By Paul S Bryers, September 2016
Beijing is a vast city, with seemingly endless ring roads that radiate out from the old Imperial center. To make sense of where you are, it is best to understand that there are 4 central districts which contain most of the main sights:
– Dongcheng: Major sights such as Forbidden City, to the East of central lakes
– Chaoyang: Embassies, international bars and restaurants (area Sanlitun is hub for fashion), to the East of Dongcheng
-Xicheng: Central lakes and backpacker area, to the North of Dongcheng
– Haidian: University and Summer Palace, to the West of Dongcheng.
This post deals with Chaoyang and Xicheng Districts.
Our well located hotel (Holiday Inn Express Dongzhimen) is in Chaoyang district, so we spent our first morning, a Sunday, walking to the local Dongyue Temple and Ritan Park.
Dongyue Temple is a Daoist (Taoist) temple in the Chaowai area of Chaoyang. The temple is dedicated to the God of Mount Tai. Founded during the Yuan dynasty, it is the largest temple of the Zhengyi school of Daoism in northern China. The temple itself is very peaceful, being off the main tourist route, and contains some interesting architecture and antiquities. Our favorite was the Bronze Wonder Pony, pictured below, which promises cures for all illnesses in return for a prayer and a touch. My back is still stiff but there is time yet…..
Walking South a few blocks is Ritan Park. As this was a Sunday, everyone was out either practicing their tai chi (to a variety of musical genres – including country), vogueing, or showing off their birds’ songs. The park includes The Temple of the Sun, a very picturesque small lake and a hill topped with a shady pagoda offering great views of the city.
We then took a subway to the 2008 Olympic Park (Lines 2 and 8). While the buildings were very impressive, the concrete landscaping was a bit barren. Still, worth the short journey.
A few subway stops back towards the city center are the Drum and Bell Towers. These were the Emperors clocks. Both towers offer great views of the city, after a short, steep climb.
A few subway stops and bus (#909) ride away is the sprawling 798 Arts District. Partially renovated factories house a vast collection of contemporary art. Definitely worthy of a visit. There are plenty places offering great food and coffee, like Flat White.
As a footnote, the subway and buses are easy to use, but if you do get stuck somewhere, taxis are easy to wave down and inexpensive – just make sure the meter is running.