Top 10 Places in Beijing – Wudaokou Posted by sasha on May 26, 2013 in Culture, Uncategorized, Vocabulary
Call it Beijing, call it Peking, call it whatever you want – I call the city my 2nd home. Since graduating from college way back in ’08, I’ve mostly been living here in the Chinese capital. I’ve had ups and downs here, and my relationship with the ‘Jing is definitely a love/hate one at times. On one hand, it’s the cultural center of China, with history, music, art, sports, food, and everything in between; on the other, it’s developing at breakneck speed, demolishing old neighborhoods and the traditions that come with them in favor of glitzy high-rise apartments and mega-malls. On one hand, there are the many parks, hiking options, and incredible sights; on the other, there’s horrific air pollution, sand storms, and a sweaty concrete jungle in the summer. On one hand, I’ve met so many amazing people here through the years from all around the world; on the other, people tend to be rude, pushy, and agitated – surely brought on by the never-ending traffic jams, massive crowds everywhere you go, and a rising cost of living that has made life more difficult for those on the lower end of the economic spectrum.
A short video introduction to Beijing I made a while back.
Despite its flaws, Beijing will always be a city that I love. Although I’m planning on leaving this fall to travel SE Asia and spend some quality time in southwest China’s Yunnan province, I’ll never rule out the possibility of returning to the “Northern Capital.” In case Beijing isn’t on your travel bucket list, you’d better go ahead and add it, because there’s so much to do in this city that even after living here for over four years, there are still some things that I haven’t done. That being said, I have seen most of the landmarks and famous sights of Beijing, in addition to some off-the-beaten path places that don’t usually get covered in guide books. If you’re planning a trip to Beijing at any point, I present to you my Top 1o Places in Beijing. We’ll take a closer look at each place, in order to really give you a feel for it. Today, we begin with our #10…
10. Wudaokou (五道口 – wǔ dào kǒu)
The part of Beijing that I called home for the better part of my first year here, the Wu is definitely the student district of the Chinese capital. Here, you’ll find two of China’s most prestigious universities – Peking University (北京大学 – běi jīng dà xué) and Tsinghua University (清华大学 – qīng huá dà xué) – as well as another school where Chinese learn foreign languages and foreigners learn Chinese – Beijing Language and Culture University (北京语言文化大学 – běi jīng yǔ yán wén huà dà xué). It’s a great place to hang out or even to live if you want to make friends and improve your Chinese (or not).
Nearby Bei Da, you’ll find the Old Summer Palace (圆明园 – yuán míng yuán), a former complex of gardens and palaces that now serves as a park and tourist sight. It’s a great place to come relax while learning about some Chinese history and culture.
For all your shopping needs, Wudaokou has a variety of clothing markets where you can find funky threads, silly Chinglish t-shirts, and much more. Practice your Chinese by haggling, a skill which is necessary for anyone traveling or living in China.
While many students come here to learn how to speak Chinese, there are plenty of distractions to help you avoid studying or doing homework. The Wu has a variety of cafes, restaurants, and bars that attract a crowd every night of the week. An amazing Xinjiang style restaurant that friends and I dubbed “Meat Table” for the way they pour the chopped up lamb meat on the table when assembling the famous lamb kebabs (羊肉串 – yáng ròu chuàn). The actual name isn’t quite as cool – Lanzhou Old Horse Beef Noodles (兰州老马牛肉拉面 – lán zhōu lǎo mǎ niú ròu lā miàn).
Up the road, you’ll find a great Japanese place called Isshin (一心 – yī xīn), which features 1/2 price sushi any night of the week, in addition to a mouth-watering dish of fried pork stuffed with melted cheese. If it is Western food you crave, you’ll find plenty of that at both Lush and Pyro, two of Wudakou’s staple student hangouts that win local awards on a yearly basis. Munch on tasty sandwiches, burgers, salads and more at Lush, or dig into a huge pizza and some chicken wings over at Pyro. You can get other Western fare at La Bamba, Helen’s, Sculpting in Time, and more.
For the night owls out there, you’ll love this part of Beijing. Lush hosts a pub quiz, live music, and an open mic night every week, and there’s a beer pong tournament on Thursday nights at Pyro. Of course, to draw in the student market, there are plenty of drink deals (5 RMB tequila shots, anyone?), along with free bottles of booze for prizes. If your mission for the night is to get sloppy and make bad decisions, you’re in the right place here. Drink street beers outside of the 7-11 and meet a cast of wild characters, and then head into one of two neighboring, basically identical clubs – Solutions and Propaganda. Both have ladies’ nights with free drinks, a sleazy basement dance floor, and pop, dance, and hip hop music played at ungodly levels all through the night.
With its famous universities, a few nice parks, plenty of shopping, and an abundance of good food, drink, and people, the Wu will always hold a special place in my heart (and liver). Although I may not make it back up there so often these days, it still deserves a place in my Top 10 list. Should you find yourself in Beijing, make the trek up to this student stomping ground and have yourself one helluva time.
Getting there: Subway Line 13 stops at Wudaokou, and Line 4 will take you to the East Gate of Bei Da. Plenty of buses make a stop here as well.
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