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China’s High-Speed Trains. Which Class?

High Speed Train

China’s train network really is a thing of wonder: the country boasts more high-speed rail than the rest of the world combined. And if zipping between megacities at 300 kilometers per hour wasn’t impressive enough, the fact they almost always arrive bang on time makes them an invaluable option for those that find themselves stressed out by seemingly endless delays on the country’s domestic flight routes. In fact, before you sit back and relax, you have just one decision to make. Which class? To help kick off your journey in the best possible way Bespoke presents a primer to picking the seat that is best for you!

Second Class

China Train Second Class

The lowest pricing option, second class offers up your bog standard, garden variety train seat. Nothing to get excited about here, but then again it’s probably better than you expected. Whilst they’re comfortable enough, these carriages can feel a bit cramped when trains are full to capacity, especially for those that end up in the dreaded middle seat (exact positions cannot be chosen). Those that enjoy their personal space and/or are traveling with more luggage might want to consider bumping themselves up a grade or two.  (Sample price: Beijing to Shanghai approximately 555RMB)


The Great World

The Great World

The Great World of the past. Pic credit: Chinese Posters.

Turning one hundred years old is no mean feat, so Bespoke’s hearty congratulations go out to the lovely Great World building near People’s Square that was built in 1917. Now, whilst you’ve no doubt whizzed past this grand old dame countless times (and seen the bright white spire that looms over the elevated highway) you might not know that back in her youth she was a bit of a goer.

Opened as the city’s premier ‘entertainment complex’ and later taken over by corrupt-policeman-turned-mob boss ‘Pockmarked Huang’, the Great World was said to be teeming with life of every kind – contemporary accounts tell of everything from opera performances and tightrope walkers to fortune tellers, pickpockets and pimps!

As decadent as it sounds, the building has known hard times too, most notably when a bomb was accidentally dropped on it in 1937 at the start of the conflict with the Japanese with huge loss of life. While the building was repaired, it never really got its mojo back and lean years lay ahead.


New Hotels to Know: Shanghai & Beijing

Let’s face it, from fluffy bathrooms and breakfast buffets through to the knowledge that there will always be someone to clean up after you, a fabulous hotel stay is one of the highlights of a proper holiday. Accommodation options at the top end in China have increased exponentially in the last decade but, in a country that seems to constantly reinvent itself, new options are always welcome. What’s more, 2017 is shaping up to see a bumper crop of openings from some leading players. Here’s the lowdown:

(Shanghai, Early Summer 2017)

Capella Shanghai

Capella Shanghai. Photo Credit: Capella Hotels.

Hurrah! We’ve been waiting forever for a proper boutique hotel in the leafy French Concession. Fifty-five rooms housed in a historic block of old shikumen lane homes and access to the city’s most eclectic shopping and dining should make this a winner with those that like low key luxury. Foodie bonus: Michelin favorite Pierre Gagnaire is opening a French resto here too.

(Shanghai, Late 2017)


Amanyangyun. Photo Credit: Aman Resorts


4 Reasons Why You Need To Revisit Dashilan Like, Now.

The Achingly Cool Coffee Shops
Forget Gulou– we’re going to go out on a limb and say that Dashilan has the greatest concentration of cool coffee shops per square meter in Beijing. That’s right – from artisanal Soloist Coffee at 39 Yangmeizhu Xiejie (where they brew only the finest and you can recline in old salvaged armchairs) to Berry Beans, an early 20th century brothel that’s been converted into a gorgeous café with a little terrace (No.7 Zhujia Hutong).

The Hip Restaurants
Hunan resto The Southern Fish (166 Yangmeizhu Xiejie) flew under the radar for years until they made it onto Travel + Leisure’s hip list. And they’re not the only ones. Inde Japanese chain Suzuki Kitchen (10-14 Yangmeizhu Xiejie) has one of the best spaces on Yangmeizhu – a beautifully zen long room, filled with light and with its own kooky picnic area out front.

The Mix of Old and New
Take a historic old district (home of the city’s oldest brand shops, opium dens and brothels), add a large dash of contemporary styling (thanks, Beijing Design Week) and you’ve got the perfect clash of old and new. For an insight into how the area has changed over the years, check out Beijing Postcard’s Public History Space at No.97 Yangmeizhu Xiejie, where you can hear audio recordings by locals and buy some beautiful old maps of the area.

The Design Boutiques
Beijing has long been a city where all the best independent boutiques are spread miles apart. Luckily, Yangmeizhu Xiejie has stepped in to fill the void. Ubi Gallery (No.62) is a Bespoke favorite – a fantastic collection of Chinese and international designers – ceramics, cutting-edge jewelry, clothes, bags and the like. Meanwhile smaller spaces (often hidden at the top of external staircases or down alleyways – go explore!) are fun to browse for simple Chinese clothes, handmade notebooks and other tchotchkes. Check out Taciturnli, Twelve Moons and the Book Design Shop.


China: Welcome to the Future

If you think people in China are still using coins to pay for their groceries, wearing Mao suits and generally struggling through life, then you’re in for a shock.

old man in hutongs

These days are gone (sadly)

Far from being stuck in the past, China is careening ahead when it comes to consumer tech: pioneering a future that’s still years off in the West. In fact life in China’s major cities is so advanced, neither Japan nor the U.S. can hold a candle to it. Surprised? You will be…


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