A Weekend in Beijing

Our trip to Beijing was the first leg leading to the adoption of our baby daughter. We were in a travel group of eight couples/individuals and stayed only for 2 days. But during those days, we packed in the Great Wall of China, Temple of Heaven, and the Forbidden City!

A Weekend in Beijing

Member Rating 0 out of 5 by ToddieD on October 13, 2005

Beijing itself is sprawling. There doesn't seem to be a city center, and because of the grime on the building walls from the pollution, it can seem to be not so nice. But don't be misled - there are many beautiful spots in Beijing. Portions of the Great Wall of China can be reached within half an hour's drive, and the Temple of Heaven is stunning with its grandiose symmetry and is without a doubt the best place to people-watch in China - we saw people playing hacky sack, ballroom dancing, painting calligraphy on the tiles in water, and playing the erdu. It was like an instant immersion into the culture.${QuickSuggestions} If you can, have someone in your group who speaks Chinese. This is a major help. The hotel’s staff seems to know the basics and generally have an English dictionary at the desk, but we often had to resort to pantomime if our guide was not around.

When shopping from stalls, it is expected for you to haggle. A good rule of thumb is to offer about a third of what is asked, then mutter "too expensive" when the vendor counters and start to walk away. This will bring the price down, and vendors seem to enjoy the interplay. ${BestWay} Do NOT drive yourself!!! The Chinese seem to have a very fluid sense of traffic laws, i.e. they can scare you witless, make five lanes out of three, etc. For the same reason, crossing the street while walking can seem hazardous as well - only cross when you see other Chinese people crossing.

Holiday Inn Downtown

Member Rating 3 out of 5 by ToddieD on October 13, 2005

We had a very spacious room and pretty comfortable bed (particularly compared to the rest of China). It had a sleek modern layout, although there were no drawers to put clothing in. There was a computer and DSL access with a fast connection. The rate was extremely cheap for the amount of room received.
Holiday Inn Downtown Beijing
Beijing, China

Temple of Heaven (Tiantan Park)

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by ToddieD on October 13, 2005

The Temple of Heaven is a must-see. Its scale is so large that it's hard to take in with the eyes, but its vastness and symmetry create a balance that is extremely peaceful and harmonious.

Aside from wandering through the temples, be sure to walk through the parks and watch everyone. You will see people painting water calligraphy, dancing, playing folk music, and enjoying life to the fullest in general. It is a surefire way to fall in love with China and its people.

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

The Great Wall of China: Ba Da Ling

Member Rating 5 out of 5 by ToddieD on October 15, 2005

There's nothing to beat a little jet lag than immediately heading over to the Great Wall of China for a little aerobic activity. We got into Beijing around midnight the night before and left for the Great Wall at about 10am the next morning. Within a few minutes we'd left the grime of the city and were passing through carpets of green trees on red rock mountains. It was utterly unlike anything I'd ever seen before.

Fast facts about the Wall: construction began in the 5th century BC and continued to the 16th century. It covers over 6,000km across China. We were on the Badaling Pass, where most of the tourists go. Even on a day when it is not that crowded, it's pretty crowded with people. But the view is unparalleled and the thought that you are walking on a piece of history is pretty awe-inspiring. And what a workout: there are stretches where you're walking up 40-degree slopes. It was glorious. The weather was perfect, about 80°F with a nice breeze.

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

The Friendship Store

Member Rating 4 out of 5 by ToddieD on October 16, 2005

Even if you're not a big shopping fan, plan to spend at least an hour in The Friendship Store. There is so much to see, not least of which is the cloisonne factory right outside the store, where you can see how much effort goes into every piece. Prices tend to be higher than at your general shop vendor, but the quality is guaranteed. This is not the place to haggle.

One disconcerting habit that takes a little getting used to is that an employee will literally follow you around with a basket as you browse through the store and, if you even just pause to look at a piece, tell you the culture and history of items, often with much more detail than you may have initially wanted. But I truly believe it's more well-intentioned than simply high-pressure sales, so try to be good-natured about it.

There is a wide variety of items to be found at the Friendship Store. A good rule of thumb is that if you find something you love, buy it, because you may or may not find it elsewhere. The globes made of different colored polished stones, like lapis lazuli and quartz are particularly beautiful but very heavy. There are cloisonne vases from a couple inches high to several feet high, and if vases aren't your thing, there are cloisonne wall hangings that are vibrantly colorful and quite lovely.

Friendship Store
17 Jian Guo Men Wai Avenue
Beijing, China, 100020
+86 (0)10 6500 3311


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