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The Great Beijing Bucket List [Part 2]

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 two of the story, we look at must-do Chinese activities, ways you can improve your life and six unique Beijing challenges you have to do before leaving the city. Check out part one of the story. 


Must-Do Chinese Activities


Take Wedding Photos

Not married? Who cares! Find a willing friend, and you can still enjoy one of contemporary China’s most fun traditions. The only difficulty is choosing whether you want to get dressed up like Peking opera stars for a studio shoot (from RMB1,000) or pick a silly location like World Park for a unique Beijing background.


Get a Painting of Yourself

Beijing must be one of the only places in the world where an average Joe can easily get an oil painting of himself. Bring a photo of yourself—or a photoshop creation of you riding a unicorn, dog, rocket etc.—to Panjiayuan, and within a week they can turn it into a painting for just RMB400. If that’s too expensive, just get a bobble head of yourself at the Silk Market for RMB90. They make hilarious Christmas presents, too.


Get a TCM Checkup

Trying out Traditional Chinese Medicine is a China experience that shouldn’t be missed. Try out time-honored brand Tongren Tang pharmacy, where a consultation with a doctor—who will take your pulse, inspect your tongue and ask you questions about your lifestyle and physical condition—costs RMB200. Many international hospitals also offer TCM complete with English-speaking doctors.


Visit the Hot Spring

Soak away the stress of imminent apocalypse at one of Beijing’s hot springs. We recommend Fengshan for the price conscious, Jiuhua for a splurge.


Copy Your Wardrobe

Take advantage of Beijing’s tailors by bringing in your favorite clothes and having them copied, which lowers the risk of getting something you’re not satisfied with. You’ll be glad to have extras of all your best threads when you leave Beijing—or while trying to survive a nuclear winter.


Ways to Improve Your Life


Go Gun Crazy

When the zombie apocalypse arrives, you’ll wish you’d learned how to handle a gun. Head to the Beijing North International Shooting Range and get handy with an AK47. Expect to pay around RMB1,000.


Write Your China Book

Your time in China doesn’t count unless you’ve written a book about it, so pull out your laptop, conjure up your inner Peter Hessler and get writing about the Middle Kingdom and all the identity issues you have from living here. Swing by the Beijing Writers’ Group (Mondays at 7:30pm) at the Bookworm for valuable peer critique.


Visit North Korea

Beijing is one of only three cities in the world from which you can fly Air Koryo—the North Korean airline which we’re told makes Aeroflot look like modern luxury. You’ll need a tour group to take you to the Hermit Kingdom, and the best choice is Koryo Tours (unrelated to the airline).


Give Back

Give back to the local community and leave something positive behind in Beijing by joining up with a group like Hua Dan, which helps migrant workers and their children. The timely karma boost certainly won’t hurt, either.


Beijing Challenges


Swim in Houhai

Even if the world does end Dec. 21, you still have time to take a dip in the murky waters of Houhai Lake, as an alarming number of citizens swim there year round. You can go it alone or join up with the Beijing Winter Swimming Association.


Swim with the Sharks

A bowl of shark’s fin soup is a Beijing experience best avoided, but jumping in the tank at the Blue Zoo to play with live sharks certainly isn’t. SinoScuba can make it happen for RMB650, or take you to the Beijing Aquarium for a dolphin dive.




Chances are, you’ve already engaged in the wonderful ritual of karaoke until dawn followed by a dim sum binge at 24-hour Jin Ding Xuan, but we highly recommend it if you haven’t. KTV veterans can add some excitement to the routine by going to Asia’s largest KTV—Music Box by Ritan Park.


Go Korean

Beijing has more Koreans than any other nationality of foreigner. Take advantage of this cultural opportunity by getting the girls at Propaganda to teach you a few basic phrases, then head to Wangjing for authentic barbecue, spicy kimchi and hopefully not too much “Gangnam Style.”


Support the Home Team

Put on as much green as you can find in your closet and cheer on Guo’an at Workers Stadium. The last game of 2012 was November 3, so here’s hoping we make it to March 2013, when the season kicks off. Right now cheer on the Beijing Ducks as they start their title defense this CBA season starting in November.


Dance in the Streets

Sure, you’ve seen the crowds of old ladies showing off their waltzes and fan dances in public squares and various Second Ring Road bridges, but it’s time to start really living and join them. Practice first with a few lessons with Beijing's King and Queen of ballroom dance.


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