Weekend retreat to seaside- Destination Beidaihe!!!

Weekend retreat to seaside- Destination Beidaihe!!!

Summers in Beijing are very hot and wet as we know already. You have already been at amazing Hainan beaches for a holiday at some resort  near Xiamen,  Fuzhou or Qingdao? Or you were in your home country and didn’t have time to swim? If you are working during summer but you miss a seaside? It is not a problem. There is amazing Beidaihe resort located in Hebei province very close to Beijing and  you can still feel the summer there.  Beidaihe is on coast of Yellow Sea. If  you don’t have time to stay overnight than you can catch a morning speed train and return in the evening as trip lasts only 2 hours. If you want to stay a night or tooyou can use this  speed train as well. But if you prefer slower trains than it is better if you stay a night or two so you wont waste much time in trip as it lasts around 6h by slow train.

beidaihe

Town of Beidaihe belongs to district of Qinhuangdao city.  Beidaihe doesnt  have more than 70 000 citizens. Once it was a small village where fishing was main way to survive. It was discovered by British engineers who were building rails at beginning of XX century during foreign occupation of Chinese territories. Even there exists a postcard from this village that dates from 1903. Since founding of PRC in 1949 there were built resorts for Chinese communist leadership. Mao Zedong personally was coming there every summer. Since that time annually major party leadership goes there for a holiday but they do not just run  away from heats and swim they make meetings there as well. Since second half of 80ies and economic reforms it started to be tourist attraction. More and more people could afford holiday on sea. So new smaller and bigger hotels, bars and restaurants were built in last 30 years there. Also infrastructure was built to easier connect the place- in 90ies there was built expressway from Beijing and after 2000 and speed rail. Beach extends for about 10km. It is very beautiful sand beach. There is even one pavilion at the end of the beach so you can rest directly next to sea in pavilion if there are too many people on beach.  On another corner there is a small river that flows the sea known as Daihe river. When you enter water it isn’t deep for long but further it is deeper.  Later its deeper and deeper but it is warm enough for swimming between June and October. Many people sit in shallow water in sand especially those with children or older people. Others sit a bit and relax and than swim a lot further from beach. But be aware don’t go too far as sea can be non-calm and waves can be strong so if you are not a good swimmer take care. Anyway sea is safe here and sharks and poisonous medusas are uncommon here.

 

beidaihe_beach_5
http://www.tour-beijing.com/travel_blog/beijing_china_sightseeing/beidaihe_beach.php

You can walk next to sea on the rocky terrain, visit caves, hills, pavilions   and visit hill known as Lianfengshan Park. It is only 150m high hill but it has beautiful forests around. On peak there is pavilion in which you can sit and view whole Beidaihe. You can see many beautiful houses, new built villas, hotels, beach and of course sea.  Many fishing and trade ships can be seen and yachts as well. On mentioned hills there is Guanyin temple with few halls, cypresses and statues of Guanyin.  Also on hills complex there are strange stones which allow only 1 person to pass between them.  Also there are caves, villas… You shouldn’t skip this place.

Walking on beaches can be very nice as you can find many shells that were sunk from sea. I took at least 30 of them there. Nearby sea there are a lot of white pigeons. Some parks and wetlands nearby are full of them. Be aware of quicksand on some points- where sand is too wet and where there is  a lot of water.  There is warning sign and fence that doesn’t allow you to cross these areas but anyway keep your eyes open.  Walking on promenade next above beach is nice idea.  There are many white pigeons there fed by people. On clear they this experience is unforgettable.

beidaihe 2
http://english.sina.com/china/2013/0805/615647.html
jelly beidaihe
http://english.sina.com/china/2013/0805/615647.html

Waiting sunrise on beach can be amazing experience. It seems that sun is coming out of sea.

sunrise beidaihe 2
http://www.tour-beijing.com/side_trips/beijing_beidaihe_qinhuangdao_tour/beach_tour.php#.WXt6r4iGPDc

There are other attractions nearby Beidaihe. One of them is Qinhuangdao Safari Park. It is a safari park which you can visit by a caged safari train or by your own car. That is not completely open safari like in wildness but animal  species are separated by fence from each other. For example firstly you pass zone with tigers, than lions, bears…  It is highly advised not to open windows or get out of car as you can be attacked by some of them. Drive slowly and enjoy watching them in almost natural habitat there are even tiger cubs. In another part there are herbivores put together as they do not harm each other. For example: zebras, giraffes, deers, chamoises…You can even get out of car and feed them. Only elephants and hippos are separated by electric wire and cage as they can be potentially dangerous for your car or yourself. Also you can find peacocks.  There is large lake there full with cranes, storks, swans, wild ducks, mandarin ducks, pelicans, herons…

When it is about food here there is amazing choice of seafood. Of course there are other types of food but sea food is mostly eaten here. You can try various types of sea fishes,  lobsters, shells, squids,  octopods, shrimps… Especially nice are shark fins mostly boiled ones.  Other mentioned sea products can be found: grilled, boiled, steamed, roasted, or as salad. They can be put on skewers such as squids with their tentacles.

 

If you stay for a weekend you must visit Qinhuangdao city.  It has around 3 million citizens. It is city under quite fast development. Except modern avenues, shopping malls, restaurants, bars and nightclubs there are important historical and cultural sites.  The most important place is Great Wall section- ending or beginning of Great Wall on eastern coast. It is known as Dragons Head. As wall enters sea you can cross over the fortification that reminds on dragons head. It was built during Ming dynasty.  Nearby this section of Great Wall there are restored gates of old town.

great wall qinghuangdao
http://www.topchinatravel.com/community/blog/ancient-great-wall-in-qinhuangdao.htm
qinghuangdao1
http://www.igotochina.org/about/qinhuangdao/

There is also a drum tower. When I was there I heard drum I felt myself being in some 17th or 18th century as I saw actors dressed as Chinese soldiers from mentioned period. Also there is one temple on the sea. Its first halls start on beach while ending hole and pavilion are several meters above sea. I saw many people praying there.  2km from this section there is Ocean Park. There are many sea animals living there. I saw penguins there for the first time also sharks, dolphins, marlin fish…  There is performance with beluga, dolphins, sea lion, orca whale.. You will see their amazing abilities.

temple beidaihe
http://www.citsln.com/trips/17032

Be sure if you come there you wont regret

Source of cover photo: http://www.sohu.com/a/140105321_398131?_f=v2-index-feeds

Hainan, a Chinese Hawaii!!!- tropical paradise of China!

Hainan, a Chinese Hawaii!!!- tropical paradise of China!

China is too attractive and big and many its areas are widely advertised and visited but Hainan doesn’t deserve to be forgotten. Today we are going to Sanya city on southern coast of Hainan and  one of biggest and most popular of this island. Sanya is perfect spot to spend your summer vacation in China.

hainan_yalonbej

 

Explore city: Sanya is a not big and relatively new city. It has a bit more than half million residents. Most of landscape is dominated by modern skyscrapers, hotels, shopping malls and large pedestrian areas which were built in last 10-15 years. You can pass through modern and wide avenues which are passing by tall buildings and palm trees and experience how developed and modern south Chinese city looks like. There are also many side streets which are tight and older. These streets are tight and rich with trees. In these streets there are many souvenir shops what may be interesting for you. As always in Asia you can try your bargaining skills and buy something interesting such as silk traditional shirt, southern Chinese hat or jade bracelet. You will notice many locals there who are walking, riding bikes or selling. Also you can try to find outdoor market. Except ordinary fruits, vegetables and products you will see many tropical fruits and sea products too. There are sold many different fishes,  small and large squids, octopuses, shrimps, pieces of sharks and marlin fishes.

sanya modern

 Sanya street

Go to the beach: It can be one of main reasons why you are here. There is largest beach in the city so called Sanya Bay beach . It is long and popular sand beach. Beach stretches for about 25km.  Beach is overcrowded so prepare for large number of people both on the beach and in the sea. Take an opportunity to swim in warm and clean South China Sea. If you try to walk along whole beach you will feel like it is never ending. Behind beach and during all of its length there are many bars, restaurants and hotels. If you are afraid of swimming in the sea you can enter one of many outdoor swimming pools belonging to the hotels. While having a rest from swimming and sunbath you can sit in one of many bars and have some refreshing juice or cocktail.

sanya beach 1

If you want a more calm and less commercialized spot you should visit Yalong Bay Beach.  You can reach it easily by speed train from Sanya in less than 2h for only 12eur. It is large beach outside Sanya city. Yalong Beach is also long but almost empty beach with little tourists. It is located in natural scenery and behind beach there are many bushes and palms. If you want to spend a day in tranquil and peaceful place surrounded by sea, rainforest and mountains it is perfect place for you. Enjoy the azure blue sea and white sand at the bottom.

yalong_bay_hainan

Scuba diving: There is very popular spot for that for optimal price on Wuzhizhou island. It is small island located from Sanya several kilometers. Wuzhizhou can be reached by boat from spot nearby Sanya for 25eur. For 70eur you can rent diving equipment for a whole day. You will have own instructor that will guide how to use all the equipment and will give you safety instructions. While diving you will see many tropical colorful fishes, starfishes and even octopuses. During WWII island was occupied by Japanese forces and there were a lot of clashes over the island. Under the sea pieces of destroyed ships or submarines and downed aircrafts as well as old bombs may be found still. So while diving maybe you will see something like that.

Yanoda Rainforest: Is located by 30minutes ride from Sanya. It is amazing opportunity to meet tropical nature of China. Rainforest is located on one of the hills of the island. Natural landscape is really stunning thanks to combination of rocks and trees rich with green trunks. During hiking through this rainforest you will see a lot of trees that are older than 1000 years.

Sanya rainforest

Turtle 911: Is a non-profit organization located on one of smaller isles next to Hainan. You can easily reach it by boat tour. Aim of this organization is to protect sea turtles that are endangered species since are often hunted for decoration, food or are illegally sold. Except feeding and breeding them there is hospital for them too. You can spend a day here helping workers in feeding turtles and some other activities. Especially nice will be helping baby turtles to swim for the first time in the sea. There are long term volunteering programs at this facility so if you are interested ask staff there.

Crocodile and Tiger center: Is a special center in Sanya determined to protect tigers and crocodiles. Located in a special park these animals live in natural surrounding. You can pay a visit there and see few almost extinct Chinese tiger a subspecies of Asian tiger. There are only few of them remained. Also you will see a large crocodile center an only one in China. You can watch crocodiles and even feed them with the meat that will be given to you.

Luobi cave: It is interesting cave located 15km from Sanya. It is cave that contains oldest cultural relics of Hainan which date from period of Yuan ( 1314 century) dynasty. There are many Chinese carving and inscriptions on its walls and floors. There are many inkstones on the floor that were used by Taoist monks who decorated this cave.  Legend says that immortal who came from heaven and lived in this cave on earth. There is one legend which says that if water drops from caves stalactities on your head you will become talented writer, so give a try.

Nanshan Temple: It is largest Buddhist temple at Hainan. It was built in 1988 as commemoration of two thousand years of Buddhism in China. It has very interesting temple halls with very old figures and scripts that date from Tang dynasty( 7th-10th centuries). Large courtyards have a lot of grass areas and a pond. On the sea is standing 108m tall white statue of Guanyin( Buddhist and Taoist goddess of compassion, guardian of women, children, love and sailors). It is one of largest statues in the world and largest statue of Guanyin in the world. There are 3 faces on statue one looking at China which symbolizes that she protects whole China and other two towards sea which symbolize her protection of whole world. Many people come here to pray and get blessings. You can burn incense as well and enjoy this outstanding statue.

guanyin hainan
source: http://www.visitourchina.com/sanya/attraction/nanshan-temple.html

When you get hungry: You are on right place. In past I wrote here about Chinese cuisine so generally you can find almost anything from Chinese cuisine here in Sanya. However there are some special dishes related to sea cuisine such as fried shrimps, grilled squids and octopuses, cooked or roasted fish. Very popular dish is Hele crab a famous Hainanese dish composed of crab meat combined with steamed ginger and garlic mixed in vinegar. If you do not like seafood but want something Hainanese there is a solution for you too. You can order Wenchang chicken it is special type of small chicken that is cooked whole together with head and than cut into pieces. Than you can put its pieces into mixture of soy sauce, garlic and ginger. It is amazing. Average meal for two is between 8 and 15eur so it is really inexpensive.

Night: As usually on holiday areas nightlife is very rich. In Sanya there are many inexpensive bars and clubs where you can enjoy beer, speaking with locals or partying until morning. Most famous Chinese beer-Qingdao costs only 1.4eur. As you know from my previous writing Chinese people are friendly and keen to learn new stories from foreigners. Also there are special beach parties at Sanya. On sand people gather to sing and dance or play guitar next to fire. You can join one of such groups you will be welcome definitely. Except beach partying you will see millions of stars above beach and sea.

nightlife1-1024x681
source: http://en.sanyatour.com/explore/things-to-do/entertainment-night-life/

Dawn: Go very early at so called Sunrise Cliff located on southeastern edge of Sanya. You can see from there big part of island, Sanya city and South China Sea. Wait for sunrise. It will be unforgettable experience for you when you see sun coming out from sea.

Provinces, regions and municipalities of China!

Provinces, regions and municipalities of China!

China is so big and diverse as you already know but have you ever wondered how many provinces and autonomous regions it has? Have you ever wondered how China is administratively divided? If you want to have a more clear picture of how China is regionally divided you are on right place. If you want to know what are top attractions, biggest cities and much more in each province and region you are on right place. It will really ease you to understand what is located in which part of China and ease you to travel to different parts of China. About political competences and further divisions of provinces and regions wont be here as it will be in chapter about modern development and politics of PRC.  Here will be basic info about each province.

chinamap
source: https://www.travelchinaguide.com/map/china_map.htm

Provinces

Lets start from the north,

Heilongjiang-  is northern most province of China famous for cold weather, Amur river and was former part of Manchuria.  During winter temperature drops to -40C.  Its capital is Harbin city where you can find Orthodox Church and Ice Festival every winter.

Liaoning-  Is a province that has access to Yellow Coast and borders North Korea. Its capital city is Shenyang famous for Mukden Palace.  One of largest cities is Dalian located on the coast a big port and very developed city.

 

Jilin- is a province famous for Korean minority. Its capital is Changchun. Changbaishan is a big famous snow mountain which is worth visiting.

Hebei-  Its capital is Shijiazhuang.  It is most developed city in the province. Most famous spot is Chengde Mountain Resort and 8 outer temples built during Qing dynasty.  Also a must visit is a spot where Great Wall enters Yellow Sea at Qinhuangdao town. Ancient Handan city is there too.

800px-Chengde_Mountain_Resort_4

Shandong- Its capital is Jinan a very developed city. Another large coastal city is Qingdao. Province is famous for sacred Taishan mountain, Qufu a birthplace of Confucius and Qingdao beer. It is one of  culturally richest provinces with many attractions, palaces, gardens and temples.

taishan 1

Shanxi- Its capital is Taiyuan. Province is famous for very ancient history, Pingyao ancient town and other attractions such as temples and Yungang grottoes. There is also located Buddhist Wutaishan mountain.

Shaanxi-  is one of historically richest provinces. Its capital is Xian and largest city what was capital of China for many centuries. In Xian there are old imperial palaces, temples, pagodas and ancient quarter. Also in the province there is famous site of Terracotta Warriors which date from 3rd century BC.

terracota

 

Qinghai- is a vast territory of grasslands. Its capital is Xining. Province is famous for  Mongol, Tibetan and Hui minority. Biggest attraction is large Qinghai Lake which is salted and very clear.

qinghai

Gansu- Its capital is Lanzhou one of very old cities but quite developed today. Famous yellow river passes through Lanzhou. Ancient Silk Road was passing here too. Most famous sites are Mogao Buddhist Caves and Bingling Thousand Buddha cave.

Jiangsu- One of culturally and historically richest provinces where Yangtze river passes. Its capital is Nanjing today a very modern city and in past was capital for several times. One of most famous locations is Suzhou water town famous for gorgeous gardens. Other water towns such as Tongli and Zhouzhuang are here too. There are really a lot sites to see here.

suzhou-gardens (5)

Henan- Its capital is Zhengzhou. This province offers really a lot such as Longmen Grottoes, Luoyang ancient city which was capital several times, Kaifeng a very ancient and beautiful city which was capital during Song dynasty and Shaolin Temple one of most famous martial arts temples.

Shaolin Warriors

Anhui– its capital is Hefei a fast developing city. Its most famous spot is Mount Huangshan one of most dangerous mountains in the world. Province is also famous for Hongcun ancient village.

Hubei- its capital is Wuhan. This province is one of provinces where Chinese people settled indigenously. Most famous spot is Wudangshan mountain famous for Taoist monks and Tai Chi.

sanfeng-style

 

Sichuan- is one of largest and culturally richest provinces of China. Its capital is Chengdu one a most developed city in western China. Chengdu offers also  a lot of cultural spots. In Sichuan you can find mount Emeishan a sacred Buddhist mountain, mount Qingchengshan a sacred Taoist mountain, Leshan Buddha a giant carved Buddha, sanctuaries of pandas and valley of azure lakes and Tibetan villages.  Province is famous for most beautiful girls in China and spicy food.

Mt-Qingcheng-12

Zhejiang- is one of richest culturally, historically and economically province. Its capital is Hangzhou which was capital of China under South Song dynasty. Hangzhou offers a lot of attractions such as West Lake and Feilai Feng nearby Hangzhou. Another most famous city is Ningbo which is developed today but offers a lot of old sites.

hangzhou1

 

Jiangxi- its capital is Nanchang with a 1000 year old pavilion. Other famous cities are Fuzhou and Jingdezhen( famous for porcelain). There are also natural spots such as Mount Lushan and Mount Longhushan a Taoist sacred mountain.

Hunan- its capital is Changsha. Except Changsha a must visit are Zhangjiajie national partk and Fenghuang water town. It is famous for spicy food too.

Guizhou- its capital is Guiyang a city of contrasts between old and new. Province offers several ancient villages, Anshun area of mountains, caves, waterfalls and ethnic minorities.

Yunnan- Its capital is Kunming. Is one of naturally and culturally most beautiful provinces. Top attractions are Dali ancient town, Lijiang ancient town one of most romantic towns in China, Erhai Lake, Lugu lake and Cangshan mountain. Province is famous for more than 20 ethnic minorities.

Old_Town_of_Lijiang_(21183527932)

Taiwan- Is officially province of PRC but acts as an unrecognized state. Capital is Taipei and there are a lot of mountains to visit. PRC aims to reunite with Taiwan under principle One Country Two Systems.

Fujian- Capital is Fuzhou. Other famous cities are Xiamen and Zhuhai. Wuyishan is most famous natural spot. There are many Hakka villages worth visiting.

Guangdong- is one of most developed provinces. Its capital is Guangzhou one of most developed cities in China.  Except Guangzhou there is large and very developed Shenzhen city.

 

Hainan- is an island province. Its capital is Haikou which is together with Sanya one of most developed cities on island. Its famous for tropical climate, beautiful nature and as most popular summer resort in China.

 

 hainan_yalonbej

 

Autonomous Regions

Are mostly different from provinces as they are regions of ethnic minorities. Here ethnic minorities play big role in choosing their governor.

Inner Mongolia-  Its capital is Hohhot.  There lives large Mongolian minority. Most famous spots are Mausoleum of Genghis Khan, Wanbu pagoda and Dazhao Temple. There are vast grasslands.

Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region- Its capital is Yinchuan. It is region of Hui people a Chinese Muslim minority. You can visit there West Xia Tombs, Sand Lake, ride a camel, Haibao pagoda and many mosques. You can try there halal food. You can experience authentic life of Chinese Muslims.

Xinjiang Autonomous Region- is westernmost region of China with capital in Urumqi. It is region of Uighurs a minority of Turkic origin. Other important cities are Kashgar and Turpan. You can really feel there a Turkic influence in architecture, cuisine and traditional clothing. There are many beautiful mountains and deserts.

china-turpan-emin-mosque-1

 

Tibetan Autonomous Region- located on plateau on high altitude. Its capital is Lhasa.  This region is region of Tibetan minority people. It is homeland of Tibetan Buddhism where Dalai Lama formerly resided. Most famous locations are Putuo Palace, Samye monastery, Jokhgang monastery, Mt. Everest and much more…

IMG_3688-21

Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region- Is a region of Zhuang people. Its capital is Nanning. Region is famous for natural beauties and ethnic diversity.  Most famous locations are Guilin, Yangshuo, Detian waterfall…

 

Municipalities- are 4 cities which are directly under control of central government and have status similar as those of province but instead of local it is under governance of central government. More about them will be in last historical chapter.

Beijing- a capital city and municipality. It includes urban, suburban and rural areas in total 16 districts. I wrote a lot already about scenic spots in and around Beijing city.

Tianjin- is also one of most developed Chinese cities. It is 30min by train from Beijing. Is composed of 16 districts includes city and area around it. Most famous spots  are, Dule Temple, Section of Great Wall, Water Park, Da Bei Temple,  Old Culture Street. Modern landscape predominates in the city. There are quarts held by foreign troops during their invasion of China.

Shanghai- is a most developed city in China and one of most developed cities in world. It has 3 times more skyscrapers than New York. Shanghai is composed of 16 districts. Most famous spots are The Bund, Yu Garden, Jade Buddha Temple, Nanjing Road, Disneyland Park and  Xin Tian Di an early 20th century area.

shanghai-pudong

Chongqing- is a city and municipality surrounded by Sichuan province. It is composed of 26 districts and is one of largest and most modern Chinese cities. Yangtze river passes among urban area full of skyscrapers. Three Gorges, Dazu carvings, Jiefangbei and several more.

 chong

 

Special Administrative Regions

Are regions which exercise high degree of autonomy but are officially part of China under principle One Country Two Systems. More about their governance will be in last historical chapter about modern China.

Hong Kong- is a city and SAR region. It is one of worlds most developed cities. In past it was occupied by Britain and was returned to China in 1997. There are many modern areas and famous Lantau island and several Buddhist and Taoist temples.

 

Macau– was reunited with China in 1999 after several centuries of being leased to Portugal. It is famous for casinos and is often called Las Vegas of China. There is famous Catholic cathedral which shows heritage of Portuguese presence.

ENjoy China 😉

Source: https://www.travelchinaguide.com/map/china_map.htm

What Chinese people like to drink except tea? Short guide to alcoholic beverages of China

What Chinese people like to drink except tea?  Short guide to alcoholic beverages of China

Have you ever wondered what Chinese people drink??? Most of you know that tea is their traditional and oldest beverage. Modern Chinese people drink various cold beverages such as ice teas, Coke, Pepsi, Sprite, various juice that vary from orange, apple to mango and lichi. But when it comes about alcoholic beverages there are many things that Chinese like to drink.

traditional huangjiu bottle
traditional huangjiu

Lets start from the history. In history main beverages were  Baijiu and Huangjiu. They were made by Chinese people for several thousand years. Lets start from Huangjiu. In category of Huangjiu fall something like wines in Western world. Most famous are rice wines in China. They were drunk the most since past times. Usually rice wines are strong between 10% and 20%. So according to that they are strong like wines. Huangjiu is something like Japanese sake by its taste and by alcoholic percentage. They really taste like rice as I tried both sake and Chinese rice wine. In past they were usually held in pots made from clay or porcelain.  Traditionally it is drunk from porcelain nicely decorated cups. It can be drunk even warmed during winter.  . . Also common is plum wine that is strong around 20% and it is my favorite Chinese wine.

huangjiu bottles
bottled Huangjiu

Baijiu is another category of Chinese drinks and here fall all strong or hard drinks which strength ranges between 40% and 60%. Here are also beverages distilled from rice with aroma of rice or soy. These things were also popular in past very much. Special subcategory of Baijiu is Ergotou a drink that needs more than 6 months to produce as it is twice distilled.  Such drinks can be mostly considered as kind of brandies or vodkas according to taste and strength. They were traditionally also kept in jars or special containers from clay or porcelain.

traditional container of baijiu
traditional baijiu

Both types of alcoholic drinks were very popular through past times. About good alcoholic beverages softer and stronger ones songs and poems were sung and recited, stories written and rumors spoken. These drinks were drunk on various family occasions but also more often. Both rural families but also wealthier city families used to praise themselves with good wine or baijiu and offer the guests.

another baijiu brand
bottled baijiu

Today these traditional beverages can be found in glass bottles too. It can be drunk cold but also hot.  In category of Huangjiu there are modern bottled beverages made from rice but also from plum. Also there can be found modern wines such as those made of grapes and among most famous brands is Great Wall Wine.  I tried plum wines, rice wines and Great Wall wine and definitely my favorite is plum wine both cold and hot. Also I tried stronger brandies such as Beijing Ergotou but cheaper one.  Small bottle 0,25l can be bought for 5RMB. This ergotou has very strong taste and reminds on strong sake as taste of rice is very intensive.  Better ergotous are usually more expensive but not too much starting from 50-100RMB. Most expensive Chinese drink is Maotai it is special baijiu which is most popular Chinese drink both in China and abroad. It originates from few centuries old brewery in Guizhou province. Today it is produced by state owned company.  Its so expensive that one glass can cost 20$ and bottle of 1l around 300$. Maotai is drunk by Chinese officials on official banquets as starter.

Ancient Chinese wine drinking

In past Chinese people liked to drink quite a lot domestic huangjiu and baijiu. There are even special strong baijius which contain whole snakes as it is believed to be good for potention. Today except that mostly are drunk various foreign beverages such as various brands of vodkas, whiskeys, wines and beers. All possible foreign beverages can be found in China. Beers are very popular among Chinese people. Also China has own domestic beers among which most famous is Qingdao beer.  This one is also internationally famous and is oldest Chinese beer. Other good Chinese beers are Yanjing beer( main Beijing beer), also very good is Harbin beer.

Qingdao beers

bottle of Yanjing beer
Nothing goes better with Chinese food than Chinese beer!

Among other famous Chinese beers are: Snow Beer, Kingway beer, Kingstar beer, Shancheng beer, Pearl river beer, Sedrin , Shangri La beer and Tibetan beer.  Currently my favorite are Yanjing and Qingdao beer. During hanging out at pubs or clubs Chinese people mostly drink beer. Also during lunches or dinners beer suits best.Also baijius are popular during clubbing.  But as apperittives or on special occassions baijiu is more popular especially drinking shots.

ENjoy China 😉

Beer drinking competition Nanjing

Beijing never disapoints,Some more amazing places of Beijing

Beijing never disapoints,Some more amazing places of Beijing

As I wrote about must see  and most famous locations in Beijing city there are many beautiful places to visit in Beijing that are not so famous but are worth visiting and maybe even more interesting than those popular places. These places are less crowded and less commercialized. I wrote about amazing almost untouched and half empty places for hiking such as Xiangshan and Badachu. But even within Beijing city there are many many places that you can visit. There are so many hutongs, temples and gardens. Just imagine how many  there are interesting places in Beijing suburbs and around Beijing such as hills, temples, gardens, villages… Just imagine whole China. How many cities( their temples, palaces, gardens, old quarts), villages, mountains, temples, lakes, rivers… One life is not enough to discover whole China. Even if you try hard there will be always hutongs for which you wont have time to enter and some gates of temple that will be closed at some moment.

2013-06-18-19-10-19

First of all hutongs there are really still remaining seas of hutongs in which you can easily get lost. Before there were many authentic hutongs around Shichihai still by beginning of 2000s. But today they are commercialized as I spoke before similarly as QIanmen street and Nanluoguxiang street. Also Liulichang is quite commercialized street about which I spoke before. But still you can find some uncommercialized hutongs between Beihai, Shichihai and Jingshan parks( about these hutong section I wrote), around Drum and Bell Tower, northeastern part of Shichihai, around Qianmen, around Liulichang and in Northwestern suburbs of Beijing. Every hutong is a story itself. Every hutong street hides road to another street, to door of another courtyard, hidden temple and to old locals.   It is best to enter hutong randomly and continue dwelling around wherever road takes you. For me dwelling through hutongs is really magical and spountaneous thing.

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That’s what I did in June 2015. It was late afternoon.fter visit of Beihai park I wanted to reach commercialized hutongs at shore of Shichihai lake to buy some souvenirs and have dinner there. I crossed the street towards hutongs knowing direction of Shichihai. I didn’t want to look at map but I have said I will go randomly and let the spirit of hutongs to bring me to lake wherever and whenever. So adventure started. Already street was tight and with a lot of dusty and faded facades. I was passing further. At beginning there were quite a lot of visitors and rickshaw drivers passing every second. Many motorbikes passed too and occasionally some car so I had to pay attention in order not to be hit by car, motorbike or rickshaw. I passed next to tall red wall and gate on which was written Prince Gong Mansion. It is famous palace and garden that dates from end of 18th century. It was closed already since it is open until 5pm. I have never been there but I plan to visit it once. You see how hutongs bring you to unexpected places.  As I was advancing deeper there were less and less people who were also passing through hutongs. There would occasionally pass one or two bicycles or one rickshaw that would beep in order to pass faster since streets were becoming tighter.  3 young Chinese guys were passing in same direction as I did. Occassionally one or two restaurants would appear with not many people in them. In front of one courtyard there were two older ladies speaking and laughing while small children were playing in courtyard. Streets were so tight that you had to stick to walls when bicycle appeared. Smell of garlic, cooked noodles and baked buns was felt intensively from several directions. It seems it was dinner time in hutongs. One old man without t shirt and barefoot was sitting on small chair in front of courtyard and cooling with simple fan. Behind in courtyard was one tree with wooden cage in which thrush was happily singing. Old man seemed patient, kind and happy with simple things. Few children run through street chasing cats. In front of several courtyards there were small wooden tables around which were sitting many neighbors drinking tea or beer, speaking loudly and playing chess. Behind them few were standing and watching game and commenting few times. More and more it started to remind on labyrinth since from every direction were hutong streets appearing. Simply there are too many streets and too little time for each of them. I was randomly choosing streets instinctively hoping to reach lake. As further I was approaching in every street were groups of neighbors, few tables, few cages with birds and of course chess. In one or two courtyards I saw through half opened doors few people doing Tai Chi. I already started to think whether I am going to right direction. I felt partially lost. 20-30meters in front of me I saw two women standing and eating peaches while their dogs which seemed unpredictable since they barked were running a lot around. At the end of that street were two directions. I turned back and saw policeman passing by motorbike. He continued forward and I started to follow him. When we passed dogs I asked him where is the lake. He pointed to the left. In less then one minute I appeared in crowded commercialized and restored hutong next to the lake. All this happened in about 30min of time. 30 minutes can really enrich you a lot and raise your adrenaline even. I got it hutongs are amazing and real adventure. When it seems you are far from the aim just look behind a corner and you will be there.

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There is another interesting hutong experience. It was last morning in Beijing in 2013 me and my family headed around old hutongs of Drum and Bell Tower towards Shichihai lake. It was so beautiful and calm. People were sitting on chairs in front of doors, speaking to neighbors… Old group of people were smoking pipes next to lake. They had long white beards and were old as hutongs. We were searching for one temple which we visited once in 2001. After 20minutes of wandering through hutongs which seem similar we noticed the temple. I definitely recommend you to choose your hutong and discover as much as possible of it!!!

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old lady got in by coincidence take a look behind her hat and you will see one of old guys with ancient style beard( he wears red shirt)

Below you will find many places very interesting but less famous places in Beijing.

Ritan Park: It is former Temple of the Sun that served for worshipping Sun during imperial China. Today it is  a public park located in the center of Beijing. It is very beautiful park and good opportunity for meeting locals. In that park you have great opportunity to relax after job as it is located in CBD  so potentially your office isn’t far from the park. There is nice lake and a pavilion where you can have rest and where you can see many locals enjoying in parks silence or playing erhu( some kind of Chinese violin).  You can sit on bench or rock next to small lake. Also there is large altar in the park where in past worshipping of sun was conducted. But unfortunately altar is closed for visitors. You can just stand behind its tall and red walls. In this park there is amazing restaurant that I can recommend Xiao Wang Fu restaurant food is extremely good there.  It is amazing park where I went often with my family when I was child. I played there a lot with my friends When I came back there in 2013 it was very touching. I was thinking about that while I was sitting on stone next to lake. Water wasn’t visible from big number of lotus leaves, flowers were closed as sunlight wasn’t visible today anymore. Small pavilion was there on another side of shore in which few people were lying like drugged from this wet heavy air. I was sitting there digging through my memories related to this place. I was thinking why there wasn’t t at least one man with trush in cage hanged on tree. I was thinking on so many things related to this park which I did and saw before – such as throwing small gum balls in the altar, and watching  kites in the blue sky which were flied by people in altar. I remembered how kites were balancing through wind and disappearing in the heights, becoming less and less visible like memories  by years are fading in your head until you try to refresh them by your thoughts or visiting place to which this memories are connected.  That’s what I did now. I came to Ritan with aim to refresh my memories of this what I did there and also to see if I will perceive this place in same way like at that time. Like many other places in Beijing which I visited few days ago didn’t had just value of my memories from childhood but also bigger historical and cultural importance which are related to ancient China.  I realized importance of this place for Taoist ceremonies and past,  but here in Ritan I wanted my memories from childhood to dominate. I stood up finally and I started running around another bit bigger lake. I was running like I did it when I was 6. I was still running. Behind me was my brother. I was leading him around this lake, running over traces of my childhood, running over path over which I run and played so many times. I led him to climb over rocks which were standing next to lake. We passed through small cave and we climbed on top of rocks. I continued running towards stone bridge on another side of lake. I took him to bridge and I told him how I threw my bus toy into water there, when I was 3 and half old. No one, even me  didn’t knew why I did it that day long time ago.

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Last summer there was interesting club of Tai Chi which practiced there. If I live in Beijing I would come there every morning for a tai chi before job.

Entrance is free and it is open from 6 until 22 in summer and 21 in winter.  Park is located 1km from Jianguomen subway station where you can get by Line 1 or Line 2.

Ditan Park-  It  is former Temple of Earth and it had function of worshipping Earth during imperial China. It is also public park today but less beautiful than Ritan Park. This park is famous for altar determined for worshipping Earth and it is square altar as square symbolized earth in ancient China. My personal recommendation is to visit it in autumn to enjoy perfect scenery of yellow leafs. Also during Spring Festival there is temple event such as dragon dancing and lion dancing in honor of Chinese New Year.  During winter it is open from 6 until 21 and during summer until 21:30.  Entrance fee is just 2RMB.  You can reach the park by subway line 2 or line 5 and get at Yonghegong station exit A.

Taoranting– it is not so famous but it is very beautiful park in Beijing. When you have free time you must visit it. Park is composed of beautiful lakes and pavilions that are hidden in shadows of trees. On one of the islands of the lake there is very old pavilion that dates from XIV century. It is called Taoran pavilion. In past scholars and poets used to gather there and enjoy tea and moonlight. Today many citizens enjoy in leisure activities there. Entrance fee is just 2RMB and it is open from 6 until 21:30. You can travel there by Line 4 and get out at Taoranting station exit C and walk for less than 1km until entrance.

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Grand View Garden( Daguanyuan)- It is not old place but is determined to look like an old palace. It is made according to description of Chinese novel “Dream of Red Mansion” written by Cao Xueqin in XVIII century. This novel is one of Chinese masterpieces and known part of Four Great Classical Novels.  It is a story about emperors concubine who had her own palace and garden given by emperor to her. In 1984 as a part of filming TV Serial this gardens were built that you can visit today.  Today you can find here few lakes, pavilions and mansion where in novel concubine lived. There are also halls were other members of palace have lived. There is part of garden where peacocks are moving freely and you can hear them yelling in almost all palace. You can enjoy scenery of lake and willow trees above it from a stone bridge or a bench. Palace halls are open so you can see the ambient where according to book aristocracy lived. Ambient is even more interesting thanks to life-size figures of concubines and aristocracy dressed in rich and traditional clothes. So you can feel ancient aristocratic atmosphere very well here. If you want to see ancient style show with music and costumes come at night and enjoy this amazing atmosphere specially decorated with red lanterns.

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How to get there: Subway Line 4 until Taoranting station. Then walk around 30 min to the area. https://www.google.sk/maps/dir/Taoranting,+China/Grand+View+Garden,+12+Nancaiyuan+St,+Xicheng,+Beijing,+China/@39.8732211,116.3616512,16z/data=!4m14!4m13!1m5!1m1!1s0x35f04d7519fd6c21:0x1d946e8b6a9fe032!2m2!1d116.374386!2d39.878496!1m5!1m1!1s0x35f04db7369a6721:0x595425e7aa73d6e1!2m2!1d116.3561502!2d39.8712889!3e2  In order not to get lost check this map

Opening Hours and Entrance fee: 7:30-17:30 40RMB, Night show 18:00-21:00 70RMB

WOFO Temple: It is temple of sleeping Buddha located in Beijing Botanical Garden 20km from Beijing. This temple is 1300 years old and dates from Tang dynasty. It is most famous for big statue of Buddha in state of nirvana. Also there is a tree in courtyard that is transplanted from India in ancient times. I was there few times in 2000 and 2001. But  in 2013 after visiting Xiangshan I came there same afternoon and door was already closed. As I said there will always be temple whose gates will be closed for you one day. I was standing  in front of closed red gate of Wofo Si ( Temple of Sleeping Buddha ) ancient temple famous for statue of Buddha which lies and sleeps..  It was on my plan for today to visit this silent and isolated temple.  I am standing in front of closed gate because I spent all day on Xiangshan. I didn’t had time to come to Wofo Temple before it was closed for visitors. By standing on fingers I was trying to see at least something inside. I saw, only few stairs, and some red door, and one grey wall. That’s all. Light wasn’t enough bright there to see everything better.  “What is behind that door?? Sleeping Buddha or room for praying or something else.??” I wanted to visit it in 2015 but I had some health problems that day. Next time I will come definitely. Than I will write you about my experience of returning to that temple.

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Opening hours: Apr. 1 – Nov. 15: 08:30 to 16:30,Nov. 16 – Mar. 31: 08:30 to 16:00

Entrance Fee: 5RMB for temple and 5 for Botanical Garden.

How to get there? Take a Line 4 and get out at Beigongmen station and take a bus 331 there. Get out at Yuntong Station.

 

NANLUOGUXIANG: It is a must see broader hutong in Beijing. It is very popular but isn’t often mentioned in media. Nanluoguxiang goes paralelly with Shichihai lake but is separated from lake by more hutong lanes. . It is  a bit wider, similar to those hutongs which are full of shops and which are closer to this lake  and non-similar to those tighter, quite and unchanged  which are surrounding those wider hutongs.  It is well restored and revived hutongs. Nanluoguxiang is very interesting street and full of Chinese traditional souvenirs. While you are walking through Nanluoguxiang on both sides are traditional houses with hanged red lanterns on walls. Most of these houses are serving as souvenir or clothes shops, pubs, street food kitchens and tea houses. There is sold almost everything from Chinese souvenirs in this street. I advise you to try amazing Beijing sweet and sour yoghurt on the street and bao zi.

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There were also rickshaw drivers who you could rent to take you through hutong area. Street was full of Chinese and foreign tourists and customers. Despite its similarity to other souvenir, clothes and food streets about which I wrote already it was good to know that one more such street exists where you can walk around and chill out. While I was passing through this street, on both sides of Nanluoguxiang between houses were often entrances to narrower hutong streets which were calling me to get in to discover them. I was just looking in each of them as much as I could see while I was passing straight towards Shichihai. You can come in the evening there and have a tea or beer and speak to many young people that hang out there.  Nanluoguxiang is amazing example how tradition and modernity coexist in harmony. For example tables of pub where people drink beer and traditional teahouse are separated less than 1meter. It is so lively at night with so many lights of lanterns and advertisements.

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How to get there? Take subway Line 5 to Beixinqiao station and exit at exit D and walk westwards for about 10-15 minutes.

 

Guanghua temple- Temple dates from XIII century. It is very specific as it isn’t overcrowded but isn’t out of city. It is located in middle of hutongs near Shichihai lake.  So if you are passing through this area. Legend  says that on that place was an Buddhist monk was begging at place of todays temple and was helping people in need. In his honor authorities decided to build a temple on that place. Passing through hutongs you will never guess that there is temple as it is located in an ordinary hutong courtyard. But if you pay attention you will see that there is a small board on which is written name of temple. Also two stone lion figures are standing in front of temple as they symbolize guardians. In the temple courtyard there is incense burner where you can pray and burn incense if you desire. There are several  golden colored statues of  Amitabha Buddha in the temple. Also there are 3 small  white porcelain statues of Guanyin- goddess of compassion.  In halls there are several paintings of Buddhist Monks and Chinese calligraphy.  Temple atmosphere is silent and mystical. When I was there in 2013 I noticed several monks passing in their orange robes. Also there was one cat family there mother cat with 4-5 little kittens. It was visible that monks care about them as I saw water and food for them on few places.  Also within temple there is library with old Buddhist scripts.

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2013-06-26-10-30-47How to get there: Line 8 and get out at Shichahai station and follow this map temple is less than 1km.  https://www.google.sk/maps/dir/Shichahai,+China/Guanghua+Temple,+ShiChaHai,+Xicheng+Qu,+Beijing+Shi,+China,+100009/@39.9392559,116.3911164,17z/data=!3m1!4b1!4m14!4m13!1m5!1m1!1s0x35f05322996efa69:0x3002eded093c4b28!2m2!1d116.396247!2d39.937563!1m5!1m1!1s0x35f053174f0fa977:0x5446d6c3cb7fe1!2m2!1d116.3904553!2d39.9410493!3e2

Bamboo park: Is amazing park famous for great amount of greenery. There are many bamboos and willows. Few canals and lake make scenery very beautiful. Park dates from 18th century and today is public park. If you come in early morning you will see locals practicing tai chi, exercising various body exercises, playing ping pong, dancing or anything else for good health. In evening you will see locals sitting, chilling out and some of them next to cages with thrushes, singing or dancing as well.

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How to get there? Take Line 4 to National Library station.

Opening Hours: 6-21

Fee: free

Some more parks and temples in and around Beijing that I know but haven’t been there yet, Parks: Prince Gong Mansion, Zhongshan Park, Milu Yuan Park, Jingyi Park, Longtan Park Tuanjiehu park, Temple of the Moon park, Chaoyang park, Yuyuantan Park,

Buddhist Temples:  Jietai Temple, Hongluo Temple, Fahai Temple, Dajue Temple, Fayuan Temple, Big Bell Temple, Wanshou Temple,Yunju Temple, Tanzhe Temple, Guangji Temple,

Taoist Temples: Xuanren Temple, Dongyue Temple, Huode Temple, Luzu Temple, Goddess Bixia Temple(  at Miaofengshan )

 

Hike around Beijing- Xiangshan and Badachu

Hike around Beijing- Xiangshan and Badachu

DISCOVER SOME ALTERNATIVE PLACES IN OUTSKIRTS OF BEIJING. MOST OF PEOPLE VISIT GREAT WALL and MING TOMBS. BUT SAME AS IN CITY YOU HAVE TO VISIT UNCOMERCIALIZED HUTONGS HERE IN OUTSKIRTS THERE ARE AMAZING HILLS FOR HIKING WHICH ARE UNCOMERCIALIZED AND ARE NOT OVERCROWDED. IF YOU WANT TO FEEL TRUE SPIRIT OF CHINA AND RELAX FROM NOISY CITY THESE SPOTS ARE PERFECT FOR YOU TO ENJOY IN NATURE, PEACEFUL PAVILLIONS AND TEMPLES! THESE PLACES ARE VISITED BY LOCAL BEIJINGERS TOO WHICH ARE VERY FRIENDLY! EXCEPT NATURE THERE IS A LOT OF CULTURE, HISTORY AND ARCHITECTURE WHAT PERFECTLY GOES HAND IN HAND!

Before you visit remote mountains  or if you have time on weekends only you should discover areas around Beijing. There are many of them and even me personally still can say that I didn’t saw every corner of Beijing interesting suburbs-mountains temples and villages. Believe me Beijing suburbs and neighboring provinces are more than perfect for hiking.

First place that I can recommend is my favorite place in China Xiangshan Gongyuan or in English Fragrant Hills Park. It is just 20km from Beijing but you can feel that it is much further both by kilometers and by centuries. This place has stayed a lot in time. Large part of history of China is there. Prior to XI century when emperors of Jin dynasty started to be interested for this area it was place popular for Taoist retreats. Taoist monks used to live here in nature and practice alchemy. First pavilions were built during XI century during Jin dynasty. Later were built some temples and also imperial villas between XII and XVIII centuries. This place also has experienced damages during colonial aggressions of UK and France at beginning of XX century.  There is memorial hall to Chinese first president Sun Yatsen and also after WWII Mao Zedong had headquarters in one of the villas and led last battles of liberating Beijing from KMT. I wrote before about this place but it is so stunning that I will mention it in this text as well.

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road towards park

It was place where emperors used to hunt during free time and also there were several temples where Buddhist Monks used to live for centuries and still live there. As soon as you get out from bus you will find yourself in a village. It looks so old and remote but Mcdonalds there destroys such picture. However there are many souvenir shops leading to the gate of the area. You can find anything from zodiac figures, different Buddha statues, paintings, chaplets, incense sticks… Once you enter a main gate there is an small imperial hall that dates from Ming dynasty. Inside was inner garden, small pond, bridge over small pond  and red residence buildings. This was one of residences of emperor when he was coming for hunting.

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On the left there is path to the Jingcui Lake small lake which is very beautiful with its green water, lotus flowers and willow trees. Behind lake there is small pavilion.  It is my favorite place on Xiangshan as I wrote before it is perfect for having rest under willow tree, meditating and listening to nature.  Usually it is very silent with only few people having rest, practicing tai chi or playing nice tunes on traditional instrumentsThis place is really magic.

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Once you continue by stone path towards top of the hill. You will see many trees both pines but also if it is spring cherry and plum blossoming trees. You will see few people practicing tai chi on road. On the road to the top there are many interesting things among them is Shuanqing villa where Mao Zedong was living at the end of Civil War and coordinated latest battles for liberation of Beijing between 1948 and 1949 what brought communist victory.  You can enter villa to see some paintings and Chairman Maos coat and shoes. Next to villa is small pond where you can have rest too. Also there is one wall with carved Buddha and I am not sure if it belonged to some temple or what.

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Further when you continue hike there are ruins of Fragrant Hills Temple. There have remained just few pillars. It was oldest temple here which dates from XI century. It was looted and burnt by British and French Colonial troops during surpassing Boxer Rebellion in 1900.  As you continue hike stone path becomes more and more steep. But you can have rest in shadows of pine, and in small pavilions and viewpoints.  Before peak there is one more villa with inner garden and there are several tablets with ancient carvings.  At the peak there is pavilion and place where you can buy refreshments and some snacks. Peak is called Xianglu Feng( Incense Burner Peak) as there is stone which reminds on incense burner.  By mentioned eastern path you can reach 557m tall peak within 2-3h. Peak provides nice view on countryside and suburbs of Beijing.

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There is also another path northern one which is branched on more sections. But you can use one for climbing another for going down. On this side there are many pavilions, villas with inner gardens and ponds… Such combination of architecture and scenery is amazing. Those constructions date between XIV and XVIII century. There is one nice villa and viewpoint where you can buy refreshments and talk to friendly hikers which are resting in shadow and enjoying tea.

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Below hill there are several pavilions and two restaurants with delicious food. Nice spots here are Spectacles Lake- two pure lakes separated by old stone bridge and small waterfall falling from rocks there. You can enter a cave and enjoy behind waterfall in coolness of cave and water.

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Nearby is a bit larger rounded pavilion with lake in the middle and teahouse. Lake is full with Koi fishes which are quite large and you can buy food there and feed them as it is considered as good gesture and compassion.  Nearby on lower parts of hill is newly reconstructed Zhao Miao Temple( Bright Temple) Temple was built in 1790 by Qianlong Emperor in honor of Panchen Lamas visit from Tibet. So Temple is in Tibetan style. It was destroyed by British and French colonial forces looted and burnt down. Only one wall and main gate remained and also a green glazed pagoda. As  a child I used to rest there under apricot tree next to small pond and wait sunset. But since 2012 it is under reconstruction. When I was last time there it was almost completed but still closed for visitors so I think it is just matter of time when it will be reopened. I remember when as a child I used to sit next to pond of Zhao temple under blossoming apricot tree.  Next to Spectacles Lake there is Cable Car station in case that you do not  like to hike so you can take cable car to take you halfway or full way to the peak.

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Lastly there is very old and mysterious temple- Biyun Si- Azure Clouds Temple that dates from XIV century. It is Chan Buddhist temple. It is my favorite temple that I have visited so far. It is amazing  temple,  very specific ,silent and mystical.  Its entrance is protected by few meters tall and scary statues of guardians of temple so called kings of 4 sides of world. They have big strict and scary eyes, large heads, strong muscles , sword or spear ( determined for defense of temple).  According to traditional belief they have purpose to protect temple from evil ghosts.

sam_0426 I am not sure from which material they were made. When I was coming here as child mother to calm down my unpredictable behavior had to tell me that  if I wont be silent they will eat me. This usually worked and made me to be most silent and polite boy during all visit of temple.  In first hall of temple is big brown statue of Maitreya Buddha and in another hall there is statue of Amituofo Buddha. It was so quiet inside garden between halls of temple..

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Pillars and facades were red, roofs dark green and grey. Naturally there was pond with lotus flowers and goldfishes. On few trees were hanged red ribbons with written wishes. It is a typical Buddhist temple. But untypically silent and different than other temples in Beijing which are overcrowded and noisy.  Discovering this temple seems going back to some ancient century. In all Xiangshan you have feeling that you are in some different world, different than Beijing which isn’t so far. It seemed like that time stopped in Azure Cloud Temple.  Few monks passed in light orange robes.  In temple except monks were only few visitors sitting on grass or on stairs without making a noise. Sun rays were very specifically falling from sky between roofs  and through leaves on walls, stairs, trees and ground. It created very mystical atmosphere.  Buyin Si is so isolated and preserved from modern world. Because of walls around temple you feel like that you are in some other dimension.  That’s why if someone asks me what is my favorite temple that I saw I would say this one.  But I am sure that mountains of China are full of many other mysterious and silent temples.

There is hall of Sun Yatsen, first president of Republic of China  He was initially buried here. There is his big white statue in one hall.  I entered one mystical dark room in which light was only coming from small windows. In that room is collection of brown wooden statues of Arhats.  As it is said on board Arhats are those perfected in Buddhism, those who reached complete inner peace, complete harmony with themselves and with all other beings and nature.  There were also statues of Buddhisatvas and one statue of famous Buddhist monk Ji Gong about who I will speak later. It was unique atmosphere in this room. Something what I never experienced before. Like some secret place, like in some ancient time, some specific world.  In the temple complex you cannot skip tall Vajrasana Pagoda made from stone with many carved Boddhistatvas. I meditated there for about 1 hour in shadow of pagoda and listening to birds while sunrays were falling on me.

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If you want to stay overnight there are plenty of smaller hotels just outside the complex. Also there is one big hotel in complex nearby entrance gate. There are many restaurants outside complex. Staying overnight you can really enjoy the calm suburb atmosphere and cooler weather.

How to get there? Subway line 4 until Beigongmen station exit A than take 331, 696 or 563  buses until last stop. Buses operate from 6am until 10pm. 

Fees and Opening Hours:  Entrance: April to October- 10RMB 6:00-19:00, November to March-5RMB, 6:00-18:00  

                                             Biyun Temple-  10RMB 8:00-17:00

                                             Cable Car: 60RMB one direction, 8:00-16:00

Botanical Garden is nearby and its worth visiting because of so beautiful nature and unique Wofo temple.

 

 

 

 

BADACHU( EIGHT GREAT SITES)

It is another interesting location for hiking around Beijing. It is several kilometers to the south of Xiangshan.  Actually these 8 great sites are 8 Buddhist Temples that are located on this hills. Hiking here isn’t steep but I recommend to start hike early in the morning. I came there already at 6am.even without having breakfast. I wanted to use time as much as possible and check every possible detail of this nice place. Area offers you beautiful nature, pine trees, ponds and  8 temples. I have spent a day here from morning until evening. Hill isn’t too high around 500m and climbing isn’t too complicated as terrain isn’t too steep. But anyway to get to the top will take you around 2h. There is also cable car and not bad choice is to climb up by cable car and than slowly to go down and visit each of 8 temples. I firstly climbed up visiting few temples on road and going down I also visited several temples. Each of these 8 temples is specific with statues. In some of them is statue of Wofo( Sleeping Buddha) in some of them are statues of Mi La Fo( Fat Happy Buddha) or Amituofo( Enlightened Buddha), Medicine Buddha.

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There are as well various other Buddhist deities such as Guanyin. There are figures of standing version, sitting version and thousand hand version. You will see here many religious people coming, praying, burning incense and meditating. I saw few cats here. From these 8 temples most interesting are Dabeisi( Temple of Great Compassion) and Temple of Divine Light.

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Temple of Divine Light has quite tall pagoda and pond with goldfishes .I was sitting there under gingko tree and resting for around 2 hours and watching calm swimming of  fishes.  But at the end of the day storm almost caught me because I skipped bus as there was stray dog.

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If you want to see morning chanting ceremony be there at 6am and you will see monks in orange robes chanting and praying in front of temple halls.

How to get there? Line 1 until Pingguoyuan station and take bus naci broj until Badachu station.

Entrance Fee and Opening Hours: 10RMB, April-October 6-19:30, November-March 6-18:30

Cable Car: 50RMB

 

Some more spots: Below are few more spots which I haven’t visited that I plan to visit and I have heard that they are excellent for hiking. All of them have stuning to nature and culture there.

Cuandixia village

Yunmengshan

Miaofengshan

Silver Mountain pagoda forest

 Enjoy China 😉 

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A short weekend beyond Beijing- Great Wall and Ming Tombs!

A short weekend beyond Beijing- Great Wall and Ming Tombs!

So since I shared with you my experiences with Beijing city it is time to go a bit further now. It is time to discover natural beauties, cultural and historical heritage of this wonderful land. If you are an expat in Beijing weekends shouldn’t be boring for you. First place that you have to visit is most famous one. Great Wall of China.

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Great Wall of China: As you probably know it is longest and most famous fortification wall in world. Long for more than 2000km. It was built around 200 years BC.  It was built by Qin Shi Huang emperor an emperor who united China again Warring States Period between Wei, Chu, Qi, Qin, Zhao and Yan states that lasted for 250 years. Unified China had to protect itself from northern nomadic tribes which were often invading Chinese lands. So emperor ordered building wall that will be both border and defense area. It is still mystery how such long wall has been built across hills and mountains at that time. Also mystery is how many people died from exhaustion, hunger, thirst and freezing while building this wall. Han and Sui dynasties later built additional fortifications. Only time in history that someone was able to break this fortification were Mongols in XIII century. That resulted in 100 years of Mongol occupation of China. After that Ming dynasty came to power and built additional  parts of Great Wall.

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Snow on Great Wall, source: Newsnish

Many parts of wall are not in very good condition and are dangerous for visiting and are better for hiking. But I will speak about that in some other topic. Most famous and most preserved is Badaling sector that is far 80km from Beijing. Be prepared for big crowds here. You will see here people from any part of China both young and old coming to see this amazing world wonder.

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Also you will see great number of foreign tourists as it is probably among their priority destinations in China.  I was last time there in 2013 and it was very hot day around 34 degrees for sure. Everywhere around me where people, on left on right in front and behind me. But such crowds didn’t prevent me to enjoy watching an amazing view on mountains around wall and watching at wall how it passes over hills like to the left or right, down or up like a snake or dragon. I made a nickname for Great Wall. I call it never ending path. Because as far as you look on both sides of wall it seems that it has no and as it passes  over and between hills as much as your view can see.

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     How to get there? There are several options.

If you are just for several hours in transit in Beijing and you go from Capital Airport than you should take express train from airport to Dongzhimen station. You switch there to Subway Line to and ride until Jishuitan Station( exitA). Nearby is Deshengmen bus station and take bus 919 or 877 to get there.

If you live in Beijing you have same option to get same Line 2 and get out at Jishuitan station and take buses 919 or 877 from Deshengmen.

Another option is Beijing North Railway Station.  Take Line 4 or to and get out at Xizhimen station. From there you can walk shortly to mentioned railway station and take S2 train that goes directly to Badaling. Trip isn’t long.

When you are already there you can climb a wall by stairs. It isn’t so exhausting. Or you can take cable car which price is 100RMB for round trip and 80RMB for one direction.

     What to eat?  There are no restaurants there so it is best to take your own snacks with yourself. Around entrance there are some restaurants but quality isn’t best. Also out of scenic spot there is KFC. Take a water with yourself as water on wall costs 10RMB  while in city you can buy it for 5RMB even 3.

Opening hours and entrance fee:  From April to October   opening hours are from 6:30 to 19:00 and fee is 45RMB and from November to March opening hours are 7:00-18:00 and fee is 40RMB

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Ming Tombs

It is another interesting destination beyond city if you like history and nice scenery.  It is an area of imperial tombs that are beyond Beijing located at foot of Tianshou mountain. It is located 50km from Beijing. Here were buried 13 Ming emperors between 15 and 17 century. First one who was buried there is Yongle emperor who moved capital from Nanjing to Beijing.

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Sacred path, source: panoramio.com

In Chinese tradition burying emperors from same dynasty nearby each other according to Feng Shui principles between each other and natural landscape was common. So it was decided that Ming emperors will rest in peace in foot of this mountainy.

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They were buried there together with their wives.  That area is composed of Sacred Path and 13 tombs: Yonling, Deling, Xianling, Qingling,, Kangling, Yuling, Siling, Maoling, Jingling, Tailing, Zhaoling, Dingling and Changling. Sacred Path is stone path that passes between willow trees and leads to Dragon and Phoenix gate which is main entrance to tomb area.   Sacred Path had important role in burial ceremony as dead emperors were taken here ceremonially through this path towards place of his eternal peace. It was believed that this path returns emperors soul to Heaven. Emperors were considered as Sons of Heaven so their death symbolized returning to Heaven. On both sides of path are 12 stone figures of man and 24 figures of animals- elephants, lions, turtles, xiezhi, qilin, phoenix and dragon(last  4 are Chinese mythological creatures).   They symbolize guardians of Sacred Path.

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There is very scary story that workers who worked on burying emperor were killed afterwards by most loyal officers as place of burial and treasures that have been buried had to be kept in secret.

Only 3 of these 13 tombs are opened for visitors. Only Zhaoling, Changling and Dingling.  From them only Dingling has excavated underground areas where emperor and empress coffins are. It was done in end of 50ies and was very controversial issue.  Many cultural relics have been found there.

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Very interesting one is Changling tomb( oldest tomb here)  where is Yongle known also as Zhu Di emperor buried. This tomb isn’t excavated but in palace that is above ground there is cooper statue of emperor, crown of emperor and empress and their vases. I was in all 3 tombs that are available for visitors.  Standing on tower under which are underground areas with coffins and watching on mountains around is very mysterious.

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way to burial site, source: SKJ travel

It is spoken that maybe one more tomb will be opened for visitors but it wont be excavated.   It is still controversial issue due to traditional belief that those holly sites shouldn’t be touched and excavated. It is believed that if emperors were there in peace and their underground palaces untouched for centuries it should stay now too. I would like to visit all 13 but unfortunately it isn’t possible.

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How to get there?  Take subway line 13 to Xierqi  or line 8 to Zhuxinzhuang station and board on Changping line and get out at Ming Tombs station.

Opening hours and price: April to October,  8:00-17:30 Zhaoling 35, Sacred Way 35, Changling 50 and Dingling 65, , November to March 8:30-17:00  Sacred Way 25, Zhaoling 25, Changling 35 and Dingling 45.

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BONUS information

First 3 Ming tombs are located in Nanjing and are open for visitors but not excavated.  In Hebei province there are Western and Eastern Qing tombs.  Several of Qing tombs belonging to both groups of Qing tombs are excavated.

See you next Monday, enjoy China 😉

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Starter pack for discovering China- 1) Rucksack for souvenirs, 2) Ice tea 3) Hat