After the excitement of Christmas and New Year and with the weather still cold in many parts of China, January can seem like a real low point in the year. As tempting as it may seem, instead of holing up at home and watching the latest season of Homeland, why not take the new year as an opportunity to start a new hobby? Just like any big city, Beijing is full of fun things to do. Check out some of our favourites.
1) Pick up a new skill - cooking
Established in 1992, the Yiqin Cookery School offers international-standard cooking classes for both Chinese and Western food. If you are really looking to take your Chinese cooking skills to the next level, a two month, full day course on the fundamentals of Chinese cooking will set you back 3400 RMB. The course covers Chinese culinary culture, knife skills, sauces and a total of 38 different cooking styles.
If you prefer a more relaxed, English-language environment, then try one of The Hutong’s many cooking classes. With classes covering everything from different Chinese cuisines to traditional Pakistani cooking and cupcakes, there is something to suit all tastes. Classes are interactive and move at a moderate pace, so you should be able to keep up whatever your level. At the moment The Hutong is offering a Year of the Snake six-lesson package for 1100 RMB (lessons are valid until the end of 2013).
2) Learn a new language
You’ve mastered the basics of Chinese (hopefully), so now’s the time to try your hand at another language. Learning a new language is not only beneficial to your CV (or chatting up that attractive exchange student in the bar), it could also help keep your brain healthy. A Swedish study published in late 2012 suggested that language students experience growth in certain areas of their cerebral cortex, which may contribute to staving off mental decline in old age.
Culture Yard offers a comprehensive range of languages, including English, Russian, Spanish, Hebrew, French, Dutch. Courses range in price, for example, a 30 hour weekend conversational Portuguese course (split over 10 sessions) costs 3300 RMB. See their website for more information.
3) Take better photos
Whether they are cultural, funny or just downright weird, Beijing is awash with “Kodak moments”. Learn how to make the most of them with a photography class from Beijing Center of Photography. Based in Wangjing, this passionate group of professional photographers takes a practical approach to teaching, helping you to advance quickly. A 1.5-hour beginners class (every Wednesday morning 10:00-11:30) costs 600 RMB per person, or 1000 RMB for two. They also hold photography lunches and occasional classes covering subjects such as black and white photography and portraits.
4) Get off your ass!
If you’re anything like us, your waistband will be feeling the strain after the Christmas holidays. Rather than slogging away on the treadmill as usual, find a sport you’ve never tried before and get stuck in. You’ll be much more motivated to keep going!
If you miss good old-fashioned aerobics, then you’re sure to love Heyrobics. Based in Sweden since 1978, Heyrobics is built around the intensity curve principle, which helps work the body to its maximum with minimum perceived exhaustion. The upbeat instructors and current soundtrack will keep you motivated even when you think you’re ready to quit. Heyrobics holds classes in several locations around Beijing, including Sanlitun, Shunyi and Beitucheng. Check their website for the most up-to-date class schedule.
While it can’t take the place of a traditional gym workout, horse riding is still a form of cardiovascular exercise. All that fighting to keep your balance is also beneficial to the muscles in your core and thighs. There are several equestrian clubs in Beijing, mostly based out in the suburbs in Shunyi or Daxing. Beginners’ lessons typically cost around 300-400 RMB per hour, but much like riding a bike, once you’ve learned you won’t forget in a hurry. We recommend Beijing International Equestrian Club, which is managed by a professional European team or read this article for more options.
5) Don’t be afraid to embarrass yourself
Sometimes the best new hobbies take you completely out of your comfort zone. For example, if you’re always the joker in your group of friends, but would never dare get up in front of a crowd, this could be the year to kick your stage fright into touch. The people behind Beijing Improv run a weekly bilingual improv workshop at Hot Cat Club. The workshop is split into two levels, one for beginners and one for people who have been doing improv for over a year.
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Keywords: Hobbies in Beijing New Year hobby Beijing fun things to do Beijing
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