The Beijing Cool

Welcome everyone, I am really exited about this website project I am doing mainly by myself, but also with the help of a few expat friends here in Beijing. The bottom line is, that this is a group of Beijingers that are fully dedicated to living here. We are not those weak foreigners with tails in their legs, trying to escape the often harsh realities of this city. Instead, we embrace everything that comes and try to adapt with the folks here. It’s a big barrier to cross, but once it’s done.. some of the most amazing things start to happen. This is all part of the Beijing Cool, because the city is indeed one of the most exiting places to live and play.

We won’t be talking about what everyone else is talking about, since there is enough of boring expat talk around. This blog is dedicated as is our lives here. Every day is a constant exploration of the new, with creativity blooming in many places. You just need to know where to look for it. The language barrier is one stopper, but the main one is the mind. We are going to loosen the frame and help us fellow English speakers to get more into the alternative lifestyle in Beijing.

No bull shit, pure understand, love and crazy shit!

Your host,

Mark Wu

Cool Golden Mask Dynasty Show at Happy Valley

If you have never seen the terrific Golden Mask Dynasty Show Beijing venue, we at Cool Beijing recommend going to watch it as soon as possible for the summer season! This extremely impressive big stage production has been the center stage of the Beijing Happy Valley events. Now it has become even more popular amongst tourists and other visitors who simply come to see the show! Read below about how we interviewed the famous stage designer about the famous waterall scene.

Cool Golden Mask Dynasty Show at Happy Valley

The‭ ‘‬Waterfall‭’ ‬scene in the grand‭ ‬dance show,‭ “‬Golden Mask Dynasty‭” ‬was astonishing:‭ ‬Water literally runs down from the elevating platform, right on stage!‭ P‬eople were‭ ‬fighting so hard to make it excellent, that one can‭ ‬feel the‭ ‬intense‭ ‬rage from the water vapor itself.‭ ‬How was the special effect created‭?‬ The‭ ‬lead stage designer Ju Yi said:‭ “‬As a matter of fact,‭ ‬the‭ ‬stage‭ ‬and its special effects were designed‭ ‬three years ago‭ ‬at the time when the OCT Theatre was built.‭”

Ju Yi‭ ‬has‭ ‬shown his‭ ‬daring endeavor in his previous creations.‭ ‬For instance,‭ ‬in the‭ ‬50th anniversary celebration of the victory over World War II which was held in The Great Hall of the People,‭ ‬Ju Yi’s scene of‭ ‬”The‭ ‬collapse of the‭ ‬Empire‭ ‬State Building‭” ‬was astounding and remarkable.

Ju Yi said:‭ “‬There was a water reservoir in front of the stage and the reservoir was covered.‭ ‬The cover‭ ‬could be removed during the dance show to create‭ ‬the waterscape for the special effect.‭ ‬I required the cover to be thin,‭ ‬i.e‭ ‬15cm,‭ ‬however the manufacturer,‭ ‬not‭ ‬complying with my requirements,‭ ‬made it thick.‭ ‬I‭’‬d personally been to the factory several times just to‭ ‬persuade them to make the cover thinner in accordance to my requirement.‭ ‬At last,‭ ‬they did what I asked.‭ ‬Hence,‭ ‬in my opinion,‭ ‬the key to the success of the dance show in Las Vegas was to be scrupulous about every details and always ensure that every aspects of the production‭ ‬was perfect.

Speaking of the stage design of the‭ “‬Golden Mask Dynasty‭”‬,‭ ‬Ju Yi said:‭ “‬We had created a lot of scenes that were as impressive as the‭ ‬’Waterfall‭’ ‬scene.‭ ‬For example,‭ ‬the‭ ‬360‭ ‬degree turnable war background‭ ‬was turned upside down so that the men of Golden Mask Dynasty were‭ ‬sent to the top while the Blue Mask men were sent to the bottom to create a visual effect that the men of Golden Mask Dynasty sent the Blue Mask men to‭ ‘‬Hell‭’‬.‭ ‬Such visual presentation was unique.‭” ‬Though Ju Yi admitted that the storyline and the audio part of the‭ “‬Golden Mask Dynasty‭” ‬needed some improvements,‭ ‬yet it is undeniable that the dance show is still the best dance show in Beijing.

‭Hope you liked it and don’t miss it!

More Favorite Experiences in China

There are just so many places in China that I simply love to visit. Here are a few more on my list of the very most favourites experiences in the mainland. Hope you like it & please, let us know in the comments what are your favourite places!

Inner Mongolia

Inner Mongolia

Ride camels through the Gobi desert when you visit the province of Inner Mongolia. Its landscape is unique to most of the country and it is home to Hexigten National Geo Park, a UNESCO site featuring a granite forest, volcanic landform and thermal springs. The nature of Inner Mongolia is undeniably stunning and there are multiple geo parks, grasslands, and temples.

Shaanxi Province

Shaanxi Province

Shaanxi is best known for housing the Terracotta Warriors located in the city of Xi’an. Although large, the city is more toned down than some of the country’s other famous tourist destinations and makes for a laid back journey. Spend an afternoon checking out the famous army and associated museums and then make your way back into the lovely city. You can visit the drum towers and hear live performances of traditional music and then make your way to the bustling Muslim Quarter to see the detailed mosque and interesting markets. The best part about this district is the food and you could spend hours walking around and sampling different treats from the road side stalls and alleyway restaurants.

Coming up, more great Beijing highlights for everyone to enjoy!

Mark Wu


My Favourite Places to Visit Around China

Besides Beijing, there is a whole lot more to this vast country of course. Please, enjoy my list of favourite places to visit around China!

China is a fantastically vast country filled with interesting and unique places to see. Most have heard of the big destinations, Shanghai and Beijing, but they don’t even scratch the surface of what the country has to offer. If you want to delve into China a little further than the main tourist haunts, check out this list for some stunning Chinese destinations.

Guilin (Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region)

Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region

This misty mountain town is surrounded by rivers and greenery. Within the small town center you can see both Chinese tourists and backpack wielding foreigners making their way to the sites. The city itself has a few interesting museums and decorative parks but the real beauty of Guilin lies within the places that surround it. Visit the famous Reed Flute Cave, admire its limestone formations and stay to watch the laser light show within its caverns. Take a bamboo raft tour down the Li river and stare up at the karst giants that tower over you as you pass by. Snap a photo in front of the infamous scene that is on the back of the 20 RMB note or take a side trip and visit the stunning Longji rice terraces in nearby Longsheng.

Yunnan Province

Yunnan Province

This province is one of the biggest travel destinations for the Chinese and it also finds itself on the backpacker trail. In the city’s capital Kunming, you can make a day of touring temples or head to The Stone Forest, a UNESCO site filled with so many karst towers that it resembles a forest made of stone. Head to the backpacker mecca of Dali and visit the Cangshan Mountains or travel to Lijiang for the ancient villages and the scenic Jade Dragon Snow Mountain. Probably the most famous is the Shangrila, which holds a large Tibetan population and is loved for its monasteries and historic town center.

Summer greetings from Beijing,

Mark Wu

The Time For Some Chaoyang Theater Acrobatics

Congratulations boys and girls, seems the Chinese new year has finished with not too many casualities. Only kidding! It was a smooth ride, with controlled drinking and this time, for the first year in Beijing I was wearing safety glasses. Now it’s time to take a deep breath and really look at what’s ahead for the next year of the sheep. I am seeing something big coming this way, just I can feel it. After all, China and especially this city is the land of opportunities. I guess that’s what I strongly felt the first time when I got there.. and while some of the opportunities have diminished as people have realised their dreams more and more.. the stakes are still high and you can do a lot here that perhaps you no longer cannot in the west.

One of those things that makes me feel like I can really do anything is the Chaoyang Theatre Acrobatics Show which we go to see to get that dose of courage that we need on a yearly basis. While it’s best to experience the endless possibilities by yourself, it’s also important to go and see how far some have reach. While entrepreneurship is getting stronger by the day, going back into the roots and history of China will still give you the examples with most impact. Afterall, the history does go pretty damn deep with a lot of interesting things on the way. That is, on the way to what lead the acrobatic theatre having reached as far as it incredibly has today.

Chaoyang Theatre Acrobatics Show in Beijing 1

Chaoyang Theatre Acrobatics Show in Beijing 2

I can almost bet, that you cannot find a more skillful acrobat show in the whole world, including those of Las Vegas or other famous ones.. Yes, I am sure that there are loads of acrobatics show productions all over the world that have a huge budget, much bigger than that of the Chaoyang Theatre of course. But it doesn’t matter because money wont win here. What makes the best feats will be obviously the most astounding one, dispite of the setting. And saying that the Flying Acrobatics are still a relatively big stage production with a huge historical theatre that is glowing with elegance of a very unique kind.

So after the new year has ended, what better time to go to see the what feats the stage hosts this year and get a kind of a reset for your brain. Freshening up with a bit of acrobatic skill madness, sounds perfect to us! Turns out that we were not the only ones who had the same idea as the Chaoyang Theatre was just packed. But that is equally an important part of the whole show, where the atmosphere goes up to the roof.. thanks to a crowd that is screaming and standing up to cheer the stage performers. It’s really something breahtaking which is not always easy to explain to tourists, but I try anyway like in this article. Perhaps watching a sneak peak show trailer would help, check it out. If you are in Beijing, don’t miss on the acrobatics show at chaoyang theatre, and don’t forget to buy discount tickets available at most booking websites.

Have a good year of the sheep.. See you soon guys and gals!

Your Beijing expert,
Mark Wu

New Year Maddness in Beijing

It’s Chinese new year, yeah! Hooray! It’s time to celebrate.. or is it? Well. It really depends on who you ask. Also “where in China”, will obviously have a big influence on that answer as well. In Beijing you could call it the best, the coolest or the worst. Depending on what you like of course. I have loads of expat friends who especially for the new year festivities, escape the country. Even some that hardly ever leave China and stay very true to the city.. take a flight to some nearest, more calm country during this one week long period.

Chinese Flashy New Year

Then there are those who absolutely love it. Drink up and party all night for a whole week. If you are crazy enough, it’s probably an experience worth it. For those who like calm, stay away this is warning. =)

Either way, if you happen to be in the city expect a lot of fireworks everywhere, all the time. They wont stop.. whenever you look out the window, at any time of the day.. yes during day time!! you will see fireworks.. and things blowing up. And the car alarms, they will join the fun of course. It will be quite dangerous as well, so if you get drunk… walk the streets with huge caution.

That said, enjoy yourself or escape. Up to you but anyway, cool Beijing wishes you a happy new year of the sheep. or was it the goat? There are so many animals every year that I keep forgetting. Cheers!!!

Not so Cool: Access Blocked Google from China

Google China Flag

With all the greatness that is keeping me here in the buzzing city with a pumping heart.. There are also definitely quite a few things that are not that cool in Beijing. I mean wherever you go, one is going to have the “bad” and “good” side. It’s just a pick on what suits you best and definitely China is not for everyone. Anyway, I started wondering is google blocked in China and turns out it is. I couldn’t access my favorite search engine and it really started to bug me. While there are obviously ways around accessing google, I couldn’t help thinking that this is some sort of a scam from the government. In a way it is, because they are trying to protect “sensitive information” without consulting the people themselves. It’s a forced restriction and has nothing to do with the free will of China’s citizens. Well, probably most of you already know all that rap about the evil government. Which is not that evil really.. one could argue that the Chinese are used to a little bit different sort of a complicated system than we are in the west. Knowing your way around things, might take a little time for foreigners.. but there are still clear ways that things operate here.

Besides that, you need to know where you can cross the line and where not. Obviously quite a few people at Google are not very good friends with the Chinese government. But they know that people are passing the restrictions. Especially if you don’t need a VPN to access Google like in the nice little how to that I posted earlier on.. then you can say that no one is going to mind. It’s just to stop things a little so that “things” don’t get out of hand. I am sure their model is successful and they need to kind of experiment and hold on to the leash at all times. In case things get out of hand, Beijing is ready to say “stop!” and hault the whole thing. It’s a funny situation really, but necessary according to those who know the problem. Of course by blocking Google they are preventing the devision of a republic that should have devided by natural circumstances a long time a go.

A lot of foreigners just get annoyed: “Damn, I can’t access Google!”. But there are reasons behind everything as you can see 😛

Real Beijing is on The Streets

For anyone who is looking for an authentic and mind opening experience of China and Beijing is going to be a pretty cool guy. It’s not that easy to go into it, especially with a western mind that often has it’s limitations with adventure. While Beijing is all about adventure, surprisingly many people come without actually experiencing much any of it. China has become like a superficial travel destination for those who want a one time picture experience that they can show at home. Look, I’ve been to the great wall of China! Well, I have news for you people. This doesn’t really say if you have been to China or not. Okay, maybe that’s a bit harsh from my part. It doesn’t say if you have experienced China in it’s original form.

A lot of the infastructure that has been created around tourism is just plain money motivated. With all kinds of people between every transaction trying to make a buck. Forget ethics or any kind of business rules, if there is a way to make money of tourists then that will be made in Beijing.

Beijing an Odd Mix

But actually that’s the great thing about the place because those coolest and most amazing experiences are left alone for those adventurous enough. If you are someone who wants to do on their travels the same thing everyone else is doing. Then China will be a good match and a fun one at that. But if you want to find your own exciting way, China is a dream come true!

With a lot of flexibility, cheap when you know your way around… and open people who like to communicate with you. I can tell from my deep experience, that you are in for a ride that’s nowhere else. And that in it’s essense makes Beijing such a cool place to be. You have to walk the streets between all that fancy stuff, because in China that is where life is. Or more over, that is where the meeting with life is.

Watch out, China could teach you more than you are ready for.

How I First Fell in Love with Beijing

I thought it would be a story worth sharing, what really started my journey in the very cool Beijing. It was not love at first sight to tell you the truth. In fact, the first time I arrived here I hated it. Mainly because of the crowded city, it’s pollution and noise. But that’s not just all, I thought the people here were unpolite and noisy as well. Of course, I didn’t speak the language then and couldn’t much communicate with everyone. Even though a lot of people attempted to talk to me, in Chinese of course. The language that has become one of the major languages in the whole world. So I guess it can be expected that visitors speak their language, instead of it being the other way around.. like in most non-english speaking countries.

Beijing Night Street View

I was a pretty ordinary tourist back then too, and just visited local sights.. like the tempel of heaven, forbidden palace, and tiananmen square to name a few ones most people know. Of course, I really enjoyed visiting those places and thought that these are very special in the city. But the real meeting with the soul of the area just didn’t happen. I felt distant and non-comfortable at times.

Perhaps it was just luck or coincidence, but after when I went to Shanghai i totally fell in love with that place. It was because of meeting great people that were showing me around the amazing city, I guess! Then I decided to stay there, and lived in Shanghai for a year or so. After a great, fun year and learning lots of Mandarin. I went back to Beijing with my friends, and met for the first time.. yes, real Beijingers. I went to underground clubs, and realised that this is a cool one of a kind place that I just had to live in.

And here I am!=)

Coolest Kung Fu Opera Shows in Beijing

Must say, that Beijing is a pretty famous place when it comes to theatre productions. Just like any other major capital in the world, London, New York, Seoul, Tokyo as well as Shanghai. But having seen performing arts in several countries in the world, I have to say that the vibe in Beijing is very different and very cool indeed!

Here I will explain to you some of the great night spectacles you should definitely go and see before you die. Perhaps one day I will make such a list of “shows to see before you die”. But until then, I’ll just show you my personal favourites. And just want to mention I have no commercial ties with these theatres, they are honest reviews from real experiences. Har, har. Those who are living in Beijing or know about China more than the average will understand my previous joke. Those who don’t, well, don’t mind me. Read  along and go and see these amazing spectacles!

Red Theater

First stop is Red Theater. Which represents some of the most golden memories I have from my home city. About once a year, I get a group of expats together ,and go to watch the show. I can simply never get enough of the beautiful story, performance and all it’s nuances that you start to learn only after you understand a few good points about kung fu, the main topic of the show.

Kung Fu Theater

1) Kung Fu is not like in the movies. When you see a hollywood flick, or even one of Jackie’s films you create a certain impression about the art of Kung Fu. But it’s not just some cool moves, it’s a well respected martial art in China. Red Theater is proud of their Chinese heritage, and these extremely skilful and bolded guys are trained hard. According to traditions, you are suppose to make purposeful moves, and that’s why this theater production has tremendous educational value. It’s cool but, you need to see beyond and understand. In other words, respect goes a long way!

2) Yes, there are touristic groups that come to see the show. I’ve heard so much negative feedback about how the venue is touristy or something. When people simply do not understand. Chinese love to go there too, and Chinese are also tourists! The popularity of this show, is because it’s simply amazing. In fact, overall in the city you can go to see acrobatics for example which will be much much more touristy. People just like to complain about everything I guess.

So what’s my final verdict? Well, a classic is a classic. The story of a boy that grows up to become the master of Kung Fu just has to be awesome. It’s well done and touches the heart of those who dare to watch it. With a good balance of action and deep emotions that come tumbling down on you like there is no mercy.. Well, that’s simply entertainment at it’s best. You won’t be disappointed is all I can say. Check out the amazing Red Theater Kung Fu Show!!!

Huguang Guild Hall Opera

Into Chinese ancient culture and history? Not? Well. Don’t worry. Me neither. Beijing Opera is actually a really really cool performing art, that cannot be missed even if you are not “usually into that sort of thing”, type of person. I avoided it myself for years. Until, I got a free ticket and I just had to go. My first reaction was to open my mouth and keep it that way for the duration of an hour. Simply wicked.

Huguang Beijing Opera

Of course you need to have a bit of appreciation for artistic value, but especially if you dig the crazy Chinese style whatever that is. The Huguang Hall will be filled with that exact energy, that made me comfortable amongst this cool population in the first place! I have no idea what “Huguang” means, but it sounds pretty awesome as well. But for the meaning of “Opera”, well it was transformed in one single night. I had to go out drinking after that and tell everyone the truth.

I hear a lot of Chinese young folks like that stuff too, now I even understand that. The music is not like the best I have ever heard. But even that concept totally blew my mind when I heard electronic beats mixed with it. A classical Chinese orchestra and the singing fits perfectly with it. Having a mind blowing experience became a bit of a trend. So I decided to take it to the extreme challenge.

I invited a friend of mine, who doesn’t care anything about any performing arts or theater. If you ask him, he would just go to a football game for all his life and be happy without knowing anything about “culture”. So we did a deal, I went to see his football match and he went to see the opera at Huguang Guild Hall. Turns out, both of us enjoyed the experience very much. While both of us will agree not to go to see that again, it was definitely an experience well worth it. While football and opera are kind of like from a totally different world. I can say with a fair bit of confidence that opera is still more entertaining at least in the sense that it has some value in it. Ha, there I said it.

But here at Beijing cool, we respect the fact that everyone has their own concepts in lame and cool. We just educate and if someone likes then, everyone happy. If not, that’s life.

So which one would you go to see in Beijing, the action packed kung fu classic at Red Theater, or the wicked, crazy, ancient and unknown Huguang Guild Hall Opera? Please, let me know in the comments!

Until next time. Your friend and Beijing/China expert.

Mark Wu