The Peking duck and the Beijing dust live up to the hype. See it before it disappears.
Every traveler you’ll meet in Beijing can tell you what they love and hate about this bustling, monstrous concrete leviathan sprawling over the northern Chinese dusts. Cursed with noxious fumes, a history of malevolent dictators, and foul weather potent enough to make even Londoners count their blessings, the city formerly known as Peking is guaranteed to elicit some sort of reaction from everyone. Visiting Beijing is an exercise in endurance.
What makes it worth the patience is that Beijing is happening right now. Perhaps no other major city in the world encapsulates the dynamic changes taking place in our rapidly globalizing world. Massive cranes propel buildings into the sky rising up from the leveled remains of ancient hutongs. Medicine shops a millenium old have been replaced by KFCs. Each day thousands of new automobiles hit the ring roads circling the city. The shopping malls even have Christmas trees.
The 2008 Olympics have generated a swarm of worldwide media coverage and criticism about the communist party’s policies. New infrastructure such as additional subway lines claim to be able to accommodate the expected million extra visitors. Never before has a city been rebuilt on such a scale.
The neighborhoods in Beijing are fun to explore, although it usually needs to be by taxi given the wide streets. Expats, diplomat types and lawyers can be seen in trendy, international Chaoyang. Haidian district is where you’ll find the techie types and world famous universities. The student scene does the bar crawl in nearby Wudaoko.
Beijing might overwhelm you with the smog, crowds and grub, but after wheeling and dealing for pirated goods you can enjoy an excellent 2 hour foot massage and be happy about the bargains you’ve found.