Beijing, tips for other travellers

Sights and Activities

Beijing is a real experience and the city’s many sights tend to keep you in checklist mode. My favourite spots include: the colourful Lama temple, the Forbidden City, learning to bargain at the clothes market next to San Lit Tan village, and the Wall (we visited the stretch at Balading – take the bus for the cheapest trip, a train also runs: see www.seat61.com).

The Beijing Opera was also an unusual treat. It’s harder to get tickets than we had anticipated. Book ahead if you can but avoid the deals which include pick up at your hotel if you are on a budget.

Food

Highlight meals include Peking duck in a Hutong restaurant: Liqun Duck and the street food we ate mid-match during the Holland-Brazil (?) semi-final — delicious skewers of meat and seafood cooked in a spicy sauce eaten on tiny stools around the cooking pot on a large intersection near People’s stadium – perhaps our most delicious meal in Beijing and at seven yuan (less than a euro) for both of us, it was certainly the cheapest.

We were not so fond of:

Donghuamen Night Market: looks like a franchise version of the real thing with the vendors all wearing identical red visors and it is filled with (domestic) tourists taking photos of each other with fear-factor style skewers of scorpions and snakes – at first we thought we’d come to the wrong place, once we discovered our error all could face eating was McDonalds.

The taxi drivers outside Oriental City who told us they couldn’t use the meter at night and tried to negotiate wildly inflated prices – walk around the corner and hail a taxi there.

The over-priced tea at the Opera. Note also that the snacks placed in front of you are not complimentary.

Transport

In general Beijing is wonderfully well set up for tourists with cheap taxis, a clean, efficient metro system and ubiquitous English signage – just remember to keep the address of your hotel in Chinese characters with you.

Book trains well in advance – especially, at the moment, if you want to go to Shanghai – the best seats, and indeed all the seats, book up quickly.

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