Stay overnight at the foot of Mutianyu Great Wall in Beijing

The outskirts of Mutianyu Town, about one hour driving from downtown Beijing, boasts some of the most magnificent sceneries imaginable, and has been home to two boutique retreats – The Schoolhouse and The Brickyard, both of which offer unobscured views of the Great Wall, and provide visitors a chance to stay out of the hustle and bustle of touristy Beijing.

The Brickyard Inn, Beijing

The Brickyard Inn

Open in 2005, The Schoolhouse was transformed from an abandoned primary school, and now has grown into a comprehensive lodging and dining destination. Later, the owner and designer, Jim Spear discovered “a new land”, the former Brickyard, which was a glazed tile factory always pouring black coal smoke at that time, but as the Mr. Spear said featured with unarguable view! After years of elaborately remodeling, The Brickyard is now famed as a lush eco-retreat with 25 striking guest rooms and cosy services.

The Brickyard Inn, Beijing

the fireplace in the room of Brickyard Inn

Green is the focal point of both Schoolhouse and Brickyard. They also prefer local supplies including foods and employees regarding it as a society mission. For travelers seeking something different, to have a stay at Schoolhouse or Brickyard will be a compelling case.

The Schoolhouse, Beijing

Visitors are appreciating the glassblowing demonstation within The Schoolhouse

There are a lot of things you would like to experience! Feast on excellent western or local foods; visit various art exhibitions and appreciate glassblowing and lamp-working demonstrations by the retreat’s own craftspeople; ramble on through the serene village to feel world away from the chaos of Beijing; relax with the outdoor spa after hikingthe Great Wall; take a morning yoga near a lotus pond. Almost all visitors, though having a short stay, find it is very rewarding, not only the superior retreat amenities and friendly staff, but the abundant activities provided at the foot of Mutianyu Great Wall as well!

The Schoolhouse, Beijing

People are dining and having so much fun in the Schoolhouse

Feast on North Korean Food in Beijing

Poverty and enthusiastic leadership-worship is a clichéd image that comes to mind when most westerners think of North Korea, a country of isolation and mystery. Yet North Korean cuisine, that is also something you will never forget about North Korea once you try. You don’t need to get into the country for the specialties, here in Beijing, China’s capital, a handful of restaurants run by North Korean government serves authentic North Korean cuisine. And Pyongyang Restaurant is one of them.

Located at 78 Maizidian Jie, Chaoyang District, Pyongyang Restaurant is specially decorated and offers a large choice of North Korean food at reasonable prices, from cold noodles to bibimbap, from outstanding kimchi to hand-ground porridge, from grilled kalbi to pricy seafood, just delicious! Pyongyang Restaurant share common characteristics with other government-run North Korean restaurants in Beijing, like the training of the waitresses.

All the waitresses in Pyongyang Restaurant are selected from North Korea after two years of training in their hometown. They dress in North Korean traditional robes and shoes, pretty, gently and always with a smile on the face, forming a distinctively beautiful scene. What might surprise you is that each of the waitresses wears a leader’s badge. At night, the waitresses usually sing and perform for diners, including traditional drum dance, karaoke in Korean and Chinese, and a most-welcomed band performance.

Other Beijing’s top North Korean restaurants:

The Silver Bank
Add: 4F Zhongfu mansion, 99 Jianguo Lu, Chaoyang District, Beijing (North East of Guomao Bridge)
Tel: 010 6581 8603

Haedanghwa Pyongyang Restaurant
Add: 2F, Kuntai Mansions, Chaoyangmenwai Dajie, Chaoyang District, Beijing
Tel: 010 8561 2925

China Southern Airline opens the direct Urumqi – Kaohsiung flight

China Southern Airlines opened a direct air route linking Urumqi, capital of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, and Kaohsiung, Taiwan on Mar. 12. It is the first non-stop flight from mainland’s Xinjiang to Taiwan, and claims to be the longest Cross-Strait flight with a 5.5- hour trip.

China Southern Airlines

China Southern Airlines

Mar. 12, local time in China, the charter flight CZ6053 took off from Urumqi Diwobao International Airport (URC) at 5:13 pm. Five and a half hours later, 180 passengers finished their 4,600-km travel and arrived at Kaohsiung International Airport (KHH) safely. The return flight CZ6054, carrying 143 Taiwanese passengers, departed from Kaohsiung at 11:55 pm and arrive at the destination in the early morning of Mar. 14.

From Mar. 12 to Mar. 26, China Southern Airline planned to launch three direct Urumqi-Kaohsiung flights / six round-trip flights, one flight a week on each Tuesday operated with Boeing 757 aircraft. It is definitely good news for Xinjiang and Taiwan passengers and has brought them much convenience, as they don’t need to transfer via Guangzhou or Xiamen any longer.

In addition to the newly-opened Urumqi-Kaohsiung direct flight, China Southern Airlines has launched a total of 14 direct Cross-Strait routes that connect mainland’s major cities with Taiwan. Furthermore, according to China Southern Airline’s representative, on Apr. 1, the carrier will also open the Urumqi–Taipei direct scheduled flight. Tickets booking will be soon in process.

In recent years, people from both Xinjiang and Taiwan have make great efforts to extend the two regions’ economic and tourism exchanges. With the difference in culture, history, life style, food and landscape, people from Xinjiang find Taiwan most attractive! It is predicted that nearly 30,000 Xinjiang people will travel to Taiwan in 2013.

Forbidden City closed on Monday afternoons 2013

The Palace Museum, also known as the Forbidden City, has decided to carry on with the half-day closure every Monday afternoon for further protection, it announced on March 18, 2013.

the Forbidden City, Beijing

inside the Forbidden City

The museum will open on Mondays from 8:30 am to noon. Ticket sales will stop at 11:00 a.m, and ticket checking will stop at 11:10 am.

The official implementation of half-day closure will start on April 1, except public holidays and Mondays during the summer months of July and August. The new timetable will be applied on the following Mondays.

April 1, 8, 15, 22;
May 6, 13, 20, 27;
June 3, 17, 24;
September 2, 9, 16, 23, 30;
October 14, 21, 28;
November 4, 11, 18, 25;
December 2, 9, 16, 23, 30.

The museum launched a pilot plan to close every Monday afternoon from Jan. 1 to March 31, 2013. The closing time was used to check and renovate cultural relics and facilities.

Shangri-La Beijing Joins Forbes Travel Guide List

The 55th annual Forbes Travel Guide Five & Four Star Awards released the award winners for 2013 on February 27th. Asia’s 8 luxury hotels and two spas attained Five-Star distinctions. Moreover, 24 hotels and 12 spa centers in mainland China earned Star Awards rating. Shangri-La Hotels China World Summit Wing, Beijing captured first-time Five Star Award.

Shangri-La Hotels China World Summit Wing, Beijing

Grand Premier Room of Shangri-La Hotels China World Summit Wing, Beijing

China World Summit Wing is a Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts property, located on the 80th floor of The China World Trade Centre among Beijing’s skyscrapers. The hotel offers a large sections of dining with four stylish restaurants and two bars. It has a luxury spa on the 77th floor, an indoor infinity pool on the 78th floor, and an fitness centre.

Shangri-La Hotels China World Summit Wing, Beijing

A heated indoor swimming pool with nice view

Of all the award-winners in Asia, seven Five Star rating hotels are situated in Hong Kong, five in Macau, three in Singapore, two in Shanghai and one in Beijing. As China World Summit Wing Beijing joins Forbes Travel Guide list, mainland China now boasts 3 Five Star rating hotels, together with The Peninsula Shanghai and Waldorf Astoria Shanghai on the Bund in Shanghai.

Grace Beijing – a boutique retreat in 798 Art District

Grace Beijing is an iconic boutique hotel situated in the 798 Art District, which is originally a group of military factory buildings, and now turned into a thriving fashion and art center, as well as one of Beijing’s most popular tourist attractions. Grace Beijing itself is a sample of art works. It is a perfect combination of traditional and modern design.

service desk
(The service desk of the hotel, see the large painting behind)

Grace Beijing was run under the name of Yi house before acquired by Grace Group. Later a bistro was called Yi house to honor its origin. Grace Beijing has 30 rooms altogether, from Artist Studios to Grace Suites, all of which embody elegance and luxury.

artists' work
(artist works can be found in every corner of the retreat, discover and enjoy them!)

The hotel team is devoted to helping all guests to have a unique and extraordinary experience here, by offering various options. You can even pick your own pillow! Just remember to book in advance. There is a great rang of breakfast served in Yi House as you wish, beverage there includes coffee, tea, Champagne, smoothies, juices and so on. The gym is a place to relax and have fun.

(One of the bedroom of the retreat, more than comfortable)

Won’t it be marvelous to stay in Grace Beijing? Here, you can experience a serene and comfortable atmosphere, escaping from the busy city life. Just linger in the amazing galleries or bookshops in the 798 Art District Beijing. You surely can not get more pleasure than savoring the fabulous works by artists.

(At the corner of the restaurant)

Amazing Fangweng Restaurant above Yangtze River

Wanna to enjoy a unforgettable dining experience in a “unusual” restaurant? Situated against the cliffside of Xiling Mountain along Yangtze River, there is a unique cave restaurant, called Fangweng Restaurant. So amazing, cave is a most interesting locations to place a restaurant. The memory of your dining here will linger long after you’ve returned home.

Fangweng Restaurant above Yangtze River

Fangweng Restaurant above Yangtze River

Fangweng Restaurant gets its name from Lu You, a great poet from Southern Song dynasty (1127-1279). It is said that he had brewed tea in a cave on the mountainside. In early 1980s, Fangweng Restaurant has been fastened to the cliff, and built into the cave.

cave lobby of Fangwenng restaurant

Cave lobby, Fangwenng restaurant

Now, walk into the restaurant and down the steps, one will come to a natural “cave lobby”. Rightward, a 30-meter-long plank road has been built along the cliffside. It leads to a another natural cave, which has been transformed into a dining hall. Seen from within, it looks larger. Warm lighting from the ceiling lends a golden yellow glow throughout. Dimly lit and Chinese-style furnishings blend in with its surroundings. Part of the dining hall hangs out of the cave, where some dining tables are placed. This is a place sitting high in the air, where the flowing waters can be watched from above.

Plank road along cliffside

Plank road along cliffside

Wide and bright cave restaurant

Wide and bright cave restaurant

Part of the dining hall hangs out of the cave

Part of the dining hall hangs out of the cave

Dining in such a cave restaurant would be a unique experience. Customers can taste distinctive regional cuisine and enjoy sweeping views of the Yangtze River, all in one. It is more about the overall experience that the food itself, something truly different. Also, watching live bungee jumpers across the river add more excitement.

Starwood skis into China’s Changbaishan

Get ready to infuse the long winter months with excitement! Tourists from home and abroad have an exciting new option for a China winter trip. On July 29,2012, Starwood Hotels & Resorts opened the doors of its first dual-branded ski resort complex,the Westin Changbaishan and Sheraton Changbaishan,in China.

Starwood ski resorts

Starwood dual-branded ski resort

The Starwood resort complex are adjacent to the slopes of the Changbaishan International Resort in the northeast China’s Changbai mountain range. The ski area  features 43 ski lanes and cable cover of up to 7.1km, accommodating 8,000 skiers; and, skiers have access to both downhill and cross-country trails.

The Westin Changbaishan and Sheraton Changbaishan resorts offers more than 37,000 square feet of function, including a 13,362 square-foot ballroom.. There are six food and beverage outlets, heated indoor swimming pools and fitness centres. The two Starwood Resorts are joined by a bridge so guests can easily access either hotel. They will enjoy world-class amenities set against the backdrop of one of China’s most visually stunning mountain ranges.

Changbaishan is home to a UNESCO-listed nature reserve, alpine lakes and hot springs.Guests will enjoy downhill skiing on trails surrounded by unspoiled pine forests, as well as ice skating and ice fishing.

Swim in the sky-high hotel pool in Shanghai

Recently, the Holiday Inn Shanghai Pudong Kangqiao made waves with its swimming pool, perched atop the 24-story building.Impressively, part of the indoor pool hangs out past the building’s edge, and is constructed with a glass bottom.Hotel guests describe a delirious sense of swimming in the sky – like flying.

Sky-high swimming pool in shanghai

Sky-high swimming pool in shanghai

Exactly 30 meters long (about 98 feet), six meters wide (20 feet) and 1.5 meters deep (5 feet), the swimming pool is the first of its kind in China. Swimming in such a radical pool, with just a glass pane between you and a 24-story drop, is really an exciting experience.

glass-bottom swimming pool in shanghai

glass-bottom swimming pool in shanghai

No doubt the swimming pool has exceptional views, from the inside and outside. The glass-bottom section allows swimmers to see the street below, and conversely, people on the street can look up and watch the swimmers. While not splashing in the water, guests can enjoy Pudong urban views stretching as far as the Lujiazui skyline at the poolside lounge.

Experience hutong lifestyle in Beijing

Hutongs in Beijing are alleys formed by lines of siheyuan, traditional courtyard residences. It reflects the culture of grassroots Beijingers and has a very special and significant position in the rich history and culture of Beijing. If you like to make your Beijing tour more perfect, a tour to the Hutong is highly recommended.

Hutong, Beijing
A wonderful glimpse into the world of yesterday in Beijing. 

Hutong, Beijing
Hutong Community (photographed by Sarina Wei in November, 2012)

Interested in seeing evidence of the history of Beijing, experiencing the old way of life and the traditional culture of Beijing? Then come to Hutong area with me!!