Beijing Adventures: On Water, Snow, and Ice
|Nanshan (Simon Foster)|
Plenty of Beijing's sights and areas have boating opportunities, including the Summer Palace, Beihai Park and Shichahai. You can often choose between rowboats, paddleboats and electric boats. In the heat of summer being out on the water keeps you cool, offers some solitude and provides a different perspective on the sights. Note that most boat activities cease in winter—see On Snow & Ice below for the frozen alternatives. If you want to try and experience some of the regal life, you can now cruise the imperial canal to the Summer Palace, just as the Empress Dowager Cixi did. The Shangri-La's River Dragon boat (+010-6841-6824) offers four trips a day (April-November), which include commentary for the 30- minute journey, refreshments and a guided tour of the Summer Palace before hopping back on the boat – all at ¥420 per person. A cheaper boat trip to the Summer Palace runs from behind the Exhibition Center near the Beijing Zoo and costs ¥40 one-way or ¥70 round-trip.
Dragon Boat Racing
If you'd prefer a little more exertion than a genteel boat trip, the Beijing International Dragons (+139-1002-5251; email@example.com) meet every Sunday morning (April to November) at Houhai. Sessions cost ¥30 and you should bring a dry set of clothes. Call for the exact practice session times.
On Snow and Ice
Beijing's cold winter climate may leave you feeling a little chilled, but when the lakes freeze over, rosy-cheeked skate vendors congregate around Shichahai and Kunming Lake at the Summer Palace, where you can warm yourself up with a few pirouettes. Skates cost ¥10 per day but, if you want to get ones that fit, you'd better get here early.
Skiing and Snowboarding
If you're visiting Beijing during the winter months then a trip out to one of its many ski slopes will make you appreciate the Rockies or the Alps all the more on your next trip back home! Nevertheless, if you're prepared for the fact that it's not going to be Whistler powder and endless runs, then you can still have some slope fun. Most resorts rely on snow machines to get adequate coverage, but this at least means there's always skiable snow in winter. All the resorts can get busy and are definitely to be avoided during Chinese New Year, but if you go during the week, you may well have the place to yourself. Serious skiers and boarders might get frustrated by the hordes of beginners snowballing down the slopes, but then hey, you can say you've skied or ridden in China! Of the several resorts around the capital, Nanshan is the easiest to get to and has the best facilities, including a snowboard park. The park features a half-pipe and a special novice slope for new boarders, which leaves the gnarlier stuff for some freeriding. Not far away, Huaibei offers the opportunity to ski in sight of the Great Wall.
Huaibei International Ski Resort, Hefangkou Village, Huaibei (+010-8969-6677; daily 8:30 am-9:30 pm; bus #936 from Dongzhimen to Huaibei Town). Entrance to the park is ¥20 and prices then start from ¥140 on weekdays to ¥200 on weekends for a half-day.
Nanshan Ski Village, Henanzhai Village, Miyun County (+010-6445-0991, www.nanshanski.com; daily 8:30 am-5:30 pm; buses from Dongzhimen to Xi Da Qiao and then a taxi). Entrance to the park is ¥20 and prices then start from ¥100 for two hours on weekdays and ¥150 on weekends, with cheaper packages available for longer periods of time.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication