Monday, 14 July 2014

Sights: The Harmonious City of BEIJING, CHINA

I was always curious about how Beijing would look like. Beijing has been considered as one of the top cities in the world with the richest culture. But with China's booming economy, it brought growth and modernization to China's capital. With this happening, I've wondered how the city has preserved their rich history and culture intact. Luckily for us, our cousin Achi Ivy, who I also consider as my big sister has been telling us to visit her, she has been staying and working in Beijing for more than a decade. So after planning and coordinating with her, our trip to Beijing finally pushed through.


Great Wall of China, Beijing

On our first morning in Beijing, we were greeted with a very foggy and gloomy weather. As it turned out, this was the typical ambiance in Beijing. Our first stop was at China's National Postage Stamp Museum.





Address: No. 6 Gongyuanxi Street, Dong Cheng District
Operating Hours: Tues - Sunday, 9am to 3:30pm, closed on Mondays
Entrance Fee: Free


Having a stamp collection of my own, it was fun looking at the numerous stamps from China that dates back from the late 1800s to the present. I even saw old stamps on display which I also have. Even for non stamp collectors, the museum can be an interesting place to have a look around. Before I was told that picture taking is not allowed, I got to take some photos of the stamps.


Stamps

If you want to know how it feel likes to be Gulliver or Godzilla looking down at a whole city then head over to Beijing Planning Exhibition Hall.


Address: 20 Qianmen E Street, Dongcheng
Operating Hours: Tues - Sunday, 9am to 4pm, closed on Mondays
Entrance Fee: 30 RMB (around 210php)


The highlight of Beijing Planning Exhibition Hall was the scale model of the whole Beijing metropolitan area. We were amazed on how they made everything in exact detail. Residential buildings, office towers, skyscrapers, tourist landmarks were precisely made to look like the real thing. We even spotted Achi Ivy's residential building and it totally looks alike.


Scale Model of The Whole Metropolitan Beijing
Mall that's shaped like Bee Hives
Olympic Park


On our way for lunch at Quanjude which was located at Qian Men Emperor's Avenue. We got to walked and looked around the area. There are different local and foreign stores that line up the main avenue, what's interesting about the walkway are the store's facade, it was recreated to make it look like the olden times. Also on the center is a tram that people can ride for a fee.


Tram at Qian Men Emperor's Avenue

A Corner Food Store

At the end of Qian Men, you can also spot the Archery Tower which is part of the Forbidden City.





Nearby was the one of the largest city square in the world, the Tiananmen Square.



Travel Tip: There are a lot of vendors who would be giving leaflets and offering tours around Beijing in Tiananmen. Be wary of the scammers! Best to get tours directly from legit tour agencies.

There are numerous historical landmarks that can be found in the square.


Mausoleum of Mao ZeDong

Monument to the People's Heroes

The most famous landmark in the square is the Tiananmen Tower, also known as the Gate of Heavenly Peace. On the center is the picture of Mao Zedong with the Chinese placards on both sides. On the left it says, "Long Live the People's Republic of China" while the right says, "Long Live the Untiy of The People"


Gate of Heavenly Peace

We made a quick stop at the Drum and Bell Tower in the Yandai area before having diner at a nearby famous local restaurant. We didn't get to go inside the towers anymore since we arrived past closing time.



Drum Tower with Bell Tower from Afar
Operating Hours: 9:30am to 4pm
Entrance Fee:  Drum Tower - 15 RMB (around 105php), Bell Tower - 10 RMB (around 70php)


After dinner, we proceeded to Houhai. Houhai literally translates to 'back sea', the area is famous for it's 'nightlife'. Around the lake are numerous stores, restaurants, bars and drinking establishments.

A Small Alley leading to Houhai

There are paddle boats for hire to go around the lake. It was nice strolling around since we spotted lots of local old folks singing and dancing as they had their own music players in tow.

Houhai

The next day, we got excited as we peeked out the windows. After experiencing a very gloomy atmosphere, we finally saw blue skies. As Achi Ivy told us, it's seldom to see blue skies in Beijing, I guess it's because of the mixture of pollution and climate. Timing was perfect since we'll be visiting outdoor historical sites, the first of which is The Sacred Way or also known as The Spirit Way.




Operating Hours: 8:30am to 6pm
Entrance Fee: 35 RMB (around 245php)


The Sacred Way is a road that leads to an Emperor's Tomb, on both side of the path are different standing and seating animal statues plus statues of high ranking officials. From what I know, the Sacred Way was made for the Emperor's funeral procession.

The Path of The Sacred Way

Standing and Sitting Animal Sculptures

Sculptures of High Ranking Officials 


After walking the path of the Sacred Way, we proceeded to The Ming Tombs. There are 13 tombs that has been discovered. Among all of them, only The Dingling Tomb is fully intact and people can actually go inside the tomb to take a look.




Operating Hours: 8:30am to 6:30pm
Entrance Fee: 65 RMB (around 455php)


Also known as the Underground Palace, the tomb was huge as it it has different chambers. As you go down the flight of stairs, you'd notice how the temperature becomes cooler.  Some might find it creepy but for me I was really amazed on how intricate the tomb was made, it literally was an underground palace. This was proof that even in death emperors were still spending excessively.


Huge Red Caskets
Imperial Gate

Halls

Emperor's Throne
Empress' Throne

Make sure to drop by the museum after, here you can find the items found inside the tomb when it was excavated.

Museum

Some of the Luxurious Items found during the Excavation


If there is a 'must visit and experience' site in Beijing, it has to be The Great Wall of China. I've seen pictures and watched different features on it but to actually see and set foot on it was truly an unforgettable experience.

Great Wall of China

Operating Hours: 6:30am to 7pm during summer, 7am to 6pm during winter
Entrance Fee: 45 RMB (around 315php)

There are different sections of the wall where one can choose to go to. For first timers like us, Achi Ivy suggested that we head to the Badaling Area. It was the best area to see the grandiosity of the wall.


Great Wall of China, Badaling

One can choose to walk or take the cable car up, we opted to take the cable car instead.



Cable Car Ride Fee: 80 RMB (around 560php), round trip


Even though we took the cable car, we still got to stroll along the reconstructed paved brick walls.


Strolling Around

Be prepared to get bumped around as you make your way to the tallest tower in Badaling. This seems to be the favorite view point of the locals and tourists.


A Huge Crowd at The Wall

Ever since I watched the opening ceremonies of the 2008 Beijing Olympics, I was so astonished on how the Bird's Nest Stadium looked like. Back then, I promised myself that I would visit the stadium. This was one of the places that I was excited to see and it totally didn't disappoint.



Operating Hours: 9am to 6pm
Entrance Fee: 50 RMB (around 350php)

The architecture and design of the stadium was stunning, it is one of the modern marvels that everybody should see.





Make sure to view the stadium at night as the whole thing turns into fiery red.


Bird's Nest Stadium at Night

We got to go inside and watch a show, I forgot what the title was but it was a story about lovers who overcame obstacles that hindered their love for each other. Story was straight and simple but the elaborate stage set up and stunts left us fascinated all through out the show.


Elaborate Stage Set Ups


Performers


While the Bird's Nest Stadium turns fiery red, right beside it is the soothing blue Water Cube. The National Aquatics Center was used for the water sport events during the Olympics. From what I know, the stadium is now open to the public who wants to swim and take a dip in the pools inside.


Water Cube
Operating Hours: 9am to 9pm
Entrance Fee: 30 RMB (around 210php)

If you take a closer look, the facade of the structure was made to look like bubbles. Amazing!




Aside from the two main stadiums found inside the Olympic Park, there are also other structures that we took notice of. Namely the huge Olympic Torch Tower, the Media Tower that changes color every after a couple of minutes, the Wall where the medalists of each Olympic event was engraved and the floor light posts that was shaped like the Bird's Nest stadium.


Beijing Olympic's Torch



Media Tower

Floor Light Post shaped like the Stadium


After having a nice hot breakfast on yet another gloomy day, we were off to The Summer Palace. The Summer Palace serves as sort of a resort of the imperial family during the summer months. The palace grounds is huge, it was even bigger than the official residence of the emperors.  It will take a whole day or even more to visit every attraction. We got to visit a few.


Summer Palace
Operating Hours: 6:30am to 6pm
Entrance Fee: 30 RMB (around 210php)


As you walk on the Long Palace Corridor, make sure to look above as each wood pillar on top has different paintings. The different paintings served as the emperor's form of entertainment.


Long Corridor Gallery

We only got to view the Marble Boat from afar since there were undergoing renovations being done to it.


Marble Boat

There are a lot of bridges in the palace but the largest and most impressive is the 17-Arc Bridge.


Seventeen Arc Bridge

The Tower of Buddhist Incense is the poster picture of the Summer Palace. Be prepared to climb up a flight of stairs if you plan to take a closer look at it.


Tower of Buddhist Incense




After seeing the palace we were off to see a unique Chinese architecture. I've seen different Chinese temples but I haven't seen any temple that has a circular shape like The Temple of Heaven.



Operating Hours: 6pm to 8pm
Entrance Fee: 30 RMB (around 210php)

Before reaching the main temple, you'll pass by the Circular Mound Altar and the Imperial Vault of Heaven.


Circular Mound Altar

Imperial Vault of Heaven

The Temple of Heaven looks beautiful and magnificent. After seeing a lot of Chinese architecture, it's nice to see something different.


Temple of Heaven

During our visit, the 9th Beijing Garden Expo was still on exhibit. We didn't have any idea what to expect of the place, we were pleasantly surprised with what we saw and experienced.




The expo basically showed the gardens of each country. Some had big elaborate set-ups, some had small booths. There were a lot of things to see but we didn't have enough time to go around the whole place. We did managed to see some of the major garden attractions.

Arabian Garden




Among all the displays, we enjoyed the European Garden the most.

A Full Scale Model of a European Style Architecture with...

...a garden infron of it.

One of our favorite places that we visited in Beijing is the 798 Art Zone.




The place used to be an area for China-Russian joint factories, there's a nostalgic feel about the place since most of the buildings are still in its original form. What's interesting about the place are the quirky art pieces you'll see around. Walking around felt like being in the past but seeing the art pieces also made us feel that we were in modern times.


Quirky Art Works

Chow Chow lazing around at One of The Shops

More Art Works

Being Part of the Quirkiness


On our last day, we finally got to enter the grounds of The Forbidden City. Built during the 1400s, the imperial palace still stands and remains to be at the heart of Beijing.


Operating Hours: Mondays - 8:30am to 11am, Tues to Sundays - 8:30am to 4pm
Entrance Fee: 60 RMB (around 420php)


There are different halls with practically the same design, they only differ in size. Each hall were used for a specific purpose by the emperors. If you want to go into specific details, it's best to join a tour.

One of the Huge Halls
Emperor's Main Bedroom

One of the Thrones found inside the halls

As for us, we just had a quick look around the grounds and Achi Ivy served as our tour guide. If you notice the red door below and count the dots or knobs, there's exactly nine dots across and nine dots down. The 9x9 dot count on the door symbolizes that it's a place for emperors. High ranking officials would have less dots and commoners would sometimes have one, two or none depending on their social stature.


Imperial Door

Usually in front of every hall stands two guards, a male and female lion. The pair consist of a male lion resting his right paw on a ball while the female lion rests her paw on a cub.


Male Lion
Female Lion

You can find a lot of dragon and phoenix symbols on the grounds. The Dragon symbolizes the Emperor while the Phoenix, the Empress.


Dragon

Phoenix

Our last stop for our trip was at The Beijing Capital Museum.


Operating Hours: Tues to Sundays - 9am to 4pm, closed on Mondays

Entrance Fee: Free but make sure to make reservations on line.
For reservations click on link: www.capitalmuseum.org.cn/en/reservation.htm

In here, you'll be able to see different Chinese artifacts. But what we like about the place is you'll be able to learn about Chinese customs and traditions.




Yin Yang,  a term used to describe complimentary forces that leads to balance and harmony. The Chinese are very particular in achieving balance in everything and this is how I'll always remember Beijing. No doubt that Beijing's economy is blooming. We saw a lot contemporary modern buildings and skyscrapers, bad traffic was caused by the numerous European branded cars and the fast paced lifestyle was so evident. But even with all the modernities, the city has managed to preserve the heritage sites in pristine condition. Beijing is a perfect example that it's possible for a modern prosperous city to not lose it's history, culture and most importantly it's identity. Beijing is proof that the 'old' can harmoniously co-exist with the 'new'.


The Harmony of The Old and The New

For more detailed information, I suggest that you visit this website, www.travelchinaguide.com. It has helped and provided me with information that I needed in planning our trip.

End Note: 

I would like to thank Achi Ivy for letting us stay at her place, for treating us to meals and for taking  time off from work to take us around and give us a personal tour of Beijing. Thank you very much Achi! Till our next visit! 

Xie Xie Da Jie!!!