Winter comes early to Beijing, bringing with it holiday spirit that lasts from Halloween through Chinese New Year. Ahead of this holiday season, we’ve scoured Beijing for unique gifts that’ll travel well. Read on for five presents that will certainly surprise and delight someone on your list.
What: Sui Jianguo’s Dinosaurs
Ullens Center for Contemporary Art is one of Beijing’s 798 Art District’s best galleries, and its gift shop blows the others out of the water. Designed by Taiwanese group Good Studio, the shop’s theme is windows, reflected in its floor-to-ceiling windows, which flood it with light. Seemingly effortlessly displayed throughout the store are a cornucopia of items that’ll have aesthetes reaching immediately for their wallets. Our pick of the lot, though, is one of Sui Jianguo’s iconic dinosaurs — USB size (¥288, or about US $47). The toddler-sized dinos retail for a cool ¥48,000, or nearly US $8,000. You’ll find a life-size version of the dinosaurs in a cage outside the gallery entrance.
Where: Slow Boat Brewery Taproom
China is the world’s leading consumer of beer, and both Shanghai and Beijing now have solid craft beer scenes. The idea for Slow Boat came to Americans Daniel Hebert and Chandler Jurinka in 2009, but it wasn’t until 2011 that the pair released their first brew, the Captain’s Pale Ale. There was a time that you could only get Slow Boat’s beers on tap, but the duo are now selling two bottled brews — The First Immortal Double IPA (¥45 or US $7.39) and the Zombie Pirate Pale Ale (¥40 or US $6.56). The Double IPA, 8 percent ABV, has caramel and licorice flavors and citrus aromas, perfect for fall and winter sipping. If you buy a case of 24 bottles of either ale, you’ll save 25 percent.
What: A treatment at Aman Spa at Aman at Summer Palace
Where: Aman at Summer Palace
Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star Aman at Summer Palace is a gorgeous traditional Chinese-style luxury hotel steps from the Summer Palace. Its spa, Forbes Travel Guide Four-Star Aman Spa, has nine double treatment rooms in which to enjoy the spa’s expert treatments. After a day of sightseeing at the Summer Palace or within Beijing, a massage by Aman Spa’s well-trained technicians is a fantastic way to wind down. Treatments run from the 120-minute Seasonal Signature package (¥1,880, or about US $295), in which a seasonal herbal poultice is combined with a massage, to the 30-minute (¥380, or around US $62) body exfoliation, ideal for those visiting Beijing during its long, dry winters.
What: Kids’ Magic8 T-shirt
Where: Plastered T-shirts
This little space has been selling screen-printed T-shirts, hoodies and accessories since 2006. When British owner Dominic Johnson-Hill first set up shop on Nan Luo Gu Xiang, the 800-year old hutong (alleyway) was a quiet residential area. Today, it’s the most populous hutong in the neighborhood, lined with shops, restaurants, bars and cafés, and mobbed at the weekends by Beijing’s teenagers and college students. The clothing is emblazoned with icons of Beijing and China’s past — meal tickets from the days of government-assigned work units, young pioneers in their red neckerchiefs and, of course, the luckiest number in Chinese numerology, eight. Our favorite of the kids’ T-shirts, all of which are cute, is a Magic8 (¥128 or US $23, plus US $2.50 for domestic shipping or US $7.25 for international) simple white T-shirt with a large No. 8, image made to look like blue-and-white Qing dynasty pottery.
What: Old Peking postcards
Where: Beijing Postcards
A stone’s throw from Plastered is Beijing Postcards, run by Danish expats Lars Ulrik Thom and Simon Rom Gjeroe. The pair got their start more than a decade ago, when they began collecting photographs of China dating from the late 1800s to the 1940s. The duo snagged most at auctions, but were lucky enough to acquire some of their collection from the descendants of long-ago Danish missionaries. Beijing Postcards also sells calendars, prints and maps, but the postcards (¥5 or US $0.82) are super light and make great stocking stuffers. Beyond selling tangible pieces of Beijing’s rich history, Thom and Gjeroe give walks and talks. If you miss one of the talks, visit Beijing Postcards’ Facebook page, onto which its owners upload photos alongside interesting historical tidbits.
Photos Courtesy of Aman At Summer Palace, Slowboat Brewery and Plastered T-shirts