A week in Beijing

My wife and I went to China (Beijing, Xi’an, and Hong Kong) in the period from March 15th to March 29th 2003. We first spent seven days in Beijing and we got to see the Great Wall, the Forbidden City, Temple of Heaven, the Summer Palace, and so on.

A week in Beijing

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by Gard on May 27, 2003

I was quite surprised by Beijing. I thought that it would be a boring city but our stay turned out to be very nice. The two things that I remember the best is of course the walk on the Great wall of China and walking around in the Forbidden City. We were lucky enough to have great weather when we went to these places and it is a very special feeling walking more or less alone on the Great Wall of China.${QuickSuggestions} Be sure to see the obvious attractions like the Great Wall of China (and if you have time go to a more remote part of the wall), the Forbidden City, the Summer Palace, Tiananmen Square, Temple of Heaven park, Jingshan Park, Chairman Mao’s memorial hall and so on. But I think it is nice to also walk around in the city and look at the every day life. And to see a bit of this part you have to get off the main streets. :-)${BestWay} The best way to get around Beijing, in our opinion, is to take a taxi. The majority of meter taxis are red with a little sticker on the side with 1.20, 1.60, 2.00 and so on. This sticker indicates the kilometre rate, and I guess (in theory at least) the better the car, the more expensive the ride. The only challenge with the taxi drivers is that most of them don’t speak English so just getting back to the hotel can be a challenge. :-) The best way to beat this challenge was to have the hotel’s name and address on a business card to show to the taxi driver.Another way to get around is taking the subway for 3 RMB. At the moment there are 3 lines: Line 1, Line 13 and the loop line. It was even possible to take the subway from the Radisson SAS hotel but it took about 15 minutes to walk to the nearest station (Liufang station on line 13). But the connection between the different lines was not all that great and you have to buy another ticket when you switch from one line to the other.

Radisson SAS Hotel

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by Gard on May 27, 2003

The hotel doesn’t have the best location. It is located next to ring 3 on the northeast of Beijing. It was not a problem because there were always taxis outside the hotel. It cost about 20-30 RMB to take the taxi into Tiananmen Square. It is also possible to take the subway to get around. The nearest station is Liufang, which is about 15 minutes walk from the hotel.

The lobby of the hotel is standard. On the second floor you’ll find the breakfast restaurant and the restaurant"the grill". In the breakfast restaurant you have a selection of bread, fruit, cereal, bacon, sausages, eggs in different versions, warm dishes etc. There were also hot Chinese dishes if you prefer to start the day with them. :-) Tea/coffee was served at the table and different sorts of juices and milk were available.

In the lobby you’ll find the business centre. The internet connection was not very good and it was expensive. If you need to access the internet I recommend going out of the hotel, turn right into the first street and walk for about 50-100 meter. There is a small shopping mall and on the third floor was a big internet/game café where you could surf for 4 RMB pr hour.

In the lobby you can book tours and we used this option for the Great Wall and acrobatics show. On a little piece of paper in the lobby you’ll find the weather forecast for the next two days and that helped us plan our activities. There is an ATM at the hotel and an ATM at the Carrefour store. The Carrefour shop is only minutes away and we normally went here to buy water. You can also find Pizza Hut and KFC near by :-)

The hotel room was nice. It had a combination of tiles and carpet. There was a minibar, a safe, a water boiler with a selection of different tea-bags, a thing to iron your pants, a wardrobe with about 10 hangers, TV with cable TV (CNN, BBC etc). There was a comfortable chair and also a chair in connection with the desk. The bed was not big and it was hard. It seems like it is possible to use different electrical plugs because I could use the standard Norwegian round plugs.

The bathroom had tiles and it had a bathtub with the possibility of taking a shower. By the sink we found little stuff like soap, body lotion, bath foam, etc and a hairdryer. The tap water is not drinkable!. But we got two ½ litre bottles from the hotel each day.

There is a gym in connection with the hotel. There are 2 squash courts (45 RMB for .5 hour, 75 for 1 hour), an outdoor tennis court, a swimming pool and a gym.

Radisson Sas Hotel Beijing
Beijing, China

The Great Wall of China at Simatai

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by Gard on May 27, 2003

We bought a day tour (lunch included) for RMB 380 each in the hotel lobby with a company called "Dragon bus tours". We had read quite a bit about the wall and we had hoped to walk from Jinshanling to Simatai but our tour "only" included a 2 hour walk along Simatai. Most tourists seem to go to Badaling but we were hoping to avoid the crowds and any queues. We were picked up at the hotel at 9 am and apart from our driver and our guide Judy we were accompanied by a couple of American girls. We were very lucky with the weather and when we reached the wall the skies were blue.

Getting to the wall is really a great moment. All of a sudden you can see the wall on the mountain tops stretching as far as you can see, like a never-ending snake. As it was so early in the season the cable car that usually takes people up to the wall wasn’t running so we all had to walk up and that was OK with me. It took us about 20 minutes just to reach the wall but all of a sudden we had our feet on a part of world history. At Simatai you can choose if you want to go to the left (to Jinshanling) or to the right where you have 15/16 watch towers before you reach the end and it rise up about 1000 meters above sea level. We chose to walk on the right part of the wall. As it was still only early spring, we saw bits of snow left on the wall and in the landscape itself. The wall was really steep in some places and sometimes the steps were narrow. To start with we had some locals following us and they wanted to sell us different stuff, but they eventually stopped tagging along. Time constraints meant that I only got as far as tower 11, but the view just got better and better the higher I got, and I got trigger happy with our camera. The combination of a great view and the scarcity of other tourists made it a truly special experience. On the one hand it is amazing to have walked on something that I have read so much about and see so many pictures of. On the other hand it is hard not to think about all the blood, sweat and tears that has gone into building this wall (in fact it is not one wall but many walls that has been built in different dynasties). Our guide told us that lots of people died in the process of building it and many people were actually buried in the wall itself.

After walking on the wall we went down to the parking lot again. Here you’ll find lots of little shops and restaurant and we had lunch at one place. We just sat down and they brought out lots of food.

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

The Forbidden City

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by Gard on May 31, 2003

One day we were ready to check out one of the attractions that I was most looking forward to: The Forbidden City (Imperial Palace).

This is located north of Tiananmen Square and the Palace Museum takes up quite a big space . . . the outer walls are about 1km by 0.75km in size and this was once the home of the emperor, the empress, concubines, eunuchs and so on. We bought tickets to the museum for 40RMB (about €5) and for another 40RMB and my driver’s licence as a deposit, we rented audio guides that helped us with information throughout the museum. It was kinda funny to listen to the audio guide because the information was being narrated by James Bond, eh, I mean Roger Moore. :-) It was certainly handy as not all the signs went into as much historical detail. We were lucky enough to have great weather this day -- the blue skies made the yellow roof tiles looked even more majestic. The Forbidden City was overwhelming -– in size and historical facts -– which I could bombard you with but I think that I will summarise by saying that it was a great experience In my opinion, this place can be compared to other magnificent buildings such as Versailles. And with names like Gate of Supreme Harmony, Hall of Protective Harmony and Hall of Heavenly Peace you know that this was a place fit for an emperor.

The only negative thing about the Forbidden City, that I can think of, was that on a few occasions we were approached by "Chinese art students" claiming that they would have an exhibition in Norway soon and they wanted us to come along to look at their paintings to get feedback and new ideas. We never did go along to see what it was all about so I can’t really comment on it. :-) I was also surprised to see that a majority of the Forbidden City’s visitors were part of Chinese tour groups, either following a flag holding tour leader or browsing about in matching hats.

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

Temple of Heaven park

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by Gard on July 2, 2003

We went to this park after visiting The Forbidden City. We were still in high spirits, and we walked across Tiananmen Square and all the way to the Temple of Heaven park (know as Tiãn Tán Gõngyuán). For $30 RMB, you can get into this park and check out "Hall of the prayer for good harvests", "Imperial vault of heaven" and "Circular mound". We entered the park from the west, and it took us quite a long time just to walk to the center of the park, where we could check out the buildings. Temple of Heaven Park is actually larger than the Forbidden City.

The most striking building in the park is the "Hall of the prayer for good harvests". This is a 38-meters-high (and 30 meters in diameter) circular temple painted in blue, green, gold, and red, and it was striking to see this temple against the blue-sky background. As the name indicates, this was a temple built for the worship of heaven and prayers for good harvests. According to our guidebook, it was built without the use of nails, cement, or steel rods, and this makes it even more amazing. The whole structure seems to rely on some big wooden pillars. These pillars had to be replaced some time ago, by the way, and according to the guidebook, the Chinese had to import this from the USA.

From this temple we walked on a causeway called "Vermilion Steps Bridge" south to get to "Imperial vault of heaven". According to our guidebook, this has a perfect circular wall, and just like the Whispering Gallery at St. Paul’s in London, one can stand on one side and talk to people on the other side. Our guide book also mentioned that trying this out may be tricky as we could expect quite a few loud Chinese trying it too. *grin* Fortunately, it was not crowded that day. My wife and I went to a side each and all of a sudden I could hear her voice saying "G, can you hear me?". I was quite surprised and said, "Yes." I think my wife was even more surprised than me because all she could say was "Really??"

In the southern end of the park, you will find a the "Circular Altar". This structure has three layered terraces made up with marble.

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


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