Beijing Surprise

by Rose Hartman Photographed by Rose Hartman
Thursday, December 20, 2018

Like many other travelers, I had long dreamed of visiting China’s capital city, with its combination of tradition and awe-inspiring architecture designed by the world’s most admired architects. I was invited to Beijing by a Chinese curator to exhibit my iconic photos in a solo show, aptly titled “Incomparable New York.” In between interviews with Chinese media, I had time to explore Beijing’s most iconic cultural sites: Tiananmen Square—with its magnificent, well-preserved palaces and museums; and the exquisite Summer Palace—its gardens, dragon boats floating on its manmade lake, temples, elegant pavilions, bridges and gardens, are ideal for strolling and people-watching. Hiking along the awe-inspiring Great Wall as it snakes its way across the hills is another must-do experience.

In the 798 Art District, a thriving contemporary Chinese art scene, housed in a former East German industrial complex, I joined European visitors, art students and working artists visiting the many thought-provoking galleries. It is also the site of the prestigious Ullens Center for Contemporary Art featuring impressive, rotating exhibitions, small restaurants and trendy boutiques.

For a traditional Chinese experience, Beijing’s oldest residential communities—narrow Hutong alleys, a combination of gray-brick courtyard dwellings and vibrant outdoor communal life—was one of the many highlights of my visit. Nanluogu Xiang, which dates back 800 years, is the best-known alley in town, and is now a nightlife hub.

I enjoyed staying at Sanlitun’s the Opposite House, the perfect respite from Beijing’s mind-boggling traffic, enormous boulevards and a population of more than 21 million. With only 99 airy, sleek rooms and suites designed by renowned Japanese architect Kengo Kuma, this hotel, with its striking green-glass exterior, is top-drawer chic. A square, oak, oversized soaking tub (reminiscent of a large sake box), underfoot heating, one of the most comfortable beds that I’ve ever slept on, and best of all, a 22-meter swimming pool lined in stainless steel as well as a high-tech fitness center. I enjoyed the hotel’s trio of restaurants, including Jin Yaa Tang for Peking duck and dim sum, Sureno for wood-fire pizzas, and the Village Cafe for casual dining. Nearby, the legendary Writers Bar at the Beijing Hotel Nuo is perfect for a classic cocktail or afternoon tea.

Undoubtably, a visit to a city surrounded by the tangible evidence of its amazing, glorious past and yet racing towards the future, will leave a lasting memory.


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