Leaving Beijing for good can leave you with mixed feelings. There’s the excitement of heading to new frontiers, but also the loneliness of leaving your soon-to-be former home. So be sure to bid Beijing a proper farewell by spending one last perfect day here. You can take cues from two families below, who both have very different ideas on how to create a perfect day in Beijing.
Rod and Jojo Sabourin (Zhou Yinli) are the parents of little Allison, who was born in September 2011. Rod is a Canadian expat who has been teaching at Beijing Concord College of Sino-Canada, the same Canadian/Chinese private high school as his wife. They have been living on the outskirts of Tongzhou for several years.
Twelve years ago, Scott Cline married his wife, Janet Zhong. Cline is a beijingkids board member, and the founder of the summer and winter camp organization Broad Horizons Camping. Janet is an executive with Gap. Their son Matthew is 7 years old, and enrolled at Daystar Academy.
Scott Cline: Whether it’s a perfect day or not, my family and I spend most of our time with the local Beijing community. So for our perfect day, I’d start early with a couple of jogs around Tuanjiehu Park. It is in the heart of the business district, but it still feels like “real Beijing,” because it’s vibrant with lots of music. There are many calligraphy experts out there, including one that teaches my son how to write elegant characters. On any day, at any time, there are sword dancers, speed skating roller skaters, ballroom dancers, Chinese drum and dance troupes and numerous erhu musicians and earnest Beijing Opera vocal soloists. In the summer, there is an outdoor pool and beach that is fun for really small kids, even though the changing rooms and locker facilities are poor or non-existent.
From there, we’d go out the east gate of the park and take a walk through the street veggie and fruit market for some snacks. We also pick up some steamed buns at one of the small hole-in-the-wall baozi shops. The price is great because you can get your fill on less than RMB 5 per person. They also have fresh soy milk.
After that, we’d load up the car and head out to the plot we rent at Shire Organic Farm. The owner is a nice young woman named Sarah who is great with kids and has created a real working organic farm that welcomes families to get their hands dirty planting, weeding and harvesting their own veggies. They will also pick and deliver your veggies to your door if you don’t have time to visit “your” garden.
After that, we’d have lunch at a Nongjiayuan Homestays. Our family has had great luck stopping along the road at farmer style family inns for meals served at a low rate. These small mom and pop shops have sprung up in lots of places in the suburbs of Beijing. Generally, we look for clean yards and an open kitchen. That way, you can really see what you’re eating and how it is cooked. We usually stay away from the fish that is sometimes pushed on you, or the exotic animals that are “house specials.” Instead, choose simple, hearty dishes that you might see the host eating.
You could spend an entire hiking at the Great Wall. It’s so beautiful, especially at Gubeikou, because it’s so old and authentic. On an absolute ideal day, I’d find a way to fit that in, even though in reality, you could spend your whole day there.
Later on, we’d drive out to the northwest outskirts of town, and unload bikes in the outskirts around Yanqing, where there’s few big trucks, lots of newly paved roads, and bike lanes that drivers respect. The area north and east of the Yanqing town site, near the Song Shan Forest Area is one of my favorites. If I wasn’t going back to the city, I might pack a tent and take a hike in the hills and camp out under the stars and clean air. The hills are open for camping from May 1 to September 1.
Upon returning, we would go to the National Performing Arts Centre, or “the Egg” in time for an evening concert. I recently saw an international school chorus of more than 500 young performers packed on the stage at the Forbidden City Concert Hall. On my perfect day, I would like to hear a performance like that again – voices of foreign and Chinese youth performing Chinese and Western music in harmony.
After that, a late night snack at Jin Ding Xuan. It’s open 24 hours and has pretty good dim sum. The price is reasonable and the service is fast. Menus have lots of pictures, so it’s easy to order. They have good congee and plastic bowls and spoons if you’ve got a baby eating with you. Then we’d find our way back to home next to Tuanjiehu Park and look forward to another adventure tomorrow.
Rod Sabourin: For the time being, my ideal day in Beijing involves carrying a well-stocked diaper bag. Because my daughter Allison is only 10 months old, my wife JoJo and I are always aware that most washrooms here aren’t like they are in the West—they’re freezing cold, with wet floors and no soap, so we have to be prepared. Having a baby here means you have to bring your changing room with you.
It also means that the best way to have a cheap, fun day is to go somewhere like Ritan Park. It’s perfect for us, because it’s right off the subway, clean, and quiet with no big crowds. We wander around, maybe fly a kite. Because Allison’s so young, she loves seeing new things. That means just walking her around in her stroller is fun. She loves when I fly kites for her because they’re colorful, as long as I fly them pretty low so that she can still see them.
I dream of taking Allison on a rollercoaster at Happy Valley Amusement Park someday, but honestly I’d have to wait five or 10 years before she’d enjoy it. Jojo dreams of taking her to a play zone for kids, once she grows a little bigger. There’s one in Tongzhou BHG Center. They’ve got padded playhouses and lots of games. Jojo will probably keep taking Allison there a while before I get to take her on a roller coaster.
Other places I dream of taking her when she gets a little older include Cold Stone Creamery and Dairy Queen in Sanlitun. I really want to share an ice cream with her someday. Sanlitun Village generally looks fun; I’m sure she’ll love playing in the fountain. I also want to take her to the Beijing Zoo and American Steak and Eggs when it’s a Western holiday to show her all the turkey and trimmings and fixings that you can’t normally get in Beijing.
For now, the best thing is just taking everyone to the park. My perfect day in Beijing was a lot different before we had Allison. As an adult, I definitely lost sight of how fun going to the park can be. Seeing how much fun she has makes these simpler things so much more enjoyable.
Tuanjiehu Park 团结湖公园
Daily 6.30am-9pm. 16 Tuanjiehu Nanli, Chaoyang District (8597 3603) 朝阳区团结湖南里16号
Local Baozi 特色包子
Several hole-in-the-wall baozi restaurants can be found near the East Gate of Tuanjiehu Park. One of the more popular ones is called Shanghai Guantang Bao, which neighbors Xinhua Bookstore at 44 Tuanjiehu Lu. 店名为上海灌汤包，团结湖路44号南20 米，近新华书店
Song Shan Forest Area 松山林区
Transportation: Bus 919 from Desheng Gate and transfer to 920 at Yanqing. RMB 50 admission. Daily 8am-6pm. Zhangshanying Township, Yanqing County (6911 2634) 北京市延庆县张山营镇松山自然保护区
National Performing Arts Centre (NCPA) 国家大剧院
2 West Chang’an Avenue, Xicheng District (6655 0000)
Shire Farm 晒晒爱农庄
Jinzhan, Xiaodian Village (Audi Golden Port car park opposite the south gate), Chaoyang District. (136 8125 9524, 159 0154 5736,
(Chinese only) 朝阳区金盏乡小店村 (奥迪金港汽车公园南门对面)
Nongjiayuan Homestays 农家乐家庭旅馆
(6259 4175, firstname.lastname@example.org) www.nongjiayuan.org
Gubeikou Great Wall 古北口长城
RMB 42 per person. Miyun County, 125 kilometers away from Beijing
By Car: Start from Siyuanqiao Bridge, take Jingshun Lu. At the Kuliushu Roundabout, head towards Miyun. At Niulanshan Roundabout, drive along the National Highway 101, pass Miyun County and Taishitun, and you will arrive at Gubeikou Town.
By Bus: Take a bus to Chengde City or Luanping County at Sihui long-distance bus station. Buses leave every half an hour between 5.10am and 4.05pm. Get off at Gubeikou Tunnel.
By Train: Train 449 leaves Beijing North Longhua station at 4.43pm and arrives at Gu Bei Kou at 8.41pm. Train 2559 leaves Beijing North Chifeng station at 8.59pm and arrives at Gu Bei Kou at 4.07am. Train 2189 leaves Beijing Wulanhaote station at 3.30pm and arrives at Gu Bei Kou at 6.10pm.
*Times are subject to change, so check with your ticket seller before purchasing.
Great Wall Adventure
(138 1154 5162, email@example.com)
Beijing Feeling Private Tour Operator
Hire a guide that can pick you up. (6428 1841, 139 1160 4646, firstname.lastname@example.org) www.private-beijing-tour.com
Great Wall Tour Beijing Tours
Guides available for a trip to the Great Wall or sightseeing around town; tour packages available. (134 264 35769, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org)
Jin Ding Xuan 金鼎轩
Daily 24hrs. 15 Tuanjiehu Nanlu, Chaoyang District (8596 8881)朝阳区团结湖南路15号
Ritan Park 日坛公园
Daily 6am-8pm (summer), daily 6.30am-8pm (winter). 6 Ritan Beilu, Chaoyang District (8561 6301) 朝阳区日坛北路6号
Happy Valley Amusement Park 北京欢乐谷
Daily 8.30am-10pm. Wuji Beilu, Dongsihuan Lu, Chaoyang District (6738 9898 ext 0, 6205 0088) bj.happyvalley.cn (Chinese only)
Kids’ Play Area (padded playhouse with slides)
Daily 8.30am-9.30pm. 3/F, Tongzhou BHG Center, across from Tongzhou Beiyuan station, Bldg B1, 14 Tianshi Mingyuan, Yang Zhuang Beili, Tongzhou District (5635 1988 mall) 通州北京华联超市购物中心, 通州区杨庄北里天时名苑14号楼B1楼(通州北苑地铁站南侧)
Cold Stone Creamery 酷圣石
Daily 10am-10pm. 19 Sanlitun Lu, Sanlitun Village South, Chaoyang District (6416 8538) 朝阳区三里屯路19号三里屯Village南区S9-19-20号
Dairy Queen DQ冰雪皇后
Daily 10am-10pm. 1/F, Yingke Pacific Department Store, 2 Gongti Beijie, Chaoyang District 朝阳区工体北路甲2号盈科太平洋百货1楼(近工人体育场)
American Steak and Eggs 喜来中北美西餐
Daily 7am-midnight. Xiushui Nanjie, Jianguomenwai (directly north of the Friendship Store, one traffic light west of Silk Market), Chaoyang District (6592 8088/8788) 朝阳区建国门外秀水南街(友谊商店北面, 秀水西边第一个红绿灯)
Beijing Zoo 北京动物园
Daily 7.30am-5pm (winter), 7.30am-6pm (summer). 137 Baishiqiao Lu, Xizhimenwai Dajie, Haidian District (6831 4411) 海淀区西外大街白石桥路137号