posted by Stephanie in Gypsetters Guide
Why Go: From the vast, lush green lined highways to the immense Tiananmen Square to the historical, jaw dropping Forbidden City and the awe inspiring modern architecture, Beijing has truly affirmed itself as a modern day imperial city, bustling with energy stemming from the exciting synergy of old and new. Only 4 ½ hours from Manila, Beijing is a wonderful getaway place for a long weekend!
What to pack: I couldn’t help but be inspired by the surroundings and Chinese contemporary art. My suitcase carried a palette of black and white, with pops of red, fuchsia and orange. I picked up a great souvenir hat along the way and wore it with pride, shading myself from the hot sun as we scaled The Great Wall. Bring clothes that are urban and chic but easy to walk around in plus comfy shoes for sightseeing. Feel free to get a little more polished at night, there are some really elegant joints around town.
Love/Lust: We couldn’t have asked for a better place to stay, although when we went to the Temple Restaurant they did tell us that it was just about to open a luxury hotel within the temple walls. How amazing would that be to stay in a 600 year old temple? The Temple Hotel
Stay: Hotel Éclat is housed in the stunning Parkview Green Fangcaodi in Beijing’s Central Business district. The pyramid like glass and steel structure is more art gallery than commercial building, offering an impressive collection of contemporary art including pieces by world renowned artists such as Salvador Dali and Andy Warhol and chinese contemporary artists like Wang Luyan and Zhao Lei. The lobby alone is stunning, with a glass installation ceiling then leading to the leveators is a large atrium filled with oversized sculptures. The hallways are done up like vintage hutongs, in welcome contrast to the ultra modern interiors. Each room is decked out with uniquely curated pieces and service is truly impeccable. The front desk can assure any last minute reservations or bookings in a snap of a finger. For those wanting to splurge, book a room with a pool. Hotel Éclat , Parkview Green Fangcaodi, 9 DongDaQuiao Road, Chaoyang District, Beijing;
Eat: Shao Mai – Perfect for lunch, these morsels of pork or spinach bundled in wheat flour wrappers are exploding with flavor. Slightly crisp on top and juicy in the center, they are very different from our usual convenience store siomai. There are no menus in English nor menus with photos so best to linger a little and point to what the other tables are eating. Du Yi Chu Shao Mai, Qianmen Xi Jie, Chong Wen District, Beijing Duck de Chine 1949 – Located in a reconverted factory, this beautiful restaurant serves an impeccable peking duck. Other highlights are the crispy abalone mushrooms and chili grilled eggplant. High ceilings, old brick walls, soft lighting and retro French music, set the scene for a very Suzy Wong ambience. Don’t miss out on the buy one take one special on Champagne. Duck de Chine 1949 Club, No. 98 Jinbao Street, Dongcheng District, Beijing Temple Restaurant – Definitely a must go. Set in a 600 year old Buddhist temple complex, the mid-century modern structure floats serenely amidst the ornate surroundings. The intercontinental menu is infused with Asian sensibilities and the wine list is up to par with the elegant surroundings. The lobster with Thai curry is a dream. Tender sweet morsels of crustacean nestled in a pool of rich and fragrant curry, offset by a beautiful mineral Riesling and perfect service. Head to the bar, where part of the old structure is incorporated in the décor. Charlie, the bartender will make sure you’ve had your fill of the powerful eaux de vies!
Drink: Mesh There is definitely no shortage of places to go on Sanlitun Bar Street but the city’s glitterati and chic set head to the Opposite House’s trendy bar – Mesh. Modern and sleek interiors, well made cocktails and loungey house music make for the perfect nightcap.
*Writer’s Note: Don’t miss out on the great noodles over by the foot of The Great Wall at Mitianyu! Roadside, cheap and absolutely delish with some cold Tsing Tao Beer!
Do: Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City – No trip to Beijing is complete without a visit to these two iconic sites. Stand in the middle of the square and bask in the sheer vastness of it all. Head to the Forbidden City to wander about casually and get lost in the moment. The earlier you come the better it is to get a feel of the old city without too many people. 798 Art Zone – Also known as the Dashanzi Art District, an old factory building serves as a home for the capital’s best contemporary artists. Best to take a cab to get there as this sprawling City is definitely not made for walking…. CCTV Headquarters Building – Not far from Hotel Éclat is the famous China Central Television Headquarters building. The jaw-dropping 44 storey architectural feat is designed by Rem Koolhaas and Ole Scheeren in collaboration with Arup for the structural engineering. The two main buildings are joined by a suspended corner radically changing the concept of “corner office.” The Great Wall Mutianyu – Although it will take you at least an hour and a half to get there, the sheer beauty and architectural achievement that is the Great Wall is worth the trip. Avoid the hoards of people visiting at Badaling and go to the less crowded, nature park of Mutianyu. The beautiful wall snakes up and down the mountain range through large overgrown trees…
Shop: BNC – Brand New China houses a great selection of local designers for trendy accessories, jewelry, shoes, bags and apparel. Owner Hung Huang, would like to stress the fact that now “made in China” is no longer a sign poor manufacture but a stamp of high quality. BNC B1/F, NLG-09A, Sanlitun Village North, Sanlitun Lu, Chaoyang District, Beijing
OST: Listen to some good asian lounge ala Buddha Bar or Beijing Lounge that mix up traditional music with electronic beats to echo the interesting old/new vibe of the city.
Reading Material: 1421 The Year China Discovered The World by Gavin Menzies is a good start to get a feel of how important this civilization truly is in history. The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck published in 1931 gives a glimpse into the life of different classes of Chinese society, both urban and rural. And for something light, easy and contemporary, though not exactly set in China, Kevin Kwan’s Crazy Rich Asians allows readers into the lavish world of the rising uber-wealthy families born out of the Chinese diaspora across Asia.
Season: We went on the very last few days of August and first few days of September. The weather was spectacular! The sun was shining, the sky was blue, the breeze was cool… I couldn’t believe it’s supposed to be one of the most polluted cities in the world. Make sure to check the weather forecast or else risk staying indoors to avoid the smog. Late summer, early autumn always seems promising.
In the know: Beijing is a really vast city, move around with purpose as aimless wandering can leave you truly lost and desperate for a cab during rush hour. Have your hotel write down the names of the destinations you’d like to go to in Chinese, consequently ALWAYS have your hotel name written in Chinese.
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We are two friends who were former magazine editors. Having moved onto other things, we both realized that the creative flow the publishing world used to offer us was missing from our lives. Armed with a common love of travel to the exotic and familiar, a penchant for the bohemian, an obsession with food and a lust for writing, we decided to collaborate our unique and fashionable journeys through life together in one passion project.
We are The Gypsetters.