Beijing Journals

Bumbling Through Beijing

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A September 1999 trip to Beijing by Kathryn

Bei Hai Park Photo, Beijing, China More Photos
Quote: Beijing is a rather monumental city. The huge avenues that run through the city are flanked by impressive squat buildings. Yet a trip though one of the many winding hutongs may be the best way to get a glimpse of what life is really like in the capital of China...

Bumbling Through Beijing

Overview

Tiananmen Square Photo, Beijing, China
Quote:
Tiananmen Square, the Great Wall, the Forbidden City

Quick Tips:

Best Way To Get Around:

While we had heard stories of pickpocketing and crime, the best way to get around is definitely public transport - so don't be afraid of it!

it's very cheap and we didn't experience any problems.

And the 'thrill' of being packed into a bus along with half the city's population is certianly one that shouldn't be missed...

Quote:
This hotel was chosen by the conference organizers. Apart from the name, the address, and a vague idea of where it was, we knew absolutely nothing about it before we got there. It was not listed in any of the tourist brochures I got in Australia, nor was there anything about it on the Net. We had booked two superior rooms between the four of us through the conference, paying US$90 for each room (approx Y790). While the rooms were well set out and spacious with a separate sitting room area, they were pretty old and run down - particularly the bathroom. They were definitely not worth US$90. The room did have a fridge and television and radio (although these only had chinese stations) and one definite pl...Read More

Member Rating 1 out of 5 on September 16, 2000

China Hall of Science and Technology
3 Fuxin Road
Beijing, China

Crowne Plaza Beijing

Hotel | "Holiday Inn Crowne Plaza"

Quote:
Ahhh... Luxury. Huge beds, fluffy white robes, cable television (in English!) and lovely peace and quiet - a rare commodity in China. While far from the most affordable place to stay in Beijing, it is nice to wallow in luxury every now and then. The Crowne Plaza is situated on Wangfujing Dajie, an excellent location. We could walk almost everywhere and we did! Also included in the price of our room was the hotel's buffet breakfast. By this time we had been in China for over three weeks and it was our first taste of 'Western' foods like toast and cereal since we had arrived. And, while we had really enjoyed breakfasting on fabulous dumplings and other savories every morning, a good c...Read More

Member Rating 3 out of 5 on March 28, 2002

Crowne Plaza Beijing
48 WANGFUJING DAJIE
Beijing, China
86-10-65133388

McDonald's

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Restaurant

McDonald's Photo, Beijing, China
Quote:
Firstly, let me just say that I rarely (if ever!!) visit McDonald's in my home country. There are far more interesting places to eat. However, for some bizarre reason it's become a tradition that, when I am traveling, I eat my last meal there. Well, I've done it twice - once in Stockholm and once in Beijing. And while the Swedish McDonald's was pretty much like any other McDonald's I ever been in, visiting a Chinese McDonald's was a whole adventure in itself. Let me set the scene. I had been Beijing for the 50th Anniversary of National Day, when the city centre became host to a huge military parade and celebration. Public transport ground to a halt and only those with a specia...Read More

Member Rating 3 out of 5 on March 28, 2002

McDonald's
Corner of Wangfujing Dajie and Chang'an Jie
Beijing, China

Quanjude Roast Duck Restaurant

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Restaurant | "Qianmen Quanjude Roast Duck"

Quote:
Qianmen Quanjude Roast Duck is the a famous Peking Duck Restaurant near the Qianmen subway station with which we were now quite familiar. We were planning to visit the restaurant with a group of fellow conference goers. However, there was one small sticking point. While we were quite happy to take the subway, the others wanted to take a taxi there. We couldn't quite work out why, although one of them did say that you could catch the subway anywhere so there was no novelty in it. Well, actually, there isn't one in Perth (our hometown) and, besides, had they never caught a cab before? In the end we split up - Clare, Carolyn, Aidong and I all caught the subway and the rest (about 8-10 peopl...Read More

Member Rating 3 out of 5 on March 15, 2002

Quanjude Roast Duck Restaurant
32 Qianmen Avenue
Beijing, China 100051
+86 (0)10 6511 2418

Lao She Teahouse

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Attraction | "Lao She Tea House"

Lao She Teahouse Photo, Beijing, China
Quote:
Along Qianmen Xi Dajie, past the three level Kentucky Fried Chicken, lies the Lao She Tea House, a traditional style tea house with nightly entertainment including Peking Opera, Acrobatics and Music. Basically it's a kind of variety show. The price of entry depends on how close to the front you sit. We were at a table about halfway to the back of the room, which cost us Y60 each. We could see everything perfectly well. We were served tea and a range of small delicacies including pastries (prepared according ancient recipes from the imperial kitchen), dried mango and dried watermelon seeds. I tried eating one of the seeds whole. Then Aidong showed us the correct way of eating them. You used your ...Read More

Member Rating 3 out of 5 on March 15, 2002

Lao She Teahouse
3 Qianmenxi Dajie Street
Beijing, China 100051
+86 (0)10 6304 6334;

Lama Temple

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Attraction | "Yonghe Lamasery (Lama Temple)"

Lama Temple Photo, Beijing, China
Quote:
The Yonghe Lamasery is the biggest Tibetan Buddhist Lama Temple in Beijing, and the most renowned in China (outside Tibet itself). Built in 1694, it originally served as residence for Count Yin Zhen. In 1723, he was promoted to Emperor, changed his name to Yong Zhen, and went to live in the Forbidden City. His former residence became known as the Yonghe Palace and was converted to a lamasery in 1744. The complex has been protected as a major historical relic since 1949, a fact which may have helped it’s survival during the cultural revolution. The Temple was reopened to the public in 1981 and is home monks and novices from around the country. Photos are allowed in the complex, but not in the ...Read More

Member Rating 3 out of 5 on April 1, 2002

Lama Temple
12 Yong He Gong Avenue
Beijing, China 100007
+86 (0)10 6404 4499;

Ditan (Temple of Earth) Park

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Attraction

Ditan (Temple of Earth) Park Photo, Beijing, China
Quote:
Built in 1530, Ditan Park is smaller version of Tiantan Park in the south and, in past times, sacrifices were made here to the Earth gods. However, this time I wasn’t here to see temples and altars. I had come in search of the Beijing Wax Museum - Beijing’s answer to Madame Tussaud’s. Because of time constraints, I wasn’t going to be able to see the real Mao, so I thought I’d make do with the wax one instead. However, while the park was open and quite busy, the Wax Museum was closed. I visited during its advertised opening hours (9 - 4 pm, Saturday - Wednesday) and so I can only assume that the closure was due the National Day public holiday. Still, the shady trees and benches made it a...Read More

Member Rating 2 out of 5 on April 1, 2002

Ditan (Temple of Earth) Park
Off Andingmen Dongdajie in the Dongchen District
Beijing, China

Wang Fu Jing Shopping Area

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Attraction | "Wangfujing Dajie"

Wang Fu Jing Shopping Area Photo, Beijing, China
Quote:
Wangfujing (Well for the Princes' Mansions) is THE shopping street for tourists and locals alike and lies along the eastern side of the Forbidden City. It is named after a well that was dug in the area during the Ming dynasty. Not surprisingly, it supplied water to a number of princes' mansions! We visited Wangfujing a number of times during our stay in Beijing. On one occasion we visited a teashop where we were served Oolong tea (green tea from Oolong) and tea candies. We bought boxes of teabags in preparation for our various train journeys (we were also hoarding the ones that were left in our hotel room each day!). Another time we stopped at the Arts and Crafts Store (293 Wangfujing D...Read More

Member Rating 3 out of 5 on April 5, 2002

Wang Fu Jing Shopping Area
Wang Fu Jing Avenue, Dong Dan Bei Avenue and Dong si Nan Avenue
Beijing, China

Hong Qiao Market

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Attraction | "Hongqiao Antique Market"

Hong Qiao Market Photo, Beijing, China
Quote:
The Hongqiao Antique Market was the best market I went to in Beijing. Located at the north eastern end of Tiantan Park, the market is out of the way of most tourist traffic. However, this was probably a plus - the atmosphere was calm and peaceful and the stall holders were certainly less aggressive than at the Xiushui Silk Market. The Hongqiao Market was also larger than the Xiushui Silk Market and concentrated more on antiques and traditional Chinese souvenirs, rather than clothing. Like all other markets, bargaining is a must! Despite the fact that nobody spoke English, I managed to negotiate by using hand signals and patience. In fact, half the fun of bargaining is trying to do it without s...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on April 3, 2002

Hong Qiao Market
Tian Tan East Road, East of the Temple of Heaven
Beijing, China 100061
+86 (0)10 6713 3354

Jing Shan Park

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Attraction | "Jingshan Park"

Jing Shan Park Photo, Beijing, China
Quote:
Jingshan (Prospect Hill) Park is located directly north of the Forbidden City (Imperial Palace). The hill was formed using earth excavated from the Palace moat and was originally built because the principles of fengshui had indicated that the Palace required a hill directly to the north. Jingshan was also known as Coal Hill because emergency stores of coal were hidden in the mound. There are 3 lookouts on the hill, each one a little higher than the previous one. Each lookout had a pagoda built on it - the first round, the second octagon, and the third square. Jingshan Park is also home to the locust tree from which the last Ming emperor, Chongzhen, is said to have hung himself (after first slaying hi...Read More

Member Rating 3 out of 5 on October 10, 2000

Jing Shan Park
Jing Shan East Street, North of the Forbidden City
Beijing, China
+86 (0)10 6404 4071

Tiananmen Square

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Attraction

Tiananmen Square Photo, Beijing, China
Quote:
Tiananmen Square is considered the political and cultural centre of China. It is the largest square in the world (according to Guinness Book of Records). It originally served as a gathering place and the location of government offices in Imperial days. In 1949 Mao proclaimed the People's Republic from Tiananmen, directly north of the square. He also quadrupled the square's original size, enabling up to one million people to congregate there at once. Since then it has been the site of many significant historical events, including major rallies and parades during the Cultural Revolution. Mass gatherings also occured in 1976, when the 'Tiananmen Incident' saw crowds gathering in the square to protest af...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on October 10, 2000

Tiananmen Square
Chang An Avenue
Beijing, China 100006

Great Wall at Ba Da Ling

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Attraction | "The Great Wall of China"

Great Wall at Ba Da Ling Photo, Beijing, China
Quote:
Also known as the 10,000 Li Wall, the Great Wall of China stretches from Shanhaiguan Pass in the East to Jiayuguan Pass in the West. In between it passes through five different provinces and two autonomous regions. Contrary to popular belief, the Great Wall is NOT visible from space - it may be long but it is still very thin (relatively speaking). Like most tourists, we saw the Wall at the Badaling site, 70 km north of Beijing and at an elevation of 1000 m. This section was first restored in 1957 with the addition of guard rails (which did come in useful at times). Also present to enhance your 'Great Wall Experience' was the Great Wall Circle Vision Theatre (which we didn't see) and a cable car...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on September 18, 2000

Great Wall at Ba Da Ling
Yan Qing County
Beijing, China
+86 (0)10 6912 1235

Temple of Heaven

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Attraction | "Tiantan (Temple of Heaven) Park"

Temple of Heaven Photo, Beijing, China
Quote:
Tiantan (Temple of Heaven) Park was built between 1406 and 1420 and was used by the Emperor to communicate directly with Heaven. The emperor would come to pray for good harvests, enough rain, etc several times a year. The temple consists of four major parts - the Round Altar, Echo Wall, the Imperial Vault of Heaven and the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests. The buildings all run along the north/south axis of the park and are joined by a 30 metre wide, 4 meter above ground promenade (Bridge of Vermilion Stairway). The Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests was built between 1406-1420 but the other structures were added later in about 1530. Entry to the park itself was Y4 and we entered at the West Heav...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on September 18, 2000

Temple of Heaven
Tian Tan North Rd.
Beijing, China 100050
+86 (0)10 6702 2242

Forbidden City

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Attraction | "The Forbidden City"

Forbidden City Photo, Beijing, China
Quote:
The Forbidden City was home to 24 different emperors during the Ming and Qing dynasties (1368-1911). The original palace was built in the 15th century, but it has been rebuilt many times. The buildings that remain today were mainly built in the 18th century. The city is symmetrical about its north/south axis and is separated into the outer and inner courts. Emperors held ceremonial audiences in the outer court, consisting of the Hall of Supreme Harmony, the Hall of Medium Harmony and the Hall of Protective Harmony. The inner court, where the empress and concubines lived, is towards the back and includes the Palace of Heavenly Purity and Palace of Earthly Tranquillity. The Palace is said to have...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on September 18, 2000

Forbidden City
North Of Tiananmen Square Dong Cheng District
Beijing, China 100009
+86 (0)10 6512 2255

Silk Market (Xiushui Jie)

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Attraction | "Xiushui Silk Market"

Quote:
The Silk Market runs along Xiushui Jie, a long narrow street that ends near the US Embassy. The name is somewhat of a misnomer, as I didn't actually see any silk there (although several guidebooks assure me there is!). I did see lots of name-brand clothes (Reebok, Adidas, Timberland etc), jewellery, pearls, watches, and the ornaments and trinkets that we were beginning to see for sale everywhere. It is, apparently, one of the few places where Westerners can get clothes in larger sizes, particularly shoes. I visited with a Chinese friend who proved her worth, sometimes translating for us, at other times acting as a stooge to find out what the 'Chinese' price for something was (lower than the 'Western'...Read More

Member Rating 3 out of 5 on September 18, 2000

Silk Market (Xiushui Jie)
near Embassy Row
Beijing, China

Bei Hai Park

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Attraction | "Beihai Park"

Bei Hai Park Photo, Beijing, China
Quote:
Beihai Park is predominantly lake, with two thirds of its 68 ha area covered by open water. The lake was artificially created when the garden was built for imperial use some 800 years ago. The excavated dirt from the lake was used to form the island (Jade Flowery Islet) which sits in the southeast corner. Beihai Park was originally a playground for emperors from the Jin, Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties. However now anybody can dine like an Emperor at the luxurious Fangshan Resetaurant. Situated near the boat dock, it serves up imperial recipes favoured by the Empress Cixi. Fangshan Restaurant was a little pricey for us, but we enjoyed an afternoon touring the grounds. We started ou...Read More

Member Rating 3 out of 5 on September 18, 2000

Bei Hai Park
1 Wen Jin Street
Beijing, China 100034
+86 (0)10 6403 1102

Summer Palace

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Attraction | "The Summer Palace"

Summer Palace Photo, Chengde, China
Quote:
The Summer Palace is a large park north of the centre of Beijing. The site has long been a Royal Garden and underwent major development by Emperor Qianlong in the 18th Century when, with the help of about 100,000 labourers, he deepened and expanded Kunming Lake (today about 75% of the park's area). Anglo-French Allied forces burnt the Park down in 1860 and it fell into ruins until the Empress Dowager Cixi (Tchusi) began rebuilding in 1888. Cixi was a bit of a 'character'. She started royal life as a concubine of the third rank but ended up ruling China for about 50 years. She controlled the country by manipulating the actions of, first, her own child and, then, another child emperor. She rebui...Read More

Member Rating 3 out of 5 on September 19, 2000

Summer Palace
Kunming Lake
Haidian, Beijing, China
010-6288 1144

Hutong Exploration

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Story/Tip

National Day, 1999 Photo, Beijing, China
Quote:
Away from the huge and overwhelming main streets of Beijing lies the narrow hutongs, or alleyways, where the population has traditionally lived. While many of them are now being demolished to make way for high rise apartment blocks, there are still pockets where you can walk, bike, and soak up the atmosphere. We wandered through hutongs on our way between Jingshan Park and Beihai Park. Stalls lined the road. At one, which was little more than a freezer placed by the side of the road, we bought icecream blocks. They were mung bean, pale green with a grainy texture and a pleasant not-too-sweet taste. We stopped for lunch at a small family run restaurant, ordering boiled dumplings, or jiaozi (jows...Read More

About the Writer

Kathryn

Kathryn
Perth, Australia