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The Great Beijing Bucket List [Part 1]

According to the ancient Mayan calendar, we’ve got until December 21 to enjoy Beijing. But we all remember when Y2K came and went without a hitch and would like to believe we have more than 30 days left. Still, nothing lasts forever. Beijing is only a temporary home for most expats after all. Before you throw that final goodbye party, make sure you’ve gotten everything you can out of our crazy, ancient, fascinating and wonderful city.

In part one of the story, we look at must-see Beijing sites, must-eats in the city and six unique Beijing challenges you have to do before leaving the city. Check out part two of the story. 

Visit These Beijing Sites



Walk the Wild Wall

Anyone can go to Badaling, but to really experience the Great Wall, you have to see it at its wildest. Imagine you’re on the look out for invading Manchus as you hike along Huanghuacheng, a two- to three-hour drive from Beijing. Spend the night at Lao Li's guesthouse (RMB80) for the best hongzunyu on the planet and a refreshing taste of Chinese countryside life. Next door, you can rent cabins for RMB250.


Visit Chairman Mao

There is an afterlife—at least for the Great Helmsman, whose preserved body is on display in Tian’anmen Square 8am-12pm, Tuesday through Sunday. Hours are extended on a few days of the year, including Mao’s birthday on December 26.


Go to Jingshan Park

This place gets left off the list of typical must-visit tourist sites, but you can’t leave Beijing without having been. You’ll find retirees singing revolutionary songs, fantastic views of the Forbidden City, an old imperial graveyard and even random life-sized models of dinosaurs hiding in the trees.


Spend the Night at Tiantan

The Temple of Heaven doesn’t shut its doors until 8pm, which gives you plenty of time to find a good hiding place in the dark. Once you’re locked in, spend the evening cavorting around the imperial gardens, playing hide and seek with friends, and looking for ancient ghosts.


Go to the Zoo Market

The Beijing Zoo is depressing and should be avoided, but the enormous Zoo Market across the street is a must, if simply for the experience. Head there on a weekday to avoid the crowds, and get lost in a sea of the cheapest clothes in the world. The fun his-and-hers T-shirt sets also make fun gifts for friends back home.


Enjoy Beijing Cuisine



Eat a Meter of Dessert

There’s absolutely no point in watching your waistline if we’ve only got a month left, so carpe diem and treat your inner glutton to a meter of the most delicious desserts in the capital at S.T.A.Y. It’s RMB898, but you don’t need to worry about your savings on Judgment Day, either.


Eat a Dick

There are plenty of weird things to eat in Beijing, from scorpions to chicken feet. But for the ultimate guess-what-I-ate-in-China shock, you can’t beat penis. Try a mixture of penises—ram, snake, dog and more—in Guoli Zhuang’s RMB988 penis hot pot.


Sip the World's Finest Teas

There’s no question that China is the world’s tea center, and it’s worth getting to know this part of Chinese culture. Head to Maliandao Tea Market out in the west of the city—all stores offer free tastings if it seems like you’ll actually buy something.


Get Drunk on Baiju

It may be disgusting, but getting sloshed on the local liquor is a rite of passage. How you choose to do it—business meeting, RMB8 bottle from the xiaomaibu, or a tour of the Erguotou distillery—is up to you, but we bet you’ll be wishing the world would end the morning after. The China Culture Center’s next aforementioned factory tour is February 2, 2013.


Take These Beijing Challenges



Collect All the Grass Animals

The longer you’ve lived in Beijing, the bigger your collection of woven grass animals from Sanlitun’s most well-loved peddler, Xiao Bo. Get two of each and prepare your own mini Noah’s Ark.


Swim in the Grand Hyatt's Pool

This is not your average hotel swimming pool, but rather a 1,500 sq. meter tropical oasis in the heart of Beijing, complete with waterfalls that you have to swim to, and a starry “sky” that changes color. You need to be a hotel guest to get access, so it’s the perfect excuse for a tropical staycation. Rooms for the night of Dec. 8 start at RMB1,240, and there are great family packages for RMB2,100.


Crash Classes at Bei Da

Bei Da aka Peking University is the Harvard of China, and you can go for free—if you know when to sneak into the good classes. We found updated lecture information (in English!) on the university’s website.


Get High

It’s not every day you can get good views of Beijing, so at the next clear, blue sky, call in sick to work and head to the China World Summit Wing (80 stories) or the original CCTV tower in the west, which has an observation deck at 238 meters, for dizzying panoramas of the city. Don’t forget your camera. 


Take the Special 8

Beijing might not have double-decker tour buses like London or New York, but you can still get a great tour of the city for less than RMB1 by getting on the upper level of the 特8 bus, which circles the entire Third Ring Road. We’d recommend early morning or later at night for this one, lest the circle takes you all day to complete.


Go to Maggie's

We’re pretty sure everyone’s heard about this legendary Beijing institution by the time they’ve been here a week. Whether you end up loving it or hating it, you can’t really say you’ve lived here until you’ve seen the ladies, danced to the cover band and sampled the hot dogs, reported to be the best in the city. 


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stonebanks's picture


Great piece! "For the ultimate guess-what-I-ate-in-China shock, you can’t beat penis". Truth. Also, good to know about the dinosaurs in Jingshan park. I will be careful.
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