In the Washington Post, a lengthy and glowing portrayal of pre-Olympics Beijing from a first time visitor:
I quickly discovered that no city moves so quickly between massive and modest, between anonymous and intimate. On my first day, for example, I drifted south from the vast, gray expanse of Tiananmen Square into the narrow hutongs, or alleyways, of the Qianmen district.
Immediately, the traffic noise faded. Low, gray-walled courtyard homes lined lanes that were often too narrow for cars but dotted with decrepit bicycles. Through an open door, I glanced at a group of friends hunkered over a board game. Farther on, meat sizzled over small braziers, its aroma mixing with a less pleasant sewer smell. A cat crept over a rooftop. [Full text]
– The article includes a slideshow of Beijing.