APEC has finally arrived and leaders from around the world (and their entourages) are not only attending big important meetings, but their every spare moment is likely to be monopolized by some tour guide dragging them around to the same old tired tourist attractions: the Great Wall, the Forbidden City, the Summer Palace ... all the while getting fed the "must-try" eats of the city (another Beijing duck? Please, people!).
Beijing's got loads of history and all that, and for sure first-time visitors from out of town should check out some of the old stand-bys. But there's so much more to celebrate in Beijing that the tired tourist traps, and given that Beijing's a fairly internationalized city, why not celebrate more than just the standard diet of Chinese culture while you're here?
With that in mind, here's our east-meets-west selections for an alternate itinerary for Obama while he visits our fair city:
Mr President, we know you love basketball and you’ve even jammed with Kobe Bryant and Michael Jordan. But don’t underestimate the skills of street ball players at Beijing's top destination for pickup basketball: Dongdan. Take your buddies (maybe President Xi? He's 6 feet tall) and play a pick-up game and see if you can make the girls shout. We’ve seen people questioning your hoops skills (and your governing), so now's as good a time as any to show us your game. You'll be amazed how deeply this American import has taken root in China. If your limo driver can't find the way, simply take the subway and get off at Dongdan Station on Line 1.
Leave the bottle of hot sauce you're known to take with you at the hotel, dude, and prove yourself a real man by chowing down on bowl of what's reported to be the world's spiciest noodles at Fu Niu Tang. Finish the bowl in ten minutes and you'll win a t-shirt and a lifetime discount card. If you prefer fancier fare, Beijing's got plenty of extra-spicy choices that will challenge the presential taste buds: we suggest you hit up Sichuan spice-masters Chuan Ban or get a tongue-searing yin-yang pot at hot pot experts Haidilao (perennial winner of our Best Service awards in our annual Reader Restaurant Awards).
Hey, matching wits with half the world's leaders is a stressful game, and we know you're prone to kicking back with a smoke – so why not go local. Zhongnanhai may not be the most luxurious cigarette brand in China but it's is very popular (even among foreigners). A light flavor and a low price makes them nearly ubiquitous. And hell, the brand is named after China's equivalent of the White House and were specially made for Mao, so what could honor the host country more?
Don’t tell me you've never heard of the woman who smashed a WNBA record in her her first professional game by dunking twice. Yes, American Brittney Griner, the first female player invited to try out for a male basketball team (the Dallas Mavericks), spends her off-season playing for the Beijing Great Wall, the local women's pro leauge team. As luck would have it, Griner and her Great Wall teammates are playing tonight at the Shougang Basketball Center (and Nov 15 as well), hopefully this time with fewer stabbing attempts. Again, if Secret Service can't arrange a car, ditch 'em and hop the subway to the Gucheng station on Line 1.
Rumor has it that when heading off for vacation last summer, you ditched Michelle and the kids five minutes after disembarking from Air Force One to head straight for the links. Golf is no longer a rarity here in the Midde Kingdom as the Chinese moneyed classes have taken the game to heart, and courses abound. Maybe you'd like to try out your game at the top-ranked golf course in Beijing, the Taiwai Golf Club in Changping. Given it's built on a former emperor's playground, it should be presidential enough for you.
You think Americans go crazy for Halloween? Beijingers love it so much that the party is still going on -- until November 16 at Happy Valley Amusement Park. We don’t trick-or-treat to celebrate Halloween here in Beijing (the kids are mostly too busy in school) but adults party hard and you'll be spooked to see how deeply this American holiday has taken root. Check out its haunted house, horror experience tour, pumpkin farm and a pumpkin parade at Beijing's closest thing to Disneyland.
Rumor has it that you're a big pizza fan, and while you may not have the local culinary experience to be qualified to vote in the Beijinger's Pizza Cup, you'll find we sling a mean pie here in Beijing, be it American style, Italian style, or even the deep dish Chicago style you'll remember from your days there. Better yet, you could grab a slice of Beijing-style pizza, like the Pig-Ear Pizza at WhaleWell, a Lamb Kebab Pizza at Pass By Bar, or a calzone filled with Chinese dumplings at First Floor.
Mr President, remember Stephon Marbury? He was a near great in the NBA a few years back, but his star has risen much, much higher in China, where he's played for the past serveral seasons for the Beijing Ducks, even leading them to a championship last year (and winning himself a Honorary Citizenship in the process). Given your passion for the game, why not watch your compatriot lead his Chinese teammates as they take on Shanghai at the Shougang Basketball Center on November 12 or vs Shandong Nov 16?
Your whirlwind schedule is bound to make your feet sore, so don't forget to have your aides schedule you for at least one Chinese-style foot massage while you're here. Beijingers believe this will not only relieve your aching feet but also help you deal with a whole range of ills. You can't go wrong with some of the larger chains such as Oriental Taipan or Liang Zi Massage Center, and their intimate private rooms provide the perfect break from the crowds so that you can work out the finer points of a new treaty. Why not invite Putin to join you as you conclude your trip?
Image: The White House
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