As part of our ongoing Special Report on China, Travel Agent brings a look at two sides of Beijing. On our recent 12-day tour of the country, we were able to discover both ends of the financial spectrum to this capital destination.
Upon arrival in Beijing, we checked into the Chong Wen Men Hotel, which is located at No. 2 West Chong Wen Men Street. This hotel, while a budget accommodation, is clean, friendly and within a short distance of most of Beijing's big sites such as Tiananmen Square, the Temple of Heaven Park and the Forbidden City. There are two restaurants, serving both Chinese and Western fare so travelers can simple a little bit of local, along with a taste of home. A lobby bar serves coffee and beer. There is also a business center, currency exchange and laundry. The hotel has 303 rooms that range from Business Standard to a Business Parlor Suite.
But beyond our basic accommodations, Beijing runs the gamut in the luxury sphere, as well. The market has been atwitter lately with haute happenings. First, the Rosewood Beijing opened this month as the first Rosewood hotel in China. The ultra-luxe hotel is in a prime downtown position. Guestrooms start at 538 square feet. Of the 283 rooms, 16 are Grand Studios, 31 are Manor Suites, five are Spa Suites, 15 are Rosewood Suites and one is a Presidential Suite.
In 2015 Beijing will also get a Mandarin Oriental in the new headquarters of China Central Television (CCTV). Two restaurants on the top two floors of the hotel will be linked by a champagne bar suspended over the staircase. Six dining and drinking venues and an 11-room spa are also on tap.
The dining scene in Beijing also spans everything from budget to sumptuous and elegant. In Beijing's hutongs street food abounds. For just a few dollars travelers can gorge themselves on dumplings, noodles, kebabs and more. Just off Tiananmen Square on Qianman Street is a maze of hutong alleys where adventurous travelers can get lost among aromas of roast duck, noodles, dumplings, dried fruits…For the truly adventurous, check out the Donghuamen Night Market, which sits at the northern end of Wangfujing. This late-night row of street stalls hawks everything from traditional dumplings and street meat to more strange eats, like creepy crawlers, squid-on-a-stick and scorpions.
Another great, budget dining option to explore is Mr. Lee's noodle houses. This chain of restaurants can be found all over China and it serves up delicious bowls of noodle soup, rice dishes, vegetables and more on the cheap. They are also conveniently located on most street corners.
But if you're looking for the finer touches and flourishes, Beijing does not disappoint. Temple Restaurant Beijing is a 120-seat restaurant built in an old Tibetan temple. We hear the dishes to try are the smoked duck and truffle jus, or the lobster and goose liver on toast. The wine list also swings haute with Champagne, Burgundy and Bordeaux.
And of course, in Beijing, it's all about Peking duck. For this visit Duck de Chine, which has been carving up the signature duck dish for years to perfection.