Free Tour Award of Chinatraveldepot – Beijing Hutongs and 798 Art Zone Tour

On January 23, 2013, in Beijing, China Attractions, China Travel Gossip, Temples, by Sandy Li

This quarter’s Beijing Free Tour contest has just finished. The lucky winner, out of over one thousand candidates, can choose his company, and visit 798 ArtZone, Hutong, and DrumTower, along with the HouhaiLake. All expenses are borne by Chinatraveldepot. By convention, this tour shall berecorded by a professional photographer, appointed by China Travel Depot. We […]

This quarter’s Beijing Free Tour contest has just finished. The lucky winner, out of over one thousand candidates, can choose his company, and visit 798 ArtZone, Hutong, and DrumTower, along with the HouhaiLake. All expenses are borne by Chinatraveldepot. By convention, this tour shall berecorded by a professional photographer, appointed by China Travel Depot. We would like to help them preserve this uncommon experience, and share it with others. On Nov. 31st, the contest was brought to a closure and we had our lucky guy, Fida Rehman. Mr. Rehman and his friend would benefit from this wonderful Beijing tour.

On the morning of January 12th, 2013, Rehman and his friend started the tour by visiting our first stop, 798ArtZone. 798ArtZone, located in the northeast of centralBeijing, is always compared with Greenwich Village and SOHO inNew York. History and reality, industry and the arts perfectly fit here. Also known as 798ArtDistrict, it is a new rising, avant-garde and trendy space that hosts high-level cultural, artistic and commercial activities. Rehman and his friend had a good time appreciating mottled red-brick wall, scattered orderly industrial plants, crisscross pipelines, slogans of different ages on the wall.

At noon they came to a hutong around Houhai. They were highly impressed by the traditional Chinese architecture and the pace of life in hutongs. People here are much more leisure than those onBeijing’s broad modern avenues, and the neighbourhood here is quiet and relaxing. The narrowness of the alleyways and of many courtyard homes discourages heavy traffic but encourages residents to live their lives on the street, fostering a strong sense of community. It is common to see the residents playing cards, Chinese chess, Mahjong, or simply chatting with each other. The hutongs are like village within the megalopolis. As wandering among, they were surprised as though stepped into the past. There they had their lunch, and were not disappointed by the Chinese cuisine.

Visitors who have interest may experience Rickshaw Drive through the zigzag Hutongs near Houhai Lake. Once in ancient China, people took rickshaws like taxis.  Sitting on it you could have a rest, but still having a pleasant view of the beautiful scenery.

Before we called it a day, they also dropped by theDrumTower. It was built in 1420, on a 4-meter high base and is over 46-meter high. Not far from it, there standsBellTower. The twin towers together worked to tell people the time in the past days. Rehman said he was devastated by the size of the drum. No one could imagine how ancient people can make such a huge drum, and installed it. About 600 years passed, the drum is still safe and sound, telling time every single day.

In the end of the day, Rehman and his friend expressed their sincere gratitude to us. They had a wonderful day, getting a better understanding with Beijing local culture. We also hope more and more people can have a chance to join us on your China tours.Beijingwelcomes you!

Beijing starts a 72-hour visa-free stay policy for citizens of 45 countries

According to Beijing municipal authorities, Beijing will start a 72-hour visa-free stay policy for citizens of 45 countries from January 1, 2013. International travelers enjoy 72 hours transit visa policy based on the requirements of the Ministry of Public Security, in arriving at the Beijing Capital Airport, shall comply with the following conditions: 1) in line […]

According to Beijing municipal authorities, Beijing will start a 72-hour visa-free stay policy for citizens of 45 countries from January 1, 2013.

International travelers enjoy 72 hours transit visa policy based on the requirements of the Ministry of Public Security, in arriving at the Beijing Capital Airport, shall comply with the following conditions:

1) in line with the scope of the citizens of the country, including:

— European Schengen visa agreement countries (24), Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia , Spain, Sweden, Switzerland

Other European countries (7) Russia, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Cyprus, Bulgaria, Romania, Ukraine

— American States (6) United States, Canada, Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, Chile

Oceania countries (2), Australia, New Zealand

Asian countries (6) South Korea, Japan, Singapore, Brunei, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar;

2)  holding valid international travel documents to prove their nationality;

3)  in line with the conditions of entry to the country or region;

4)  held by the exit from the Beijing Capital International Airport way ticket to a third country or region, or prove within 72 hours to determine the date and seat;

5) equipped with the entry and exit of airlines reporting to the border authorities.

Beijing border audited in line with the transit visa-free conditions, will be handled in accordance with the provisions of the transit procedures.

____________________________

For more information on travel to Beijing with visa free, contact us at: info@chinatraveldepot.com, or visit http://www.chinatraveldepot.com/website/beijing-transit-tour/#?utm_source=CTD&utm_medium=home&utm_campaign=72hours

 

Come Hungry, Leave Happy: Adventurous Eating at Wangfujing Snack Street

On July 24, 2012, in Activities, Beijing, Cultural Experience, More Places of Interest, by Jack Li

You have to agree that after finishing a long day of Beijing tours, the perfect way to satisfy any hunger is with a big helping of fried and seasoned scorpions. In order to get a real Chinese experience, you cannot miss out on trying the gourmet spread at the Wangfujing Snack Street! When traveling to […]

You have to agree that after finishing a long day of Beijing tours, the perfect way to satisfy any hunger is with a big helping of fried and seasoned scorpions. In order to get a real Chinese experience, you cannot miss out on trying the gourmet spread at the Wangfujing Snack Street! When traveling to China, you probably expect to be eating your share of noodles, dumplings and rice. Nonetheless, don’t stray away from trying the real street food delicacies that can be found in this area. There are so many different creatures, sweets, and eats; be sure to b ring plenty of cash in case you want to try it all! I thought eating pork skins and bull frog at an upscale restaurant in Beijing was adventurous enough, until I heard about this marvelous food fair and new I had to push my limits even further. My friends and I ventured there in the evening, which provided a great atmosphere as the lights from the kitchens and lanterns above our heads lit up the night. I came with an empty stomach, expecting to grab some McDonald’s on the way home after trying a few things. However, I left the snack street that evening full and satisfied!

My first endeavor was the fried scorpions which seemed to be one of the most popular items available. Skewered on a stick, three very alive scorpions were dunked into a deep fryer, seasoned, and then handed to me ready for tasting. I was amazed! They were similar to eating a great batch of crispy potato chips, only with better spices and a little more substance. I decided to pass on the seahorses and starfish in order to save room for some meatier fare. Next came the snakes; a single long, thin piece of pink meat on a stick, cooked on a grill and dipped in spices. This was another great surprise, because it tasted so good. I could have eaten three or four! Being that is was pre-skinned, it was a lot easier to put the “snake” thing out of mind and just enjoy the flavors. The strangest thing I tried was a grilled bug. It was about the size of my ear and had a hard outer shell. When I crunched into it all the steamy guts kind of squished into my mouth, this sensation threw me off a bit, but I must admit the flavors were good so I just gulped it down all at once. Along the way there were definitely some things I absolutely avoided such as the centipedes, squids, winged insects, lizards, and dog. I was done tasting the creepy crawlers, so in order to get some real sustenance I nibbled on some ostrich and ducklings. I had reached a level of full satiation with no room left for dessert. If there had been room, I would have definitely indulged on a long kabob piled high with candied kiwis, pineapple, and grapes. All in all, this attraction is a ‘must-do’ during your Beijing travels. The pictures you take will be some of the best to share with friends back home, and your stomach will thank you too!

Houhai Lake, the Perfect Beijing Afternoon

On July 23, 2012, in Beijing, Lakes, Parks & Gardens, by Jack Li

When you travel to Beijing, dedicate a day to visiting Houhai Lake and its surroundings hutongs. One of the most enjoyable experiences of my trip here so far was over the weekend, strolling along lakeside watching the boaters go by. The Houhai Lake area, located in Beihai park, may just well be the coolest neighborhood […]

When you travel to Beijing, dedicate a day to visiting Houhai Lake and its surroundings hutongs. One of the most enjoyable experiences of my trip here so far was over the weekend, strolling along lakeside watching the boaters go by. The Houhai Lake area, located in Beihai park, may just well be the coolest neighborhood in town. This is a great place to take a guided Beijing tour; then even better to go back and explore on your own. It has something special for everyone no matter how you enjoy spending the afternoon.

Here’s my recommended itinerary: Start at the opening entrance to Yandai Xiejie and make your way through the treasure trove that is this Hutong marketplace. Walking down this street you may get a feeling such as, “This is exactly what I was looking for in China,” I know I did. Although there are some stores with the average array of souvenirs, there are much more boutiques of unique trinkets, testable teas, handmade crafts and silks, Chinese art, and my personal favorite, plenty of Mao-morabilia. At the end of the street take a left at the Churro stand and make your way towards the lake area. Your first view will be of a quaint bridge with overhanging tree branches, the unspoiled setting for your day. After all that shopping you may need an energy boost, so stop by a number of the lakeside cafes, where you can snuggle up on a plush couch and people watch to your heart’s content. Many venues have live music performers, the perfect finishing touch to any ambiance.

Next, make your way towards the boat rental stand. The views from on land are fantastic, but the experience of Houhai is not complete without getting out on the water. Make sure you steer clear of any exploratory lake swimmers though! Houhai is overflowing with a family oriented atmosphere, night and day. However, as the night comes in Houhai turns into a buzzing, lively nightlife spot. After your boat ride, it’s time for dinner. Take your party to the rooftop or grab a candlelit meal right on the water. This area is abundant with impressive eateries prepared to offer you a great selection of entrees to aperitifs. For those then looking for a good night out, many of the bars offer great deals on drinks as well as live music. The nightlife venues are plentiful and varied, from the relaxing shisha lounges, to those energetically equipped with DJs and dance floors. Don’t forget your camera, because of all that Houhai has to offer, the most important is some of China travel’s greatest views.

Cuandixia Village, A Ming Dynasty Treasure

If you are searching for a Beijing tour that provides an exclusive look into ancient Chinese living, then a trip to Cuandixia is just what you need. This is one of the treasured places in China travel where you can feel as if you have truly gone back in time. Only a short ride away […]

If you are searching for a Beijing tour that provides an exclusive look into ancient Chinese living, then a trip to Cuandixia is just what you need. This is one of the treasured places in China travel where you can feel as if you have truly gone back in time. Only a short ride away from the downtown Beijing area, there is an ancient village named Cuandixia that appears visually untouched since its formation 600 years ago during the Ming Dynasty. Nestled amongst a jagged mountain range, Cuandixia is a beautiful respite from the bustling, crowded scenes of Beijing city. The scenery of Cuandixia is filled with hilly landscapes, plush grass and luxurious trees. The charming village homes all consist of both stone and brick carvings, divided by small courtyard areas. With its screened walls and large Chinese character paintings at every corridor, the adored aspects of Chinese architecture from this era are on full display. The Chinese characters throughout the homes represent inscriptions from the Ming and Qing dynasty families that previously lived there.

The name of this site, primarily ‘Cuan,’ stands for “the stove.” This appellation gains its suitability in that it served as a shelter from the cold to its inhabitants, as well as safety from the bane of war. The preservation of this site is incredible, I felt like I was walking back in time as I perused the ancient courtyard homes. Spanning over an area of only 2.5 acres, this hillside mountain city is known to the people of Beijing as ‘Potala Palace.’ In this light, Cuandixia village is an idyllic site. Although only recently has this area gained tourist popularity, the attention continues to trickle in at a steady pace. The natural beauty of this area has made it an attractive place for filmmakers, painters, and photographers to visit and capture the splendor. Many who travel to Beijing already have a list of highly famous sites to see first on their list, but a visit to Cuandixia would be a great addition as you gain a present day look into a very real China past.

The Lama Temple.

On July 17, 2012, in Beijing, Historical Relics, More Places of Interest, Temples, by Jack Li

When you are traveling to Beijing the Lama Temple is not the first place that comes to your mind, there are other more famous and more popular places to go during your Beijing Tour, but if you have a free morning or a free afternoon and you want to see the most astonishing Buddhist temple […]

When you are traveling to Beijing the Lama Temple is not the first place that comes to your mind, there are other more famous and more popular places to go during your Beijing Tour, but if you have a free morning or a free afternoon and you want to see the most astonishing Buddhist temple in Beijing make sure that you don’t miss it!

The Lama temple is the occidental word for the Yonghe Temple, a temple situated in the north-west of Beijing, originally was created as a residence for the court eunuchs but in the year 1722 half of the building was transformed into a lamasery, its popularity raised spectacularly during the following centuries and it became one of the national center of lama administration.

The temple is organized in five main halls and each hall has different attractive on each own so make sure you don’t miss any of them!

  1. The Hall of the Heavenly Kings (Tian Wang Dianor Devaraja), it is the first hall you will find; there are the statues of the Maitreya Buddha (the future Buddha) and the statues of the four heavenly kings in the Buddhist mythology.
  2. The second is Hall of Harmony and Peace (Yonghegong), in this hall there are some of the most precious statues of the temple, the bronze statues of the Buddha of the three ages, The Gautama (present) Kasyapa (past) and the Maitreya (future), in this hall there are also the statues of some Arhats, the Buddhist equivalent of the saints.
  3. The hall of everlasting protection (Youngyoudian) this was the hall where an ancient emperor coffin was placed, but now there is a statue of the healing Buddha who has the mission of healing the suffering.
  4. The Hall of the Wheel of the Law (Falundian), it’s the place where all ceremonies take part, there is the statue of Je Tsongkhapa, the founder of the Geluk school and also the 500 arhat hill, a carved sandalwood hill and statues of the 500 Arhats made of  different metals such as; gold, silver, copper, iron and tin.
  5.  The Pavilion of Ten Thousand Happinesses (Wanfuge), this is the last and the most espectaular hall of the temple for only one reason, it contains a Buddha statue made of a single block of sandalwood that is in the Guiness book of records since 1993.

There are a lot of reasons to visit the Lama temple and its surroundings for there are some of the most typical Hútòng (ancient streets) surrounding the lama temple where you can eat some typical food, buy Buddhist accessories like bracelets or necklaces, or also statues and incense sticks to burn in the halls of the temple.

The lama temple is one of the most beautiful and astonishing places of Beijing, so if you plan to travel to Beijing you have to try to find some time to go there and marvel in front of the magnificent Buddha statues and, maybe, learn more about the Buddhist mythology.

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Enchantment at Yunju Temple

On July 16, 2012, in Beijing, Cultural Experience, Must-sees, Temples, by Jack Li

Picture an entirely Chinese tour group, a Chinese tour guide, and me, one lone American girl traveling 70 km outside of Beijing to reach the stunning Yunju temple. I had no idea what the day would hold for me, I just knew there would be a chance I might be taken out of the usual […]

Picture an entirely Chinese tour group, a Chinese tour guide, and me, one lone American girl traveling 70 km outside of Beijing to reach the stunning Yunju temple. I had no idea what the day would hold for me, I just knew there would be a chance I might be taken out of the usual elements of my comfort zone. Fortunately, in that department, I was not disappointed! I do not have much China travel experience. Thus, when I decided to travel to Beijing I was seeking sights that offer a true portrait of Chinese culture. The tour of Yunju began with the retelling of its stone scripture history. This site is where the actual making of the first stone scripture tablet took place. The decision to carve on stone was to ensure its preservation because at the time there was conflict between the differing religious sectors. The scriptures include important texts known as the Tripitaka in various versions. To date, the Yunju temple houses over 14,000 stone scripture tablets! The tablets hold an extreme amount of religious, spiritual, intellectual and educational value. The multitude of tablets this temple houses makes Yunju temple a shrine to Buddhist culture. I was overwhelmed with the feeling that I was in the presence of a literary history with insurmountable important, not unlike the Rosetta Stone or Code of Hammurabi.

As I made my way through the temple grounds, my eyes feasted upon the nearly two-story bronze vessels, centuries old brick pagodas, and larger than life Buddhist deity statues. My tour then took a turn for the unexpected as I was handed a brown robe and told to put it on and make our way into the temple. I knew this wasn’t an average sightseeing stop for Beijing travel and enjoyed the feeling I was experiencing something unique. There I and my fellow Chinese travelers took part in a Buddhist ritual, involving incense sticks and the entrancing singing of monks. The women and men lined up on separate sides of the room and then repeatedly knelt down for prayer. I knew this was a once and a lifetime experience for me. The centerpiece of the room was a large golden Buddha who sat in front of a table adorned with flowers. Even though I am not a Buddhist, the strong spiritual connections being made within the room were so profound it made an cherished impression on me, adding much to my appreciation for Chinese culture. This Beijing tour should be made an essential addition to your trip. The day spent at Yunju is one I will never forget, and a definite favorite of the time I’ve spent in Beijing.

Parks in Beijing.

During your trip to Beijing you will probably see tall buildings, cars and lots of people everywhere, but in the middle of Beijing’s busy city life there are a large number of calm parks that you can’t miss in your Beijing tour. The most astonishing of the Beijing parks is the park that contains the […]

During your trip to Beijing you will probably see tall buildings, cars and lots of people everywhere, but in the middle of Beijing’s busy city life there are a large number of calm parks that you can’t miss in your Beijing tour.

The most astonishing of the Beijing parks is the park that contains the Temple of Heaven. Leaving the magnificent buildings aside (although don’t leave without visiting them) the actual park is an essential place of meeting for the inhabitants of the city and if you have the opportunity to go before seven in the morning (it opens at six) you will see a lot of people doing Tai-chi, dancing or getting prepared for the day ahead surrounded by majestic cypresses.

The second park that is worth seeing is the Beihai Park, mostly occupied by a big lake where you can rent a boat and explore it or simply walk by its shore until you reach a good place to have a beer, you can also visit the buildings that are scattered in the park. As it was originally created as a retreat park for the emperors of the Yuan empire, everything is very luxurious, but not all you can find there is ancient or imperial, this park is also famous for the calligraphists that write in the stones with big brushes soaked with water, which makes it a very  ephemeral show as they evaporate very quickly.

The Fragrant Hills, a park situated near the Summer Palace, is a very nice place, very famous in autumn for its astonishing colors and it is formed by hills it’s a very good place to go for a nice walk, surrounded by nature and beautiful buildings, going to the top of the Xiānglú Fēng (Incense Peak) is a nice experience, because you can discover why the park is called like this, the two stones in the shape of incense burners.

Another park you can visit if you wish to find nature among the city is the Jingshan Park; this park is very peculiar because of its formation. Known by the occidentals as the “Coal Hill” it is an artificial hill, made of the discarded earth from the construction of the moat of the Forbidden City. It’s believed that that artificial hill protects the Forbidden City from the demons and bad spirits (also, the dust storms) it’s a very good place to go sightseeing and its worth going at the top just for the vision that it gives of the Forbidden City and Tiananmen.

These are not the only parks you can find in Beijing. Considering the population and the density of the city, it is surprising the number of parks that you can find, there are big ones, like the Beihai or the Zoo, and smaller ones, so small that they barely occupy an isle of houses.

If you travel to china you will see a lot of astonishing and unexpected things but one of the most pleasant ones will surely be the parks of Beijing.

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Beijing Opera

One of the things you should do during your China trip is going to the opera, and if you are travelling to Beijing then it’s a Must, because Beijing’s opera is considered the best Chinese opera style, and it’s also the most popular among Chinese people. Inspired by ancient Chinese legends, these operas normally are […]

One of the things you should do during your China trip is going to the opera, and if you are travelling to Beijing then it’s a Must, because Beijing’s opera is considered the best Chinese opera style, and it’s also the most popular among Chinese people.

Inspired by ancient Chinese legends, these operas normally are about intrigues, disasters or rebellions but they are not big productions or have elaborated scenery and special effects, quite the contrary.

In fact, you have to be very perceptive to know what is happening, for example if the actor holds two silk laces it means that he is riding a horse, if he lifts a foot that he crosses a door, and as they use little props, the facial expressions and their movements are very important.

They wear very colorful clothes and elaborated make-up and they play very loud (so loud that you should consider wearing earplugs) because in the ancient times they played in the middle of the street and they had to catch everyone’s attention so they developed a very loud style of singing and music.

Every opera has a group of music players and they play different instruments, the èrhú and the húqin, a violin and viola but with only two strings, the shēng, a reed flute, and a pípa, a kind of lute. The most important instrument is the ban for it controls the timing for both, the music and the actors.

But besides singing and playing music the Beijing opera is famous for its acrobatics and mime, the battle scenes are very attractive and the warrior women make very elaborate twirls so it’s always good to be paying attention to these scenes.

There are different kinds of characters in these operas but you can divide them in four big types:

  • The Shēng, the main male characters, they can be divided in Laoshēng,  ancient males  that always  have beards, the Shiăoshiēng, young males, the Wénshēng, students and servants and the Wushēng,  soldiers.
  • The dàn are the feminine roles, the Laodàn are elderly ladies, the Qīngyī are aristocrats with elaborate dresses, the Huādàn are female servants, the Dăomădan are  warrior women and the Căidàn are female comedians.
  •  The Jìng are the heroes and demons with painted faces, they are always strong and brave characters and the fújìng are their counterpart, ridiculous and weak figures.
  • The Chou are male comedians, buffoons.

All in all, if you want to have a good time you should go to an opera and, as they are very long, you can look at what other people are doing if you get bored, that is a show in itself because they eat, talk and drink tea, things that are not disrespectful because the music is so loud that you will hear it perfectly.

Going to an opera in Beijing is an experience that you can’t miss so, during your Beijing trip; make sure to go at least one time to an opera!

A Palace Playground

Would you rather live in a castle by the sea or a castle by a lake? I always thought I would want to live in a castle by the sea however, upon visiting the Summer Palace in Beijing I am thinking to changing my dream to a castle by a lake. The Summer Palace in […]

Would you rather live in a castle by the sea or a castle by a lake? I always thought I would want to live in a castle by the sea however, upon visiting the Summer Palace in Beijing I am thinking to changing my dream to a castle by a lake. The Summer Palace in Chinese is translated to Gardens of Nurtured Harmony and it could not be given a more perfect name. The summer palace is located in the far northwest of Beijing and it was well worth the taxi ride across town and the 30rmb entrance fee.  It is one of the most popular China travel destinations so be ready to fight for photos in some areas. But don’t let other tourist scare you off the summer palace is huge covering 2.9 kilometers of mountainous terrain that is mostly man made! So there is plenty of room to just hang out and enjoy the beauty of this place considering how natural it looks. Or if you are like me there is plenty of room to run around and climb up the hills, rocks and maybe one or two of the buildings for candid photos. It is one of the longest Beijing tours though so bring walking shoes, I had flip flips and I am regretting it today after the hundreds of stair I ended up treading upon. I am told by my friends that the walk we did at the summer palace is second in line to the Great Wall, if that is any indication of how large this park is.

Thankfully the summer palace is next to Kunming Lake which is a refreshing place to take a boat ride or just hang out and eat some ice cream by the water. On the tallest hill by the Temple of Buddhist Virtues is also a great place to take a break and stare out at the city of Beijing. You can even get ice-cream here, don’t ask me how the vendors get it up I could barley carry myself up this steep hill. And if you like art there are also artists at the top of this hill who will draw out your name on paper for 10rmb. The artists are my favorite because they know a bit of English and like to make jokes. For example I said to the one who drew my friends name “This is very beautiful”. She quickly replied “No bamboo E is strength not beautiful, O is Mickey Mouse means money this is beautiful”.  The people you will meet here and the beauty of this hidden palace is well worth the trip but don’t do it right after your Beijing flights land in the afternoon because it is a day trip in itself. Oh and if possible bring extra batteries there are so many photos to take my camera ran out 4 hours in. “Of journeying the benefits are many: the freshness it bringeth to the heart, the seeing and hearing of marvelous things, the delight of beholding new cities, the meeting of unknown friends, and the learning of high manners.” – Muslih-uddin Sadi

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