Beijing, like any other capital in the world, has its quirky things about it.
As one of the oldest capitals in the world, Beijing has much to do and see within and beyond its city limits. It also has many one things that, as a first time visitor, might strike you.
I chose not to write about Beijing’s fantastic sites because, really, the internet is drowning in articles about it.
But what about the other side of Beijing? The one that you won’t read about in travel guides or hear about unless someone who has gone tells you.
Well, here it is. Here are some odd things about Beijing:
Food for the Adventurous
China is a great place to try new and exotic food, no doubt. But some of the food on offer is only for those with an adventurous stomach.
A walk through Wangfujing street, east from the Forbidden City offers much of it (look for Wangfujing Snack Street on your map).
Fried scorpions, worms, ducks, and anything else you can think of, as well as some more “regular” snacks, can be found in this area. By the way, the scorpions are fried alive (click here for a video of how these are infamously displayed).
You can find some other delicacies in the bar area near Yinding Bridge (Line 8, Shichahai station), like barbecued brain and more.
As I said, mainly for those with an adventurous stomach.
You Can Bike Anywhere in the City
Beijing has a community bicycle system where you can pick up a bicycle anywhere in the city and pay ¥1 for each 30 minutes of riding. Once you’re done, you can park the bike anywhere in the city and lock it to close your time of usage.
I found this to be a super easy way to cover long distances in Beijing if you want to avoid public transportation. It is also a great way to see the city, and get around in areas where public transportation is not an option as well as to avoid traffic.
The only downside is that you need an App to be able to unlock the bike and pay for it, which requires a ¥300 deposit. However if you know someone who lives in Beijing, they are very likely to have the App and could unlock the bicycles for you.
Expect to Be Harassed by Touts
Touts are everywhere in the world, and Beijing is no exception, and I’m not even talking about the city’s main tourist attractions.
Think bars and restaurants, especially at night. Whether you’re near the bar street in Sanlitun or by the bars near Yinding Bridge, expect patrons to try to get you to get into their bars. Some will even go as far as to grab you by the arm and try to lead you inside.
Be wary. Some will promise you drinks for as low as ¥20/30, and you may only find out that these are not available once inside.
Always ask to see the menu of drinks before ordering, or ask that they charge you the ¥20/30 as you order to avoid any bad surprises.
Western Bars Are Ridiculously Expensive
Which I guess should come as no surprise, but drinking in Beijing has been one of my most expensive experiences so far.
Think ¥50 for a pint of beer (about $7.5 USD) or ¥70 for a cocktail (about $10.50 USD), maintaining your drinking habit can be an expensive thing in Beijing.
The Number of Expats
Living in a small city like Changchun, I rarely get to meet, less see, any large number of westerners. That’s why I was so surprised to so many foreigners in Beijing.
Not that I should’ve been that surprised, but it had been a while since I had seen that many tourists in one place, let alone full families. I swear, I must’ve been looking at western kids as if they came from another planet.
The number expats living in Beijing is huge, especially when compared to other cities in China, so do not be surprised if you see a sea of foreigners wherever you go.
Have you been to Beijing? Have you had any odd experiences that should be on this list?