Hotel: City Walls Hostel
No.57, NianZi HuTong, JingShanHouJie, DongCheng District, http://www.beijingcitywalls.com/
It may be true that old Beijing is rapidly disappearing; however, a few traditional pockets still remain throughout the modern city that evoke its old Chinese charm – these are the Hutongs. The Hutongs are the traditional style of housing in Beijing, consisting of narrow little streets lined with doors and high walls that conceal courtyard style homes that house entire extended families. They may look rustic from the outside, but inside they are each a private oasis.
Through hotelworld.com I booked the most fabulous hostel I have probably ever stayed at on any of my globetrotting adventures. Situated in a centrally located but hard to find area near the Forbidden City (get directions written in Chinese before arriving), Sitting on the Walls is a beautifully renovated brand new hostel oozing with feng shui and a friendly atmosphere. It is very clean, it is run by ridiculously friendly and helpful staff, attracts a nice crowd of people, serves great food, doesn’t get too rowdy, and is home to a really adorable little pooch. Most of all it just looks super cool! They have very affordable dorm style rooms with bunk beds and private double bed accommodation at a slightly higher price. All rooms have an ensuite bathroom, with a western toilet I may add, which is somewhat of a luxury in China. Just remember, you came to Beijing to see the city, not to hang around your ultra magnifico hostel, so do force yourself to venture out from this peaceful abode for at least a few hours each day.
Restaurant: Noodle Loft (Mian Ku Shanxi Shiyi)
No. 20 Dawang Road, Chaoyang District, http://www.fro
Thanks to the eternally grumpy Anthony Bourdain I discovered this trendy but cheap Chinese restaurant. Due to to my horrendous directions I nearly gave up on ever finding this eccentric noodle house extraordinaire, but I’m glad my persistence paid off and I got to experience the 30 ft noodle myself. Sit back, relax and watch the chefs in the open kitchen (bottom floor) make your noodle-y dishes with big knives, chopsticks and wild arm movements. From the looks of it, I bet it all tastes good. I ordered and loved the 30 ft long noodle with a spicy aubergine sauce and the caramel covered sweet potatoes (so delish if you have a major sweet tooth – dip in accompanied water dish before eating to cool). Not to be left out, the servers were nice and the food arrived quickly. Three thumbs up!
Cafe: Confucius Teahouse
28 Guozijian Street, Andingmen Wai Dajie, Dongcheng district, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/travel/asia/china/1586231/Beijing-travel-guide-teashops-and-nightlife.html
I have a theory that travel is most enjoyable when you get to pair each cultural visit of the day with a little nibble of local cuisine or a break at a nice cafe. In my family we call this the “un chateau, un gateau” principle. Besides, it helps prevent that bothersome sore feet syndrome that seems to creep up on tourists. On one such afternoon in Beijing, after visiting both the Lama Temple and the Confucius temple, my friend and I decided that no trip to China would be complete without experiencing an authentic Chinese tea ceremony. We chose the Confucius Teahouse across the street from the Confucius Temple, aka the best, most serene tea place in town, for our little repose. Served by a gracious young girl, we were taken through the steps of the ceremony and got to drink to two delicate green teas that we had selected beforehand. They also serve funny little traditional cakes to enjoy with your tea and, drum roll please, they have a really nice western toilet. Last but not least, the teahouse isn’t very pricey. It is a great place to seek refuge from the bustling city outside and a must-stop on your itinerary.
Culture: Around Beijing
This is my list of must-see attractions in Beijing that every first-time tourist here should see. The Forbidden city, the Great Wall, Lama Temple, Confucius Temple, Temple of Heaven, Summer Palace, Jingshan Park and Beihan Park. If you are looking to buy anything, visit the Pearl Market and don’t forget to bargain. You should never have to pay more than 25% of the initial offered price. Zaichien! (Goodbye!)