The Best of Beijing: part 2
From bars to blockbuster sights, CD Traveller helps you plan your trip to the world’s hottest destination
After dark continued
For a tamer time, catch a performance of Peking Opera – Beijing’s oldest art form – or try TCM (traditional Chinese Medicine) at a soothing spa such as Dragonfly, which is open until 1am. TCM aims to balance your yin and yang and ward off disease and illness through a combination of nutrition, exercise and treatments such as acupuncture (where fine needles are inserted into the skin), moxibustion (an alternative to acupuncture which involves a therapist moving a heated cup of herbs above your body), mediation and traditional Chinese massage. The latter, sometimes referred to as tui na, isn’t exactly pain free: a therapist locates your pressure points and then vigorously kneads out any knots. But persevere as a few days, on you’ll feel fabulous!
Wangfujing Dajie is Beijing’s trendiest shopping street. The pedestrian only shopping strip is lined with department stores competing for your kuai. Sound too much like civilization? Seek out the Silk Market or Yashow where industrious bootleggers will be happy to test your conscience by offering DVDs of Hollywood blockbusters long before they hit screens in the States for RMB12 (approximately £1.20). Here (provided you’re prepared to haggle hard, you can pick up a pair of shoes for the price of a pizza. Finally, if you’re in Beijing on a Saturday or Sunday, head for the colourful Panjiayuan Antique Market – a photographer’s dream.
If you choose just one excursion, go to the Great Wall. Only a few places on earth are more mesmerisng in the flesh, than on the postcard and the Great Wall – the symbol of China – is one of them. As one of the Seven Wonders of the World, the Great Wall is a crowd pleaser alright, but that’s the problem: it’s crowded. To avoid the crowds, visit on a weekday in winter and skip the Badaling section of the Great Wall and make for Mutianyu.
Best kept secret
Beijing adores the body beautiful and that demands a devotion to exercise. The city is punctuated with parks and if you really want to tune into the Beijing vibe, start your day by practicing Thai Chi in Ritan Park – one of Beijing’s prettiest parks. For most Beijingers, the parks are akin to a second home – a place to socialize, relax and stay fit.
Walking is the best way to see the city. Everywhere has something of interest, but keep your wits about you: traffic is chaotic and aggressive and pedestrians occupy the bottom rung in the hierarchy of Beijing road users, below bicycles, buses, tuks tuks and cars. Alternatively use the subway which is cheap, clean, efficient and easy to use, or take a taxi. Drivers don’t speak English, which can prove problematic, but they are inexpensive and (unless it’s raining) in plentiful supply.
For the perfect blend of style and substance, check into the Ritz-Carlton, Financial Street (http://www.ritzcarlton.com/en/Properties/BeijingFinancialStreet/Default.htm). The finish is five star slick from the smart bar to the high spec spa, fluffy white duvets, spacious bathrooms replete with wonderfully powerful showers and serious service values. An oasis of calm in a go-go city, the Ritz-Carlton, Financial Street is ideal if you’re after privacy and in search of a peaceful retreat far from the madding crowds but well placed for the sights of the centre of town.