beijing is the capital of china and people like to compare beijing and shanghai. they are totally different as beijing has more heritage and is an institional centre for government. you have all the touristic sites listed in lonely planet. most of them are very worth visiting. don’t miss the local food there. beijing dumpling is delicious and very cheap.
in terms of knowing the latest art scene in beijing, you can visit 798 Art District (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dashanzi_Art_District)
Great recommendation. I will certainly put the 798 on the “must see” list.
From what I have heard, I think I will leave Shanghai for a separate trip and focus more on what makes China unique. It sounds like this will be more easily found in Beijing and other cities. Thank you for confirming that.
And, again, thank you for your input.
Hey, This answer is really specific. If you are standing with your back to Beijing railway station, cross the road, on the left had side of the intersection (not the side with the footbridge over the road, you will understand when you see it) and there is a youth hostel on the corner. Book your trip to the great wall here, as it is cheap, and has many options, for example doing the 10km walk on the wall, with hardly any tourists for most of it. It is a hard day, but a great experience. It is a must, when travelling to Beijing, and try to plan it as one of your last sight-seeing days, because after doing this walk, nothing else in Beijing seems as good. Have heaps of fun and post some pics when you get back!!!!
PS. The area of the wall is called Simatai
Thanks for the tip. Do they book other trips there also?
Count on the pics—there will be plenty!
There are lots of things you can book there but i t depends on the season. Some friends of mine booked trips to Kung Fu and Chinese acrobatics shows and said they were awesome.
Did you stay there? How were the facilities?
Oh, and any more pics from your trip?
I did stay there and it was great! Pretty cheap, with a bar and resteraunt in the hostel. You can stay in rooms with up to 6 other guests. If you dont want to do this, there are also single and double rooms that were also really cheap. The bar is great as you can meet other travelers from all over the world. I am from Australia, and I met people from Canada, Japan, England, Korea, Ireland and Denmark, who I am still in contact with today. The name of the hostel is Beijing City Central International Youth Hostel, and you can book online if you want to stay.
Thanks. I will look it up.
Any recommendations on places to stay in the other cities you visited on your China trip?
I was actually living in China, as a teacher. I spent a week sightseeing in Beijing. We spent one night at the Grand Hyatt Beijing, which was unbelieveable. But I wouldnt recomend it unless you want to speand all day in the hotel. There are alot of good places to stay in Beijing, but we chose our hostel because it was cheap and located in a great central area. Not needing to get taxis was great, as they really are expensive in Beijing. (50RMB compared to the 6RMB we would pay in the town I lived in.)
In what city did you live? Would it be worth visiting?
I lived in a place called Qiqiha’er in Heilongjiang province. It was a great place to see what Chinese life is really like, but as a tourist, I dont think it would offer too much. Also, it is a place where English is not spoken by many people, so without a basic knowledge of Chinese (or maybe Russian), it is pretty hard to get around. However Ha’erbin in Heilongjiang province is a great city worth visiting, with many festivals, especially the ice sculpture festival in winter.
But I thought you taught everyone there English. Just kidding.
Thanks for all the info. Let me know if you think of anything else.
Hi there – like some of the others I suggest the Temple of Heavens, Forbidden City (allow at least half a day) and don’t be shocked to find a Starbucks coffee shop in there! Who ever put it there should be put against the wall!), Tianamen Square and of course, the Summer Palace.
The Ming Tombs are a bit of a disappointment but I suppose if you are there, might as well check it out. I went to Badaling to see the great wall – probably one of the more touristy spots – impressive nonetheless!
If you have time, make sure you head up to Xian – a good 15 – 20 hrs on a train (that’s an experience in itself!) The terracotta Warriors are worth the trip! Xian is quite a nice city too, plenty to see.
Thanks. It is just as important—if not more important—to find out where NOT to go in addition to where TO go. I will keep that in mind with the Ming Tombs.
And thanks for the Starbucks warning. Disappointing to hear, but better to be warned.
No worries – not that the Ming Tombs aren’t worth visiting if you have the time – the view is pretty cool from there but compared to other tombs, not really that amazing!
Love Starbucks or not, the guy that pulled that marketing ploy off was good! The other thing you shouldn’t miss is the food! Peking Duck is a must! Enjoy your trip.
I really think you should check out Xi’an, and not just for the terracotta warriors. The whole city is amazing, and I’ve met people who have done it as a day trip (or just overnight) from Beijing. Check out the Muslin Quarter and the city walls, for certain.
Thank you for the advice. How long do you think I should set aside for Xi’an?
Hard to say. I was there for three or four days, IIRC. There’s the Great Mosque which is amasing, in the middle of the Muslin Quarter, which you could probably kill at least half a day at. The Muslin Quarter itself is full, and changes. It’s full of different things during the day than the evening.
Oh, watch out for children begging everywhere. They’ll target you because you’re a foreigner. I got that everywhere, and it became really disturbing in some places.
The Terracotta Warriors and around are a good day trip.
I did a whirlwind tour of other places in the area that I bet I would have loved if it had been in English like I was told. ;)
I’d say three or four days, yeah.
Make sure to go to a place well known for Beijing Duck, and splurge one night for a feast. Its that good :)
Mmm…good food will certainly be a must. Thanks.
We went for 6 weeks, all over China, and really had a great time. My daughter blogged the entire trip.
Visiting the Wall is a given, but Badaling can be insane. Consider one of the other locations. We did Badaling and HuangHua – we had the Huanghua Wall to ourselves. A lot of people like MuTanYu.
We found that using guides was really worth if for the most part – you can get a guide to almost any landmark (Forbidden City, Summer Palace, Terra Cotta warriors, Temple of heaven, Ming Tombs, etc.) for around 100 RMB. They want more but mostly can be negotiated down.
The Mansion of Prince Gong in Beijing, can be combined with a Hu-Tong Tour near there. It’s one of the best Hu-Tong tours, and the Mansion is very interesting, but little toured by Westerners.
Li Qun for Peking Duck. It’s as good as Da Dong (the other renowned place) but half the price, in a VERY authentic hu-tong. If you can’t find the place, near the entrance the bike taxi’s will take you the 3-4 blocks. Don’t pay them more than 20 RMB which is robbery anyway. They’ll want a lot more. We walked.
HangQiao is a flea market on the first 2 floors, and probably the most famous pearl market (3rd floor) in Beijing. It’s right next to the Temple of Heaven so they can be combined for a trip. We spent a lot there. Tony Bahama silk shirts for 80 RMB (after a LOT of haggling). Bed spreads in silk. Silk comforters. Lots more.
DVD’s, any you want, are 10 RMB or less.
Chengdu for the Emei Giant Buddha was OK, but not breathtaking. The food in Chengdu was fabulous (if you like Szechuan (HOT) food). The Panda center was great for my daughter. A little pricey – but for $100 you can pose with a panda- and a bunch of babies were just born in August.
Go to an authentic Tea House, drink lots of green tea, and let them massage you at your table for 100RMB or less (45 minutes). We did this a lot – tried many teas, enjoyed watching the Mah-jonng in the south, and Chinese Chess around Beijing.
Xian for the Terra Cotta warriors is one of those “Gotta do once”. It was fascinating, but I’m not sure I’d go again. Don’t buy the statues, or keepsakes on site they are an arm and a let. All the same stuff we got at HangQiao in Beijing for about 1/5 the price.
The ancient city wall in Xian was OK. We didn’t do the Muslim Center. Big Goose Pagoda was interesting. Gotta do at least one pagoda somewhere.
We went to Tibet and loved it. But it’s a big addition. And the food is lousy (except at Dunya – the only good restaurant we found).
Hope you have a great time- We DID!
Thanks so much. All great advice.
Any places to completely avoid?
I’ve been living in China for the last 14 years of my life, Shanghai to be exact. However, the last time I was in Beijing was when I was 9 and haven’t been there since. I can, however, tell you aq bit about Shanghai.
If you’re looking for a meaningful, historical place to go to, Beijing is the place. If you’re looking to have a bit more fun, and experience culture shock as well as mingle with people from all over the world, Shanghai is where you should be.
Besides the growing number of foreigners, there are also alot of towers/skyscrapers that have aided the economic development of Shanghai.
-The Pearl Tower
-Jin Jiang Tower
Also check out Air Bar, on Yan An Xi Rd, near Pan Yu Rd, which is a bar/lounge located at the top of Summit Service Apartments. It features a spectacular view of downtown SH. Personally, I find this place a lot more affordable than the touristy Bund area.
The Bund, or Lao Wai Tan, has a lot of old buildings built by the French and British—some rebuilt and turned into restaurants and lounges. It also has a walkway that overlooks the division between Pudong and Puxi area. I’d recommend going at night, the view is gorgeous.
The nightlife is also quite extensive, as there are a lot of venues that have recently opened up.
If you have more questions, feel free to ask. Here are a couple of websites that might help you out about culture, news and happenings, should you choose to come to SH:
I appreciate your help. Thanks for the information.
I just returned from a 3 week trip to China, and Beijing was the highlight. We stayed at Beijing Jade International Youth Hostel, and it was great- good rooms and service, bad western food. But it’s very central and lots of cheap chinese food joints just round the corner.
if you stay there, there is a guy called Paul who runs tours on the opposite corner of the road, i can give you his number. He can take you for an awesome day trip to Huanghua and Ming Tombs. I would say Ming Tombs are quite good. Forbidden City is not so great. Someone else mentioned Huanghua as being the best part of the wall to visit- it is for sure, no tourists cramming the place. he’ll bargain if there’s a few of you.
Sanlitun is the bar district to visit, heaps of fun. There’s also a club called Banana that we went to which was crazy- we were the only tourists there, and it has a moving dancefloor (Don’t have any of those where I live in Australia)but I’m not sure where this is. Sanlitun also has a shopping market, 5 levels, aimed at foreigners. The sellers are quite aggressive, but bargain hard and friendly- you can do very well. Keep walking away and laugh at their starting price saying ‘too expensive’ and ‘cheaper’. Learn the chinese phrases if you can, as this always goes down well. Don’t show too much interest in an item, even if you really want it.
If you want any info on shopping, let me know, we found some grat cheap places. Wangfujing is just near, but pretty expensive stores compared to the markets by chinese standards. Also the night markets there are a must for the atmosphere. Plus don’t miss Tian’Men etc.
As for Xi’an, we found it disappointing, and probably the lowlight of the trip, but having said that, it is still probably worth visiting, most people enjoy it. I would recommend the Bell Tower hotel if you’re after a hotel, very central and the airport bus goes directly there, plus tours run from there.
Guilin and Yangshou is a MUST. Start in Guilin, (we stayed at Flowers hostel. It is very nice, food is great and atmosphere, but chinese-style toilets.) spend a day or two and then get the boat down to Yangshou. Instead of returning with the tour, book into a hostel and spend a couple of days there. So beautiful and fun. Cheap. You can easily get another bus back to Guilin to go to the airport or whatever.
Shanghai is a very modern city, and there is not overly a lot in terms of sightseeing, but we enjoyed it. It you want to stay on the Bund on the cheap, Captain Youth Hostel is great. Almost like a hotel, with a nice (but pricey for a hostel) bar on the roof. Probably less atmosphere than most hostels. The bar district in Shanghai is a lot of fun as well. Shanghai mueseum is good. Give Yu Gardens a miss.
Overall, China is amazing. Had the trip of a lifetime. We also visited Guangzhou, which was good as we stayed with a Chinese family, but I’m not sure what it would be like touring alone. I would recommend using tours as little as possible (we only did it in Xi’an, to the wall, and for the boat trip in Guilin). Most of them seem overpriced and rushed and include stops at places you don’t want to go (pricey crap restaurants and jade factories). But i’m a student so was on a budget. I found that cheap restaurants are often as good or better than expensive ones. you pay for the decor of the place.
Rickshaw drivers- Dodgy AS. Be certain the price includes both passengers, they can actually take you right to your destination and don’t let them pull notes out of their pocket to demonstrate the amount as they’ll change it when you get to your stop. take a little calculator. I know it seems tight, but they’re used to fleecing tourists (especially as we were two young 19 year old girls! we had to stand our ground a lot)
Feel free to ask anything. Sorry this was so long. I can talk about China forever. Have an awesome time, and just go with the flow when you’re there. Cheers.
Please don’t appologize for the length. It is all great quality information that I am sure to use.
How long was the boat trip from Guilin to Yangshou? Do you think the November season will be much of a negative? (Don’t forget November is cold on this hemisphere :) )
Again, thanks for your help. More questions are sure to follow.
If you are going to visit Beijing, I think you should not miss the the Forbidden City and the Great Wall.
Actually, you should aware what kind of scenes are mostly attract you, that means, you are more like to see the beautiful natural scenec or prefer to a deep culture visiting. But we all know that Why China is CHINA? It all because her thousands years of culture and history, these make China to be herself. And this is why China is so mystery in all Foreigner’s eyes.
Let me introduce you something about Xi’an, If China went without Xi’an, China would not be China, why? Because Xi’an is the origin place of the Chinese Culture, from Qin Dynasty, in 221 B.C, They conquered the other Warring States, unifying China for the first time. Their leader named himself the First Emperor,or Shi huangdi,(he build the Great Wall), their capital lies in Xi’an, The Qin are sometimes called the Ch’in, which is probably where the name China originated.
So, If you interest in Chinese culture and wanna know more, you should came to Xi’an, really worth to visit, I could promise you.
Thank you for the information on Xi’an. I am very much the type of traveler that enjoys experiencing as much of the deep culture, as you mentioned. With that in mind, I would like to ask you a few more questions.
Do you have any recommendations on things to see in the city while in Xi’an?
Are there any local restaraunts, entertainment or bars we should consider visiting while in Xi’an?
Other than the terracotta warriors, what are the sites we MUST see in Xi’an?
Are there any daytrips we should consider from Xi’an?
It’s my pleasure to answer your questions.
To the first one, I recommendate you to see Terra Cotta Warriors and Horses, City Wall(of the Ming Dynasty),Bell Tower (Zhong Lou),Big Wild Goose Pagoda,Huaqing Hot Springs,Shaanxi Provincial History Museum,The Muslim Street…you can see the detail here: http://www.chinahighlights.com/xian/attractions.htm
Second, It’s very easy to find a good hotel from 3 stars to 5 stars. I mean amlost everywhere,that’s true. I could promise you 2 hotels that would never disappoint you: Ana Grand Castle Hotel?Bell tower Hotel,see:http://hotelguidechina.com/index.php?cPath=30&gclid=CJqGzJDOmocCFR4wTAodxRu6rg
bars…you can get along the Dongda Street(DongDa Jie)or Defu Xiang,there’s a lot.
Third, I think the terracotta warriors, City Wall, Bell tower and Shaanxi Provincial History Museum, will show you a fantastic Xi’an
You are quite a gentleman and I apprecaite all of your help. Perhaps my friends and I can buy you a drink at one of the bars on Dongda Street when we visit as a thank you.
Received and thank you, but I’m studying in National University of Singapore now, or I could be your guide and show you around if I’m in Xi’an.
Enjoy your travel and have a good time!
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