Beijing Journals

Living life to Mao

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A January 2006 trip to Beijing by Paul Bacon

Mao Ze Dong Mausoleum Photo, Beijing, China More Photos
Quote: I love Beijing. I live close by in Tianjin, and visit whenever I get the chance

Living life to Mao

Overview

Quote:
Considering Beijing is so large and is chock full of such history and culture, it would be difficult to pick one single highlight. Choosing between Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City, the Summer Palace, and the rustic old Hutong areas is almost impossible since each has its own charm and wonder. If I am forced to choose though, I would go for the Summer Palace. Even though it is an hours bus ride from the center of the city, it is well worth the trip. The palace and accompanying temples is sat on a hillside on the banks of Kunming Lake. In winter you can walk out onto the ice to enjoy the view; or equally beautifully in summer, you can take a boat ride to admire the view.Quick Tips: As alwa...Read More

Beijing City Central

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Hotel

Quote:
Beijing Railway Station is possibly one of the most crowded and chaotic places into which I have set foot. At the front of its massive facade are 40 ticket offices and two major entrances, all attracting vast crowds of pushing, squabbling, shouting Chinese on the move. It is therefore definitely good to know that the City Central Hostel, which is located dead across the street, has double-glazed soundproofed windows. Considering the proximity of such massed crowds and also a busy four lane road, the hostel's serenity is without doubt a bonus. However, City Central's top attribute is clearly its location. Not only is it within ear-shot of the capital's main transport hub, but it is also within wal...Read More

Member Rating 3 out of 5 on March 8, 2006

Beijing City Central
No.1 Beijingzhanqianjie
Beijing, China 100005
+86 (10) 65258866

Far East International Youth Hostel

Hotel | "Far East International"

Quote:
In terms of facilities and comfort, the Far East Youth Hostel is probably the best budget option in central Beijing. Dormitory rooms are basic, but nevertheless they are comfortable and relatively spacious; the bathrooms are also spotlessly clean. The singles and twins are particularly nice and genuinely surprised me when I entered. The place looked almost like a hotel rather than a hostel, and was nothing like I expected having parted with only $12 per night. The location of the Far East is something of a mixed bag. It sits in the midst of what remains of the Hutong District of the city—a maze of one-storey houses and cluttered side streets. Because of this, it is perfect for getting an excellen...Read More

Member Rating 2 out of 5 on March 8, 2006

Far East International Youth Hostel
90 Tieshuxie Jie
Beijing, China
+86 (10) 51958811

Old Beijing Noodle King

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Restaurant

Quote:
Not to be confused with the California Noodle King, which is an American owned chain that offers poor standard food at grimy outlets across China. The Old Beijing Noodle King is something of a no-frills type of eatery, but it is clean and the food is top-notch.The lay-out and decor, in this crowded and noisy restaurant, is simple, consisting basically of a score of dark-wood tables and a sea of stools placed around them. The waiters announce each arriving party with a healthy yelp, and on occasion you can see the chef flinging your noodles around before he cooks them, but generally the food is by far and away the best reason to make your way to the King.As the name would suggest, the noodles are excel...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on March 10, 2006

Old Beijing Noodle King
Chongwei Ji
Beijing, China
+86 6705 6705

Makye Ame

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Restaurant

Quote:
I have no great knowledge of Tibetan food, or Tibetan culture, so there is no way I can claim to be an authoritative voice on whether or not Makye Ame is an authentic glimpse of Tibetan culture, or a real taste of Tibetan food. However, it was one of the most interesting dining experiences of my time in Beijing.I could be less than truthful and say that it was the idea of tasting a cuisine of which I had tasted precious little, or getting an experience of a culture about which I knew very little, that drew me to Makye Ame, but if I am honest it was the novelty value of eating yak meat. In all fairness yak meat is exceptionally similar to beef, but it sounds far more exotic and I could put it on the li...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on March 10, 2006

Makye Ame
Xiushui Nanjie
Beijing, China
+86 6507 9966

Dong Hua Men Night Market

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Restaurant | "Donghua Night Market"

Quote:
It may repel some slightly more squeamish diners when they learn that several stalls at the Donghua Night Market not only have insects and crustaceans on sale, but also offer a choice of testicles (by that I mean lamb's or bull's rather than left or right). So, in lies the beauty of Donghua—the place you go for a slightly more adventurous dining experience. The night market is a collection around 30 or 40 stalls situated on a side-road close to Wangfujing, Beijing's main shopping area. They serve all manner of takeaway foodstuffs, including such regular fare as noodles, soups, or dumplings. However, the majority of them specialise in food on a stick. Whereas in the west this is generally limited ...Read More

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on May 13, 2006

Dong Hua Men Night Market
Dong Hua Men Avenue, Dong Cheng District
Beijing, China 100005

TianHai Canting

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Restaurant

Quote:
Beijing is a city resplendent in culinary options. Consider that China is such a vast, diverse country bordered by and influenced by territories as disparate as Mongolia, Central Asia, Japan, Korea, and India, and it is perhaps unsurprising that its capital offers a great choice of food. This encompasses not just local cuisine, but food of almost every variety. Therefore, it must say something that whenever I am in Beijing I seem to gravitate towards Tianhai. The surprising thing is though, if I were to ask myself why I suspect it would not have all that much to do with the food. Not that I wish to be critical of the fare on offer, on the contrary some of the dishes are superb: the beef with chilli is...Read More

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on June 5, 2006

Forbidden City

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Attraction

Forbidden City Photo, Beijing, China
Quote:
There is clearly no point writing about the Forbidden City without quickly making it explicitly clear that the place is stunning. The first taste of this comes without even getting remotely close to the gates. I remember being struck as I wandered through Tiananmen Square and saw the vast paved area stretch away to the red facade of the city. Then as I got closer I was simultaneously impressed, awe-struck, and amused by nthe giant portrait of Mao that hangs above the entrance; the size and position gave it a dominating effect, but I could not help but chuckle at the large mole on his chin. For a man with such power, it seemed strange to me that he didn't get the artsiot to gloss over the little blemis...Read More

Member Rating 3 out of 5 on March 8, 2006

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

Mao Ze Dong Mausoleum

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Attraction | "Mausoleum of Mao Zedong"

Mao Ze Dong Mausoleum Photo, Beijing, China
Quote:
Mao Zedong casts a shadow over China like no other dictator (or democratically elected leader for that matter) in recent history. I am not particularly talking about the Cultural Revolution or the Great Leap Forward, although they did make a massive indentation on the face of modern China, rather I mean the industry that the face of the long departed leader has become.China is growing rapidly and is beginning to compete in world markets for all sorts of commodities. However, one thing that traders in Beijing have quickly established a monopoly in, is Mao memorabilia. Every time I have visited the Chinese capital I have been shocked at the variety of products adorned by the Chairman's image. If I am ho...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on March 8, 2006

Mao Ze Dong Mausoleum
Chang An Avenue
Beijing, China 100006
+86 (0)10 6513 2277

Summer Palace

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Attraction

Summer Palace Photo, Chengde, China
Quote:
When you consider that the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square are adjacent to each other, and that the Temple of Heaven is only a 30 minute walk from the two, it easy to see why the Summer Palace could be forgotten amongst the excitement. The ancient playground of the royal court was built so that the Emperor did not have to spend the hotter months of the year within the sprawl of the city. So perhaps surprisingly it is not the easiest place to get to. Without doubt though, it is worth the effort and I would even label it my favorite sight in Beijing.None of Beijing's subway lines go remotely close to the palace, meaning either a cab or a bus need to be involved. Organised tour buses can be expensive...Read More

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on March 9, 2006

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

Temple of Heaven

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Attraction

Temple of Heaven Photo, Beijing, China
Quote:
I think it would be fair to say that the Temple of Heaven and I have something of a fractious relationship. On the two occasions I have visited, scaffolding and heavy restoration work have made much of the grounds in which it is situated, off limits. As a consequence of this on both those occasions I have skulked around the place feeling disenchanted at being deprived of great chunks of culture and a bit agitated at having to pay the full admission price when I was not getting the full temple. The most photogenic and famous part of the temple is the circular, two-tiered, deep-blue Hall of Prayers of Good Harvests. Alas it was this, that on both my excursions there, was closed. On my first ...Read More

Member Rating 3 out of 5 on March 12, 2006

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

Ditan (Temple of Earth) Park

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Attraction | "Temple of Earth"

Quote:
For me the Temple of Earth proved to be one step too far. I will not dispute with anyone who is inclined to argue that the place is a wonderful example of historic Chinese architecture and Buddhist culture. What I would counter them with though, is the argument that it offers nothing that cannot be seen all over Beijing.I believe the best way of describing my feelings when I ambled around the temple grounds was overkill. There were long tree-lined boulevards at the end of which were large pagoda-like structures filled with large golden buddhas and assorted Buddhist paraphenalia. Since it was the Chinese New Year, hordes of people were kneeeling in front of the Buddhas and the air was thick with an alm...Read More

Member Rating 2 out of 5 on March 13, 2006

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

Silk Market (Xiushui Jie)

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Attraction | "Xishui - Silk Street"

Quote:
I think the first thing to note about Beijing's Silk Street is that it is not actually a street, rather it is a giant four floored indoor market. The second thing to remember is that very little of what you see on the shelves is actually anywhere remotely close to being genuine. The fact that none of the merchandise inside the walls of the silk market is genuine may deter many serious shoppers. However, there is still plenty to be said for some of the copies that are on sale. On my first visit I went with my friend Alana, who was just taken aback by the variety of bags on offer. Now I will admit I am no fashion connoissieur, and I definitely know very little about hand-bags, clutch-bags, and the ...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on March 31, 2006

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

Great Wall at Si Ma Tai

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Attraction | "Great Wall - Jinshaling to Simatai"

Travel Photo by IgoUgo member
Quote:
There is a reason it is called the Great Wall and not the 'good wall', the 'average wall', or the 'OK wall'. In short China's most famous landmark is an absolutely stunning sight to see.With something as magical, beautiful and awe-inspiring as the wall, the problem arises that if you are planning a trip it is unlikely you are going to be the only one. This makes it essential that you choose the right area of the wall to visit. The section at Badaling is by far the most popular destination for Beijing's tour buses; it is close to the city and has restored to almost perfect condition. The only problem is that in the height of tourist season it is possible to stand on it and not be able to see the edge, ...Read More

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on April 1, 2006

Great Wall at Si Ma Tai
Si Ma Tai
Beijing, China 101508
+ 86 (0)10 6903 1051

Great Wall at Si Ma Tai

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Attraction | "Great Wall - Simatai"

Travel Photo by IgoUgo member
Quote:
The section of the Great wall at Badaling, is by far the most visited by tour buses and tour groups. It is the closest to the city and is well restored. It is also ridiculously busy.The wall is so large that there are, of course, several other options. One that is well worth the visit is the Simatai section of the wall. It is easy to get there as almost every hostel in Beijing runs tours, and has recently had a small hotel and visitor center built close by. This makes it as easy as Badaling, but far less crowded and a great deal more rewarding.The only problem with the Simatai section is that it is insanely steep. Rather than a gentle stroll, parts of it feel more like mountaineering. If you think I a...Read More

Member Rating 4 out of 5 on April 1, 2006

Great Wall at Si Ma Tai
Si Ma Tai
Beijing, China 101508
+ 86 (0)10 6903 1051

Bei Hai Park

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Attraction | "Beihai Park"

Travel Photo by IgoUgo member
Quote:
I was, without doubt, procrastinating when it came to visiting Beihai. I was well aware of how close it was to Tiananmen and central Beijing, and I had heard nothing but good things about it. However, I had been in China for 4 months before I eventually mustered the energy to make the journey. Within seconds of passing through the southern gate I was ruefully asking myself why I had waited for so long. I was greeted by a delicately pretty spring view. The trees were lush and green, the lake was glistening in the sun, and the breeze was decorated by wisps of white blossom floating gently down to earth. The centre-piece of the park is the giant white dagoba that crowns the Jade Islet at the southern en...Read More

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on May 6, 2006

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

Museum of Revolutionary Military

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Attraction | "Chinese Military Museum"

Travel Photo by IgoUgo member
Quote:
I understand the following statement may sound a little strange considering I am discussing a museum. However, the Chinese Military Museum is really not the place to go if you are a fan of history. The major problem I found when I spent a rainy Thursday afternoon there, was the deficiency in English, with much of China's military past left unexplained to the outsider. There was a certain quotient of information on offer with most exhibits having one major explanatory note in English, unfortunately many of the exhibits were quite large, meaning that scores of details were simply lost in the wind.The captions that do exist are interesting in themselves, offering a decidedly less than impartial view of e...Read More

Member Rating 2 out of 5 on May 6, 2006

Museum of Revolutionary Military
9 Fu Xing Street
Beijing, China 100038
+86 (0)10 6686 6114

Ancient Observatory

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Attraction

Travel Photo by IgoUgo member
Quote:
It may not be the best known attraction in Beijing, and may only appear as little more than a footnote in most guidebooks, but I found the Ancient Observatory to be positively delightful and would describe it as one of the quaintest little nooks in all of Beijing. This, combined with its location, provides a wonderful dichotomy.The intersection at Jianguomen is one of the busiest patches of ground in the entire city; it is around a kilometre from both Tiananmen Square to the west and the main railway station to the south, so as a consequence traffic whistles past in both directions. At the same, a few feet below street level, two of the capital city's subway lines meet at the busiest station. Yet desp...Read More

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on May 8, 2006

Ancient Observatory
Southwest of Jian Guo Men intersection
Beijing, China 100005
+86 (0)10 6512 8923

Jing Shan Park

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Attraction | "Jingshan Park"

Quote:
I suppose being on holiday offers something of an excuse for developing an increased capacity for looking completely and utterly foolish. In the last few weeks of Beijing’s summer my friends had made the trip over from England determined to take full advantage of this leniency. As a resident of China I had no such mitigation and was accordingly feeling decidedly sheepish as I stood in Jingshan Park. We were standing on a wooded hillside dressed in flowing robes as though we were emperors of the Ming Dynasty. Sat on a wooden bench which had been painted to look as though it were a gold-encrusted throne, was my friend Matt. I stood to his left whilst Felvus, the third member of our group, stood to ...Read More

Member Rating 5 out of 5 on October 29, 2006

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

Mao's Big Brother is Still Watching?

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Story/Tip

Quote:
It took me a while to notice, in fact if I am honest it wasn't even me who noticed, rather one of my friends. It was page 100 of Lonely Planet's pocket-sized 'Best of Beijing' where it deals with the protests of 1989. In the bottom paragraph of the page the words "pro-democracy, demonstrations, brutal, sent and shivers" had been whited out. The original sentence was supposed to be: In 1989 pro-democracy student demonstrations took place in Tiananmen Square; the government's brutal retaliation sent shivers though the world." only now reads as something of a blur.I had purchased the book at the Foreign Languages Bookshop in Beijing's Wangfujin district, which led us to put two and two together, and dedu...Read More

Red China?

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Story/Tip

Quote:
It is clear to see that China still retains many of the facades and workings of a Communist state. On a superficial and easily noticeable level the flag is predominantly red and flies over what seems to be almost every official looking building. There are also a massive quantity of uniforms to be seen walking around Beijing; along the sides of Tiananmen Square you can see young soldiers standing to attention or being marched around, all bedecked in a deep green uniform emblazoned with red stars and gold insignia. The name of the country also seems to reflect an era that for much of the rest of the world ended in 1989. When the German Democratic Republic faded away and became part of simple old Germany...Read More
Travel Photo by IgoUgo member
Quote:
It was the first day of Spring Festival and things were crowded around Yonghegong subway station. My friend Oz and I had just left the Temple of Earth under a cloud comprised in equal measure of burnt incense and disappointment. After all the sights we had seen around Beijing the temple seemed to be absolutely nothing we had not witnessed several times before. To cap our disappointment because of the celebrations the grounds were crammed solid making walking around at leisure virtually impossible.We had not originally planned to visit Ditan park. However, two factors swayed us into parting with 6RMB and taking a peek. First of all it had been such a long and crowded subway ride to get to Yonghegong in...Read More

New Years

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Story/Tip

Quote:
We had been on the road for two weeks. Using the train and then the bus, we had weaved our way from Beijing down to the ancient city of Xian, before heading north to the semi-autonomous region of Ningxia. Along the way we glimpsed the Terracotta Warriors, Xian's ancient city walls and many lost treasures of the Tangut kingdom just outside Yinchuan, the provincial capital of Ningxia.It was a 19-hour train ride from Yinchuan back to the Chinese capital, so by the time we arrived my travelling companion Oz and I were in distinct need of a shower, a good meal and a nice cold beer. We drew into Beijing at the very start of China's New Year celebrations. So, after we washed a night on hard sleeper bunks awa...Read More

The Commute

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Story/Tip

Quote:
Tianjin and Beijing, two of China's three biggest cities, are separated by less than 100km. Not surprisingly it is quite easy and relatively cheap to travel between the two. I live in Tianjin, but spend many weekends in the capital. However despite commuting the two quite often being an almost blissfully simple process, it is not always the smoothest or most luxurious of trips. There is a double-decker express train that runs throughout the day. It takes just over one-hour and is clean, modern and in many respects thoroughly unChinese. Possibly the best indication to its alien nature is the provision of seating and use of available standing room. Everyone who buys a ticket, gets a seat and there ...Read More