The Rough Guide to Beijing 3

Overview

This guide to Beijing brings the city’s highlights to life from the latest hip nightspots and fashionable eateries to the ancient splendours of the Forbidden City. Easier to use and more to the point than its main rivals, there are accounts of all the city''s attractions and reliable, practical information on how to get around, where to stay and where to find the best restaurants and bars. The guide also includes detailed accounts of excursions outside the city to historic towns and hikes along the Great Wall. ...

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Overview

This guide to Beijing brings the city’s highlights to life from the latest hip nightspots and fashionable eateries to the ancient splendours of the Forbidden City. Easier to use and more to the point than its main rivals, there are accounts of all the city''s attractions and reliable, practical information on how to get around, where to stay and where to find the best restaurants and bars. The guide also includes detailed accounts of excursions outside the city to historic towns and hikes along the Great Wall. Each district is covered by a thoroughly researched and fully indexed map

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781843539070
  • Publisher: DK Publishing, Inc.
  • Publication date: 4/21/2008
  • Series: Rough Guides Travel Series
  • Edition number: 3
  • Pages: 208
  • Product dimensions: 5.12 (w) x 7.78 (h) x 0.51 (d)

Meet the Author

Simon Lewis is a travel writer and winner of the Bradt Travel Writing Award

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Read an Excerpt

WHEN TO VISIT The best time to visit Beijing is in the autumn, in September and October, when it¹s dry and clement. Next best is the short spring, in April and May, when it¹s dry and comfortably warm, though a little windy. In winter it gets very cold, down to minus 20°C, and the mean winds that whip off the Mongolian plains feel like they¹re freezing your ears off. Summer (June to August) is muggy and hot, with temperatures reaching up to 30°C.The run-up to Chinese New Year is a great time to be in the country ­ when everyone is in festive mood and the city is bedecked with decorations. However, it¹s best to avoid Beijing during the first three days of the festival itself, as everyone is at home with their family and a lot of businesses and sights are closed.
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Table of Contents

Introduction

BASICS
Getting there from Britain and Ireland
from the USA and Canada
from Australia and
New Zealand
Visas and red tape
Money and costs
Opening hours and public holidays
Customs and etiquette

THE GUIDE
1 Introducing the city
2 Tiananmen Square
3 The Forbidden City
4 From Qianmen to Tiantan
5 West of Tiananmen Square
6 East of Tiananmen Square
7 North of the Forbidden City
8 Fuchengmen Dajie to Haidian
9 Yonghe Gong and around
10 The Summer Palaces

LISTINGS
11 Accommodation
12 Eating
13 Drinking and nightlife
14 Entertainment and art
15 Festivals
16 Shopping
17 Directory

EXCURSIONS
18 West of Beijing
19 North of Beijing
20 The Great Wall
21 Shanhaiguan and around
22 Chengde
23 Tianjin

CONTEXTS
A short history of Beijing
Books
Language
Glossary
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Introduction

Beijing is China at its most dynamic, a vivid metropolis spiked with high-rises, the proud owner of over a hundred flyovers (which are even commemorated on stamps), a city changing and growing at a furious, unfettered pace. However this forward-looking city has an extensive past; for a thousand years the drama of China¹s imperial history was played out here, with the emperor sitting enthroned at the centre of the Chinese universe. Though Beijing is a very different city today, it remains spiritually and politically the heart of the nation. Shanghai and Hong Kong may be where the money is, but it¹s Beijing that pulls the strings, and its lure is irresistible to many Chinese, who come here to fulfil dreams of business, political and cultural success.The cranes that skewer the skyline, and the Chinese character chai (demolish), painted in white on old buildings, attest to the speed of change, affecting not just the city¹s architecture: as China embraces capitalism, social structures are also being revolutionized. The government is as determined as ever to repress dissent, but outside the political arena pretty much anything goes these days. Students in the latest street fashions while away their time in Internet cafés and McDonald¹s; dropouts dye their hair and mosh in punk clubs. Even red-light districts and gay bars have appeared. The new prosperity is evident everywhere ­ witness the Mercedes-driving businessmen and the many schoolkids with mobile phones ­ but not everyone has benefited: migrant day-labourers wait for work on the pavements, and homeless beggars, a rare sight ten years ago, are now as common as in Western cities. First impressions of the city, for both foreigners and visiting Chinese, are often of a bewildering vastness, conveyed by the sprawl of uniform apartment buildings in which most of the city¹s population of twelve million are housed, and the eight-lane freeways that slice it up. It¹s an impression reinforced on closer acquaintance by the concrete desert of Tian¹anmen Square, and the gargantuan buildings of the modern executive around it. The main tourist sights ­ the Forbidden City, the Summer Palace and the Great Wall ­ also impress with their scale, while more manageable grandeur is on offer at the city¹s attractive temples, including the Llamaist Yonghe Gong, the Buddhist Baiyunguan Si, and the astonishing Temple of Heaven, once a centre for imperial rites. A welcome respite from the city is afforded by the unexpectedly beautiful countryside on its outskirts ­ at Badachu and around the Tanzhe and Jietai temples. With its sights, history and ­ by no means least ­ delicious food (all of China¹s diverse cuisines can be enjoyed relatively cheaply at the city¹s numerous restaurants and street stalls), Beijing is a place almost everyone enjoys. But it¹s essentially a private city, one whose surface, though attractive, is difficult to penetrate. The city¹s history and unique character are in the details. To find and experience these, check out the little antique markets; the local shopping districts; the smaller, quirkier sights; the hutongs, the city¹s twisted grey stone alleyways that are ­ as one Chinese guidebook puts it ­ "fine and numerous as the hairs of a cow"; and the parks, where you¹ll see Beijingers performing tai ji and old men sitting with their caged songbirds, as they have always done. Take advantage, too, of the city¹s burgeoning nightlife and see just how far the Chinese have gone down the road of what used to be called spiritual pollution. Keep your eyes open, and you¹ll soon notice that Westernization and the rise of the consumer society is not the only trend here; just as marked is the revival of older Chinese culture (much of it outlawed during the more austere years of Communist rule). Witness, for example, the sudden re-emergence of the tea house as a genteel meeting place, and the renewed interest in imperial cuisine ­ dishes once enjoyed by the emperors. A week is long enough to explore the city and its main sights, and get out to the Great Wall. With more time, try to venture further afield: the city of Tianjin and the towns of Shanhaiguan and Chengde, all directly accessible from the capital by train, each have their own distinct history.
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