۇرچە (Uyghur) and comes from Kashgar will keep roasting lamb barbecues till three a.m.
Then I call Sergio:
“Hola donde andan?“
“En la casa!“
“Bien, ya voy llegando…“
And I leave Minzu Daxue Xi Road without even trying a kebab…