It is very easy to feel a kind of malaise when living in Beijing. With a million and one bars serving reasonably priced drinks, and a selection of twice as many restaurants at which a seemingly never ending conveyer belt of varied and delicious food is served up, it is easy to forget that there are also other things to do in this fine city. To combat said malaise, here’s a list of things that you probably didn’t know you could do in Beijing. In this city the possibilities are endless: go wild, rediscover that inner child and have an adventure today.
1) Laserblast your enemies (and friends)
Had I been American and a young man in the time of the Vietnam War, I probably would have been a conscientious objector, hiding out, simpering in my parent’s attic, listening to Pink Floyd LPs, and objecting with all the conscientiousness I could muster. Luckily, I was and am not. However, I did grow up enjoying watching films such as Apocalypse Now, Full Metal Jacket and Star Wars. If, like me, you are deeply conflicted – liking war movies and pyrotechnics, but deeply fearing anything vaguely pain related (read: paintball) – then you will likely enjoy the psychedelic extravaganza that is Beijing Star Trooper.
If you relish the idea of shooting your friends – or other people’s friends – with a laser gun, in a Wangjing basement, or you just like the idea of dressing up as a slightly fruity looking storm trooper (red or green body armour – your choice, sir), then a visit to the laser tag arena comes highly recommended. Games last 15 minutes but with a large size group you can rent out the facilities for a whole hour, with the delicious possibility of campaigns and war-like tactics coming into play.
Teams of up to 12 members are able to join in and you must be over 1.2 meters (about 3’9”). The latter rule is necessitated by this size of the body armor, not due to safety concerns. What are you waiting for? Man up and laserblast them!
Beijing Star TrooperView In Map
Add: B1, 316 Wangjing Xiyuan Sanqu, Chaoyang District, Beijing
Opening hours: Wed-Fri 14:00-20:00, Sat-Sun 9:00-20:00
Tel: 010 6475 8329
2) Practice Your Religion
One thing that many people don’t know is that it is quite alright to practice religion in China. Previously underground ‘house’ churches are now much closer to the mainstream and Chinese Christians are much more common. Indeed, the sight of crucifixes hanging from necks and adorning all manner of possessions; even bodies, in the form of tattoos is not uncommon. For many, Christianity is a novelty and way of hedging your bets in the cosmic lottery that is life; or the cross is a symbol of the exotic as the yin-yang is to bumbling new age western gap year kids marauding across South East Asia in their unwashed masses. For others in China Christianity is the source of devout faith. Either way, Being religious and practicing your religion in China is not illegal, although trying to convert the locals is generally frowned upon and is in some case cause for visas to be revoked.
Not only is Christianity growing with popularity in China but all the other major religions are also represented in China; and to a lesser degree minor ones too. Beijing boasts a number of mosques, lamaseries, Jewish groups in addition to its handful of Churches. These organizations are of interest to people sight seeing as well as people of faith. The architecture of Dongtang Cathedral on Wangfujing is like that seen in Latin countries around the world. Also the elegant arches and domes of Niujie Mosque are to be admired by curious tourists at the paltry cost of 10RMB
Niujie Mosque牛街礼拜寺View In Map
Add: 18 Niujie, Xuanwu District, Beijing
Tel: 010 6353 2564
Opening hours: 08:00-16:00
Dongsi Mosque东四礼拜寺View In Map
Add: 13 Dongsi Nandajie, Dongcheng District, Beijing
Beijing International Christian Fellowship (BICF)北京国际基督教联合会 View In Map
Add: Rm.220 2/F, 21st Century Hotel, 40 Liangmaqiao Lu, Chaoyang District, Beijing
Tel: 010 8454 3468
Opening times: Mon-Fri 11:00 – 17:00; Sun 09:30am-12:00
St. Joseph's Church (Dongtang Cathedral) 东堂View In Map
Add: 74 Wangfujing Dajie, Beijing
Tel: 010 6524 0634
Opening times: Mon-Sat 06:3-08:00, Sun 09:00
Yonghe Lamasery雍和宫View In Map
Add: 12 Yonghegong Dajie, Beixinqiao, Beijing
Tel: 010 6404-4499
Opening times: 09:00-17:00
Chabad Lubavitch of Beijing Chabad庞坦北京View In Map
Add: F1 Kings Garden Villa, 18 Xiaoyun Lu, Sanyuanqiao, Chaoyang District, Beijing
Tel: 010 8470 8238 ext. 200
3) Ride a Rollercoaster
That’s right, all manner of western fun is catching on in China. One of the staples of the family day out in the West can be found at two locations in the city. Situated near Zhongshan park in the Wangjing area is Happy Valley Amusement Park which is spread over an area of 100 acres and boasts 40 rides including the fabled Crystal Wing ride which terrifies dangling footed guests with loop the loops and all that roller coaster jazz. As in everywhere in China there are more than the fair share of people, so don’t be surprised if queuing times are long; but they are, however, almost justified by the international class attractions.
Shijingshan located in the western suburbs of the city is also worth a look. With more of a carnival atmosphere that is in line with its entrance fee and then pay per ride tariff it is a slightly spit and sawdust affair. The rides are potentially more terrifying than those at Happy Valley because they appear similar to the temporary ones set up by traveling carnivals in the west; though they are permanent fixtures at Shijingshan. Despite a more rough and ready, less corporate atmosphere without park mascots and the niceties of more international parks Shijingshan boasts a few passable roller coasters, has a jolly atmosphere and is not a bad location to pass a few hours.
Happy Valley Amusement Park北京欢乐谷View In Map
Add: East Fourth Ring Road Jingshen Expressway Intersection, Beijing
Tel: 010 6738 9898
Opening times: 09:30-22:00
Shijingshan Amusement Park 石景山游乐园View In Map
Add: 25 Shijingshan Lu, Shijingshan District, Beijing
Opening times: daily 09:00-16:30 (winter), 08:30-17:30 (summer)
Tel: 010 6886 2547
4) Rollin’ rollin’ rollin’, raw hide – explore new frontiers by bus
Ok, so the No. 300 bus is not exactly the Wild West and Clint Eastwood was not known for spending much of his time shoehorned into a rush hour stage coach, with a blue nylon suit clad salary man’s armpit thrust in his face. But to those that are yet to connect the dots on their mental map of Beijing, a ride on this bus can be a great adventure, exploring new frontiers. Why bother with a fancy organised tour when you can hop on the bus for the price of a couple of green Chairman Maos (2 RMB) and do a sweeping tour around the whole of the city?
On the west side of the city you will take in the needle shaped former CCTV tower as well as Purple Bamboo Bridge and the Beijing Foreign Studies University. On the north side of the ring road you will pass by Zhongguancun, as well as Dazhong Bell Museum. To the east is the Anzhen Puppet Theatre and the spectacularly shiny World Trade Towers. On the northeastern side you will pass Sanyuanqiao, and further south, the Sheraton Great Wall Hotel. Further south still is the embassy district surrounding Sanlitun and the incredible architecture of the current CCTV Tower and it’s burned out sidekick – the Mandarin Oriental Hotel. On the south side you will catch a glimpse of Liangshui River and pass by Beijing South Station. You can get a similar tour from the top floor of the No. 8 double-decker bus as well.
5) Play volleyball on an inner city beach
As the summer months are approaching, summer style pursuits are increasingly on the mind of residents of stifling urban areas. Not a lot of people know that the pleasures of beach-style activities are available in Beijing. Least known to many, is the fact that Tuanjiehu Park is home to not only one of the cleanest open air swimming pools in the city but is also the site of a man-made beach.
On a visit to the park and you can slide down one of the two water slides, lounge on a beach of golden yellow sand or join in a game of volleyball with friends. For that extra authentic seaside feeling the pool is even equipped with a wave machine. If it’s a hot day, open the closet and break out all your summer trappings – volleyball, sandals, swim suit, shorts, sun-tan lotion and beach towel – and make like a child; go imagine you are not in Beijing, but sunning your self in Hainan or some other far flung exotic location.
Tuanjiehu Park 团结湖公园 View In Map
Add: 16 Tuanjiehu Nanli, Chaoyang District, Beijing (On East Third Ring Rd. opposite Friday's)
地址: 北京市朝阳区团结湖南里16号 (东三环东星期五餐厅对面)
Tel: 010 8597 3603
Opening hours: 09:30-19:30
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