April and May are Spring months in Beijing and the best time to visit the city if you want to enjoy Nature in full bloom. After four months of winter chill, all the flowers and trees in the city awaken in this season. During the day, the temperature is a comfortably cool 12 to 14 degrees Celsius, considerably warmer than what I am used to. My hometown in Changchun, Jilin Province is colder than Beijing in every season. So, living here these three years has been quite a treat for me. Apart from being in the very city where the history of the country was made, Beijing is also a vibrant metropolis. I get the best of past and present plus wonderful weather.
May is also a month of flowers for my serviced residence because we usually celebrate Mother’s Day in a big way. Last year, we filled our lobby with carnations which represent love and respect. We also got the children of the residents to make Blessing Cards for their mothers. The mums were so moved to receive the cards and carnations. When I got home, I presented my own mother with a bouquet of carnations, too. She was very touched and the look on her face was priceless.
Take Time to Smell the Roses
In Spring, the entire city is a garden of blooms. Apricot Flowers, Yulan Magnolia, Cherry Blossoms, Pear Blossoms, Peach Blossoms, Tulips, Lilacs, and Peonies line the parks and gardens. A half-hour’s drive from Ascott Raffles City Beijing is the city’s biggest garden of all, the Beijing Botanical Garden (北京植物园). The sprawling 564,000-square-metre grounds has 6,000 species of plants including 500 species of flowers, 2,000 types of trees and bushes, 1,620 kinds of tropical and subtropical plants, and 1,900 varieties of fruit trees and water plants.
The hot house (greenhouse) exhibition is my favourite because it houses the ornamental plants exhibition which features over 300 different types of orchids among numerous other varieties of flowers and grass. Orchids are my favourite flower because of its subtle, sweet fragrance.
The Theme Gardens have 11 sub-divisions, each for a different type of flower. If you cannot cover them all, I recommend that you visit the Lilac Garden, Chinese Rose Garden, Flowering Peach Garden and Peony Garden. At the garden, you can also see Magnolias that come in two varieties – pink and white.
20 minutes from my serviced residence is Yuyuantan Park (玉渊潭公园). Every Spring, thousands flock to the nearly 140-hectare park with 61 hectares of water to admire the Cherry Blossoms. The park’s 2,000 Cherry Blossom trees, boasting 20 different species, form a fragrant backdrop for picnics. When I go there, I take the opportunity to go on a boat ride on the lake as well. It is one of the most relaxing ways to take in the blushing hues of Cherry Blossoms set in a landscape of green.
Jingshan Park (景山公园) is the place to go to admire Peony Roses. 15 minutes away, the public park, north of the Forbidden City, was once a private imperial garden and is the biggest Peony Rose garden in the city. Each May, 20,000 of some 200 varieties of Peony Roses blossom.
Take Home Some Floral Gifts
If you are inspired by all the flora and want to take home a garden of your own, Laitai Flower Market (莱太花卉市场), a 10-minute drive away, will send you into a botanical high. China’s biggest botanical warehouse has row upon row of orchids, peonies, Chinese roses, and lotus flowers amongst many other types of plants. You can also get ceramic pots and even fish to complement your garden.
Take a 15-minute drive and you will end up at Silk Street (秀水街). This shopping area in Chaoyang District gets my pick as the place to go for some retail recreation. With seven floors and 1,700 stores worth of merchandise, you will definitely be able to find some flower-themed clothes, shoes, linen, bedding and accessories to take home to remember your Spring date with Beijing.
20 minutes away is Nanluogu Lane (南锣鼓巷) - 800 metres of snack stalls and shops. At a shop named The Pottery Workshop, pick up vases for your flowers. Souvenir store, Gifted, is stocked with quirky keepsake. If nothing strikes your fancy, buy some cloth from the Cloth Shop to make your own outfits.
Take Time to Taste Spring
On the theme of flowers, there is something that I think you should sample that has to do with flowers – rose cake. This confectionery is made with fresh roses petals mixed with flour to create a fragrant dessert and is a specialty of this shop called Dao Xiang Cun just 10 minutes away from my serviced residence. The shop is nearly 120 years old and from a single store, it has since set up over 100 shops all over the city.
Mention flowers and pots come to mind. Another local dish that has to be with pots is the hotpot. It is my favourite Beijing culinary offering. This is a communal dish. Diners sit around a simmering pot of broth and toss cuts of fresh meats and vegetables into the hearty soup. When the food is cooked, they take turns to haul out what they want. Gui Jie (簋街), a food street 10 minutes from my serviced residence, is where you can have your pick of hotpot restaurants to visit.
Spring in Beijing brings with it a plethora of colours, and scents. The city simply comes alive. Come visit me this season and let me help you fall in love with the fragrance of Beijing.
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