Five Places to Start your Adventure in Beijing
Beijing is one of the most interesting, exciting, fun, and easily accessible cities in the world. In fact, you would be hard pressed not to find something cool to do here. But for the sake of convenience I’m going to do you a favor and narrow it down to five easy places to start.
- The Forbidden City
There are palaces and there is this place. I have visited towns in China smaller than this place. Located in the dead center of the city and within walking distance of several other amazing sites like Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City is maybe the coolest historical place I visited in Beijing with over the top ancient architecture, perfectly manicured gardens, endless miles of beautiful tiled roofs, and more bricks than you can bat an eye at. You’ll be left wondering which is more amazing, the fact that this is one of the marvels of the world or that all of it was built for one guy.
2. The Great Wall
When I was a kid I wanted to see a couple things in my life, the pyramids of Egypt, a person ramp a motorcycle of 50 cars, and the Great Wall. Now as a man I’ve at least had the chance to see one of these babies, and that of course is the Great Wall. Not to say I won’t see the others, they are coming, but back to the point, the Great Wall is not as centrally located as the Forbidden City, but with a cheap bus ticket to the north of the city you are in business. You’re gonna want to get your cardio up a bit before you go, because climbing around is not a walk in the park in every section. In some parts you may literally have to follow a path up the side of a small mountain. However, if you are less than in tiptop condition there are cable cars that can usually take you up to the top in many locations. Whichever way you choose to get up, the view from the top if all you are going to remember. From some parts you can see the wall disappear for miles into the hills, which is also a reason it is one of the few manmade structures you can see from space and additionally one of the wonders of the world. Not to shabby.
3. The Hutongs
Not everything in Beijing is an ancient wonder constructed by the greatest designers in Chinese history, some things are more full of small conveniences. If you are in search of culture, adventure, and a little bit of fun I recommend the hutongs. What is a hutong you ask? A hutong is an alley or narrow street lined with traditional looking Chinese residences. Many people consider them the grassroots part of the city which makes them culturally and historically a worthwhile see. In the modern era with the rise of capitalism the hutongs have taken a somewhat modern turn making them prime locations for independently owned trendy clothing shops, super hips bars, restaurants, and even a hidden micro-brewery. So take some time to wander down a hutong and find the rich hidden culture you might not see on the main streets of Beijing.
4. The Olympic Village
The 2008 Olympics left their mark for all time on history with performances like those of Michael Phelps and Usain Bolt. But there was one thing even greater than the feats of the individual athletes and their countries and it was that of the unreal hosting by China in Beijing. When the Chinese government spent over a billion dollars on the Olympics you had no choice to be awed by immense show of the opening ceremonies, the Birds Nest, and the Cube. Well, you may not have been able to make the Olympics, however you can still go check out the Olympic Village. The Village, including the Olympic Torch, the Cube, and the Bird’s Nest, is aesthetically a mind-blowing experience in architecture and culture. You really feel like you are at the 08’ games. A good tip is to go at sunset, that way you get to take pics of the Village during the day, but once the sun goes down and the lights go up on the Stadium and the Cube begins to glow you’ll be glad you got to see the change.
5. Get your Eat on at Ghost Street
China is one of the most ancient civilizations and is known for bringing many developments and wonders to the world throughout time, but admittedly my favorite is their food. If you have to go one place to et your grub on my recommendation is the famous Ghost Street, known to the locals as Gui Jie. You can go in pretty much any culinary direction from the famous Sichuan hot pot, to a basket of tender dumplings, and to the best Peking Duck in the entire world. The atmosphere is amazing with over a 100 restaurants and thousands of glowing lanterns hanging the length of the road. The only thing haunting about this place is how damn good the food is.
Now you have five very solid points to start your epic adventure in Beijing! May the soles of you shoes be thick, your stomach strong for the spicy hotpot, and your camera battery fully charged!
Next entry: How to train Muay Thai in Bangkok, Thailand.
Previous entry: Best Sporting Events to See in Foreign Countries