Ask Beijing Today is our weekly attempt to make life in China less confusing. Whether it’s tracking down the papers to apply for a Chinese green card, dealing with KTV-crazy neighbors or finding the best buy on saffron, we are happy to help.
Q. What are some good places to study in the city? I’m not a student, so I don’t have access to university libraries that ask for a student ID. Is it possible to find a seat at a public library?
A. If you need to use the Internet when you study, then your options are limited to places that have wifi. Coffee shops can be a good choice, on the condition that you buy at least one soft drink in advance. Here’s a list of quiet places that we’ve recommended before.
Other places free of charge are public libraries. At Beijing National Library you will probably not be able to find a vacant seat or a desk in the main building, but there are almost always plenty of available seats in the Foreign Books building. Foreigners are not allowed to check out books at the National Library, but they can read as many as they like.
Q. Back in the good old days, everyone in China biked around on Er Ba Che (二八车) bikes, which were more or less the definition of “solidly built.” Do you know where I can find in Beijing? I hear that they are pretty hard to come by these days.
A. It is true that Er Ba Che bikes are rarely seen on Beijing streets nowadays, and it’s harder and harder to buy one. The only bicycle store that we’ve heard still sells Er Ba Che bikes is the Wujiaxing Cyclery. Try it out, and let us know.
Building 1, 1 Workers’ Stadium, Chaoyang
(010) 6553 1679
Q. Any good camping spots on the outskirts of Beijing?
A. Beijing actually has a lot of camping spots. Beijing Youth Camp International near the Miyun Reservoir is a good camping site; some of us have been there. Baihebao Reservoir has beautiful, wild scenery. Lingshan Mountain and the Green Dragon Gorge are also good options, as are various spots around the Great Wall. We recommend you bring company for your own security.
(010) 6590 2513
Q. Where can I find squash courts in Beijing? I live within the second ring road, but I’m happy to travel anywhere if the price and the place are good.
A. We have some foreign friends who like to play at the East Gate Plaza at Dongzhimen. Another option is the USS Squash Club, which is said to be the first squash club in China and is quite popular among expats. Kempinski Hotel also has a squash court inside its gym center.
B1F, Bldg A, East Gate Plaza, 9 Dongzhong Jie, Dongcheng
50 Liangmaqiao Lu, Chaoyang
(010) 6465 3388
Q. I am an avid minimalist shoe runner, and my wife is also looking for shoes with a wide toe box. Vivo Barefoot shoes are perfect for us both. Do you know where I can buy some locally?
A. We’ve never tried Vivo Barefoot shoes, but luckily we’ve found its official website in China: vivobarefoot.com/cn. There are many different types of shoes. We are sure you can find the ones that suit you best. It also accepts online orders.