a VirtualTourist member from Orlando
Looks like I'll be able to fly out after all. I have three full days in Beijing and I am listing the sights I would like to see. I am making some guesstimates for the length of time for some places. How would you skip these? Only thing, I would prefer to do the wall on the second day, for half a day. Don't want to leave it for last, but want to get another night's rest before going. Also looks like it may rain. Here are the places - please excuse any spelling problems. If there is a place you'd skip, please let me know
- Tianamen Square 2 hrs (or should it be 1 hr for square, 3 for Forbidden City)
- Forbidden City 2 hrs
- Beihai Park 2 hrs
- Gulou and Zhonglow (Drum and Bell Towers) - look at hutongs from Zhonglou ?
- Great Wall Mutianyu 1/2 day
- Beihai Park [which of these parks is better for people watching in AM } 2 hr
- Summer Palace 4 hours
- Ditan Gongyuan (Park of the earth) -2 hours
- Temple of Heaven 2 hours
- Wangfuying Street 2 hours
- Dongnan Jiaolou (south corner tower) 1/2 hour
- Yonghegong (Temple of the Lamas)
- Fayuan Si 1/2 hour
Look forward to your suggestions/additions/deletions
oops - did not mean to say "how would you skip" but "how would you split"
I'm no expert on Beijing, but from our experience last year, I would go with 1 hour Tiananmen Square and at least 3 in the Forbidden City. It is huge and there is a lot to see, and read about. This is not a good place to be in the rain as there is little shelter.
I would recommend going to the Temple of Heaven in the morning when people are exercising and having their recreation time in the park, which might also fill your people watching interest so perhaps allow a little longer. It was pouring the day we went but the people just transferred their activities to the covered way which was crowded but fun.
Wangfuying Street is fun at night when the night food stalls are set up.
4 hours for the Summer Palace sounds about right. Mainly outdoors but the Long Corridor, and boats across the lake, are covered so rain shouldn't stop you.
We found hutongs near our hotel (Park Plaza) but not as picturesque as some others.
I can't comment on your other ideas except to say that sometimes the old adage of less is more can be useful! Tearing around trying to see everything is exhausting and it's not always possible to do everything justice.
Have a great time
Sue is right on the money. The only suggestions I have is to try to visit Beihai Park early in the morning. (Before 7am) It's not only great for people watching, but it leaves more time during the day to visit other places. I'm not usually one to push "day trips", but I strongly suggest you book a 1/2 day bike rickshaw through the hutongs. Not only will you have an exciting (and perilous) ride, you will also have an opportunity to visit a resident of the hutong.
Happy travels, Irv
What dates will you be in Beijing?
Yes, more time in the Forbidden City and less in Tiananmen Square.
I saw someone get arrested in Tiananmen during May 2006, I think the police wanted to look at my camera to see if i took pictures, but he could not speak English and i walked away and got lost in the crowd before he came too close.
I have been to China twice and always find it fascinating and forever changing. Give yourself plenty of time at the Wall. You'll find getting into the country side and seeing this great structure worth the time. Tianamen Square is interesting but don't spend a lot of time here unless you want to buy some postcards and teeshirts. Your time is better spent at the Forbidden City - 3 to 4 hours.
The Summer Palace is very nice and also requires 3 - 4 hours. Nice place to bring a picnic lunch.
Also try to some acrobats if possible. They are amazing!!!!!!!!!!
I would take much less time for Tianamen Square and much more for the Forbidden City. To be honest, I found Tianamen Square to be a non-event. You don't say if you want to visit Mao's tomb but even then, an hour is more than enough for the whole area. I think you will find that it will take more than half a day for the Wall section of your trip (time there and back can take a long time).
I think you're trying to cram too much in. The wall is a couple of hours drive each way, and normally a tour also includes a visit to the Ming Tombs.
Tianmen is just a big square, nothing much to see. Summer Palace is quite a way from the centre too, probably an hour on the bus. Normally you enter the Forbidden City from Tiananmen, then exit at the back, cross the road into Beihai Park. It's a park, what else to say?
I understand that you want to cram as much in as possible. However, I agree that you might want to prioritise and then spend more time at those places topping your list.
Without a doubt, my favourite was the Forbidden City and we spend two FULL days there. From Tiananmen Dong, to the artefacts in the museums, to the peonies blooming in the gardens - there is so much to see!
Tiananmen Square is one of the world's premier public spaces with a lot of historical significance - the many Chinese tourists who congregate there is testimony to this. It also contains the Monument to the Peoples Heroes and is surrounded by the Great Hall of the People, Mao's Tomb, the Museum, and Tiananmen Dong. Depending on whether you want to take photos/video, people watch etc., an hour may be enough.
NOTE: Similar to another poster, I took photographs of the changing of the guard inside Tiananmen Dong, and one PLA soldier - on instructions from his commanding officer - smartly marched over to me and firmly but very courteously instructed me that photographs were not allowed. I thanked him and immediately packed my camera away. I was very impressed with the professional way in which he - and his commanding officer - conducted themselves.
Mutianyu is a good choice, but will probably be more than half a day.
Beihai Park is very large and one could easily spend half a day there - particularly on a Sunday! Another park you MUST consider is Jingshan Park. We had the most wonderful time there just watching the Chinese go about exercising and practising their arts, whether it's dancing, musical instruments or singing opera while strolling through the park. Oh yes, then there's water caligraphy as well!
The Summer Palace may also take the larger part of a day. Remember, there is also Suzhou Street within the grounds.
Temple of Heaven, for me personally, was less enjoyable - partly because I got conned into buying a sort of badminton set (where you catch the "ball" rather than batting it).
Wanfujing has many, many shops, shopping centres, stores and restaurants, so it all depends what you want. I agree with the poster who said to venture forth at night. The Donghua Yeshi night market is very interesting!
Oh yes, I also agree with the acrobat show! That was awesome. And don't make the mistake I made - buy the DVD during intermission!
"smartly marched over to me and firmly but very courteously instructed me that photographs were not allowed"
They did not seem to mine people taking photographs, but did not like people taking photos of the arrest.
I just added the photos to a travel log on my China page
Yep, there was no worries taking pics of Tiananmen or inside the Forbidden City, but they did not want me taking photos of the PLA.
Thank you, welcome all the comments - feel a bit better now.
ellyse, I will be there late Sept 14, leave for Shanghai early Sept 18. The concierge is providing private guide. I am about to send her a note finalizing the details.
Thanks again to all who responded.
By the way, so what pictures are OK, and which are not OK? I had a similar experience in Prague, as well as in the Donostia train station.
Be guided as to what may be perceived as a threat to national security. Something like a train station, which is a major transport/infrastructure hub, may be seen as a security threat.
Aside from the one fairly sedate incident, when I tried to photograph the PLA forming up and marching, I had absolutely no other problems in Beijing whatsoever.
When photographing people, it is only good manners to ask permission first. Some cultures/individuals may have religious or other objections to having their image recorded.
I agree with Johan. U are trying to cram too much in 3 days! You'll end up running everywhere and probably enjoy nowhere!
U won't need 2 hours for Tiananmen Sq. 15 mins is more than sufficient. But the new Grand Theater is just nearby, and that building is well worth a visit. Forbidden City, mininum 4 hours.
U need at least 2.5 hours to drive to Mutianyu Great Wall. Another 2 hours minimum to enjoy it. So, unless you leave your hotel at 6 am or earlier, you won't be able to do it in 1/2 day. Traffic is horrible in beijing as well. Also, don't forget Beijing is HUGE and it is nothing like Europe. Imagine Moscow if you wish.
Are u not planning on checking out the Bird Nest too? ;-) I think you need at least a week (if not more) in Beijing to enjoy it all :-)
I agree, I am cramming too much, so I'm trying to set the right expectations. I will probably need to remove some of these other places.
This is my very first trip to China, and for reasons it would take too long to explain I am keeping it short. This trip will allow me to plan a good return trip, with adequate time.
For the Mutianyu trip ... if I want to get an early start, then I'm better off with a private tour (they use Destinations China in the hotel I'm staying and I have that option). This way we can hopefully get there before the other tour buses.
So of the places I listed (and I usually go from about 7 AM to 9 or 10 PM) - which shuld I try to include?
Yes, the bird's nest definitely! I already saw it on a map!
Thank you again!
U can still do quite a decent amount of them but make sure you bring your track shoes! A LOT of walking!
Temple of Heaven, Tiananmen Square, Forbidden City, Gulou and Beihai Park can probably be done all in a day if you are not trying to see everything in each locations. Also, check out the Grand Theater, if not inside, at least check out the architecture from outside. It's so cool!
If you are able to leave early for Great Wall, you might be able to get to Yonghegong in the afternoon upon return. And Wangfujing in the night.
Leave Summer Palace for the third day or swap it with the first if you are too tired after your flight. Perhaps the Bird Nest & Watercube after Summer Palace.
Oh, IF you want to see them all (and in a rush too) you will need to get your hotel to hire a private car for you. I can get a car for around RMB 500-600 for a day out of the city BUT hotel might charge you double or triple with a better car and also english speaking driver. U probably need a guide only at the Forbidden City and Summer Palace. The rest of the places, just get tips from VT or Lonely Planet or DK guide book would be more than sufficient.
"By the way, so what pictures are OK"
I use 3 rules for taking pictures.
1. Would I take this picture if I was in my home town? For example, do not be rude. Turning off your flash helps.
2. What are the locals doing? For example, many Chinese like taking photos of western foreigners. When they ask for a photo with me, I get one with my camera. I even have photos of me with total Chinese strangers as a local custom tip.
3. When in doubt, take the picture. For example, the government does not like tourist taking pictures of political events, but I do.
When I went to Beijing we were only there for two days and had to cram a lot in as well, it sort of made the trip more exciting because you don't want to stop. My only suggestions to the above is if you get up early before dawn you can see the raising of the flags out the front of the Forbidden City, it was pretty interesting, great way to see the city as it comes alive. We went for breaky afterwards, then back to the Forbidden City spending most of the morning there. Defintely have a Peking Duck dinner and then check out Chinese Acrobats, I'm not normally into this type of thing but found the acrobats to be really entertaining.
Very reasonable and sensible schedule Sharrie, thank you, I have copied it.
So I should swap with Summer Palace if I anticipate being a little tired the first day? Probably will as I need to leave the house around 3:30 AM to make my 6 AM flight into Atlanta, then into Shanghai, then to Beijing - (I know, being a bit too "loyal" to maintain upgradable "status" with the airline).
I will see how the first day goes with the guide. I was hoping to learn to take public transportation for a follow up trip, in which case I will probably keep the guide a bit longer. A little worried about the rain, so I a car might turn into a good option, also as far as saving time.
Read a little about transportation to Mutianyu ... is there a bus that goes there, or should I hire a car as well?
The acrobats seem to be a favorite, and I'm definitely leaning in that direction.
Thank you again! Appreciate all the suggestions!
'A car sounds like a good option' until you get caught in Beijing's appalling traffic. I believe the underground system is excellent but didn't use it myself.
U are flying directly from Atlanta to Shanghai & not Beijing? Are you on Delta? If you are flying in from the U.S. and not spending a night in Shanghai b4 getting to Beijing, you'll definitely get jetlag! If so, I suggest you do Summer Palace or Great Wall first. Leave Forbidden City to last as there are too much to cover on that day.
U'll definitely need a car to get to Mutianyu. The quickest time is 2 hours drive if you go early. Forget about the bus, they don't run on time and also won't go until it is full. The last time I tried going to Simatai Great Wall, we ended up having to call for a taxi instead after 30 mins wait at the bus terminal. Actually, you may want to go on the first day if weather is good. Get some sleep on the way there and also on the way back. Nothing much to see along the way. There are other places of interests around it but I don't think you've the time to do them.
Summer Palace is not in the heart of the city either. So, u'll be better off with a car as well.
As for Tiananmen Square, Forbidden City and the rest, you might actually be better off getting taxi around. Get the hotel to write those names for you in Chinese. By the way, for Forbidden City, you have to go through the entire length of it to get out. No side doors. That means if you enter from Tiananmen Square Direction, you get out at the other far end. That takes hours to go through when you are combining it with sightseeing. Hence, you'll board your car/taxi at the other side of the compound. I suggest you hire a guide (licensed) and get her/him to take you around on public transport on this day.
Thanks [VT member 60ccf].
Sharrie you know your airlines! ;=)
I need to read your note with a little more time. The hotel is using Destinations China and the guide does not come with a car so I need to do some planning when I finish work for the day. Thanks [VT member 60ccf], I may be posting again.
Some further food for thought: we travelled independently and only needed to use a hire car twice: Mutianyu and the Summer Palace. We were fortunate enough to have a lovely driver arranged for us by the hotel (for both occassions). His rates were very reasonable and both he and the car were completely at our disposal.
He dropped us off at Mutianyu with the arrangement that we could take as long as we desired. Exactly the same for Summer Palace.
This was an ideal and mutually beneficial business partnership!
The rest of the sights we visited by walking - which was a great experience.
The underground system is very good, which we used when shopping - did not want to carry all the trinkets around.
Cabs are also very reasonable, which we used sometimes at night to get to and from restaurants.
I usually arrange a private driver - I'm having some issues because the hotel uses "Destinations China" - and we're not really agreeing on the arrangements. Will see how the respond to me, but I may need to get back to the concierge and ask if there's an alternative for a driver.
I have hired drivers from using the concierge before with good experiences - but this being a very nice hotel, I'm not sure why they're deferring all touring business to the Destinations China side.
I kindly mentioned already that I did not want to go to the Cloissone factory or the Ming Tombs ... and they keep coming back with these two places for a the private tour of Mutianyu. I explained it again. Need to see what they say - perhaps they misunderstood and thought I wanted to go instead of not wanting to go.
Temple of Heaven 2h
Tianamen Square 0.5h
Great Wall Mutianyu
Zhonglou & GuLou
What you need to ask the hotel/concierge to do is:
1) Arrange a private car with driver for 2 days.
2) Arrange a private guide for 1.5 day.
The car is for Mutianyu & Summer Palace. The hotel doesn't need to know where you want to go. Simply ask them for the rate for out of town travel (1 day) and in town (1 day) travel. Summer Palace is not in the center but still within the city limit.
The guide is simply for Forbidden City & the rest of sights that very day. You shouldn't need to cough up more than RMB 250 for a day guide. As far as I know, most sights charge RMB50-100 for one site. Do not pay more than RMB100 per site!
Just one note about the Great Wall, do it asap, esp. if you're having sunny day the first 2 days. It is I think the most relaxing of the 3 days and one which you can either extend your stay on it or cut it short if the weather should turn nasty.
Also, take the cable car up and if you so desire to climb, climb on the way down instead. It's less tiring that way.
If you have trouble getting transportation from the hotel, email me in advance. I can get the driver I normally use pick you up from your hotel to Mutianyu and drops you off wherever you wish to go thereafter. But I need advance notice as sometimes he may be out of town. He doesn't speak English but he can always call me on the cell to confirm the places you wish to go. Or, you may have the hotel write those places in chinese and you can just show him where you wish to go. His prices may have gone up a little since he just changed a new car.
Sep. 14 is the Mid Autumn Festival (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mid-Au..., aka Moon Cake festival. So, try some of them on your arrival. 15th is a public holiday. So, some places may be crowded.