Living in Dongzhimen
By Veronica Smith
Dong Zhi Men is the location of the ancient North-East city gate and although it once led out into the countryside, it is now considered central Beijing, and one of the most important transportation hubs; linking the airport light rail to the subway system. Whether you live a high-end luxury villa or in a local Soviet heritage six story walk-up the locals are used to having foreign neighbours; it gives the great feeling of being in oneís own neighbourhood instead of bieng a suspicious ďAlienĒ. Despite its central location there are an abundance of trees and the newly renovated canal system is a wonderful place for romantic evening strolls under the willows, with the excercising grannies of course!
Dong Zhi Men is perhaps the area where rents have the widest price range; where students and CEOís can all find a place they will want to call home. There are private villas in closed compounds starting at 70 K RMB per month where the tree lined driveways and private gardens will make you believe you are in a suburban utopia (East Lake Villas). Or if you are on a studentís budget and donít mind a 6 story walk up in a 1960ís drafty concrete block a bachelor starts around 3 hundred. Then there are lots of mid range apartments with sleepy doormen and elevator ladies who will never fail to ask you lots of personal questions- a good way to practice your Chinese. All have their unique charms.
Dong Zhi Men is amass with people from all walks of life, Chinese migrant peasants selling fruit and sleeping on cots behind stacks of crates and diplomats from all corners of the globe zooming around in posh cars past bird walkers and fishermen down by the canal. There is such a long history of foreigners in the area that rare are the cries of ďlao waiĒ when you go out to get your milk.
Pubs, Clubs and Entertainment
Evening comes and the neighbourhood gets a little sleepy unless you enjoy watching locals play chess on the corner, but just a hop-skip and jump away is the San Li Tun Bar Street where you can put on your dancing shoes. If the munchies hit in the wee hours head to the west side of the Second Ring road to the 24 hour Ghost Street restaurants, hot pots of scampiís await. If you looking for more culture, theatre goers will find a never ending line-up of local and international music and dance performances at the Poly Center just around the corner. And if you canít afford tickets to see rockín roll line ups like Cui Jian or Singer James Blunt at the Workers Stadium- just open your windows to sing along- itís that close.
Officially there are no parks at Dong Zhi Men, but the canal system runs through the northern periphery and if you start at the Chun Xiu Lu Pizza Hut it will lead you all the way to the Third Ring Road near the Kapinski Hotel, a great walk on a summer evening. If you need more than a short stroll there are a multitude of busses that will take you directly to Parks all over the city, the 106 to Tian Tan in the South, the 117 to Di Tan and the 815 to Chao Yang Park, not to mention the 107 which drops you at Beihai park just north of the Forbidden City. For indoor sports East Gate, East Lake both have gyms and accept non-resident members.
Shops, Restaurants and Takeaways
Shopping for groceries will mean stops at several places to get the best deals, if you like going to local specialty shops there are plenty tucked away in hidden corners. Behind the wall facing the long distance bus station in a traditional Hutong style building is a great Muslim butcher; arrive early or they will be sold out.
On the corner of the Second Ring and Dong Zhi Men is the Gaza Plaza, mostly genuine name brands at exorbitant prices, the good thing is you will also find a Watsons Pharmacy in the basement- Kitty corner to the Pizza hut is a 24 hour pharmacy well stocked with condoms- knock hard to wake up the night watchman. For your chocolate fix or morning croissant visit Comptoires de France in East Lake Villas- and pick up some needed cheesy items in the basement at Jenny Louís. Many local restaurants will deliver; some will even let you leave a deposit for the crock pot if you want take away soup on a cold winterís eve. There is of course Pizza Hut and for those who like living dangerously- a Mcdonalds.
Anywhere you need to go the Dong Zhi Men transport hub will have a bus, train, subway or long distance mini-van to take you there. The express train to the airport, the line 13 subway and the original loop subway line number 1 all travel from or through Dong Zhi Men. And if you need to escape the chaos go to the newsstand in front of Sky Plaza give them 16 Rmb and get on the airport shuttle.
AREAS OF BEIJING