Sanlitun Hostel's front desk: clearly international. Photo by CRI's William Wang, taken February, 2012.
There's no doubt that Sanlitun Youth Hostel isn't for everyone, but if you carry your possessions in an oversized backpack, if an MP3 player is an indispensable part of your travel kit, and if you brought shoes to dance as well as they hike, then this could be the spot for you.
Beijing is famous for its ancient history and its rapid development. The Sanlitun neighborhood epitomizes the latter, full of glass towers bent into unconventional shapes, hip international fashion stores, and the best clubs in the city. This is the "new China" where expats and locals alike clamor to try the newest Apple toys and hear the hottest DJ sets.
Travelers won't have much trouble finding this hostel on the map, but entering the building complex is downright unnerving. The surrounding grubby office spaces represent the bad side of Beijing architecture, and the signage pointing toward the hostel is no better. But the number of travelers who do a 180 at this point are going to miss out on some of the best times that Beijing's hostels have to offer.