5 great things about life in BEIJING
When someone mentions Beijing a wide range of opinions, feelings, and images will spring to mind, from the sweeping historical landmarks of the Forbidden City and the Temple of Heaven, to the new buildings that symbolise a dynamic modern China, hugely influential in the modern world.
Here Ron Drisner, School Counsellor at Yew Chung International School, presents his personal Top 5 for the city, after 11 years living and working in Beijing.
When it comes to food, Beijing offers a veritable feast of choices. You can find Chinese food almost anywhere in the world, but nothing compares to the real deal! Peking duck, pork dumplings (jiaozi), Kung Pao chicken (gong bao ji ding), or the famous Beijing morning fried pancake snack (jian bing) – the list is endless.
Beijing offers inexhaustible opportunities to explore the incredible variety of Chinese cuisine, from very expensive and exclusive restaurants to street food sold from a mobile kitchen on a bicycle. Not only does Beijing offer the best of Chinese food, but of course the whole range of world cuisine is also on offer. The options are infinite!
Image: street food Beijing style
A WORLD OF SHOPPING
Shopping is famous in Beijing. Locations like the Silk Market have almost anything you could want or need. From toys to ‘knock off’ fashion clothing and jewelry, the Silk Market has literally everything, including a wide variety of goods made from the eponymous silk!
There’s also the ‘Dirt Market,’ which surprisingly doesn’t sell soil, but rather is a place to search out Chinese antiques, such as art, furniture, and old musical instruments. In fact, Beijing has a market for everything. There’s an eyeglasses market, several flower markets, a furniture market, many electronics markets, and much more. They’re all huge and offer plenty of opportunities for bartering!
Image: night market in Beijing
CENTRE OF THE ARTS
When one thinks of Art and Beijing, we’re not just talking about traditional art forms such as calligraphy or scroll paintings. Beijing has evolved into a burgeoning center for modern artists who are becoming world-renowned. Cai Guo-Qiang and Ai Weiwei have become leaders in the visual arts. The 798 Art District is an area exploding with creativity and is beginning to rank as one of Beijing’s top tourist destinations. 798 offers countless galleries and coffee shops, which make for a great getaway and an opportunity to see the creativity of modern China.
Image: a classic steam engine at the Ace Café in the 798 Art District
Beijing is a beautiful city with so many iconic buildings and landmarks that are recognizable the world over. Visually, there is much to see both architecturally and scenically. The one thing you can find, though, is that the longer you live in Beijing, the more you get into the routines of life and stop exploring – just like anywhere else. Everyone sees Tiananmen Square, the Summer Palace, the Forbidden City, the Temple of Heaven, and the Great Wall. These are all fantastic, but it’s then easy to stop there and think you’ve experienced Beijing.
However, there are so many amazing places beyond those classics to discover. Exploring Beijing’s parks and tree lined canals, and the Hu tongs (narrow alleys) of Old Beijing offers fresh beauty and adventure every time.
Image: a 'Hu tong' district of old Beijing
CULTURE TO LAST A LIFETIME
This should probably be my first pick, but I always like to save the best for last! For me, the greatest thing about living in Beijing is not the Chinese culture that you experience in museums or by reading books, but the culture that you interact with by living in the midst of it. It’s truly been an honour for the last 11 years to experience the language and the people at the centre of a civilization with 5000 years of continuous history. Beijing is a mind-expanding place, broadening your outlook on life and the world. The city of emperors, Marco Polo, and Mao Zedong really is a remarkable place.
Image: the Summer Palace
To search for Winter's schools in Beijing, please go to this link.
All images courtesy of iStock