Come nightfall the streets of Beijing undergo a transformation, the hubbub of the day settles down and monuments are illuminated against the night sky. Our very own Ann Amies has just returned from a trip to China and enlightens us as to why this is a unique experience not to be missed…
On the night of 8th August 2008, the world was introduced to one of the finest Olympic Stadium’s in the world – the Birds Nest Stadium in Beijing’s Olympic Park. Although not that impressive during the day, by night it takes on a whole new being and glows proudly red and is as stunning today as it was 5 years ago. Opposite sits the equally as impressive Water Cube, in my opinion no other Aquatic Centre has come close to matching this beautiful sky blue structure. Even if nothing is happening in either venue, the Park at night is abuzz with local families and young couples who enjoy walking here, admiring their city’s impressive Olympic legacy and taking a few drinks and snacks from the local stands.
Everyone who comes to Beijing will at some point visit the historic centre of the city, Tiananmen Square and most probably enter the Forbidden City. By day the square is very busy as thousands of tourists come to pay their respects to Chairman Mao at his mausoleum, take photos in front of Tiananmen Gate and wander around the fascinating Forbidden City. However by night it is a different story, access to the actual square is closed, however you can still walk around the outskirts and head through the subway to the front of Tiananmen Gate. By night it is lit up in beautiful red and the fountains outside flow in calming blue. It is the perfect time to stand and appreciate this truly iconic Chinese facade and without the craziness it attracts during the day.
Street food in Asia is interesting to say the least. If it runs, swims or crawls you can pretty much guarantee someone somewhere is going to attempt to cook it and serve it on a stick! Beijing is no exception. Thankfully the Chinese are not ones to cook and serve up our western domestic friends the cat and the dog, they will however happily get a star fish, crab, scorpion, sea horse, silk worm or cockroach and fry it for you to munch on! It’s not for everyone’s taste, but the Dong Hua Men night market is still a great place to walk and see what interesting delicacies the locals (and some of the braver tourists) will try! Be careful not to stop too long at the stalls if you are not wishing to buy though, you may find some of these delectable critters come flying at you from over-zelous vendors!
No trip to Beijing would be complete without a journey around the famous traditional Hutongs area. Although the actual houses don’t look too impressive in the dark, the area around the nearby Hou Hai lake is a delight to walk around. Coming alive with noisy karaoke bars, busy restaurants, hawkers trying to sell the brightest laser pens you have ever seen and locals having a great night out. The Lake has a number of pedalo boats that are available for hire, though if you just want to relax why not jump in a rickshaw for a romantic night time ride or grab a beer and sit by the water watching the world go by. Be sure to look up in the sky when out in Beijing at night – you’ll see the tiny colourful glows of electric kites!