24 hours in Beijing
Written by Robert La Bua Illustration by Vinay Chhana
Think Beijing is a city of bureaucrats while Shanghai has all the fun?
Think again. As China rises to assume its place among the planet’s most powerful nations, so too does Beijing emerge as one of the world’s great cities for visitor enjoyment. While the Forbidden City and 798 Dashanzi Arts District are by now well-known to those planning a visit to the Chinese capital, Beijing offers surprisingly personal travel experiences amidst its architecturally daring glass skyscrapers. Where else would you stumble across a cricket market – the insects, not the sport – or see Mao Zedong’s famous portrait from the back of a European luxury sedan? Catch Mao in the right light and his face almost seems to contort with incredulity; in 21st-century China, that happens to a lot of people.
Strolling the streets in a neighbourhood of your choice allows for stops in shops and unexpected detours down atmospheric lanes (hutongs).
Beijing’s extensive subway system beats the traffic with an astonishingly frequent service. Rides are a bargain at RMB 2 regardless of distance travelled.
Taxis in China are inexpensive and plentiful. Have both the destination and the hotel’s address for the return written in Chinese to show the drivers.
Want to see Beijing in style? Guests staying at The Opposite House can hire the hotel’s in-house Maserati Quattroporte for use anywhere in the city.
Not advised for the timid, the city is almost dead-flat, and bicycle lanes are everywhere. Rent one for around RMB 500, or buy one for only RMB 250.
Rent a classic 1930s-style motorbike and sidecar, or be taken around on a tour through the hutongs and on to the Great Wall.