Game on for China

The Jewish Chronicle - - TRAVEL -

of Bei­jing, but not ev­ery­body speaks English so have your ho­tel name and des­ti­na­tion writ­ten for you in Chi­nese, even when tak­ing a taxi, a cheap and con­ve­nient way to get around the city.

If you travel so far for the Games, you will want to do the main sites.

Stand­ing in Tianan­men Square, I be­gan to get a sense of what China and its peo­ple are about. It was here in 1949 that Mao Ze­dong de­clared the Peo­ple’s Repub­lic of China. A gi­ant por­trait of him still hangs over the gate of the For­bid­den City. He died in 1976, but con­tin­ues to draw the crowds. There are al­ways long queues out­side the mau­soleumtofilepasthisem­balme­dremains. I won­der what Mao would make of the Na­tional Cen­tre for Per­form­ing Arts, nearby. De­signed by French ar­chi­tect Paul An­dreu, it looks like it has been lifted straight off a set of a sci-fi film. Across the road is the old Im­pe­rial Palace, more com­monly known as the For­bid­den City, be­causeon­lytheem­per­or­sandtheirser­vants were al­lowed to live there.

The Great Wall is more awe-in­spir­ing in re­al­ity than in pic­tures. Be­lieved to have been started by the first em­peror of the Quin dy­nasty more than 2,000 years ago, it com­prises sev­eral con­nect­ing walls con­structed by dif­fer­ent dy­nas­ties. Avoid touristy Badal­ing and go to Mu­tianyu. Mao said you are not a hero un­til you have climbed the Great Wall. When you see how steep the steps are, you will see how right he was. But the climb is re­ward­ing as the views are spec­tac­u­lar. And there is a cable-car.

Next stop was Shang­hai, where sky­scrapers fill the sky­line. Once a fish­ing vil­lage, it is ar­guably now the world’s most ex­hil­a­rat­ing city, con­stantly rein­vent­ing it­self. Build­ings go up and come down in the blink of an eye as the city pre­pares to host Olympic foot­ball and gets ready for Expo 2010.

I stayed at the Grand Hy­att in Pudong, which 10 years ago was farm­land. For the most breath­tak­ing views of the city and the Huangpu River, the Grand Hy­att, cur­rently the tallest ho­tel in the world, is hard to beat. It re­cently hosted its first Jewish wed­ding cater­ing for 400. Cloud 9, on the 87th floor, is one of the coolest bars in the city.

If you think con­sumerism has hi­jacked Bei­jing, wait un­til you see Shang­hai. Even the poor ar­eas are crammed with shops, shop­ping hav­ing be­come the Peo­ple’s favourite pas­time.

For cheap clothes and sou­venirs go to the un­der­ground mar­ket at the Science and Tech­nol­ogy Mu­seum in Pudong. It is hit and miss but fun. Never pay more than 30 per cent of the ask­ing price.

Across the river is Puxi, the old West­ern quar­ter. To get an­other per­spec­tive, I moved to its new “cut­ting-edge” Hy­att on the Bund, which pro­vides the per­fect respite from the fre­netic pace.

The ho­tel is north of the Bund, about a 10-minute walk from the Bund it­self and an 11 Yuan (less than £1) taxi-ride to Peo­ple’s Square, Shang­hai’s heart. The Bund’s art deco build­ings are now jammed with de­signer bou­tiques and hip restau­rants.

PHOTO: DAR­A­LYN DANNS

Bei­jing’s Olympic Park sta­dium is near­ing com­ple­tion

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