Beijing is cool. If you can afford to pay for cool, of course. Vintage stores, cocktail bars and cappuccino places with mis-matching furniture for the expats and the well-off. For the rest, not-so-clean-looking noodle places and public toilets: the hutong (courtyard) housing much-loved by Westerners doesn’t come with its own sanitation. But overall, quality of life doesn’t seem so bad here – apart from the ever-present ceiling of smog, perhaps. The subway is modern and costs just 30 euro-cent a journey. For a city supposedly choked by traffic, roads are wide, there are cycle lanes, and every hutong takes you from the main road to quiet, within seconds. Public spaces are for everyone. Old people play ping-pong, do exercises, or dance like no one is watching.
More photos from China here