First time in Beijing, I am happy we chose this hotel and this area.
We found a tranquil spot inside the city. Warm wood refreshed with white walls and textiles, everything soaking in daylight – that is what our room in The Opposite House looked like when we arrived.
It was heaven after all the cars and airports and endless highways.
Designed by Japanese architect Kengo Kuma, the hotel building is a green glass cube. Everyone gets a view, since the outer wall of each room is glass from floor to ceiling.
The beautiful wood floors feel wonderful under bare feet. Very sensual and tactile. Therefore, grounding.
Every day the staff would leave you a little gift by your bed: a tray of fresh fruit, a travel guide, a refreshing face mask. Or they will close the book you left lying open and put a bookmark inside.
One of the first things we did after we checked in was bathing in the solid oak tub and watching the grey urban landscape, dressed in hazy smog, turn peach and pink with the sun going down.
It was November and freezing outdoors. I believe the extreme coldness has even more to do with how these giant cities are built than the actual temperature.
When asphalt and cement get cold, they can feel really alienating. Whereas when walking in nature, below zero degrees feel simply refreshing, considering you are dressed properly.
Besides the hotel, the wooden tub was another thing we looked forward to returning to after each day out exploring the city and working.
Soaking in hot water and getting a little distance to the city crowds and hassle was the perfect way to relax in Beijing.
The Opposite House is located on a fancy shopping area in Sanlitun. Finding a nice café or restaurant close by is not difficult, and you will have all the designer stores lined up right around the corner.
The only things I ended up buying, though, were a wooden plate and a handmade ceramic vase from this little artisan shop.
The staff of the hotel was wonderful. So friendly and helpful with everything.
They called me Lady Sara, which I thought was cute, and they helped us a lot with planning our trip, finding places, and making restaurant reservations.
Traveling in the west you forget, that having no mutual language gets new dimensions in the east.
In Paris, you can show the driver the address you wish to go to, simply by pointing a piece of paper you were smart enough to write it on in case someone did not understand (or approve) your pronunciation.
But unless you master the writing system of China, you have limited tools for communicating with people. Our letters are totally unknown to a large part of the population, just like their letters are unknown to us.
Gladly we received a lot of maps and papers with both eastern and western writing on them, prepared and printed out by the hotel staff. And everything went smoothly.
Planning our trip earlier in the fall, Saku and I talked about China and Beijing. He had been there before, I had not.
What he remembered was the scale. It takes a little time for you to get over how massive everything is, and start seeing the lovely little things. Ordinary things.
Also, he told me laughing, that no matter where you are going in Beijing, the hotel staff will tell you it takes 30 minutes to get there with a taxi.
I thought he was joking.
But it soon became a thing we looked forward to, calling or going down to order transportation. Everywhere we wanted to go, we were told it would take 30 minutes.
We never timed the actual length of the drive, though. It was so much more fun just to laugh and go with it.
The Opposite House
11 Sanlitun Road, Chaoyang District
Beijing, China 100027