Leisure and Entertainment

There may be many reasons to avoid walking in Beijing: the pollution, the traffic, the convenience of taking a cab (although less and less so). But there are perhaps just as many reasons to take a walk, if not more. After all, it’s city planning, man.

Unless you are strolling down the Houhai Hutongs with the love of your life by your side, a perfect Beijing summer night always involves riding a bicycle. Let’s also get the scenario straight: We are not talking about going to the club or getting wasted in 三里屯. Neither are we talking about eating a fancy meal (perhaps, God forbid, even western) and watching a movie. This is about enjoying the real Beijing, perhaps as real as it will ever get for someone who was not born here.

The Korean (always in reference to South Koreans) districts of Beijing are situated to the north east (望京) and north west (五道口) of the city. This is due to two very pragmatic reasons: the north east features most of the Beijing universities, such as Beijing University, Beijing Language and Culture University, Qinghua University etc. The north west features the airport.

A first class tourist magnet, Wangfujing tries to cater to the casual visitor's needs by trying to be everything one may imagine when thinking of China: pungent and exotic street foods, loads of people, historic architecture, tourist memorabilia and guys and gals running around in traditional attire for tourist bemusement.

What used to be a military factory complex during the Cold War has been turned into an art community that has gained worldwide acclaim. The pure size of the area is impressive by any standard but it must be said that PR genius and the rise of China have played into the hands of the local artists, dealers and other stakeholders that are pulling the strings.

East of the Drum and Bell Towers and Houhai you can find Nanluoguxiang (NLGX), which is one of the new favorite streets of tourist interest, a bit similar to Sanlitun. What used to be a run down alley of hutongs and some bars catering to foreigners has become a shiny street pulling in foreign and Chinese tourists alike.

Official representation of many a great nation and the shops, bars and restaurants that have sprung up to cater to the needs of the diplomatic corps and other employees of the local embassies. 

Riding a bike in Beijing is dangerous. Now that you have been warned, it is also the greatest way to explore, experience and fall in love with the city. And you do not have to be a Tour de France bike buff to enjoy yourself. With the city being as vibrant and the architecture as rich and colourful as it is every bike ride will be different – differently amazing.

I never played Mahjong and I rarely see people playing this game in South Korea. During my time studying Chinese in Beijing, I saw many old people play Mahjong and they looked really into it. I thought maybe this game is complicated but also very interesting to play. I really wanted to try it.

Houhai is the area around the Houhai lake including its hutongs. It is arguably one of the nicest areas of Beijing and a magnet for tourists and everyone else. The pull of the scenery has also created a lively bar and restaurant scene around Yingding Bridge, frequented by foreigners and local Chinese alike.