Author Topic: Beijing  (Read 7456 times)

missundecided

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Beijing
« on: September 05, 2015, 08:27:45 PM »
I booked an impulsive trip to Beijing for the end of this month (once in a lifetime plane ticket bargain). But now that they're done and bought, I would love to get some recommendations of things to do, see. I will only be there for a week, but already I know my friend and I are going to the Great Wall, and my friend wants to get blessed in a Buddhist temple (although it just occurred to me--isn't China anti-religion? Shows what I know!)

Any tips?

The Beacon

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Re: Beijing
« Reply #1 on: September 05, 2015, 08:44:06 PM »
There are thousands of temples in China.  People get blessed there every day. But China is basically an agnostic country. It becomes a problem if a large gathering(more than thousands) forms and practices a religion together. Other than that, you can believe in whatever you want. 

rpr

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Re: Beijing
« Reply #2 on: September 05, 2015, 09:29:20 PM »
I assume that you want to spend a week in Beijing. I only had about three days and did the following. Was a lot of fun.

1. Obviously do the Great Wall. It takes the whole day.

2. I liked both the Forbidden City and the Summer Palace. The Forbidden city took the greater part of the day. The Summer Palace was an afternoon + evening. The sunset across the lake at the summer palace was a wonderful experience. 

3. For a different experience, try to get to Tian'anmen Square at sunrise for the Flag Raising Ceremony. Requires an early morning :)

4. Acrobatics at the ChaoYang theater was a fun evening.

The Beijing subway is excellent. I took it everywhere except for the early morning taxi to Tian'anmen Square.

If you have a week and would like to fly outside, maybe to Xian to see the Terra Cotta Warriors. My friends went there and enjoyed it.
 

 

SingleMomDebt

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Re: Beijing
« Reply #3 on: September 05, 2015, 09:35:38 PM »
Have fun missundecided!!!

missundecided

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Re: Beijing
« Reply #4 on: September 05, 2015, 09:54:14 PM »
Have fun missundecided!!!

The best tip of 'em all! ;)

Thanks, everyone! This trip will be here before I know it! I'm trying not to overplan but sure don't want to miss out on anything either.

ltt

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Re: Beijing
« Reply #5 on: September 05, 2015, 10:07:26 PM »
When we went to the Great Wall (we had a guide), we went to a less densely populated section of the Wall.  We were at the Mutianyu section.  It was breathtaking!  There were very few people on that section.  Make sure you have a good camera because the pics you get will be amazing!!!

I also agree with going to the Forbidden City.  It was stunning.

Temple of Heaven.

Tiananmen Square.  Fascinating.

Wangfujing snack street.  We never made it here, and I'm sorry that we missed it.  The hotel we stayed at was fairly close by, but jet lag was starting to set in after the 3rd day, and we just didn't have the energy to go there.

I so enjoyed Beijing.  Would love to go again someday. 

pac_NW

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Re: Beijing
« Reply #6 on: September 05, 2015, 10:07:51 PM »
Al of the above plus a day trip by plane to Xian to see the terra cotta warriors. Unbelievable.

limeandpepper

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Re: Beijing
« Reply #7 on: September 06, 2015, 12:05:47 AM »
Whatever you do, I wouldn't go to the Badaling section of the Great Wall. Go to one of the ones that are a bit further out instead e.g. Mutianyu, Simatai, Jinshanling.

I recommend eating cheap street food but I also recommend the Peking duck at Dadong. Fancy but still cheaper than an equivalent meal back home. Might need to book in advance, or get a ticket and wait for 20 minutes or however long it takes.

The boyfriend and I splurged on front-row seats for an acrobatic show. Again, worth it for us - we pretty much never get front-row seats to anything, and it was still within our price range.

Visit the hutongs - they are so charming and full of character.

Forbidden City and the nearby Jingshan Park. Summer Palace, Shichahai, Tiananmen Square, etc. I liked the candy blower on Wangfujing snack street if he's still around. If you have time, the Bell and Drum Towers, if I recall correctly one of them has a really dark, narrow and steep staircase which has kind of an adventurous appeal.

BigBangWeary

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Re: Beijing
« Reply #8 on: September 06, 2015, 12:14:44 AM »
How crazy is that missundecided, our family is going to Beijing at the end of this month too. It was last minute decision due to a recent announcement (twins!). We are doing a similar itinerary to the one rpr suggested. We have also heard we need to get out by the 28th if at all possible.

Here's hoping the pollution clears a bit.

EricL

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Re: Beijing
« Reply #9 on: September 07, 2015, 03:22:54 PM »
I got nothing to post but am watching with interest.  Visiting China is a bucket list item.

Dee18

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Re: Beijing
« Reply #10 on: September 07, 2015, 05:30:55 PM »
+1 to the Urban Planning museum and to the 798 Art District.  I also loved touring a Hutong and getting a glimpse of hoe Beijing used to be.

chesebert

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Re: Beijing
« Reply #11 on: September 07, 2015, 11:07:42 PM »
If not mentioned already you want to brig a mask. Going outside during PM150+ days will seriously affect your health of you have not been exposed to high pollution during your life.

I would also avoid "street food" as in food sold along the street rather than clean restaurants. Those foods are generally not safe for human consumption by Western standards.

I would also avoid taking subway during peak hours (generally during the day) due to the extreme crowd. Make sure you install Uber as getting a taxi in Beijing is next to impossible. You should also be prepared to spend a lot of time in traffic.

Also, do not buy anything you can find at tourist attraction. If you absolutely need to bring "souvenirs" back see if you can buy those on Amazon/JingDong and ship to your hotel.

limeandpepper

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Re: Beijing
« Reply #12 on: September 08, 2015, 03:13:54 AM »
I would also avoid "street food" as in food sold along the street rather than clean restaurants. Those foods are generally not safe for human consumption by Western standards.

My boyfriend is Australian and had no issues... granted he came from such a carefree household that his stomach is probably even more "well-seasoned" than my Southeast Asian stomach, lol. I think if you eat the stuff from a reasonably popular stall that's not raw and is freshly cooked in front of you, it should be fine, for the most part. No guarantees of course. But no guarantees in restaurants either.

But that reminds me of another tip - I would bring along hand sanitizer, the toilets don't always have working taps, or they may not supply soap. That would be the more likely reason that one gets sick. Always sanitize your hands right after going to the toilet and before eating, and you'll greatly reduce the risk of getting ill. And bring medications just in case.

chesebert

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Re: Beijing
« Reply #13 on: September 08, 2015, 03:32:28 AM »
I would also avoid "street food" as in food sold along the street rather than clean restaurants. Those foods are generally not safe for human consumption by Western standards.

My boyfriend is Australian and had no issues... granted he came from such a carefree household that his stomach is probably even more "well-seasoned" than my Southeast Asian stomach, lol. I think if you eat the stuff from a reasonably popular stall that's not raw and is freshly cooked in front of you, it should be fine, for the most part. No guarantees of course. But no guarantees in restaurants either.

But that reminds me of another tip - I would bring along hand sanitizer, the toilets don't always have working taps, or they may not supply soap. That would be the more likely reason that one gets sick. Always sanitize your hands right after going to the toilet and before eating, and you'll greatly reduce the risk of getting ill. And bring medications just in case.

good call on the hand sanitizer. I would also make sure to have all the preventative shots before you go, especially the hepatitis shots.

Lyssa

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Re: Beijing
« Reply #14 on: September 08, 2015, 04:44:28 AM »
I also liked the summer palace more than the forbidden city. Cabs from the latter are a complete rip-off with an artificailly high rate for westerners. Normal cabs with regular prices only pick up Chinese tourists and are threatened in not stoping for Westerners by some kind of mafia. Learn to use buses and the underground. It's not dangerours. Just really confusing at first. If you get lost, get a cab from there. The rip-off cabs only frequent the major sights. Or just walk a certain distance till you can find a regular cab.

When visiting the wall I would recommend Jinshanling over the too neatly reconstructed and overrun by tourists Badaling. "The wall" is not "the wall", see: http://www.chinahighlights.com/greatwall/section/

HouHai is also worth seeing and I felt a lot more comfortable there than in the average Chinese innercity district where you can shop yourself to death but KFC is virtually the only place where you can sit down for half an hour and have a coffee.
« Last Edit: September 08, 2015, 08:01:05 AM by Lyssa »

whybe

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Re: Beijing
« Reply #15 on: September 08, 2015, 07:02:43 AM »
Chiming in on Hutongs, jinshan park. If you time your visit to the forbidden city, at 11am (I think, check guides and interwebs) there is a neat old clocks show that chime at once.
Also don't fear the street foods! Choose the busiest stalls and restaurants as that is assuring fresh product. And minimizes chances of stomach bugs. if you're into shopping (and haggling) for any kind of fare, visit the silk and pearl markets (they both sell everything imaginable besides their namesakes). Stuff can be had at very low prices if you know how to haggle (hint, start at 10% of the price they offer and work your way up).
 I also liked going into their kitchens and pointing at whatever ingredients they had around then pointing at the skillet and making stir fry motions :-) :-)

missundecided

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Re: Beijing
« Reply #16 on: September 08, 2015, 01:03:54 PM »
What are your dates?  Be advised that due to holiday schedules in Beijing this year (very LOOONG holiday for the Oct 1 National day holiday), tourist sites will likely be very crowded with domestic tourists from roughly Sept 28-October 7 (I can't remember what the exact dates of the holiday are at the moment).  Also, I seem to recall seeing mention that they are going to start limiting visitors to the Forbidden City, so you might need to plan ahead to get tickets if that is high on your list.


Hahaha, well now why I know the airfare was so cheap. We'll be there Sept 30 to Oct 6. That's a very good tip to know. I guess my friend and I are about to get very cozy with a whole lot of people!!

Thanks everyone for all this great info!!

JoJo

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Re: Beijing
« Reply #17 on: September 08, 2015, 01:08:32 PM »
We stayed in a hostel in a hutong for about $10 a night per person that included breakfast daily (chinese noodles or toast, etc) and dinner twice a week - dumplings were great!  They also booked cheap trips out to the great wall. 
Have dinner on "Ghost Street" one night ... the lit red lanterns are great. 

missundecided

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Re: Beijing
« Reply #18 on: September 08, 2015, 01:20:00 PM »
We stayed in a hostel in a hutong for about $10 a night per person that included breakfast daily (chinese noodles or toast, etc) and dinner twice a week - dumplings were great!  They also booked cheap trips out to the great wall. 
Have dinner on "Ghost Street" one night ... the lit red lanterns are great.

JoJo, do you happen to remember at which hostel you stayed?

JoJo

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Re: Beijing
« Reply #19 on: September 08, 2015, 02:01:46 PM »
It was 3 years ago.  May have been Red Lantern.

expatartist

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Re: Beijing
« Reply #20 on: September 09, 2015, 06:07:17 AM »
Red Lantern! Is it still around? Brings back memories. Stayed there 11 years ago. Highly recommend a stay in the hutongs: it can be cheap, is central, and will be a human retreat from some of the oversized, over-crowded monuments you'll be visiting.

Street food in Beijing - unless there's something that looks super compelling, I give it a miss. It's mostly chuan'r (dodgy meat, you don't know what animal it's from) and it's likely cooked with gutter oil (google for info). But there are wonderful restaurants here: look for Xinjiang/muslim restaurants - they'll often have green and white sign with Arabic lettering - halal restaurants are some of the few where I'll eat the meat. Amazing dumplings and noodles to be found in the city.

Ditto to bringing a basic 3m mask with you. Pollution should be light during that time with factories closed, but there may be some days with stagnant and polluted air. The Beijing Design Week is going on during that time - lots of pop-up galleries and spaces, it's less commercial than 798 and showcases some of the great art and design happening in the city www.bjdw.org/en

Summer palace and the wall will be overrun. Do you have any Chinese language skills? Knowing some of the local language is important to get around and avoid ripoffs. I've been happy with trips from http://ChineseCultureCenter.org - they also run great tours to artists villages and studios around Beijing, where you can get a glimpse of life you'd never get on your own.

JoJo

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Re: Beijing
« Reply #21 on: September 09, 2015, 02:59:39 PM »
A couple of scams to look out for:
* don't get into a pedicab.  Regular cabs with meters are very cheap if you need a cab.  Pedicabs speak English and quote you a really low price but then try to say they meant dollars instead of yuans.
* don't accept an invite with a friendly local to get tea.  You will be stuck paying for some very expensive tea! 

Ocelot

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Re: Beijing
« Reply #22 on: September 10, 2015, 02:06:49 AM »
I just got back from staffing for a team at a couple of pro bike races in China, one near Beijing and another in Hainan. It was my first time and it was great. The advice I was given (and followed) was avoid tap water and try to buy 'reputable' bottled water (as apparently even some bottled options can be suspect), and use a VPN if you want to access most popular Western sites (Facebook, Google services, Instagram, Twitter etc are all blocked). You'll need to sort out the VPN before you get there, and it's wise to get a couple of options as they can be unreliable. MMM works though, as does Hotmail.

chesebert

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Re: Beijing
« Reply #23 on: September 12, 2015, 12:54:03 PM »
A couple of additional plugs, for things run by friends of mine:

http://thehutong.com/ -- tons of classes, programs, events and excursions.  The Executive Director is a friend who ran study abroad programs for years, and is also a top notch historian. 

http://blacksesamekitchen.com/ -- started by a former grantee of the program I worked on, gets rave reviews.  Expensive, but might be worth the splurge for a unique experience and some great local food.

+1 on blacksesamekitchen.

very very good - of course someone else paid for the meal :)