Recently we were lucky enough to add a new guidebook to the collection: The Insider’s Guide to Beijing (2008 Edition) brought to you courtesy of the nice people at Immersion Guides (affiliated with the unfortunately named That’s BJ Magazine/website/thebeijinger.com). We have a lot of Chinese guidebooks, but we have yet to encounter one quite so thorough as this one. At just over 700 pages, it leaves no stone unturned*. Covering everything from buying art to child rearing, it’s a valuable resource for tourists and residents alike.
We particularly liked the feature articles referred to as ‘sidebars.’ These are little one to two page blurbs on a wide range of topics that add richness and depth to the overall experience. While similar feature pieces do exist in other guides (such as Lonely Planet and Time Out), the ones in this guide are more amusing and cover many important topics that the others miss (one about the horrors of Baijiu entitled “China Fury” comes to mind).
This is not to say that this guidebook is not without its drawbacks. Its cumbersome nature can be overwhelming and it isn’t particularly well-organized. It is also missing some of the guidebook basics as well. The restaurant suggestions, for example, lack price ranges. This resulted in a rather embarrassing situation for this Shanghaiist (having to get our coats back after realizing a particular restaurant was over 800/person). The guide also don’t provide good location references on its maps, making it difficult to find restaurants and tourist attractions if you aren’t already familiar with city.
That being said, this is an excellent overall guidebook, well worth bringing along on your next trip to Beijing.
*Except the stones laid down in 1989, a year which the book pretends never happened. Well, I guess you can only expect so much out of a locally-published guidebook.