Beijing Backpacking, Day 19: The Everyday in An Attraction

MANY CITIES HAVE made a clear delineation between ‘public’ areas and ‘tourist attractions’. The entry fees, the price gouging and hoards of tourists that come in such high volumes so as to destroy the ambience and atmosphere that you would associate with the long history of a famous site. At any time after 10:00 a.m., … More Beijing Backpacking, Day 19: The Everyday in An Attraction

Beijing Backpacking, Day 18: Art, Freedom vs. Identity?

YESTERDAY I EXPLORED how much music is a universal language in the bars of Guloudajie. As with music anywhere, music challenges my perceptions. But there is no perception about China that has challenged me so far as much as its art scene. I’m referring, of course, to Beijing’s fabled art district, known colloquially as ‘798’, … More Beijing Backpacking, Day 18: Art, Freedom vs. Identity?

Beijing Backpacking, Day 17: Regardless of the Contrast, Music is The Universal Language

MUSIC IS MY catharsis. Wherever I go, it is the bridge between experiencing the local culture and globalisation, the authentically local and the familiar. I’ve made it a habit to visit a music bar at least once, preferably at least twice, wherever I go. Often the genres are very similar: rock, classical, jazz; with the … More Beijing Backpacking, Day 17: Regardless of the Contrast, Music is The Universal Language

Beijing Backpacking, Day 16: When The Sky Is Blue, Where The Sky Is Blue

AIR POLLUTION SEEMS to be a hallmark of Beijing that regularly makes the news. To be fair, it has its good days and particularly bad days. It’s also aggravated in summer, where haze can lock in the stickiness or humidity – and it’s a humidity different from that which you would find in coastal areas … More Beijing Backpacking, Day 16: When The Sky Is Blue, Where The Sky Is Blue

Beijing Backpacking, Day 15: Somewhere Between West and East, in the Middle of Tradition

Last week I went full circle on food between Western and Chinese, in formats old and new. But even for a country like China where tradition dies hard, there is no escape from the clutch of globalisation. Bit unlike the pure Western influence that may comes from unabashed Western cuisine in a tourist area behind … More Beijing Backpacking, Day 15: Somewhere Between West and East, in the Middle of Tradition

Beijing Backpacking, Day 14: What’s Wrong With This Picture?

DESPITE THE PERCEPTIONS foreigners have of the Great Firewall of China, things get around pretty quickly. Especially if you’re in the middle of the part of Beijing known for its global brands and expatriate bars. There is an endless array of gimmicks and pop culture references in the Sanlitun area that make their way to … More Beijing Backpacking, Day 14: What’s Wrong With This Picture?

Beijing Backpacking, Day 13: A View From The New Top

THERE’S NO ESCAPING the advent of new wealth in China. It’s a characteristic of almost any emerging market that new developments dot the skyline. But it’s also a characteristic that authorities, or at least some major developers, have specific plots of land some distance from the traditional city centre where much of this new development … More Beijing Backpacking, Day 13: A View From The New Top

Beijing Backpacking, Day 12: What’s A Touristy Area Like Before Tourists?

I HAD TO head to Wangfujing early on a Sunday morning to meet a friend visiting from overseas. The location is hardly anything new – Wangfujing is known for its upmarket (read: global brands) retail, and consequently, tourists flock here, and the hotel chains that cater to them do so too. But while Wangfujing bustles … More Beijing Backpacking, Day 12: What’s A Touristy Area Like Before Tourists?

Beijing Backpacking, Day 11: Another Brick in The Wall

IT’S A TWO-AND-A-HALF hour drive to the Simatai section of the Great Wall from Beijing. My friends and I opted for this longer and considerably more expensive trek as the closer Badaling section attracts more tourists and gives less variety. And to be fair, this section was no less awesome than expected – it went … More Beijing Backpacking, Day 11: Another Brick in The Wall

Beijing Backpacking, Day 10: From The Old To The New, Real To The Manufactured

YESTERDAY I GOT a glimpse of how architectural contrasts provide unique insight into a city’s history. Today, I was blessed for the opportunity to have local friends take me to their Beijing. There’s a certain exoticism you’d think of, considering the cultural differences between you and the locals you meet. But as fellow young people, … More Beijing Backpacking, Day 10: From The Old To The New, Real To The Manufactured