By Edward Nawotka
The reality is that trade shows can be a bit of a grind. All too often, when traveling overseas for a convention, it’s easy to get caught up entirely with work and miss out on seeing any of the actual city the show is in. If you, like so many people this weekend, are visiting Beijing for the Beijing International Book Fair, make sure to get out and explore a bit. We know you don’t have a ton of time, so we’ve boiled down our guide to just a trio of places to meet for those impromptu drinking sessions, assignations and to get a taste of the literary life in the capitol city away from the fair.
The Bookworm: Beijing’s best English language bookstore is hosting a roof-top opening day reception for the BIBF with cocktails and canapés. The store, which has two locations in Beijing, offers a good selection of imported titles related to China, a selection of gifts, as well as a coffee shop and bar that serves tapas-style dishes. The store also functions as a lending-library, with a selection of 16,112 English language books available for loan (memberships starting at 200RMB for a half year). For travelers going further afield, The Bookworm also has outposts in Suzhou and Chengdu. It also holds a fantastic traveling literary festival in March.
All Sages Bookstore & Thinker’s Coffee Shop: This Chinese-language bookstore serves as a hangout for intellectuals, many of whom work at nearby Peking University. It offers perhaps the best selection of poetry in the city, as well as wide range of academic texts and journals. The attraction for expats is the spacious second floor café bar, which is a scene unto itself and attracts numerous local writers. Owner Suli Liu plays host and seems to know almost anyone in the literary scene worth knowing. It also happens to be convenient to Beijing’s original underground/punk rock club — D22 — if that’s more your scene.
The Drum and Bell: No, it’s not a bookstore, but this western style bar in an alley overlooking the courtyard between the Drum Tower and Bell Tower, does have free wi-fi — which if you read yesterday’s preview of the BIBF, you know the internet is where you’ll really discover China’s burgeoning literary scent. The Drum and Bell also has one of the best rooftop decks in town, cold drinks and, beautiful people lingering long into the night.