“You’ll be amazed at how everything is so cheap here,” a friend told me about Beijing, after I accepted a job to work in the city.
And for a time, I was. A tall bottle of beer and plate full of meat skewers cost around 20 yuan ($3.29) at a restaurant near my office. Cab fares, with a flag-down rate of less than 10 yuan, were less than half of what you’d pay in a large US city.
Apartments I priced near the Lama Temple — an area popular among expats for its bars, cafes and traditional Beijing alleyways — were around 4,000 yuan a month, or $658, not bad for a city of more than 20 million.
Fast-forward three years and rent at those same apartments has increased more than 1,000 yuan ($164) a month. Groceries have also become more expensive, and that beer and plate of meat skewers now cost closer to 30 yuan ($4.94). Continue reading
As tourists file into the Yonghe Lama Temple, a woman carrying a gray sack stops near the entrance and gets down on her knees.
She bows, lowering her head so close to the ground that her shoulder-length hair hangs inches from the concrete. Still hunched over, she extends her hands, palms up, toward a plastic bowl in front of her body. The bowl is filled with coins and a few yuan bills.
Most people walk past the woman without looking down, pausing only to snap a few pictures of a historic arch outside the temple – a Buddhist monastery that is one of Beijing’s most visited tourist attractions. Continue reading