Forbidden City
Forbidden beverage: Starbucks is off-limits in China’s Forbidden City. Photo: iStockphoto

 

News Travels is our new blog series that plucks travel destinations from the headlines.

China's stylish first lady Peng Liyuan
Peng Liyuan

China’s glamorous new first lady Peng Liyuan dazzled the world on her first state visit abroad this week. The fashionable singer, 50, stepped out in a well-tailored trench coat and oversized handbag—a big contrast to some of the dour looks sported by her predecessors. While all eyes were on Liyuan, we turned our gaze on some of China’s other top attractions.

1) For seven years, java jonesers could pick up a cup of Starbucks right in the Forbidden City. In 2007, however, citizens rallied to oust the Seattle chain, arguing that the cafe compromised the site’s cultural significance.

2) Shanghai’s metro system, the largest in the world at 272 miles, broke ridership records this month with 8.5 million passengers in a single day. Not bad for a transit system that’s only been around since 1995.

3) A widely circulated “fact” claims that the Great Wall of China is the only manmade structure visible from the moon. While the wall’s sheer length is undoubtedly impressive at 5,500 miles, the claim is nothing more than a longstanding myth that dates back to at least the 1930s, says NASA.

4) Beijing is full of Wangs. More than one out of ten residents shares the surname.

5) As recently as the 1980s, about 80 percent of Beijing commuters biked to work. Cars are much more common now, with only about 20 percent of workers pedaling through rush hour gridlock, many of them on electric bikes.

 

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