What are the best hotels in Beijing? by Thomas O'Malley

UPDATE: I compiled this round-up of the best hotels in Beijing for CNN Travel in 2012 - since then one (Hotel G) has closed, and a few new spots would just about claw their way on to the list: The Temple Hotel (a boutique hotel in a renovated historic temple complex), the updated Kerry Hotel (formerly the Shangri-La Kerry Centre Hotel) -- and at a push, the Four Seasons Beijing, if only because every guest room has a bath tub with a view. Just remember to shut the blinds at night.

What are the best restaurants in Beijing? by Thomas O'Malley

What are the best restaurants in Beijing? Or - what's your favourite restaurant in Beijing? Two questions I dreaded during my stretch as Dining Editor on city expat magazine the Beijinger. In 2012 and then again in 2013 I was asked to compile a Top 20 Beijing Restaurants Round-Up for CNN. Gulp. You can see what I came up with here.

The problem with these lists is that they need to be tourist-friendly (hole-in-the-walls with Chinese menus only can't qualify) and they have to cover off various price brackets. Places should be relatively easy to get to and find for the non Chinese speaker, be not too far out of centre, and let customers order in English. Also restaurants ought largely to be Chinese in either cuisine or style / influence, and big enough / established enough that they won't close a month after the article goes live.

Sadly, since the list was compiled, Maison Boulud is no more. Didn't see that one coming. Also, Aria isn't quite what it was, although their light could shine brightly again with the right chefs. But hit up any of the other places on the list and you should be guaranteed a great feed.

Mao Zedong's secret subterranean city by Thomas O'Malley

This ranks as one of the coolest assignments an editor has ever given me.

"So, there's this English guy in Beijing, he's the one who knows how to get down into the old nuclear bomb shelters under the city. Can you find him and have a look?"

Hell yeah. What was unexpected - and a bit sad, in a way - is that I might be the last person to access this or any remaining part of Mao Zedong's secret underground city, dug at the height of cold war paranoia with Russia in the 70s. Workers were bricking up the access tunnels as we made our way down through the damp concrete corridors. With the large-scale redevelopment of Beijing, these (admittedly rather shallow) shelters and tunnels are rapidly disappearing, as modern buildings demand ever-deeper foundations.

The article was for CNNGo to support a Beijing city special on the news channel at the time. Actually, up until about 2007 there was a sort of semi-official underground city 'museum' you could visit some way south of Tiananmen Square, with schools, a theatre, dormitories etc. I sought it out in early 2008, and found a doorway with this sign pinned to it. As far as I know it never opened again.