Why oh wi-fi? – April 6th 2011

We don’t know about you, but we’ve had it with paying for hotel wi-fi. It was maybe justifiable when only used by business travellers who could claim it back from Jenny in accounts, but with on-the-go browsing and cloud computing in the hands of your everyday guest (heaven forbid!) it’s now just plain greedy.

We had hoped that this bad habit would disappear given the increasing numbers of free wi-fi hotspots in cafes, bars and galleries. But some hotels – and the larger chains are particularly guilty – are clinging on to this ‘service’ as if it was an obscure additional extra like a Garra Rufa pedicure or midnight gingerbread platter. For those hotels that can provide internet in rooms, we think it should be up there with running water, light bulbs and a door in terms of complimentary pre-requisites.

But rather than make this a negative rant to name and shame wrongdoers, we thought we would celebrate those places where wireless internet doesn’t come with strings attached. So let’s start by saying thanks to our http heroes at:

Hotel G, Beijing

JIA, Hong Kong

URBN, Shanghai

Let us know where you’ve had some free wi-fi fun times.

Email: / Twitter: @node72 #whyowifi



Beijing bookshelf – March 23rd 2011

A big part of the node72 ethos is that travel is not just about famous places and grand sights, but also about the grubby corners and the sometimes intangible atmosphere that makes up a city.

So as well as detailing the places to find each city’s special feel, our guides give you suggestions for music, films and books to consider taking with you (or even read before if you are more organised than we are) so that you get a deeper understanding of what makes each place tick.

With our recent guide to Beijing we had to make some tricky choices about what to recommend. We briefly considered the most famous little book of all, but reckon Mao’s prose is rather dry in places, even if it is very widely red. (Ahem).

We started with contemporary writers Xiaolu Gou, Ma Jian, and Yiyun Li. Li’s ‘A Thousand Years of Good Prayers‘, a collection of short stories, offers some memorable scenes and characters in and around the city, but is perhaps less of a Beijing book, and more of a Greater China book – including as it does characters as far and wide as Inner Mongolia and Boston.

Ma Jian, on the other hand, in both ‘Red Dust‘ and ‘Beijing Coma‘, brings to life a rarely seen Beijing of emotional turmoil and political action. His writing is so personal that reading it will make you understand the struggles of China’s young, intellectual fringe more than any article ever could. We’ve restricted ourselves to recommending just one of these. but obviously you’ll have to see which one it is for yourself!

Western commentary on Beijing certainly has its place and in many ways can get to the heart of the city’s soul faster than any other type of writing. Peter Hessler is a great writer on Chinese culture, and as for Chinese politics and economics Will Hutton‘s ‘The Writing on the Wall‘ is a worthy stock take – as well as proof of how quickly things have moved on since it was published just a few years ago. Carsten Jensen’s beautiful prose in ‘I Have Seen the World Begin‘ details a heavy-hearted if resilient Beijing, and one all too briefly sketched.

And then there’s the fun. Let’s not pretend that one of the most attractive elements of this great cultural and political metropolis isn’t its sketchy side. This is almost certainly better lived than read about, but a few stories to get you in the mood won’t go amiss. We’ve found these in memoirs by Rob Gifford, ‘China Road‘, and James West‘s ‘Beijing Blur‘. These two very different books offer personal journeys through China’s capital, with a few scrapes, late nights and piercing observations along the way.

Of course there is a lot, lot more – more local authors, more fiction and more reportage. We’ve tried to cover off most of these angles in our final selection in a way that gives you the best of the city, whether past or present. And in a recommended selection of only five books, that’s no mean feat.

We hope you like our final choices. Let us know if we missed anything that you think sums up Beijing’s buzz like no other.

Beijing books

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