Bei­jing

A prin­ci­pal dancer of the San Fran­cisco Bal­let, Tan Yuan Yuan has a long-stand­ing con­nec­tion with the Chi­nese cap­i­tal

Hong Kong Tatler - - The Last Word -

ei­jing re­minds me of my child­hood and all the peo­ple who are spe­cial to me. I first vis­ited the city when I was four years old. My aunt and her fam­ily lived in a hu­tong—an al­ley­way with tra­di­tional court­yard res­i­dences— near Tianan­men Square. At the time, the square wasn’t as crowded as it is to­day, so my cousins and I would ride our bikes around the square and fly kites. We used to buy fruits cov­ered in hard candy on bam­boo skew­ers, one of my favourite snacks and an au­then­tic Bei­jing treat. Back then, the sellers would carry the can­dies in a wicker bas­ket on their shoul­der. Ev­ery time I come back to Bei­jing, I still make sure to go pick one up.

When­ever I visit the city, I like to sleep in a lit­tle late and then have a hot shower to start the day. For break­fast, I crave the lo­cal sta­ples like Bei­jing yo­ghurt (a tra­di­tional fer­ment­ed­milk drink) or a glass of fresh-ground mung bean milk and sticky rice. Af­ter break­fast, I might ven­ture into Nan­lu­ogux­i­ang, an an­cient part of the city with tra­di­tional ar­chi­tec­ture. Last time I was in town, my friends and I stum­bled upon a hip bar with a won­der­ful live singing per­for­mance, fan­tas­tic cock­tails, and many old books from the ’30s, ’40s and ’50s. I guess that’s the beauty of get­ting lost in such a big city with so much her­itage—you’ll never know what you’ll find.

I al­ways try to ac­ces­sorise with an Asian twist, so my favourite place to shop is the an­tique mar­ket Pan­ji­ayuan. Ev­ery time I go there, I feel like I’m on a trea­sure hunt to find the most beau­ti­ful, el­e­gant and an­cient style ac­ces­sories— like a ban­gle, a neck­lace or a hair­piece. Gui­jie (Ghost Street) is the only street in Bei­jing that truly never sleeps; af­ter a per­for­mance, when it’s late and ev­ery­thing else is closed, I love to go there for com­fort food. For the per­fect gift from Bei­jing, I would get my friends pearl earrings from the Hongqiao Pearl Mar­ket. For Chi­nese peo­ple, pearls sym­bol­ise pu­rity and carry a lot of mean­ing. I would get them sim­i­lar-style earrings, but al­ways in dif­fer­ent colours.

You can’t visit Bei­jing with­out try­ing Pek­ing duck; I rec­om­mend Coun­try Kitchen at the Rose­wood Bei­jing. The wood-roasted Pek­ing duck is re­vived from an old recipe that was once lost—and it’s bet­ter than any other I’ve had. For dance lovers, a visit to the Bei­jing Dance Academy is a must. The Grand Theatre has fan­tas­tic per­for­mances. You walk through a hall­way that goes un­der­neath a man-made lake—i sug­gest get­ting there early be­fore the per­for­mance starts to spend some time there. Have a coffee at the cafe, take pic­tures and im­merse your­self in the en­vi­ron­ment. When I was young, my grand­fa­ther took me to see Drunken Beauty (Guifei Zui­jiu) and I fell in love with Chi­nese opera, so if I can, I al­ways try to catch a show.

At the end of the day, I en­joy spend­ing some quiet time in my ho­tel room, read­ing a good book and hav­ing a glass of red wine. Ei­ther that, or I spend some time in the spa and get a mas­sage to re­lax my mus­cles af­ter a busy day of ex­plor­ing the city or prac­tic­ing bal­let.

Tan Yuan Yuan is a Rose­wood Ho­tels cu­ra­tor for the city of Bei­jing

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