There's a relatively new mall called Solana, just north of Chaoyang
Park's west entrance. There's a healthy expat community in the
neighbourhood, but most of the visitors today were local Chinese.
And I felt like I was in California because of the piazza-like layout
of the giant mall, and many American brand names like Nike and Cold
Stone Creamery. But what got my friend really excited was an L.L. Bean
outlet, which offered all kinds of clothing, footwear, accessories and
its well-known canvas tote bags. Everything in the store was 20
percent off which was a bonus.
What's also neat is that the mall has a small indoor ice rink. Today
the rink wasn't packed but what was interesting was seeing several
people wearing knee pads, a few beginners, and a few novices.
However the most annoying part was the layout of the mall -- there
isn't enough signage to tell people where to go around the sprawling
retail area. You are forced to wander around (much to the merchants'
delight), but frustrating when you are just looking for a particular
Other than big American brands though, there are some small odd shops
like a place selling "authentic" Tibetan rugs and local brands
presenting gawdy designs. It's hard to see how this mall has done its
marketing work and instead decided to make itself a free-for-all for
everyone and anyone who wants to buy something.
Regardless, we checked out a nice Italian restaurant called Invito,
opened by a Korean. It's got a karoke lounge in the basement, a deli
shop on the main floor and a high-end restaurant look upstairs.
The best part is sitting outside on the second floor on the balcony
overlooking a giant pond complete with lily pads, which is part of
Chaoyang Park. You don't even feel like you're in Beijing.
A nice escape once in a while from the madness of Beijing.