Sunday, November 18, 2012

Website changes

When I was a writer for Suite101, I wrote dozens of articles about China, frequently mentioning them on this blog with a link to the Suite site.

I no longer write for Suite and, at my request, the company deleted all my articles. The information contained in those articles is too good to just toss out, so I am gradually adding the ones on China to my website, Cheryl's China.

If you haven't checked my website out lately, please check back again...again...and again. Adding this content, plus other pages I'm working on at the same time, is a never-ending process. Right now, I'm updating once a week.

I've also added a Twitter feed to the home page. I tweet mainly about China, particularly interesting places to visit and news articles that I find interesting. Readers are always welcome to follow me @cherylprobst, but if you're following a lot of people, my China tweets could get lost in the shuffle. But they're all in one spot on my website.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Beijing: a valued city

Fun food in Beijing
I hate to say I told you so, but Lonely Planet has just recognized what I've been saying for years: Beijing is a top city for travel. The guidebook publishers just ranked Beijing as No. 5 on the top 10 cities in the world to visit in 2013.

The article states Beijing is the best value for culture, food and what your money will buy. It further adds, "China is on the cusp of true greatness and one day, people will look back and say it all started here."

Granted, Beijing does have a reputation as a very expensive city. That's because many foreigners think they have to stay at five-star hotels, such as the Peninsula Palace just off Wangfujing Street. I've been in the Palace - wow! - and been awed by the grandeur of the ladies' room. But I wouldn't want to stay there, not when there are so many nice two- and three-star hotels available in neighborhoods with personality throughout the city.

Two years ago, we stayed for two weeks in the Beijing Hutong Culture Inn, a two-star smack in the middle of the city's disappearing hutongs. I was out by 6-7 a.m. every day to explore the hutongs, which are at their most vibrant at that time as the Chinese stop at little hole-in-the-wall restaurants for breakfast before dropping their kids off at school or daycare and heading to work for the day.

And the food. The capital is filled with restaurants that serve wonderful food. Many foreigners eat only at their hotels or restaurants they're taken to on tours. The food there is expensive and most likely has been sanitized for Western tastes. It is far better to eat at neighborhood restaurants like the Chinese eat at, if you want to taste the real China.

Smaller restaurants may not have menus in English, but it's OK to point at what others are eating when you're ready to order. After the 2008 Olympics, more restaurants are using menus with pictures of the dishes; some may even have a loose translation in English. One thing for sure, eating in a neighborhood restaurant is certainly an adventure!

Beijing oozes culture, no matter how you define the word. If art is your bag, you'll want to visit the National Art Gallery (Meishuguan) that not only prominently displays Chinese artists but also the works of internationally famous artists. Families will enjoy the 798 art district in northeastern Beijing, where a whole electric plant has been converted into artists' studios, shops and restaurants. Even if you only stroll through the district, the outdoor sculptures alone make the trip worthwhile.

Concerts, theatre, handicraft markets and more all make Beijing a culture hot spot. Add to this looks into the past, at such attractions as the Forbidden City and Summer Palace.

Yes, Beijing is a valued city. What makes Beijing a valued city for you? Share your insight in the comments below.

Are you going to China?

If China is in your travel plans, check out Cheryl's China or email me if you have questions about traveling in the Middle Kingdom.