Beijing is our first stop on a month and a half long visit to Asia in early December. Here is a little bit of research I wanted to share before the trip.
To begin, the first thing to do before booking your trip is to get a Chinese Visa. Here is a good site about the requirements for Canadians. From my experience, you can save yourself one additional trip to the visa office by printing out the forms prior to your first visit and get your passport photos completed. The visa office will only take a limited number of people a day so be there before opening time with your completed application. The contact number for the Visa office is (604) 734 – 0704. The office address is 288-1338 West Broadway, Vancouver. You can also try avoiding all the hassle by hiring a travel agent to do this on your behalf. Here are two contacts who can help you with this:
The currency in China is called Yuan or Renminbi. One Canadian dollar as of today is equivalent to 6.09 CNY. I’ve been told by the local store where I got my China sim card that foreigners are limited to withdraw a certain denomination a day so it was suggested to buy at least $1000 CDN worth of Renminbi locally before I leave.
You will also want to visit your doctor to make sure that your immunization is up to date, and make sure you have travel insurance.
TIP: If you have an iphone I recommend downloading “Exchange LE” to convert worldwide currencies on the fly. If you don’t have an iPhone try the Fairmont’s currency convertor.
TIP: Check that you have the appropriate electric plug adapters for China. I was told by a London Drugs employee that most modern electronics such as Iphones do not require a convertor so save yourself some money.
Beijing is located west of North Korea between the Yellow Sea. Beijing is known as the capital of China, is the country with the world’s largest population and was host of the 2008 Summer Olympics. Beijing’s has the second largest population after Shanghai with a population of 17.55 million people in 18 districts. It is the political, education, and cultural center of the country that offers many historical sites and important government and cultural institutions.
Beijing’s time is known as the China Standard Time (CST) and runs 16 hours ahead of people in the Pacific Time (PST) time zone, which includes Vancouverites. So currently looking at the iPhone world clock its currently 12:10pm. One way that I do time zone math is to add 12 hours to the current time, which would be the same time but you exchange the pm for am and then add the additional hours.
12:10pm + 12 hours = 12:10am plus 4 hours which equals 4:10am
Beijing is known for its flatness with only 3 hills found within the city limits. The configuration of Beijing is that of concentric rectangular shaped ring roads. Most of the tourist sights are located in what is called the old walled city and enclosed by ring road two.
picture courtesy of wikitravel.org
XiCheng District – this covers the northwestern part of the central city and includes the Beijing Zoo and National Concert Hall.
Dongcheng – this covers the north eastern part of the central city. This includes the Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square, and Beijing Central Station
XuanWu District – Southwestern pat of the central city
Chongwen District – Covers the south eastern part of the central city and includes the Temple of Heaven
For more information about the inner suburbs please check out Beijing wiki travel.
Highlights of the tourist attractions Beijing:
- Tiananmen Square – This is located in the Dongcheng district. Wikipedia calls it the third largest public square and is also home to the Chairman Mao Memorial Hall. It has cultural significance as it was the location of several important events in Chinese history with the most recent being the protests of 1989.
- Forbidden City – Wikitravel claims this is the most important palace that was home to the Imperial court during the Ming and Qing Dynasties. This site was protected during the Cultural Revolution from the Red Guards. Detailed information is available in the China Travel Guide
- National Stadium – Better known as the Birds Nest this is located in Chaoyand district and is the symbol of the 2008 Olympic games.
- Da Dong Roast Duck – Located in Dongcheng district Da Dong was recommended from a local who used to live in Beijing. Currently ranked as the # 3 place to eat in Beijing on Trip Advisor. Summarizing the variety of latest reviews from Trip Advisor I expect high prices, excellent Peking Roast Duck that is carved at the table, drinking, laughing, good food, upscale location, and free drinks waiting at the bar. Can’t wait!
- Hutongs – These are narrow street alleys that are on the outskirts of the Forbidden City and I’m told visiting Hutong’s are a way to experience how the local Beijing Chinese culture and how they live.
- Temple of Heaven – Located in Chongwen district my readings confirm that this is a worthwhile place to visit, a symbol of Beijing, and is a larger palace than Forbidden city. The reason is that Chinese emperors considered themselves sons of heaven and did not want to live a palace large than what was built for heaven.
- Summer Palace – Located in the Haidan district it is known as the largest and most well-preserved Royal Park in China
- The Great Wall of China – Our trip to China is not complete without scheduling dedicated time to view the largest man-made monument ever built. In 2007 the great wall was listed as one of the world’s wonders of the world, and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, which means it has special cultural and physical significance to the heritage of humanity. In 220 BC during the Qin dynasty the wall was built as a fortification defense against the invading Mongol’s. It is 8,851.8 km and can be see seen from Space. According to TravelChinaGuide, the most information rich internet resource I’ve come across, the Badaling section of the great-wall is the most well preserved, and is located in Yanqing County 70 km north of Beijing.
Based on the top Google searches for “Beijing Nightlife”, the Sanilitun bar street is most popular with ex pats and tourists as well as locals. Located West of Gongti North Gate in the Chaoyang district the MIX Bar seems worth visiting. What I expect is a mix of Western people and locals, attractive women, and high quality sound and lighting. There are two floors with the first offering comfortable seating and the second offering French and Italian cuisine with music.
photo courtesy of clubzone.cn
The other up and coming area for nightlife is in the Hou Hai Bar Street. The Beijing impression calls No Name Bar “hands-down one of Beijing’s best”. It is is located in Qianhaidongyan, Shichahai, XiCheng district by a lake. It is known for scenic views, a welcoming atmosphere popular with locals, and a hidden gem due to no name on the door. I’m expecting friendly staff, good modern music, a long drink list, and to make a reservation.
That should cover the Beijing plan for now. Hope you’ve enjoyed this blog post and will tune in for the post visit blog post with the pictures and HD video footage of must see attractions, restaurants, and nightlife for Beijing.