One of the last remaining unspoiled quarters of ‘old’ Beijing, which had been earmarked for demolition, has won a reprieve after an outcry from Chinese heritage groups.
Plans to redevelop the crooked courtyard houses and narrow alleyways (known as hutongs) around the ancient Drum and Bell Towers were announced in March. A themed shopping plaza was on the drawing-board, but conservationists warned that this would mean the destruction of one of the last living architectural jewels in the city.
The Daily Telegraph’s correspondent in Beijing, Peter Foster, said such protests had frequently been ignored during China’s headlong rush for development. Mile after mile of traditional hutongs had been destroyed, but on this occasion the authorities appeared to have listened.
The area under discussion has been a vibrant part of Beijing since the days of the Ming Dynasty (1368–1644) when the two towers were used to mark time in the city.
Wu Lili, the Managing Director of Beijing Cultural Heritage Protection Centre, which led opposition to the plans, said: “It is great news! The cancellation gives time for everyone involved to reconsider the development plan … and think how to integrate the historical value with the need to improve residents’ living standards.”
by Andy Moreton
Let Luxique help you book a luxury hotel in Beijing – one of the most fascinating capital cities on earth.
A senior United Nations official has predicted that China will become the world’s No.1 tourist destination by 2015.
The Secretary-General of the UN World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO), Taleb Rifai, said: “China is now the world’s fourth largest destination when it comes to incoming tourists, and the rates of growth are moving so quickly that we think this is a realistic prediction.”
According to the UNWTO, France currently welcomes the largest number of foreign tourists at 80 million per year, followed by the United States and Spain, both at 60 million a year, while China receives about 48 million visitors annually.
Mr Rifai said the global tourism industry was improving but challenges remained because of the weak economy. “The general economic situation has started to turn around, but we cannot call it a full recovery at the moment,” he said.
by Andy Moreton
If you’re one of those thinking of beating a path to China, Luxique can offer the best rates at luxury hotels in Beijing and Shanghai.
The Chinese have had a mouth-watering idea for a tourist attraction – a chocolate theme park.
The World Chocolate Dream Park – reminiscent of Roald Dahl’s much-loved book Charlie And The Chocolate Factory – will feature a life-sized Terracotta Army, Great Wall of China and versions of famous paintings. All, presumably, will be carefully guarded to stop them being eaten.
The park, due to open in January next year, will be located in the Olympic Green in Beijing, which also includes the iconic Bird’s Nest stadium and the Water Cube aquatics centre used during the summer Games last year. There will be five pavilions and two outdoor sites.
Chocolate is not as popular in China as it is in Western countries, but the nation’s younger generation have increasingly acquired a taste for it.
Tina Cheng, general manager of the company that will operate the park, said some prestigious European chocolate makers – notably from Switzerland and Belgium – wanted to take part in the project. “Our chocolate wonderland will be beyond imagination,” she said.
by Andy Moreton
For those with great taste, Luxique offers the best in luxury hotels in Beijing, including the award-winning Peninsula Palace and Shangri-La Beijing.
The most popular tourist attraction in China, the Great Wall, is even greater than previously thought. A two-year government mapping study has uncovered ‘new’ sections covering hundreds of miles.
Using infra-red range finders and GPS devices, experts discovered parts of the wall concealed by hills, trenches and rivers stretching from Hushan in Liaoning province in the north to Jiayu Pass in Gansu province in the west.
The official China Daily newspaper said the newly-mapped parts of the wall had been built during the Ming dynasty (1368-1644) to protect China against northern invaders and had been submerged over time by sandstorms that moved across the region.
Recent studies by Chinese archaeologists have shown that these sandstorms are reducing sections of the wall in Gansu to ‘mounds of dirt’ and that they may disappear entirely in 20 years. The studies mainly blame the erosion on destructive farming methods used in the 1950s that turned large areas of northern China into desert.
In recent years, China has begun restoring parts of the wall as well as trying to curb commercial development on or next to the ancient structure.
The Chinese say: ‘If you haven’t climbed the Great Wall, you haven’t been to China.’ The sections around the Chinese capital, restored since the Communist Party took power in 1949, draw hundreds of thousands of visitors each year.
But tourist encroachment has also been a problem, with state media saying that around Badaling, near Beijing, almost every brick on a popular section of the wall has been carved with people’s names or other graffiti.
by Andy Moreton
Luxique offers an unrivalled selection of luxury hotels in Beijing, boutique hotels Shanghai and other parts of China.
The electric bike could be the future; for many Chinese it’s the present.
The e-bike is assisted by a battery-powered motor that makes pedalling feel almost effortless. With China being a nation of 450 million cyclists, it’s caught on there with astonishing speed; industry analysts believe two-thirds of them could eventually switch to electric power.
One man is determined to show the world the benefits of the e-bike – and he’s not Chinese. Guim Valls Teruel, a 33-year-old from Barcelona, is riding one around the world from Beijing to London, where he hopes to arrive in time for the 2012 Olympics.
Using solar power to recharge his three batteries, Mr Teruel plans to pedal-glide through five continents before arriving in England via Ireland.
“Millions of Chinese people already use them and they can be an important part of a green revolution in the rest of the world,” said Mr Teruel, who’s lived in China for two years. “It’s so easy, it feels like you’re floating.”
The e-bike has been much slower to catch on in Europe and the United States, even though it is has zero emissions, is whisper-quiet and can deliver a commuter to his desk without the need for a shower and a change of clothes.
However, there are now signs that the e-bike is about to make a breakthrough in Europe, starting among the cycle-loving citizens of the Netherlands.
by Andy Moreton
Travelling to China or farther afield? Let Luxique help you book unique luxury hotels Beijing or award winning luxury hotels in Shanghai.
It’s reported that hotels in Beijing are doing much less business than they’d hoped and expected for the forthcoming Olympics.
The city’s summer season is said to be slow, with hotels and travel agencies saying many would-be tourists have been put off by tight visa regulations, polluted air and less-than-welcoming officialdom. The number of foreign tourists visiting Beijing in May fell by 14 per cent.
China has spent a reported £20 billion ($40 billion) on new infrastructure and Olympic venues and has more than doubled its quota of 4- and 5-star hotels to 160 since Beijing was awarded the Games seven years ago. One report says 5-star hotels are at 77 per cent occupancy for the period of the Games and 4-star hotels at 44 per cent; hoteliers are looking for 90 per cent or above.
Travel business analysts had forecast that the Olympics would bring 500,000 foreign visitors and an extra £2.2 billion ($4.5 billion) in revenue this summer. But now, even though some five-star hotels are fully booked, many economists are beginning to doubt that the city will get the kind of economic windfall it was hoping for.
Luxique has a selection of fabulous Beijing luxury hotels, including the world-class Peninsula Palace and Shangri-La Beijing.
by Andy Moreton