Some cities in the world give you the impression that they haven’t changed for centuries, and then there is a metropolis like Beijing! China’s capital is an ever-changing intermix of past and present and as Intrepid’s Graham Stanley discovered, it’s worth coming back…
“I first visited Beijing when I started working for Intrepid back in 2003, as a group leader. I only worked in China for about 6-months before working in another region and leading more Intrepid trips, but I always knew I wanted to go back. Still with Intrepid, I recently went on a business trip to Beijing. I was so excited to have an opportunity to get back here and see how much it has developed over the last 7-years. I simply can not believe how much it has changed.
The first impression of any country is the airport, and the Beijing Olympics has left its legacy with a shiny new airport at terminal 3. The biggest change would have to be the development of new buildings all over the city and especially in the business district. The architecture here is phenomenal with skyscrapers with innovative shapes and designs. The Bird’s Nest and the Water Cube from the Olympics have now become tourist attractions, where people flock there at night to see the colours illuminate the buildings.
There are now swanky shopping districts popping up in the new developments, as well as new shops in renovated traditional streets. The variety and the quality of local handicrafts and local fashions make this a very cool place to shop. The volume of excellent restaurants is still astounding and rivals anywhere else I have been in Asia. There is more English signage than ever before, making it a very easy city to navigate and the metro makes it easy to get around.
Of course the main attractions are still highlights, such as the Forbidden City (Palace Museum), Summer Palace and the Temple of Heaven, but the new attractions make this ever-changing city a place to go back to revisit. The National Theatre, with its reflection making a perfect egg shape, is a great place to start and the New China Central Television (CCTV) Tower which is a hollow zig-zag of a building is another landmark on the new tourist route.
The mixture of ancient and modern buildings, cutting edge and traditional designs and new and improved services make Beijing a superb city to visit and one to definitely watch out for as it forces its way into the future with an awesome rate of change. I recommend Beijing as a stopover to anyone either as part of a bigger China trip or just on its own. There’s enough here to occupy any traveller for a week, until of course it changes again and its time to revisit!”
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* photo by Graham Stanley