Beijing is a fast changing city – a mixture of the imperial old town and the Olympic
new – with the new encroaching an the old at an incredible pace. The Capital is
home to many of China’s major tourist sites, including the Forbidden City, the
Temple of Heaven, Tiananmen Square, Beihai Park and the Summer Palace – as
well as a great number of ancient temples, the best of which is perhaps the Lama
Temple. The proximity of the Great Wall is also a draw, even for those with an
aversion to cities.
A stroll around the winding lanes, collectively known as hutongs, in the Houhai
area, north of Beijing is one of the city’s great pleasures, but one that may not be
around much longer due to the continual development of the area. Scores of the
world’s best architects have been allowed to use Beijing as their drawing board.
The cantilevered towers of China Central Television (CCTV)’ new headquarters,
Beijing capital International Airport Terminal 3, the National Centre for the
Performing Arts, Beijing National stadium (aka Bird’s Nest, 鸟巢) and National
Aquatics Centre (aka the Water Cube, 水立方) will go down as some of the early
21st century’s greatest achievements.
Although Beijing is not as chic as Shanghai, a stroll around the city’s flea markets
– in particular Panjiayuan – is far more enjoyable than an afternoon at Louis
Vuitton. And don’t forget the food – Peking duck reaches its apotheosis in the
capital, but try the hot pot, too.