Between having limited time to blog plus having limited access to internet access, I was only able to blog once during my trip to Beijing. So, to make up for those lost blog entries, I’m just going to list some places that you absolutely have to go visit if you happen to stop by Beijing, China.
1) Forbidden City, the Palace Museum or 故宫
This is the world’s largest palace complex, as well as China’s largest museum, and it dates back to the Ming and Qing dynasties. It took me almost a whole day to walk around it. The architect is stunning, and there are many exhibits showing artifacts from the past that you can stop and look at. This is definitely worth going to.
To the left, you can see part of the Hall of Supreme Harmony. These buildings you usually can’t go into, but you can look through the doors and inside them. This is a picture I took while waiting in line to see inside the Hall. I love the colors of the buildings there, always very rich and beautiful.
2) The whole area that contains the Bird’s Nest and the Water Cube
If you watched the Beijing Olympics in 2008, you must of been as stunned as I was by the architect of both of these buildings. Go see these at night — the Bird’s Nest is a lovely red while the Water Cube is blue. There are also buildings around the area that flash at night, making the overall scene one to remember.
3) Qianmen Street, or 前门
I love this place. The main street is mostly American stores, like H&M, but if you round the corners into alleyways, you can delve deep into Chinese culture. If you remember my post on Gou Bu Li Bao Zi, one of the most famous bao zi in history, this was where I found the store. There is also Chinese medicine stores, jewelry stores, clothing stores (selling not only higher class
clothing but also the normal attire of middle class), toy stores, and so much more. I also found a Chinese hot pot store. Hot pot is a type of dining where you put different types of vegetables, meat, and seafood in to cook in a little pot of boiling water. Dine in these restaurants if you have time, because last time I went to one of these we ate for three hours. There’s also Beijing Roast Duck available, but one of my favorite stores yet was one with different Beijing snacks, such as dried fruit, candy, and much more. There
were also stores that sold special things, like chopsticks, tea, and silk. Visit a silk store if you have time. The colors are beautiful and the dresses are nice. And I have to say, I bought most of my souvenirs there. You may have heard of another shopping place called 秀水街, or Xiu Shui Jie Shopping Mall. It’s a huge building filled with stalls selling dresses, scarves, and all manner of things. It was nice roaming around the place, but the prices were high and difficult to bargain down. One rule to bargaining: don’t act like you like it. Name your price, and if they don’t
agree, walk away. If they don’t chase after you, sorry, you lost, but if they do, then you win. If you have to choose between Xiu Shui Jie and Qianmen, choose Qianmen. It’s worth much more of your time.
4) Tiananmen Square, or 天安门广场
Close to the Forbidden City and Qianmen Street is Tiananmen Square. It has become the largest city square in the world. In front is a building with Mao Zedong’s portrait on it, in the middle you can see the Monument to the People’s Heroes, and directly across from the building with Mao Zedong’s portrait is Mao Zedong’s mausoleum, where you can apparently see his intact body. I wasn’t too eager to go in, because personally I thought it kind of creepy, but we went in line anyways. However, cameras, bags, and other such belongings are not allowed inside the mausoleum, so we slunk out of line at the last minute. The
line winds around and around a portion of Tiananmen Square, but the line goes pretty fast. Just make sure you have someone to hold your bags outside of the mausoleum.
Also, bring an umbrella, if the day is going to be sunny, like it was the day I went there. Don’t worry about feeling like an idiot: a lot of people go around like that on a daily basis. On the square are stalls where you can buy water and drinks for about 2-5 yuan each.
WHERE NOT TO GO IF YOUR TIME IS LIMITED
If you don’t have that much time, visit the above places and forget about these, but you can visit them if you have a spare afternoon or such.
1) Xiu Shui Jie Shopping Mall, or 秀水街
I mentioned this one above — the clothes are expensive and difficult to bargain down. But if you like roaming malls, or if you like to “eye-shop”, this is the place to go. If you’re looking for small souvenirs to bring home, don’t go here. But if you’re looking for expensive dresses that costs 600 yuan or more (good quality though, all silk), come here. This place is a very famous shopping mall, and one of my friends in China told me that sometimes celebrities go there to shop. However, I doubt your chances at meeting one…
2) Gong Wang Fu, or 恭王府
This mansion was built for minister He Shen in the Qing Dynasty. This is a beautiful place, however, the tickets cost 70 yuan per person and there are no exhibits at all. The buildings inside contain shops with really expensive things, and I think there is a Beijing opera house that you need to pay a huge sum to get into. There are a lot of people too, so I didn’t get to go to a lot of the places that I would of liked. But the scenery is majestic, and the buildings are well preserved. The gardens are also lovely. This whole complex is a series of houses with a garden and a lake. Imagine living in that 🙂