A layered land of contrasts
Dadong Roast Duck is one of Beijing’s top addresses for crispy duck. Chefs use roasting spits to keep the meat moist and ensure that the skin goes perfectly crispy (mains from $15).
This courtyard hotel combines boutique style with a gorgeous setting in the hutongs of the Dongcheng district. Courtyard rooms feature rustic roof beams and underfloor heating, while the Three Gardens rooms have rain showers and zen patios. There’s a sweet garden bar, as well as a roof deck for evening drinks (theorchidbeijing.com; courtyard rooms from $110). numerous sections, built and modified by successive military commanders over the course of more than 2000 years. Some parts are little more than pounded earth, mud and timber.
Others, such as the Jiankou section, bristle with ramparts, forts and guard towers, often given elaborate names such as The Eagle Flies Facing Upward, Heaven’s Ladder or the Nine-Eye Tower.
Built in the mid-14th century, during the Ming Dynasty, much of the Jiankou wall is now in a perilous state. Though heavily overgrown and riven with cracks, most of the watchtowers and battlements are still standing.
I hope our wall will be here forever,’’ says Zhao, who has been exploring this part of the wall since he was a boy and now works here as a walking guide. But you never know what Mother Nature will bring.’’
As if to illustrate his point, a rockslide suddenly thunders down the slopes.
You see?’’ Zhao chuckles.
In the village of Xizhazi, the country inn run by Zhao is basic, but welcomes are warm. Although the rooms are spartan, they have hot showers and overlook a trout-filled well. Generous homecooked meals are served on request, and Zhao plans to add more sophisticated rooms soon (rooms from $20, mains from $1.50). Shanghai is about 1300km south of Beijing. The bullet train covers the journey in four hours. A soft seat in standard class should cost $140.
If anywhere symbolises China’s superpower future, it’s Shanghai. Wired by fibre optics, intersected by