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Stores & markets in Beijing
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Find of the Month: Feline Fetish

When visitors arrive in Beijing, the itinerary is clear: A visit to the Great Wall, the Forbidden City and roast duck at Quanjude are amongst the more common stops on the tourist circuit. However, when my guests arrived, I was more than a little surprised at their requests. "I don't care where you take us really," my aunt said. "As long as we can go to the Cat Shop."

The cat shop is a rather small, inconspicuous boutique on Gulou Dongdajie, sandwiched between a couple of grungy guitar stores. Most visitors tend to sweep past it as they search earnestly for the north entrance to Nanluogu Xiang, that well-known haven for Western backpackers searching for tasteful trinkets from "the real China." However, after ogling the feline-inspired fancies that I had brought back home for various friends and family, the cat shop seems to be the first place my guests want to go.

The store specializes in ornaments and accessories embellished with all things cat-like. The left-hand side of the petite boutique displays porcelain ornaments of cutesy, rotund cats, but the goods hanging on the opposite wall are even more charming.

Made from silk imported from Japan and Taiwan (but crafted in the Chinese mainland to keep prices low), the bags and purses are simply irresistible. Coin purses start from RMB 25, and pencil cases retail for RMB 30. Not only are they adorable, they're also very well made, making for purr-fect stocking fillers. These prices may appear affordable at first, but be warned: A shopping spree here can become pricey since one item is never enough. The good news though is that the more you spend, the more of a discount you'll receive.

Sanlitun Village

Sanlitun Village has opened its doors. The shopping center is designed not just for shopping, but also as a community, a place for art, culture and to spend leisure time.

Plenty of famous stores have opened here: Artini, Columbia, Lacoste, Levi's, Mizuno, Steve Madden, adidas' biggest flagship store, China's first direct-sales Apple store, Puma's biggest flagship store in Asia and Fossil. There are also quite a few children's wear and toys stores, where parents can find lovely toys and clothing for their kids.

An ice rink, chairs to rest, and art works to appreciate are just part of the design to make visitors feel comfortable. Underground there is MEGBOX film city, with eight rooms and 1,700 seats, the biggest in the area.

Currently, Hong Kong artist Dorophy Tang is exhibiting her latest series of Angel Baby sculptures, until Jan 17. Enter a "Hide and Seek Hunt" to search for hand-drawn Angel Baby sculptures to win one of your own and raise money for charity.

Plenty of restaurants and cafs have opened in the area, too, including Element Fresh, Peppes Pizza, and Starbucks Coffee. Otherwise, one might want to try Herbal cafe, or Royal Tea. There are also health and beauty stores in the area to refresh yourself after shopping.

Japanese designer Kengo Kuma has designed bold irregular geometrical shapes, and rich colors to endow personality on the 19 buildings in the shopping center. A lot of glass walls, plastic pipes, wood, stone and bamboo are also used.

The south part of the shopping area is more fashionable, colorful, and draws on inspiration from hutong. The north part's open courtyard style comes from Beijing's traditional courtyard house, and the architectural style is more metropolitan.

More stores are scheduled to open in the area, including Folli Follie, Swatch, and McDonald's and Hatsune. The shopping area is set to become another hot spot in Sanlitun.

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