My mini guide to Beijing, China
Why do I say that?
Beijing is very historical and really a lot of nice building, built meticulously but I feel that young children especially those less than 8-10 years old, they are not able to appreciate the history and admire the architecture. Coupled with lots and lots of walking around the attractions, it is taxing to both parents and children, having to drag uninterested kids around, walking long distance. You could use stroller but not everywhere has lift, most MRT station you gotta to walk the stairs and even taxi is not easy to get... I saw many kids sleeping in the stroller under the shade, parents carrying the kids around while the kids sleeping and some kids just running about at Great Wall of China, posing risk and danger to their own and others....
Having say that, I guess I will only bring my kids to Beijing after they have learn about history and keen to go and experience it on their own.. probably late primary school or in secondary school even. If they are uninterested at this age, they probably could go on their own when they are bigger...
But for adults who are thinking whether they wanna visit Beijing, I would say "go ahead". It is full of history and one could experience the "culture" there. Whether you would blend in with the culture or not, it is hard to say but that is the beauty of travelling, isn't it? Blending in and see for yourself the different culture around the world :)
Where to go?
1. Forbidden City Palace Museum
- Love the palace, so much history and each building has its meaning and function.
- Do allocate at least 3-4 hours for main part of the palace. If you want to explore every inch of the palace opened to public, you can probably spend one whole day here!
- Do note that Palace is closed on Monday so do plan your itinerary :)
- Entrance fees CNY 60 and I would strongly suggest to rent an audio guide unless you have a tour guide so that there will be explanation along the visit. The audio guide is quite cool, it will detect your location and explain accordingly. It is CNY 20 for Chinese audio guide and CNY 40 for other languages.
2. Great Wall of China
|Taken at Ba Da Ling Great Wall|
- BaDaLing vs MuTianYu- having been to both part of the Great Wall, personally I prefer BaDaLing. I felt that the scenery is nicer and there are more parts that are opened to explore. Many reviews mention that MuTianYu is nicer in terms of scenery but I beg to differ. The only downside to BaDaLing is that there is really TOO MANY TOURISTS!
- Personally, unless you are really put off when there is many people then BaDaLing is my choice!
- Although the crowd is there, but the queue to the cable car is quite acceptable.
- Do note that there is additional CNY 100 for cable car and usually not included in the tour package.
- Do not buy the souvenirs here, prices are so much steeper than in Beijing! You can easily get a better price for same item even in Beijing tourist spot e.g.: Hutong area, QianMen etc!
3. Summer Palace
- Located about 30 mins drive from city, this is another huge attractions in terms of area.. a summer resort for the Empress CiXi in the past. Lots of place to explore, their bedrooms, the pretty lake, marble boat etc...
- Do allocate at least 3-4 hours for a quick visit and a whole day if you really want to explore.
- Entrance fees CNY 30
- P/S: If you would like to take photos with ancient costumes, do be cautious. It says CNY 30 for a photo regardless of number of pax. It is true but once you go in, they will show you a few sizes of photo and CNY 30 is the smallest size. Plus they will ask you to pose for a few pics and then print it out for you to purchase so do be really really careful!
4. Temple of Heaven
- Another favourite place of mine. Love the architecture, the garden which the Temple of Heaven is located. Many local will be there exercising and enjoying a stroll.
- Entrance to garden CNY 15, Entrance to Temple of Heaven CNY 20.
- Met a kind grandma who is making handmade bag and mini rabbit decoration at the park to help with household expenditure. Her skills are really good too and ended up buying a few things from her at very reasonable prices :)
5. Prince Gong's Mansion
- Do take note: Another attraction that is closed on Monday.
- Entrance fees CNY 40. Official tour guide available at additional CNY 70.
- House to HeShen, one of the corrupted but smart official during the reign of QianLong. To date, a word "Fu" meaning blessing is housed in a fake mountain at the mansion's lake and is one of the reason why there is so many tourist who visited this place just to catch a glimpse of the word.
- One could see many bat wooden carving around the house, to be exact it is 9999
Where to eat?
1. Peking Roast Duck
|Preparing duck in front of diner :)|
A MUST EAT delicacy when one visits Beijing. Crispy duck skin wrapped in thin pancake with cucumber slices and its sweet sauce. One bite and one could feel the crisp of the skin and slight oil flowing. Perfect match!
The most famous restaurant is Quan Ju De. Other famous place would be Bian Yi Fang. Both have a number of outlet around Beijing.
Personally, I feel that the duck in Quan Ju De is nicer but their other dishes are not so great. Prices are definitely more pricey at Quan Ju De as well. Bian Yi Fang's roast duck is generally good and their other dishes also are executed very well. I personally do enjoy eating at Bian Yi Fang more.
If you do have time, I say try both and decide for yourself.
P/S: I was just doing some "google-ing" when writing this blog and found out that Quan Ju De actually opened its first branch in Melbourne! That's a first! Good job there and way to go!
2. Little Yunnan
|Entrance to this wonderful place|
|My personal favourite-lemongrass tilapia fish|
|Chicken soup with orange mushroom|
This gem is located within walking distance from the exit of the Palace Museum and is a MUST TRY! We had lunch here after our visit to the palace and I am still reminiscing it's taste up to now. If I have chance to revisit Beijing, I will definitely make time to sample their dishes again.
Dine in a quaint courtyard style homely place, some of the dishes we tasted were Lemongrass Tilapia, non-alcoholic mojito, chicken soup in pot, spare ribs. So far, everything we sample is really good. No complain really!
3. Hai Di Lao Hot Pot
|Totally missing this! Very good!|
If one fancy spicy pot, you must not missed this hotpot joint. They have a few outlet and you are sure to be satisfied. If you are dining with non-spicy eater, you can choose two types of soup base to satisfy both tastebud.
Hotpot ingredients are fresh and really tasty as well. Service is really good too! I enjoyed my dining experience here and even re-visit before I left Beijing.
The outlet I visited is in Wang Fu Jing. It is located in this new shopping mall In88, at Level 8. We had a hard time finding as the address differ from different website.
Best part: It is OPEN 24 HOURS! Just like 7-11 so you can basically pop by anytime to enjoy this! Yum!
List and location of HDL outlet in China:
4. Hu Guo Si Little Eatery Shop
|Tasting platter set (except the beef and salad-that was additional order)|
This eatery shop is one of the old and traditional eatery place in Beijing. They serve food from main dish such as noodle to small eats such as smooth tasting yellow pea cake etc.
My favourite is yellow pea cake and I can't help but takeaway some to eat it later. Other cake is worth a try and they have a tasting plate that consists of a few types so you can give it a try in smaller portion and decide which one you like best. Though some of the cakes can be quite an acquired taste, it is quite an adventure to try I must say.
What else can you do?
1. Bookstore at Wang Fu Jing
Buy a book or two or a box at Wang Fu Jing Bookstore. It is a 6 level bookstore with lots of books. I particularly enjoyed buying my kids chinese story book from here. It is really cheap at about SGD$3-$5 each. Fully illustrated with nice colour- a nice souvenir for the kids-educational too!
2. Buy a 100% handmade cloth shoe at Nei Lian Sheng, QianMen
We did not know about this cloth shoe shop until our tour guide introduced it to us. No, he does not earn any commission as we were told to go on our own at our own time and we did not mention his name or passed any name card.
This is a traditional and authentic cloth shoe making and used to make shoes for the emperor and royalty. Even Jackie Chan had his shoe made here. Each pair is made by hand and it is extremely light and nice to walk in. Although the bottom is a little slippery on certain surface due to the fully-cloth material, it is still quite ok. If you would like to add a rubbery sole, it can be done at the shop as well at additional cost.
Price for each pair is about SGD 70-90. They do have a cheaper range but those are factory-made. If you would like to do a tailor made shoe, it can be done as well but wait time is 2-3 months. They will measure your leg and do one specially just for you!
Do note that they doesn't accept international credit card. Cash only!
3. Night life at Hou Hai
If you fancy a drink accompanied by great music, do visit Hou Hai at night.
It is a totally different "feel" from day time. The shops along the river are all lighted up and great live band music can be enjoyed in the pub or just strolling along the river.
Taxi is at reasonable price but relatively different to get. If you can do subway and doesn't mind walking (quite a lot of interchange in Beijing, we had to change 2-3 interchanges before getting to our destination which is just 3-5 stops away), subway is probably faster. Otherwise, be patient and keep waving your hand until you see a taxi.
These all banned in China unless you are using data roaming from your own country sim card. Be prepared to lose touch with these until you are back from your holiday!
To conclude, I still feel Beijing is somewhere one should visit at least once in a lifetime. Just to get a feel of the place - the culture, the history, walk along old streets, taste some of the local food and enjoyed some of the delicacy offered. BUT do refrain from bringing young kids unless you are prepared to carry them most of the way plus they will not appreciate the history after all.
Having said that, I do planned to bring my kids there but not at this point of time. I will probably do it when they are older- late primary school or even secondary school.
Anyway, have fun if you are going!