1. The Great Wall: Certainly the most memorable experience of our trip to date. There are many options available ranging in time, money and convenience. We recommend the Jinshangling to Simatai leg, a 10 km trek that is moderate in difficulty and takes between 2 – 4 hours. Bus ride each way is 3 hours from Beijing, and our trip costs us 260 RMB per person, plus an additional 95 RMB per person for entrance fees. If you are short for time or don’t fancy a sweaty hike, most tourists opt for the Badaling portion, which is approximately 45 minutes outside of Beijing.
2. Forbidden City (Palace Museum): Built from 1406 to 1420, and covering 7,800,000 square feet the Forbidden City is a monumental Beijing attraction. The complex also houses the Palace Museum, putting history into context, as the Forbidden City was home to the Emperor and his household for almost five centuries. As you enter from the south side, make sure you cross the center most bridge, or you may enter the adjacent park. Entry to the Forbidden City complex itself is free, but it is 90 RMB per person for the Palace Museum.
3. Tiananmen Square: South of the Forbidden City, the large gathering place is a permanent fixture during public parades, and holds historical significance tied to China’s continued political and social progress. Ironically, Tiananmen means “Gate of Heavenly Peace” and although it is little more than a concrete square, one can appreciate its history.
4. Rent Bicycles: Beijing is extremely flat, providing easy cycling throughout the metropolis. No helmets are offered as part of a rental, or any that we came across in the budget category, so be cautious. The traffic could be described as mayhem, and don’t assume a cross walk or green crossing signal gives you any rights if you are not a motorist. Beijing has a decent subway/metro system, but stops are still quite distant, and biking is ideal for seeing attractions while being kind to your feet. Expect to pay about 20 RMB for 24 hours, and a deposit of around 200 RMB for each bike.
5. Acrobatic Show: I’m not sure whether China’s uncanny skills in Olympic Gymnastics is fueled by a spectacular acrobatics profession, or the other way around, but you are left enjoying the fruits either way. Performances are frequent and widely available. The performance we attended lasted an hour and a half, and cost us 160 RMB per person. Acts included umbrella juggling, contortionists and about 20 gals riding around on a single bike!
6. Silk Street Market: THE place to visit for nearly every female tourista in Beijing, and I imagine many a men as well. The renowned home to 48 counterfeit brands, as the building exterior prominently boasts, is a dream for bargain hunters and brand hounds alike. A rule of thumb, take the initial offering price and divide by 10 to get an idea of where you should end up for a deal. Retail sleuths will notice however, it is one big shopping orgy aimed at lightening your wallet, and nearly all stalls, which are redundant in their assortment answer to some higher retail big daddy. You’ll know what I mean when you see it, but still try to play one stall on the price of another to determine your true price.
7. Olympic Park: Acres and acres of clear open space with two notable attractions, the Water Cube and the Bird’s Nest (National Stadium). Although Manali was particularly keen to peruse the Water Cube, we failed to tour their interiors, as rehearsals for National Day events were in full swing and venues were consequently closed to the public. Pull out 90 RMB per person for each venue if you plan on visiting.
8. Food Street (Wangfujang): We’ve all seen or heard of scorpions on a stick, at the ready for your pre-dinner snack. Bugs and lizards of all sorts are also on the menu, and although they may be living for the purpose of your satisfactory inspection, fear not, they are doused in hot oil and served up cooked for your culinary pleasure.
9. Summer Palace: Placed on the UNESCO World Heritage list in 1998, the Summer Palace is described as a “masterpiece of Chinese landscape garden design. The natural landscape of hills and open water is combined with artificial features such as pavilions, halls, palaces, temples and bridges to form a harmonious ensemble of outstanding aesthetic value”.
Check out cheap hotels in Liverpool nextime!
10. Mao’s Mausoleum: The final resting place of Mao Zedong, Chairman of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China from 1945 until his death in 1976. The mausoleum was constructed immediately following his death. Although Mao wished to be cremated, he was embalmed. For several hours each day, you can be ushered through a viewing room to see his body lay in rest.
11. Beijing Zoo: The Beijing Zoo mainly exhibits wild and rare animals of China. The Giant Pandas are one of the most popular exhibits, but other popular exhibits include the Sichuan golden snub-nosed monkey, Manchurian tigers, white-lipped deer, yaks from Tibet, enormous sea turtles, polar bears from the North Pole, kangaroo from Australia, and zebras from Africa.
12. Shiatsu Foot Massage: For 60 glorious minutes and 28 RMB ($4.10) per person, Manali and I were treated to our second foot massage in as many weeks. Located on the same corner as our Hostel, the ladies at this joint treated us right, and even gave us a bit of a shoulder and neck massage too, to which we were in dire need. Those that prefer therapeutic massages, or light in pressure, may want to avoid Chinese masseuses. If you find it painful, don’t grimace or whine too much, or they may get the impression they are working the right spot and dig in further.