Beijing - A Beguiling City

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For a city to be a beguiling one, it must have a global appeal that will suit the taste of any visitors. The city has to have something for everyone to love and to like. Historical sights, tourist-friendly mass transportation system, high skyscrapers, interesting culture and a very active commerce completes the very cosmopolitan yet beguiling city of Beijing.

The tall and majestic skyscrapers of Beijing.
Welcome to Beijing!
Discovering Beijing starts in discovering that the city has four seasons throughout the year – short windy Spring (April-May), long hot Summer (June-August), cool pleasant Autumn (September-October)and long chilly Winter (November-March).   But whatever the season is, Beijing never looses a charm to explore. The city’s sights, districts and commercial establishments is well connected and accessible with its mass transportation system of buses, taxis and especially the subway train. So exploring the city is relatively easy and visitor-friendly.  A do-it-your-yourself exploration of Beijing won’t be a problem if want to see the must-see and try the must-try. Actually you only needed a map and some Mandarin translation to guide and help you.
Around the city of Beijing.
Beijingers.
Classic buildings around the Dongcheng District, Beijing.
A beguiling Beijing experience starts with a stroll to Beihai Park.  The park is one of the most renown imperial garden in Beijing. It is one of the oldest, largest and best-preserved ancient imperial garden in China.  It is said that the park is built according to a traditional Chinese legend and initially built in Liao Dynasty at 916-1125 BC.  One of the highlights of a visit to Beihai Park is trekking the Jade Flowery Islet topped by the imposing White Dagoba which is also the landmark of the park. A stroll by late afternoon is one of the most relaxing way to enjoy the park as you are rewarded with scenic landscapes and unique Chinese pavilions surrounding the hills of the park.

Beihai Park.
Serene lake during winter time in Beihai Park.
White Dagoba at Jade Flowery Islet.
Tiananmen Square.
Monument to People's Heroes across Tiananmen Gate.
Tiananmen Square is best both strolled by day or by night. The square named after the Tiananmen Gate (Gate of Heavenly Peace) located to its North, separating it from the Forbidden City is a large city square in Beijing. Tiananmen Square has been the site of several important events in Chinese history. Tiananmen Square protest of 1989 was one of the memorable of that event. From the square one can sightsee the and visit the granite Monument to People’s Heroes, the Great Hall of the People in west and the site of the China National Congress meeting, the Memorial Hall of Chairman Mao in the south side of the square where the renowned political leader of China, Mao Zedong ‘s body lies in one of the halls and the National Museum of China at the east side of the square where a combination of Chinese history and revolutionary museum can be found. Don’t also miss the flag raising ceremony early in the morning before sunrise.

Tiananmen Gate at night.
Forbidden City.
A city of palaces with stunning Chinese architectures inside Forbidden City.
One of the most beguiling sights of Beijing is the Forbidden City also known as Palace Museum. Lying at the center of the city, Forbidden City was the imperial palace for twenty four emperors during the Ming and Qing Dynasties. Divided into two parts, the southern section or the Outer Court was where the emperor exercised his supreme power over the nation and the northern section or the Inner Court was where the emperor lived with his family. In the Forbidden City, one will experience the grandiose and the richness of Chinese history and architecture. The halls where the emperors, empress and their family had lived during the ancient imperial China were converted to museums where visitors will see hundred pieces of their accessories and furnitures on display. Almost an entire day is needed to fully explore the whole richness and history of Forbidden City.

Colorful Chinese artistry at the gate of Jingshan Park.
One of 5 hill pavilions in Jingshan Park.
The viewing facade of Forbidden City from the hilltop of Jingshan Park.
Just north of Forbidden City is Jingshan Park. It is also an imperial garden situated on Jingshan Hill where trekking to the hill’s central point, visitors are rewarded with a full and clear view of the Forbidden city. Jingshan Hill has five summits and on each summit there is a pavilion which is perfect for relaxation, picture-taking and admiring the views surrounding the park. The hills central point is the highest point in Beijing.

Situated in Xicheng District, Beijing Zoo is one of the biggest zoo I have been.  The zoo is home to around 450 different species and has a population of some 5,000 animals. But the highlight of the trip to Beijing zoo is to see the Giant Panda. The animal is endemic to China and an endangered species. This is also the reason why there is a Panda Section Hall dedicated for the efforts in preserving the species and spreading messages about its importance.  Other unique animals to see inside the zoo are White Tiger, Peacock and Oryx. A visit to Beijing Zoo is also an opportunity to shop good bargains of class A branded bags, clothes and shoes at Julong Underground Market which is reached via a connected walkway in the subway station of  Beijing Zoo.

The Giant Panda at Beijing Zoo!
The huge facade of Beijing Zoo.
A peacock displays his colorful tail at Beijing Zoo.
A visit to Beijing is not complete without visiting the Great Wall of China. There are different sections of the wall that can be visited but Badaling and Mutianyu sections are the most popular. I visited the latter because it is less crowded. The strategic location of Mutianyu Great Wall is famous for breathtakingly beautiful mountain sceneries that winds 1.4 miles through lofty mountains and high ridges.  It was first built in Qi Dynasty at 550BC.  Considers to be one of the wonders of the world, Great Wall of China is built to function as a fortification to protect China’s borders from the intrusion of the northern tribes. The structure of the wall consists of huge bar-stones and bricks. The inside of the wall has been formed by tampering earth and small stones, which makes the wall very firm and strong. In Mutianyu, you can either take a cable car or literally take a long hike to explore the wall. Whatever option you choose, this is definitely one of the must-see and must-experience in China! 

The Great Wall of China Mutianyu section.
One of the wonders of the world.
To hike or not to hike...
If you still have time in the morning to explore Beijing, don’t miss to visit the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Summer Palace. Summer Palace is a huge royal garden in Beijing situated in Haidian District.  The garden’s must-see are Longevity Hill, Seventeen Arch Bridge, Marble Boat and Kumning Lake. There are over 3,000 man-made ancient structures which count building space of more than 70,000 square meters, including pavilions, towers, bridges and corridors inside Summer Palace. Don’t also miss to visit Temple of Heaven near Tiantan Dongmen subway station. It was built with a purpose to be offer sacrifice for heaven by the emperors in a ceremony to thank heaven and hoping for a good future during the Ming Dynasty at 1420AD. The temple consist of magnificent buildings like the Circular Mound Altar, Imperial Vault of Heaven and Hall of Prayer for Good Harvest. Other interesting sights inside the temple grounds are Three Echo Stones, Echo Wall and Nine-Dragon Cypress. Temple of Heaven is bigger than the Forbidden City but smaller than the Summer Palace. Nearby the temple, there are many interesting place to see like Taoranting Park, Beijing Museum of Natural History and Hongqiao Pearl Market. 

By nighttime, one of the sights to visit at in Beijing is the National Center for the Performing Arts or popularly known as “The Egg” because of its architectural design and admirable structural lighting.  Symphonies, shows, ballets, dramas, operas and other kinds of performances are frequently staged here. The Egg is popular to locals and visitors for afternoon park strolls, sightseeing and jogging.

The scenic view of Summer Palace.
The Egg or The National Center for Performing Arts at night.
Olympic Park can be visited in the morning but best visited at night because of its two main structure – The National Stadium or “Bird’s Nest” and National Aquatics Center or “Water Cube” that brightly glows at night. These structures are architctural wonders of Beijing. The facilities has been the site of the biggest sporting event – the 28th Summer Olympics in 2008. While at the park, visitors will also admire the imposing Olympic Landmark that is also brightly lit at night complete with the 2008 Olympics emblem. Aside from admiring the wonderful architecture of these structures, visitors may also stroll around the Olympic Park’s vast spaces and numerous benches for afternoon strolls and relaxation.

Olympic Park with the "Water Cube" at the background.
The Olympic Park with two of Beijing's architectural wonders - The Water Cube (left) and Bird's Nest (right).
A night tour of Beijing won’t be complete without having a dinner of Peking Duck roasted at a famous Quanjude Roast Duck Restaurant. Continue your sampling of authentic Chinese cuisines by trying Chinese dumplings, hotpot and pork balls. Other recommended restaurants that offers delicious Chinese cuisines are Da Dong Roast Duck Restaurant and Bianyifang Restaurant.

While the night is young, explore the lively streets of Wangfujing. This exploration might lead you to high-end malls of Oriental Plaza and Wangfujing Department Store. Or find the cheapest souvenir items to bargain at Wangfujing Night Market. Or you might end your trip by trying to eat either the sweetest night snack or exotic roast of scorpion, starfish and seahorse at Donghuamen Night Market. Bingtanghulu or caramelized fruit is highly recommended. Don’t just limit your options for shopping and night market at Wangfujing. You can also head out to Silk Street for more bargain shopping options. This shopping center is a four floor building that offers affordable bargains from jewelries, clothes, souvenir s up to local treats. It is popular among international tourists for its wide selection of counterfeit designer brand apparels. Silk Street is easily reached via subway at Yong’anli Station that has an exit directly inside the market.
  
The lively streets of Wangfujing.
A plate of delicious Peking roast duck.
Souvenir bargains at Silk Street.
Beijing - a beguiling city at night.
With these interesting sights to see and things to do, Beijing never runs out of what to offer to its visitors. A city with a heart of history, modernity and interesting culture. Beijing is like a dancing dragon used in Chinese New Year that boldly shimmers with lively moves and colors for everyone to be delighted.  So beware to be tired and literally go on long walks when you are in the city because when in Beijing, beguiling discoveries are endless.

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Beijing - A Beguiling City is part of my Beguiling Beijing.Captivating China series where I share my adventures, travel stories and first-time experiences in Beijing, China last March 20-24, 2012. You might also like the other parts of the series:  
+Beijing - A Beguiling City
+Winter Sonata in China
+Roaming through Beijing
+One Spring Day in Beijing
+Forbidden City: Forbidden No More
+A Dragon Hike to the Great Wall of China
+Beijing's Architectural Wonders
+Peking Duck: An Authentic Chinese Cuisine
+Wangfujing's Lively Street Life
+The Imperial Gardens of Beijing


7 comments:

  1. the great wall of china never ceases to amaze me even if i've seen it a million times in pictures. excited for your china series ian! :)

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  2. waaah!!PANDA.wanna see a Panda din and most of all, I wanna see progress and I think Beijing is an example of that.it's undeniable kahit me prejudice ako sa China.hehehe

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  3. @Vin: Thanks for reading my first story share in my China trip. As for the Great Wall, it was dream come true for me to hike there.

    @Anton: The Giant Panda was extremely adorable! I also had misconceptions about China before but seeing its progress now, no wonder it is gearing up to be the next superpower.

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  4. Wow! Ang daming pwedeng puntahan sa Beijing. It is one of my dream destinations especially ang Great Wall of China. Nag try ka ng toboggan pababa ng Great Wall? :) May nakita kasi akong youtube video. Parang exciting, hehe.

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  5. @Karla: No, we try cable car going up then hiking on the way down but I did see the tobogan ride and it seems so fun...

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  6. wow,nag beijing ka na pala.around same time din last year ako pumunta.malamig pa ba noong pagpunta mo.sana you tried the tobogan,masaya siya.

    ReplyDelete
  7. @Melvin: yup, at nagpalit ka rin pala ng blog address... Yup, sobrang lamig pero may times na hindi kasi kala ko spring na yung time na yun. Winter pa din pala. Mukhang masaya yung toboggan pero gusto kasi namin ma-try yung literal na pag-hihike sa Great Wall kaya nag-hike kami pababa.

    ReplyDelete

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