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mistybleu Beijing - A travel report by Amanda
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Beijing,  China - flag China -  Beijing
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mistybleu's travel reports

A vision of Beijing

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I had always seen China as being hidden from the rest of the world by an impenetrable screen, but in the last few years, it’s redefined itself as a major economic hub and popular tourist destination for the traveller wanting a unique holiday.

Chinese Dog
Chinese Dog
I saw a Jet Lei film called ‘Hero’ and it kind of summed up some of the sites, sounds, imaginations, myths, desires, cultures, visions, customs, ideals, smells and colours of China. This spirit brought me back in time and space to Beijing.

Beijing has a population over 11 million and as I walked the streets it felt like I passed them all, there were so many people around, all the time. Each day thousands on their bikes, pedalling to and fro, or driving up and down or walking back and forth. Whatever time of day or night, I was out there were always people around. This made crossing roads difficult, so my tip is, when crossing always cross with the locals because I swear that the green crossing light actually meant target practise, with tourists as the bulls-eye. But all of this enhances the vibrant nature of Beijing, one must take the time to walk the streets, wander through the little alleys and mix with the people.

Usually, Beijing is used as an introduction to China and coming from the western world it can be a little daunting. The biggest barrier is off course the language, but in most tourist areas locals have a small command of English (especially the younger ones).

When purchasing goods, everyone has a calculator to show you the exact price. But a word of warning, when handling money, always check your change as sometimes for example they give you change equivalent to 40 cents instead of 40 dollars, because notes are used as well of coins.

The official language is mandarin however each regional has its own dialect and quite often are not understood by each other, for consistency the written word is the same.

Favourite spots:
Winter at the Great Wall
Winter at the Great Wall
The Great Wall was built to protect China from the northern frontiers; it stretches 3375 miles from Jiayuguan to Shanhaiguan. Like the Pyramids of Giza, it is one of the ancient world’s greatest feats and owing to its size it is commonly miss-quoted as being the only man-made structure visible from space.

I visited the Wall at Badaling Pass which was extremely busy, and is considered the more manicured section of the wall as much of the ancient features are completely hidden. Climbing the Wall can be quite strenuous, so at this section there are cable cars to takes you to various viewing points or what I took a ‘ground’ car (this was more like a slow roller-coaster).

Once up there, I walked pass four or five towers; it was really hard work and at times left me completely breathless, but the rewards was there; peace and quite and the hoards of people were left behind.

What's really great:
Just being in China was fantastic and meeting people, regardless if they stared as if I was an alien or celebrity, I couldn’t quite decide. But generally they were friendly, especially students studying English - as the opportunity to improve their skills, left them eager to talk.

Other fun things included:

Going to an art gallery and seeing what they consider the treasures of the studio (ie the brush, paper, ink stick and ink stone) being used to create the wonderful paintings and calligraphy.

Listening to the sounds of the qin or dizi, all epitomising the richness of their musical heritage.

Visiting various temples or reading about the history and immersing into their culture.

Walking through the markets and smelling the wonderful aromas of the street vendors preparing meals.

Going to a silk market and haggling over the price of a shirt.

Or picking up some fake designer labels, a 10th of the price paid at home.

The Forbidden City
The Forbidden City
Officially known as the PALACE MUSEUM; the FORBIDDEN CITY has been destroyed many times by fire but still retains its impressive character and is a must to do.

TIANANMEN GATE is also known as the Gate of Heavenly Peace is the surrounding wall of the IMPERIAL CITY. At the main entrance is a portrait of Mao Zedong and leads to the main gates of the Forbidden City.

TIANANMEN SQUARE has a granite obelisk, to Mao, in the centre and is decorated with the revolutionary images and writings. Many Chinese tourists attend raising/lowering of the flag ceremony on a daily basis. But over the last 15 years the square is more know for the massacre which happened whereby pro-democracy demonstrators were killed, rolled over by tanks and then shot.

BEIHAI PARK covers 70 hectares and was established by the Mongolian emperor Kublai Khan. It is one of the prettiest parks in Beijing and has a lovely lake with a Jade islet and a white Dagoba.

Leading to the Great Wall
Leading to the Great Wall
I stayed in a local 4 star hotel - the Wangfujing Grand which was conveniently located behind to the Forbidden City, Jingshan and Beihai Park, and the China Art Gallery, in the commercial district with lots of shops around. There were also many other hotels located here including the Crown Plaza. It’s best to get a room facing west (and preferable on a higher floor) to get great views of the Palace.

They have very cheap rooms available from around $11 per night, or superior room which can cost up to $118.

There were 3 restaurants (Cantonese, Western, & Korean) and a bar located in the impressive lobby complete with water features. The quality of food served was outstanding, if not a little pricey.

The staff were welcoming and helped getting around, by completing direction cards for taxi drivers. I also found it helpful asking them to estimated cost of the journey so that I could agree an amount with the driver before departing.

Although there are many clubs in Beijing, an evening out could also be well spent going to the Peking or Beijing Opera. Tickets are usually available from hotels and even though it is a little touristy, it’s a nice. The performance combines: music, drama, mime, dance, acrobatics and singing into a fantastic show. The essence of the Chinese opera is an adaptation of classic stories/fables where the facial makeup is key to the story line; it is a special art which distinctively shows the image of certain roles by means of artistic exaggeration combining truthful portrayal and symbolism. The roles rely on disposition and moral quality, age and distinguishing features to tell the story and the audience are ‘told’ who is good or bad, simply by the makeup.

My advice would be to get seats on the aisles just in case you need to slip out before the performance is over. However this experience is truly special and memorable.

My favourite Chinese Restaurant
My favourite Chinese Restaurant
I walked into this restaurant with the ability of saying one word ‘Ní hâo’ (hello). I was presented with a menu and then spent the next 20 minutes trying to order some Peking duck. I couldn’t understand them or they me, finally I tried leaving, but they pleaded for me to stay. As I approached the door, I spotted other diners eating exactly what I wanted; I pointed to their table and the waitress had that ‘eureka’ look on her face.

Well I had a wonderful meal of aromatic duck, plum sauce with pancakes. The restaurant was situated on Chaoyangmen Nei St just off Wangfujing Avenue, and I would definitely recommend it, as the food was great and the people were the friendliest I’d met on my travels.

I was told I should try street food; every evening the food market came to life, selling freshly prepared kebabs with all sorts of meats, snakes, bugs and fruits etc. Whilst I wasn’t adventurous enough to try the bugs, the corn kebab (10 Yuan) was lovely.

Other recommendations:
The Ming Tomb
The Ming Tomb
Definitely visit the SUMMER PALACE; it’s the greatest of royal gardens and the use of water is the principle motif, it’s truly beautiful.

TEMPLE OF HEAVEN PARK was used by the emperors of the Ming and Qing dynasty as a palace for praying for good harvests, and is only a few blocks behind the Mao memorial.

Only the Wanly Tomb is fully excavated of the MING TOMBS. Legend has it, to find favour with the Emperor, when you enter the gate, step with your right leg and say ‘hello Emperor I’m coming’.

The LAMA TEMPLE is the largest temple in Beijing and houses the best of Tibetan and Mongolian Buddhist images and works of art.

Don’t go to a JADE FACTORY; every tour eventually ends up here, however I must say at first the dexterity of the sculptors are interesting.

Also, beware of spitting, it seems a local past time to bring up from the recesses of their throat, as loud as possible and just spit it on to the sidewalk.

Published on Monday August 29th, 2005

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Sat, Nov 05 2005 - 01:49 PM rating by vbx000

Great report, sums up Beijing really well. I'm glad that you ventured into China! It sounds like you had quite the experience, and definitely experienced the quirks of the city and her people.

Fri, Oct 21 2005 - 05:31 PM rating by toribio


Wed, Sep 14 2005 - 12:10 PM rating by bootlegga

Very nice report Amanda

Fri, Sep 09 2005 - 10:15 AM rating by magsalex

Great report - and my least favourite thing in China - spitting!!!!

Sat, Sep 03 2005 - 05:20 PM rating by horourke

I love the Ni hao and the duck event. Very useful information for the future

Wed, Aug 31 2005 - 04:29 AM rating by gloriajames

Well done! Always a pleasure to read your reports!

Tue, Aug 30 2005 - 09:43 PM rating by eirekay

Magnificent report with beautiful photos! Always a pleasure to read your stuff!

Tue, Aug 30 2005 - 08:42 AM rating by bear495

You continue to write interesting and informative travel reports. Thank you so very much.


Tue, Aug 30 2005 - 07:09 AM rating by britman

Another winner - well done Misty

Tue, Aug 30 2005 - 01:31 AM rating by dipaks

Fantastic Report of China. beijing is a very developed and welthy for everything. Nice images specially Great Wall.

Tue, Aug 30 2005 - 12:49 AM rating by ravinderkumarsi

excellent report and nice pictures,well written report.

Mon, Aug 29 2005 - 01:04 PM rating by rangutan

Great stuff! Oh I wish to experience China too soon and just that described here, thanks.

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