From Tiananmen Square and the Great Wall to the Forbidden City, Beijing explodes with culturally and historically significant sites. However, as a 20-something hipster, you might not be particularly interested in exploring any of these time-honoured, touristy locations. It’s possible to enjoy a unique modern holiday in this ancient city, and if you’re not initially convinced, you will be after learning about some of the most intriguing — and downright bizarre — destinations in Beijing.
Strange Treats at the Street Markets
You can’t throw a rock in most of Beijing’s districts without hitting a lively street market. Yes, many of the vendors sell wares that seem tailor-made for your parents or grandparents, but there are a handful offering treats definitely not intended for weak stomachs. Skip the noodles and dumplings at the Wangfujing night market and instead dare yourself to eat the strangest food you can find. For around 20 yuan, you can sample four baby scorpions cooked to perfection and skewered on a bamboo stick. Once you’ve snapped a few photos of your best friend gagging in disgust, keep going and you’ll find similarly bizarre delights, including snake.
From Montreal and Paris to Sydney and Singapore, the majority of capital cities feature museums dedicated to and in honor of anything and everything that’s culturally significant. For the most part, the works housed inside are displayed in a positive light, but Beijing’s Anti-Japanese Museum isn’t your mother’s repository for a reason. Built to honor the soldiers who perished defending China against invading Japanese armies, the Anti-Japanese Museum provides a unique take on a tragic chapter of China’s history.
When in Beijing, do as the locals do, because in this town, karaoke is more than a fun way to embarrass your friends — it’s a way of life. You’ll notice some of the best pubs and tightly packed nightclubs are centered on karaoke machines. The pastime is serious sport in Beijing, so if you’re planning to take a turn on the microphone, do yourself a favor and spend a few minutes warming up your vocals chords, because the competition is fierce.
Known to the locals as “back lake,” Houhai Lake is arguably the coolest outdoor space in Beijing. The area gained this distinction for two reasons. First, there is a huge concentration of restaurants, bars, pubs, coffee shops and high-end boutiques in the area. Second, many young residents spend their afternoons biking and walking the cobblestone pathways. If you’re feeling saucy, go ahead and rent a bicycle-built-for-two-or-three from any of the park’s many vendors. The bikes might seem wobbly, but you’ll have a great time trying to balance your coffee while you encourage your friends to keep peddling.
The Emperor Hotel
Considered one of the best Beijing hotels, The Emperor Hotel is a trendy, modern spot that stands in stark contrast to the nearby austere Forbidden City. Built in 2008, the hotel isn’t cheap and probably won’t fit into your limited budget, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the proverbial cherry on the top of this beautiful structure. Overlooking the eight-million-square-foot Forbidden City, you’ll find Yin Bar on the hotel’s roof. The panoramic views are breathtaking, and if you’re in the mood, consider one or many of the bar’s signature drinks.
Once you’ve checked out these Beijing hotspots, throw on a pair of heels or sneakers and hit the many nightclubs and pubs scattered throughout the city. Just beware of a liquor called “baijiu.” Otherwise known as “white liquor,” baijiu is a strong beverage and definitely not something to sample if you’re planning to catch an early flight the next morning.
What’s the number one thing you’d see or do when in Beijing?
About the Author: Contributing writer Cindy Meyers lives in Auckland. She’s planning a trip to Beijing next March and hopes to sing her lungs out at her favorite karaoke bar. Cindy encourages travellers to reserve Beijing hotels on Expedia to get the best rates.
Image from Flickr’s Creative Commons