Beijing City – Temple of Heaven

By Paul S Bryers, September 2016

The Temple of Heaven Park is located in the south of Dongcheng District. The park is lovely and quiet after the craziness of more central parts of Beijing. The temple was rebuilt in 2008 for the Olympics, which is a bit disappointing if you were expecting an older structure. Still, worthy of a visit. Don’t miss Echo Wall – if there are not loads of tourists around (unlikely) you may be able to hear what people are saying about you on the other side of the sight.

Beijing City – Beihai Park

By Paul S Bryers, September 2016

Beihai Park is in Xicheng District and northwest of the Forbidden City. It is our favorite park. It consists of a number of lakes, the largest, Beihai or North Sea, is huge. It blooms gloriously with lotuses in summer – we were a bit late as only a few blossoms were left. There were many people dancing (to traditional to jazz music) and groups singing. It’s a restful place to sit or stroll around. Grab a lolly of pressed rice and fruit and watch folks boating on the lake. Note that if you enter by the North Gate and walk along the West side of the lake you cannot officially walk up the East side of the lake. However, if you exit by the Southwest gate and then act like a stupid tourist at the Southeast Gate, you can probably gain re-admission for free. 



Beijing City – Forbidden City, Tian’anmen Square and Parliament Building

By Paul S Bryers, September 2016

Located in the central part of the Dōngchéng District are some of Beijing’s best attractions. We took the subway to Tian’anmen Square and then walked to each of the sights. The infamous square is vast, accommodating over 1 million soles. Located off the square is the huge Parliament building, which seats over 5,000 politicians from around China, an obelisk war memorial, Chairman Mao’s Memorial Hall/Tomb and an enormous unmarked building that our guide asserted was the equivalent of the USA’s CIA….

The best part about the square is people watching – loads going on. We met some guys from Tibet who insisted on photos.

Nothing really prepares you for the size and imperial splendor of the Forbidden City (FC). The first photo below is of the whole of the FC, taken from the top of the hill in Jingahan Park and looking South with the North Gate in the foreground. You can only enter the FC by the South (Meridian) Gate and exit by the North Gate. After entering the South Gate you proceed with growing awe at the sheer size of the city – which was basically for one person – the Emperor – plus his entourage of a wife, concubines and eunicks. Apparently the concubines were always fighting with each other and bribing the eunicks so they could get to sleep with the Emperor – if they got pregnant they got better accommodations and presents ……You could send a few days exploring the FC. My advice would be to walk in a fairly straight line between the South and North Gates, turning your head East and West as you proceed. The Palaces and Hallways get ever more impressive as you head North, until ultimately you arrive at the Imperial Gardens and the North Gate. Time to go and have a nice cup of tea.




Beijing Outskirts – Huanghuacheng Section of The Great Wall of China

By Paul S Bryers, September 2016

Our guide Sucre, of the Chinamango travel agency (contact Jet Liu), provided a terrific excursion to the Huanghuacheng section of the 8,800 km long Great Wall of China. This section is about 60 km North of the center of Beijing – takes about 1 hour 45 minutes to get there by car. You can get a bus, but realistically you need to get a car and driver. It is worth the extra expense to see this wild part of the wall with zero tourists around. 

Most parts of the wall are sensitively restored, with other parts unrestored and crumbling through weathering and plant damage. It’s a bit of a short, steep climb to reach the wall from the roadway, but well worth the effort. The views South towards Beijing and North/North West to the mountains, behind which lies Mongolia, are magnificent. 

Once on the wall, walking along it is fairly easy, although some parts have steep sections, either with or without steps. Make sure you have shoes with good grip and take plenty water and  insect repellent.

Some folk talk about building a wall on the US Southern border. Personally, I do not think that this is a good idea. However, if you are going to do it, make sure it will look beautiful, last at least 2000 years and in the future become one of the worlds wonders…


Beijing City – Chaoyang and Xicheng Districts

By Paul S Bryers, September 2016

Beijing is a vast city, with seemingly endless ring roads that radiate out from the old Imperial center. To make sense of where you are, it is best to understand that there are 4 central districts which contain most of the main sights:

– Dongcheng: Major sights such as Forbidden City, to the East of central lakes

– Chaoyang: Embassies, international bars and restaurants (area Sanlitun is hub for fashion), to the East of Dongcheng

-Xicheng: Central lakes and backpacker area, to the North of Dongcheng

– Haidian: University and Summer Palace, to the West of Dongcheng.

This post deals with Chaoyang and Xicheng Districts.

Chaoyang

Our well located hotel (Holiday Inn Express Dongzhimen) is in Chaoyang district, so we spent our first morning, a Sunday, walking to the local Dongyue Temple and Ritan Park.

Dongyue Temple is a Daoist (Taoist) temple in the Chaowai area of Chaoyang.  The temple is dedicated to the God of Mount Tai. Founded during the Yuan dynasty, it is the largest temple of the Zhengyi school of Daoism in northern China. The temple itself is very peaceful, being off the main tourist route, and contains some interesting architecture and antiquities. Our favorite was the Bronze Wonder Pony, pictured below, which promises cures for all illnesses in return for a prayer and a touch. My back is still stiff but there is time yet…..

Walking South a few blocks is Ritan Park. As this was a Sunday, everyone was out either practicing their tai chi (to a variety of musical genres – including country), vogueing, or showing off their birds’ songs. The park  includes The Temple of the Sun, a very picturesque small lake and a hill topped with a shady pagoda offering great views of the city.



Xicheng

We then took a subway to the 2008 Olympic Park (Lines 2 and 8). While the buildings were very impressive, the concrete landscaping was a bit barren. Still, worth the short journey.

A few subway stops back towards the city center are the Drum and Bell Towers. These were the Emperors clocks. Both towers offer great views of the city, after a short, steep climb.





A few subway stops and bus (#909) ride away is the sprawling 798 Arts District. Partially renovated factories house a vast collection of contemporary art. Definitely worthy of a visit. There are plenty places offering great food and coffee, like Flat White.

As a footnote, the subway and buses are easy to use, but if you do get stuck somewhere, taxis are easy to wave down and inexpensive – just make sure the meter is running.