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China Travel Guide: Beijing
Enjoy Beijing at its finest


Enjoying Beijing at its finest - By Steve Hubrecht

 October is perhaps the most glorious month in Beijing. Beijingers will half-jokingly tell you there are only two season in the capital - the smoggy, sweltering summer and the dry, bitterly cold winter.

It is true that the mercury in thermometers in Beijing jumps wildly in spring, going from not much above the freezing mark to levels high enough to encourage shorts and T-shirts in a few weeks, if not a few days. And they drop just as far and as almost as swiftly in the fall.

But in between these extremes Beijing is blessed with two short, but absolutely fantastic, seasons. May, when the city's parks and gardens suddenly turn green and its cherry blossoms and magnolias bloom, is fantastic. But October, when the temperature is cool, but not yet cold, the leaves on the tree-lined streets turn flaming yellow and the skies are often clear and azure, is even more sublime.

The brevity of fall in Beijing only heightens its appeal. October can arrive with Beijingers still cranking the air conditioners in their apartments and it can finish with the city covered by a snowfall, and residents huddling under blankets, hoping the city will turn on the central heating a few weeks early. So, the weeks in between are precious and not to be wasted.

October is the perfect month for Beijingers to wheel out their bikes and go for a recreational spin up and down the capital's broad avenues. The excuses some residents offer for not biking in the summer (too smoggy, sweating so much your hair gets matted under your helmet and your pants get soggy) or in the winter (dangerous icy roads, frozen toes, the stinging wind biting your face) don't apply. Take your two-wheeled steed and slip down some of the city's winding hutong, sucking in some of the freshest air you'll inhale in Beijing.

Or wander around some of the city's parks - clear blue overhead and views of the western hills are a wonderful complement to lakeside willows. The elusive cool-but-not-too-cool temperature makes strolling a joy.

In October it's still nice enough to dine outdoors and it's a great time to sample the full range of Beijing cuisine. It's cool enough that sweat droplets won't be gliding down your face as you dig into a hot pot, but still warm enough that a chilled yoghurt-in-clay pot goes down with a refreshing slurp.

The markets around the city are bursting with fall produce. Juicy persimmons, pears and apples beckon from stalls or the back of carts and you can buy bags of them for next to nothing.

Although October is the best time to enjoy Beijing, it's also the best time to escape to its rural outskirts. Those bright azure skies look even better behind the Great Wall than they do downtown. The Fragrant Hills are ablaze not just with yellows and oranges but with the odd splash of brilliant red on maple trees. The weather and temperature are great for hiking and the views are splendid. Those not up for scampering along the Wall can easily find as much enjoyment in a simple jaunt or gentle bike ride through the countryside. Rural Beijing in October is filled with the bustle of harvest time - donkeys loaded with chestnuts clopping down the road, persimmons ripening to orange on the trees and trucks laden with produce headed to markets.

Beijing winters can be long, so before you retreat indoors take a moment, or better yet a weekend, to savor the nicest month in the capital.

(Source: China Daily)



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