A few months ago, when I first learned I was going to be sent to Beijng for work, I was absolutely extatic. Obviously, I had to take a couple o’ days extra to visit and feel the city. Little did I know about the place and I had no idea of what to expect. You know how it goes when you tell people you’re going somewhere, they always have tons of things to say, be it good or bad. I’m glad my inner sceptical self keeps me questionning.

So, there I am, landed in Beijing after a 9-hour flight. Small aparté: do you ever feel like flights are kind of a “no man’s land”? A parenthesis where nothing really happens. But when you step out, you’re on the other side of the world. The geographicallity of it truly amazes me.

For those of you who have seen Sofia Coppola’s “Lost in Translation” (by the way, one of the best movies ever in my opinion), you will understand how I felt. Never in my life have I regretted my inability to speak a language so bad. I measured how big of a barrier it can be for the first time. How frustrating it becomes when you try to communicate and it just doesn’t go through.

How about we get to the on the ground experience? To be honest, I’m not sure I quite realise I actually went to China and saw so many things, met so many people. Beijing itself is huge, with a tentacular metro network. The city is made of tall modern buildings, tradtionnal hutongs and incredible monuments from its imperial past.

My first visit was the Lama Temple, a tibetan buddhist temple and monastery. As I walked around the site, I saw people burning incense sticks and praying to the statues. The peace reigning in there really gets to you.

I then found a coolish hutong, Wudaoying, with lots of trendy restaurants & cafés, vintage & concept stores.

Being the cat lover that I am, one particulary caught my eye:

In this shop it was all about them kitties. Postcards, notebooks, figurines. Freakishly adorable.

By now, you must all be thinking, ok, fine, but… what’s for dinner? Don’t worry, I have everything planned. For this, we need to head towards Wangfujing and its night market.

Curious to know what’s on the menu? Let’s take a closer look so that you can pick your favorite :)

Some unidentified bird?
You prefer when it’s crunchy? Then scorpions…
or spiders… 
Maybe you’re craving for seafood, so pick the starfish
Or the seahorse.

Phew. After all of this, you clearly need some time to digest. Your poor stomach is not used to that type of food :) In the meantime, let me tell you about the hotel I stayed at.
Perfectly located 1 min away form the Dongsi metro station, the 161 hotel is surrounded by tons of shops and restaurants. Its price is fairly reasonable for what you get. The bedrooms are super basic (bed not so comfy though), but the definite highlight of the place is its coffee bar. 
The consumer area is on the upper floor you can see here, and is full of books, couches, chairs, magazines, plants and plush toys. A childish but very cosy atmosphere. The jazzy music they play in the background only makes you want to stay there forever.

They make awesome coffees of all types, serve croissants and other sweet morning treats, and if you want something for lunch or dinner they have pizza, fries, sandwiches. But the big surprise was their mojito, which was very very good. I didn’t expect that one, so yeah, they pretty much had me there.
The hotel also has a small outdoor courtyard. Given the temperature during my stay, it didn’t prove to be very useful, but I guess in the spring/summer it’s much appreciated :).

Up next: Tiananmen square, Forbidden city failure, Great Wall and more… ;)