Beijing: 呷哺呷哺 Xiabu Xiabu | 永安里 Yong’anli

Beijing is really big, like seriously.

We all know it is, as is all of China – cities are big, malls are behemoths, boulevards are wide, but you don’t really realize it until you’re crossing from one part of the city to another.

If there was a single reason I needed to come to Beijing this holiday season, it was for the world’s first OnePlus retail store.

OnePlus, if you aren’t aware of it, which you’re unlikely to be aware of, has been taking the world secretly by storm. In fact, several underdog Chinese smartphone brands have, unknowingly stiring up a silent revolution outside of China. Led by names like Meizu, Xiaomi and OnePlus, the myth of a “cheap and good” smartphone was no longer a myth, but a reality. Meizu, OnePlus and to a lesser extent, Oppo, were ejaculating smartphones with specifications better than the best by incumbents like Apple and Samsung. Besides its price (which has basically the same specifications as the iPhone 6 Plus but is half the price), OnePlus’ first phone, the aptly named OnePlus One was released with Cyanogenmod internationally, an Android operating system more flexible than Android itself.

But it’s OnePlus’ marketing, or lack of, that got me hooked. The brand’s promise line, “Never Settle”, appealed to me. I’m not anti-brands, but while I believe established brands have good products, I believe good products can come from anyone and anywhere. It’s a philosophy that extends to my belief in life in general.

Anyways, OnePlus’ first retail store is located at Solana Lifestyle Shopping Park, in the heart of the upper middle class Beijing district of Chaoyang. When I visited, it was about a 1000m walk from the Beijing Subway Agricultural Exhibition Center station.

Now, having visited the Oppo store in Xi’an, I had some inkling of the superior customer service that I would expect at the OnePlus store. For a Singaporean, who would rather be left to my own to browse, the shopping experience in China is intimate and personal. The service staff treat you like a VIP guest, serve you drinks, engage you in regular conversation, dedicating their time to each and every or lack of, query that you might have.

And that’s exactly what I got here. By the time I made my purchase and left the store, I had gotten to know the staff personally and on a first-name basis, I felt like I had gained a few friends, and I was sad that I was leaving. I of course, had to recognize that it was part of the high service standards in the new China. I don’t remember their names now, but I can still remember the conversations we’ve had over a cup of hot tea.

Next, I headed to Yonghegong to get myself and Darren some Feiyue shoes. The cult label has taken young Hollywood by storm, but it doesn’t seem to have been taken up in Singapore, or China for that matter. Meanwhile, these pairs of shoes, modeled on those worn by wushu practitioners for millenia, are comfortable, cheap and cheerful.

For my last night’s meal, I wanted to eat Xiabu Xiabu again, the hotpot that warmed my heart. This, pictured, is the beef set, and it’s crazaaayy. For approximately SGD 18, this is, no kidding, a 2-hour meal (if you eat nonstop, or else it can be much, much, much longer).

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