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Shortcuts to Adventure - Part 3/5



Lijiang


Flight duration: 3.5 hours
Best months to visit: March to May and October to November
Recommended for: Ages 8+

Imagine limpid streams cutting through an ancient town full of cobblestone streets and stone bridges, high up in the mountains of northwestern Yunnan. The plaintive strains of a Chinese lute can be heard nearby as a Naxi woman wearing a turban, silver earrings, and a belted wide-sleeved tunic makes chewy baba flour pancakes in a narrow alleyway.


Shortcuts to Adventure - Part 2/5



Xi'an


Flight duration: 2 hours
Best months to visit: April to July and September to early November
Recommended for: All ages 

If you haven’t been to Xi’an, then you haven’t been to China. One of the Four Great Ancient Capitals, the city was home to 11 dynasties of emperors, courtesans, poets, monks, soldiers, and merchants. It was the starting point of the fabled Silk Road and boasts a history of over 3,100 years.


Shortcuts to Adventure - Part 1/5

Spring break is almost here - do you have vacation plans? If not, take heart; there are many destinations within easy reach of Beijing. We spotlight 15 travel destinations within a three-hour flight from here, including South Korea, Mongolia, Japan, and a host of Chinese cities. Admire the gorgeous photos, read about ancient wonders, and whet your appetite for exploration. Bon Voyage!


Talking Shop: Icing on the Cake - Sweet Tooth now offers bagels, pies, tea, and coffee



Did you know that Sweet Tooth, the once delivery-only bakery, has found a new home in an alleyway off Xinzhong Jie, just across from Beijing No. 55 Middle School?

Owner and baker Meilian Tan (pictured to the right with partner George Braga) started the business out of her humble apartment kitchen and moved into the new digs just six months ago. She started Sweet Tooth after getting frustrated by a fruitless search for baked goods that hadn’t been revamped for Chinese palates.


April Top 10



Eggscellent
This year, Easter falls on April 20 and you know what that means: the Easter Bunny is back! The New City Center starts the festivities early with an Easter Carnival, followed by Comptoirs de France’s annual Easter egg hunt at East Lake Villas. During the break, House of Knowledge is leading an Easter-themed camp for the little ones.


The Ugly Truth: The rise of organic cosmetics and one man’s quest for a chemical-free life



Darren Moore is, by his own admission, allergic to everything. Nicknamed “the snake” at school for his continuously dry and peeling skin, the Canadian native’s problems only worsened when he moved to China 17 years ago.

His self-made solution sits on the desk before him – a brown, odorless bar of soap adorned with teeth marks. Moore took a bite of his own product during an appearance on CCTV 4 to prove that it was 100 percent natural.

“It’s all edible – these ingredients have been around for thousands of years,” he explains, though he rebuffs a challenge to repeat the act. “It didn’t taste that great. I wouldn’t do it again.”


Open Season: Discovering the diversity of China’s fruits and vegetables



The first time I walked into a grocery store in Beijing, I had two thoughts. The first was “I’m going to die,” the second was “I’m definitely going to die.” It was not the smell that evoked such feelings, but the lack of recognition. Many of us arrive with the preconceived notion that you can get anything and everything in China, but that did not seem to apply to the fruits and vegetables I had so often taken for granted back home.


Taking Root: How to start your own herb or vegetable garden



Guaranteeing fresh produce for your family means taking over the means of production – or at least the soil in which food is grown. While not every family is able or interested in going back to the land, many kinds of herbs and vegetables can be grown in spaces as small as window boxes. For families with a backyard, the possibilities grow wider with every additional square meter.

Do it yourself (DIY) gardening is a fun and easy way not only to have more control over what is served on the dinner table, but gets kids involved while teaching them about basic concepts in biology, meteorology, along with responsibility. It’s a win-win: families get better, healthier produce and everyone learns something in the process.


New Collar: Irene Lu upcycles an old shirt into a stylish necklace



Conscious consumerism is close to Irene Lu’s heart. She has been known to dumpster dive, collect jars full of buttons and fake pearls, and recycle old clothes into new pieces in a practice known as “upcycling.” Lu also has her own line of made-to-order lingerie called Pillowbook. All products are handcrafted in Beijing by ethically-employed seamstresses. The New York native started the brand after working for two and a half years as an assistant costume designer for Yip Kam-tim, the Oscar-winning art director behind films like Red Cliff and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. However, Lu realized that she needed a more creative outlet to balance against the technically-demanding bespoke work; the catalyst was a spur-of-the-moment costume that she made out of yogurt caps for local indie band We Are Not Invited. After that, she successfully pitched the idea of an upcycling class to Atelier co-founder Marianne Daquet. Recently, Lu showed beijingkids how to transform an old button-down shirt into a tasteful collar necklace. To learn more about Lu or Pillowbook, visit www.love-pillowbook.com. To find out when her next class is, visit www.atelier.cn.com.


Bird’s-Eye View: Beijing Olympic Forest Park is a paradise for both birds and bird watchers



In an age when tablets often seem to replace babysitters, many parents are making an effort to wean their kids off technology and plug them into nature instead. Many interests sparked during school years stay with us forever; that is why familiarizing your children with the great outdoors when they are young is vital. However, it is not always possible to get out of the city for the weekend. Luckily, bird watching is one of those activities that can be enjoyed wherever you live.

You might be surprised to learn that Beijing is a birding hotspot. Over 450 different species of birds can be seen here, beating out other capital cities like London and Paris. That is because Beijing is an avian crossroads of sorts; an important stop on the way to breeding grounds in northern China, Siberia, and other places. Though birding is currently confined to a small but active community, the popularity of the pastime is growing.


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