At the China Ball Hong Kong was always the belle, Shanghai the ambitious hussy, and Beijing the ugly sister who got stuck in traffic on the way. But all that is changing fast, and while her pollution problem is way bad, today she has more than enough spangles to keep you smiling.
The sheer scale of the city and its vast districts can be daunting, but taking Forbidden City as your centre, Temple of Heaven is due south, Houhai is northwest, Dongcheng and its old hutongs to the north and east. Chaoyang is further east still, and where most of the action is.
Need to Know
Weather: spring (Apr-May) is dry but pleasant with occasional sandstorms; summer (Jun-mid Sep) is like a moist oven; autumn (mid Sep-Nov) is delightful; your fridge will be warmer in winter (Dec-Mar)
Transport: Taxis are scarce (call/pre-order 96106), the best bet is to hire a car and driver – just don’t expect to get anywhere fast during rush hour…
Getting Around: Beijing street names can often seem meaningless, however, jie means street, lu and dao are road, dajie is avenue, xiang is alley, and hutong is an alley around trad courtyard houses, or a cluster of such houses
Cash Is King: Credit cards will often NOT do nicely, sir, except in hotels, larger stores and restaurants and have back-up cash, even if it says they take credit
Do: Expect plenty of spitting and staring, ugh!
Don’t: Avoid the use of public toilets like you would a night with Steven Seagal, but do carry tissues in the unfortunate event that you’re horridly caught short
Events: Chinese New Year (Jan/Feb) is the biggest holiday in the world – and in China’s cultural capital, many businesses shut for at least 10 days. Expect another mass exodus during Golden Week Holiday in Oct
Art n’ About: Mingle with the city’s artists and collectors – and a smattering of int’l creatives – at Art Beijing (also known as Contemporary Beijing) April-May
Strut City: Now a big player on the global fashion stage, China Fashion Week runs in Mar and Oct