Beijing: Park-life

On May 15, 2012, in Beijing, Nature Scenery, Parks & Gardens, by Jack Li

In spite of the ‘urban jungle’ feel, travel to Beijing and there are plenty pockets of peace in which to relax with the city being home to numerous parks of all shapes and sizes. By Beijing’s very nature, I have found it to have a strong sense of community with can be observed in the […]

In spite of the ‘urban jungle’ feel, travel to Beijing and there are plenty pockets of peace in which to relax with the city being home to numerous parks of all shapes and sizes. By Beijing’s very nature, I have found it to have a strong sense of community with can be observed in the city’s parks. It is unlikely that Beijing tours will operate in these recreational areas, but hopefully this article will create a convincing argument for this purpose.

Beijingers are like any city-folk who live in high-rise apartments, enjoy escaping to green open spaces. In some respects, park-life in Beijing appears very similar to life in any western park such as London’s Hyde Park or Central Park in New York with a comparable layout.  Even the petite type of dogs found throughout the city seemingly reflects the style of the urban dwelling accommodation. Yuyuantan Park, (over the river from Beijing’s Millennium Monument) exemplifies the universal character of a park the world over. The park is full of neat pathways cutting through the enormity of the place, people can be found fishing (and even swimming!) along the river, youth group singing ‘Light Up’ by Snow Patrol, kids skating and risking their safety with ever more daring tricks and families are just doing what they do. So are there any significant cultural differences with park-life in Beijing to, for example, western cities – what makes them special? Of course, I would hope so; this is China, filled with a rich customs and tradition…

As mentioned before, there is a strong sense of community, and this is evident with the amount of activity in the parks. Group dancing and singing, for instance, are some activities which simply marvellous to watch. Furthermore, the best thing is, many of these activities are open for all. When I visited Jingshan Park one Sunday afternoon, the place was beaming with life. Meander down from the top of the hill here, and you expect to find of choir groups singing joyfully even to the point where they could be competing with one another. Moving right to ground level at Jingshan, I was absolutely amazed at the large mass of people dancing to traditional songs. Paradoxically, I was unsure whether the dance was spontaneous or organized as the synchronicity was superb (well, bar one foreign chap; who, give him his due, was trying his best). Moreover, it seems as if anybody can join in on the dance and just follow the leader. Apart from song and dance, there was also a peculiar performance occurring in Jingshan in which a large crowd was gathering around. I later discovered this was a comic show with part of the act comprising of man and woman pretending to play out a bull fight!

Each park I have visited has demonstrated a cross-section of society having fun. One of the most fascinating and enthralling games which I have seen in the parks is Jianzi (or Chinese hacky sack), which is akin to volleying a shuttle amongst players. What’s great is that I often see the young (and seniors) play the game with the utmost skill – after trying this game myself, I can assure you that it is not an easy! While other characteristic aspects to be found in the parks include flying quintessential Chinese kites, Tai Chi, Cherry Gardens and pavilions (in Yuyuantan) and people practising on their personal karaoke set. All in all, wherever your Beijing hotels are located, you will not be far from a park teeming with local culture.

 

 

Wudaoying Hutong Cafes

On April 27, 2012, in Beijing, China Travel Gossip, More Places of Interest, by Jack Li

Hutongs are excellent places to see the city’s old streets if you travel to Beijing with some superb Beijing tours operating in and around different hutongs. Stepping off the subway at Yonghegong Lama Temple tourists will encounter over the road from the temple, a maze of amazing (pun intended) cafes in the Wudaoying Hutong. This […]

Hutongs are excellent places to see the city’s old streets if you travel to Beijing with some superb Beijing tours operating in and around different hutongs. Stepping off the subway at Yonghegong Lama Temple tourists will encounter over the road from the temple, a maze of amazing (pun intended) cafes in the Wudaoying Hutong. This hutong is recognizable with its large gate and is the ideal place to have a beverage if you want to waken your senses in this transcendent location.

Sirena Bar is simply complements the alternative and recently regenerated nature of the hutong. Influenced by the Japanese ‘Hello Kitty’ franchise, Beijing has leapt on board to embrace the feline variety. The owners of the cafes have been successful with their venture with the café going from strength to strength with the café currently home to nine cats. Customers can choose to sit near the bar where it is likely you can spot a silky-smooth Siamese cat perched on rest. Yet, if in a small party, you could always hide on the couches upstairs which is pleasantly lit by natural light. The cats are supposedly kept away from the kitchen area for hygiene reasons, but because the cats generally lounge freely in the café, if you have an allergy towards cats, this place may not be ideal.

Sirena’s somewhat Mediterranean appearance with white walls and blue fittings gives the feeling of being in a quaint village which it a wonderful contrast to the hutong outside. The cafes along Wudaoying Hutong are definitely special in how they all have a unique presence. In contrast to Sirena’s bright façade, a few doors away is a bar with has a dark vampire theme with blood-entitled cocktails. If you like the sounds Sirena Bar’s appearance (but you are not a fan of cats), then Sand Pebbles Lounge is might appeal. This fresh-looking café serves Mexican/American-style food with a refreshing seaside décor to match which is quite a change from Chinese cuisine or fast-food joints.

Wudaoying Hutong does have a few eating places, although surrounding areas might be best if you are looking for cheaper and more localized dishes. Recommendations down the hutong include; the Vineyard, The Veggie Table and the V.A. (‘vanguard’) Bar. The only thing truly in common with these establishments is the letter ‘v’; apart that they all provide express their distinct vibes – The Vineyard with its romantic air, The Veggie Table for those who like their greens and the VA for its jazz music.

Due to the casual atmosphere of the Wudaoying Hutong, this unsurprisingly attracts many liberal-minded individuals and or backpackers. Thus logic follows this, and there are subsequently quite a few hostels to be found around the hutong. The Confucius International Youth Hostel is situated on Wudaoying Hutong and the Lama Temple International Youth Hostel is close by. Another option is to have a read of the Beijing hotels listings for those who prefer a little extra comfort and privacy.

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The National Art Museum of China

On April 24, 2012, in Beijing, China Attractions, Museums, by Jack Li

All people who travel have different plans, interests and expectations. Still, when you travel to Beijing few people will leave out famous Wangfujing Street on their Beijing tours. So if you’re interested in culture and contemporary art the National Art Museum of China (NAMOC) is a great place to visit on the same day because […]

All people who travel have different plans, interests and expectations. Still, when you travel to Beijing few people will leave out famous Wangfujing Street on their Beijing tours. So if you’re interested in culture and contemporary art the National Art Museum of China (NAMOC) is a great place to visit on the same day because it’s located right at the north end of Wangfujing Street. There is no general entrance fee; you just need to present your passport at the ticket booth. Depending on the temporary exhibitions there might be an extra fee but that’s not generally the case. At the entrance desk you can also leave bags and jackets without paying a fee.

The museum was built in 1959 for the tenth anniversary of the People’s Republic of China. It was finally completed and opened to the public in 1962. Since then the institution has been a center for research and exhibition and is the most important institute for art in China. It displays mainly modern and contemporary art works by national artist, not only paintings but also photographs, calligraphy, printing art, ceramics and sculptures. Occasionally, pieces of art from abroad are displayed and there have also been numerous international exhibitions.

The main body of the gallery is built in the style of a traditional Chinese pavilion with a roof out of yellow tiles and a title board at the entrance gate which was inscribed by Mao Zedong. The inside of the building is very modern and equipped with the newest technologies after undergoing major renovation in 2002/2003. The museum consists of three main exhibition floors, the first, third and fifth floor with high ceilings leaving enough space even for very large paintings. There are 17 exhibition halls covering a total area of 8,300 square meters.

Visitors hoping to learn about the development of Chinese art in the past centuries won’t find a lot of information about it. This might come as a surprise to some so it’s always a good advice to check out the gallery’s homepage to find out about the current exhibitions. Some are only displayed for no longer than a week and others last up to a month but rarely longer than that. But therefore the temporary exhibitions with works of renowned Chinese artists are hard to find in other places, especially in such dimensions. Moreover, the changing themes and pieces of art also keep it interesting for local visitors.

For people interested in art and especially in contemporary art this place is worth a visit although it helps to know in advance what to expect. And to find out more about Chinese culture and history there is more than enough opportunity to learn when going on China tours. In all bigger cities there are definitely numerous museums and exhibitions for all kinds of interests.

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The Smell of Incenses

On April 6, 2012, in Beijing, Cultural Experience, Temples, by Jack Li

You can’t travel to Beijing without seeing and visiting one of the many Buddhist temples which can be found in the city and all over the country. They are an important element of many Beijing tours. Many of them are not only architectural masterpieces but also an important part of China’s history and culture. With about 50 – […]

You can’t travel to Beijing without seeing and visiting one of the many Buddhist temples which can be found in the city and all over the country. They are an important element of many Beijing tours. Many of them are not only architectural masterpieces but also an important part of China’s history and culture. With about 50 – 80 % of the population practicing this religion Buddhism is still the dominant faith in China today.

One of the most beautiful and famous temples in Beijing is the Yonghegong Lama Temple in the northeast of the city. It’s one of the largest monasteries in the world and not only visited by foreign tourists but mainly by Chinese people. For that reason it’s pretty crowded on a holiday what I personally liked because it’s full of people praying and burning incenses. That way you feel the spirituality of this place and the smell of the incenses really contributes to this special feeling.

The impressive artwork of all the smaller and bigger halls and pavilions is a combination of different architectural styles of the Han, the Mandschu, the Mongolian and the Tibetan. This place was initially built in the early Qing dynasty, in 1694, as a residence for the emperor Yongzheng. Only in 1744 it became the national center for lama administration.

At the entrance there is a big map where you can see the outline of the place and you’ll realize that the whole temple is built symmetrically. In the center there are five main halls and by walking through the first you will get to the next one that is a little bigger than the one before.

After the Hall of the Heavenly Kings comes the second one, called The Hall of Harmony and Peace which contains the three statues of Sakyamuni (Buddha of the Present), Kasyapa Matanga (Buddhist of the Past) and Maitreya (Buddha of the Future). Moreover, it holds an original copper cooking vessel from 1747, a very unique relic.

The Hall of Everlasting Blessings which is the next building used to be the residence of the Emperor in earlier times. The fourth hall is called Hall of the Dharma Wheel and is the place where lamas hold ceremonies. The last pavilion, which is also the biggest one, is the Pavilion of Infinite Happiness. Inside you’ll find the huge statue of Maitreya with a height of 85 feet (26 meters). It’s really impressive to be standing at the bottom of this statue which reaches all the way up to the roof of the three-storey building. It is carved out of a single piece of white sandal wood.

You can easily get to this temple by subway. Just take line number 2 to Yonghegong station which is right next to the temple although you have to walk half way around it to get to the entrance.

Anyone really interested in experiencing the Tibetan Buddhism should nevertheless travel to Tibet. It’s worth a trip especially since the flights are affordable and you can book Tibet tours with a complete program so that you won’t miss any of the must-sees in that area.

Browsing Beijing

On April 6, 2012, in Beijing, Restaurants, Shopping, by Jack Li

Before jetting-off on holiday, it is well worth considering visiting Beijing with many of the great China Flights to choose from. Most visitors who travel to Beijing will probably visit the sights such as The Forbidden City, Temple of Heaven and Summer Palace. Yet walk through the Beijing Gates, off Tiananmen Square, and surround yourself […]

Before jetting-off on holiday, it is well worth considering visiting Beijing with many of the great China Flights to choose from. Most visitors who travel to Beijing will probably visit the sights such as The Forbidden City, Temple of Heaven and Summer Palace. Yet walk through the Beijing Gates, off Tiananmen Square, and surround yourself with the very best of what local Beijing has to offer. Here is where visitors can walk the main pedestrianized street called Qianmen Dajie which is set to resemble the late Qing-dynasty. One way in which to reach Qianmen Dajie is to travel by line 2 on the subway to Qianmen station.

Branching off from Qianmen Dajie, visitors can explore the many connecting hutongs at their leisure. Steeped in at least 500 years of history, this area exhibits a blend of old and new Beijing. For example, you could either choose from the selection of traditional teas from Zhangyiyuan Tea Shop, or go to Starbucks if you prefer. Needless to say, regardless of what the shops are trading, all the buildings appear in the glorious style of the old city.

There are many eating places in which to dine. Established in 1864, the Quanjude Roast Duck Restaurant is undoubtedly the
most famous eating place along Qianmen Dajie. Without doubt, Qianmen Dajie and the nearby hutongs symbolise a vibrant mix of Chinese tradition and the city’s cosmopolitan nature. Other recognised dining experiences, for instance, include the Yitiaolong restaurant, an authentic Muslim restaurant which typically sells mutton. Alternatively, you do not need to travel far to discover a store selling beautiful Tibetan artwork.

Qianmen Dajie is not totally pedestrianized, as a visitor you may like to experience a ride on the street’s two trams. Since 2008, these trams have been restored and are now in operation after over forty years out of service. The main street of Qianmen Dajie is spacious, lively and family-friendly. Street sellers, for example, can be seen selling toy birds and many other quintessentially Chinese gadgets.

Some of the abovementioned attractions may be more expensive than other parts of the city, but nevertheless these are unique to Beijing. The more curious traveller can venture towards the hutongs surrounding Qianmen Dajie where you can find plenty of stalls, all shapes and sizes, to buy souvenirs. Unlike the larger stalls on Qianmen Dajie, the advantage of the hutongs is that you will able to haggle and discover some fascinating souvenirs at a lower price. Furthermore, if you are a keen shopper, you might like to try some of the famous clothing shops around the hutongs such as Beijing Silk Shop, Neiliansheng Shoeshop or Liulichang amongst others.

Indeed, for the backpacker-types there are hostels in the hutongs such as Helen’s café where many westerners can be found, which may be of interest. That said, accommodation in the city is altogether plentiful, and there are many superb Beijing Hotels.

Ice Hockey A Hit in Beijing

On August 31, 2011, in Activities, Beijing, Entertainment, Featured China Stories, by Jack Li

When one thinks of the sports in which China excels, swimming, gymnastics or track and field usually come to mind. But ice hockey? While the sport may not have as big a following as soccer or basketball, there are an increasing number of youngsters who are learning about slap shots, hat tricks and teamwork.   […]

When one thinks of the sports in which China excels, swimming, gymnastics or track and field usually come to mind. But ice hockey? While the sport may not have as big a following as soccer or basketball, there are an increasing number of youngsters who are learning about slap shots, hat tricks and teamwork.

 

Flying Tigers

Nestled in a newly built neighborhood on the northwest side of Beijing, high up on the fourth floor of a massive shopping complex, is one of this city’s newest ice rinks. It is also the site of an ice hockey camp for young, talented players.

For several weeks last month, the Flying Tigers hosted a summer camp for these young players. Most were from Beijing, but some came from as far away as HongKong and the northeastern province of Heilongjiang.

“Initially coming to China where hockey isn’t their main focus, I was very impressed with the skill level of the kids right from the 04-05s, right up to the big kids,” said Kevin Masters, one of several coaches flown in from Canada. “The specifics of the skating and the individual type skills are absolutely comparable to what we see back home in Canada.”
Supportive parents

And where there is ice hockey – a sport that requires a lot of time and money – there are always ice hockey parents cheering their kids on and giving pointers.

“When my son started playing ice hockey, we had just seen the movie Transformers and he thought goalies look like Transformers with all of their pads on and because of that it was his favorite position,” said Zhou Jianwei, whose eight-year-old son is a goalie.  Zhou says that in China, where many families have only one child, his son is learning more than just a sport.

“Many kids [in China] lack a sense of teamwork and what it means to work hard for what they want to get because their parents have taken care of everything for them. But since he’s started playing ice hockey, he’s slowly begun to understand how to work together with his teammates to accomplish a goal and gained a sense of how [in society] people need to help one another to get things done,” Zhou said.

China’s colder northeast provinces are largely considered the home of ice hockey in the country. And, a large majority of the players on China’s national ice hockey team grew up there.
New ice rinks

Now, with new rinks in Beijing, that is starting to change. Local hockey organizers note that the number of U16 or 16 year-old ice hockey players in Beijing is likely to surpass the number of players in the northeast in the next season or two.

The reasons, they say, are because more families in Beijing can afford ice hockey, which is an expensive sport, and because the northeast is opening up to other sports, which is taking players away from the ice.

Cao Zhennan says her father played hockey while growing up in the northeast and helped to get her son interested.  She says the lessons her son learns from ice hockey far outweigh any future prospect of making the national team or playing more competitively.

“Ice hockey is a fast and physical sport, it’s a really a fun sport,” Cao said. “On top of that, he’s a boy and we got into the sport hoping it would help him become more courageous. It (ice hockey) also gets more interesting as the kids learn how to work together and make a lot of new friends.”

Charlie, an 11-year-old, who plays right wing, says his friend Abiyasi got him interested in the sport a year-and-a-half ago. Charlie says the sport has other benefits besides keeping him away from computer games.

“I think it’s fun. It’s good for my health and it’s not boring!” Charlie said.

 

More teams

Mark Simon, vice president and head coach of the Beijing Imperial Guard Hockey Club, one of several teams in the Beijing Junior Hockey League, says team rosters have been growing in recent years.

“A group of us, our club and a few others started a league in 2008 and 2009 with four teams, which included about 50-60 players,” Simon said. “Now, last season in 10-11, we had about 25 teams, so about 300 players, 300-350.”

Simon, an ex-banker from Montreal who started playing ice hockey at the age of five, says he left his gear in Canada when he first came to China. Several years later, he works for a company that builds rinks in Asia.

He says that as far as Asian cities go, Beijing is quite spoiled.

“To have four full ice sheets is quite rare,” noted Simon. “And that is one of the reasons ice hockey is growing here a lot more quickly than in places like Hong Kong. Hong Kong has got a huge hockey following, a lot of kids playing, but they are very limited by the number of ice surfaces they have.”

 

Just getting started

Lane Moore, another coach who is helping out at the Flying Tigers camp, says ice hockey is just getting started in Beijing.

“With their development of new rinks, new ice surfaces, the numbers in Beijing are going through the roof and I am hearing in Shanghai it is the same way and I just think the potential for ice hockey in China is going to keep going,” Moore said.

Both he and Kevin Masters say they never expected to be running an ice hockey camp in China, and certainly not on the fourth floor of a shopping mall. But they say the publicity from curious shoppers helps build interest in a sport that they say is quickly on its way from a novelty to the mainstream.

 

This article is from VOA.

About VOA:The Voice of America (VOA) is an international multimedia broadcasting service from the U.S.A. with news and information in more than 40 languages. VOAMobile provides easy access to the day’s top stories. For in-depth news visit us at VOANews.com.

 

What A China Travel Map Should Like

On September 29, 2010, in Beijing, China Travel Gossip, Cool Places, Tips & Ideas, by Jack Li

If you want to make the China Tours, and you have not any clue about it, then you will need to check out the China travel map. I’m sure about it will help you to travel to China, especially Travel to Beijing a lot. China is a country with vast territory and rich resources. It […]

If you want to make the China Tours, and you have not any clue about it, then you will need to check out the China travel map. I’m sure about it will help you to travel to China, especially Travel to Beijing a lot.

China is a country with vast territory and rich resources. It has 9.6 million square kilometers territory and 2.997 million square kilometers maritime territory. If we put it on a paper, the outline of China looks just like a giant grand rooster. If we fill the plateaus, plains, mountains, rivers, lakes, seas, roads, railways in the giant grand rooster then mark the cities, towns, and countryside; I think it even can be used as a map of China. But what does the China travel map which we talk about today looks like? Is it the same as a regular map of China? The answer is very clear, they are completely different. Now I will show you what a china travel map should like.

Before I explain it in detail, I want to ask you a question. What does the word “travel” mean? In the Oxford Dictionary of English, it was explained as the meaning of make a journey, typically of some length journey along (a road) or through (a region) withstand a journey without illness or impairment ,be successful away from the place of origin. For this, what I understand this word is t not only move from one place to another place simply, but it has the meaning of know a place deeply even if comprehend it as well. In another words travel include move, visit, tour even include hike and explore. So the China travel map must contains the information which we need when we travel to some places. What information should in it? Hotel information? Traffic information? Or ticket service? I believe it is necessary of all of those in it. Because if you want to know the information you don’t have to buy a so-called China Travel Map, you can easily know it by make a telephone call to 12580. I feel the China Travel Map that it should be some valuable information. The valuable information involves the origin, history, culture, myth of a place. Ok, I’ll give some examples of Beijing, for this you can experience the China Travel Map vividly.

Most of foreigners are interested in Beijing Hutong. But few people know about why it called Hutong. Even a great many of Chinese people doesn’t know it. Hutong originated in Yuan Dynasty. Beijing is the capital of Yuan Dynasty. Hutong is a word of Mongolian. Its meaning is a well. At that time a well is also a place which neighbors meet frequently. People always chat near the well, for this a well is a sociable place. Now we always see some Beijing native people who live in Hutong chat together after supper in the Hutong in every summer night, therefore we can easily understand why it named Hutong.

Tell you a Myth. Do you know Beixinqiao? Beixinqiao is a place near Houhai (most of foreigners in Beijing know it). In Chinese bei means north, xin means new and qiao means bridge. Exactly! Beixinqiao means “north new bridge”. But why it call new bridge rather than old bridge? There is an interesting myth. At the early time of Beijing was built up, that place which we call it Beixinqiao always flood. The designers of Beijing city found that there is a water monster in that place. Then they caught it and locked it in a well. When the water monster asks the designers what time they could release him. At that time there is a bridge near the well, the designer answered him “when the bridge become old you will be free”. Then the designer named the bridge “new bridge”, which means it will never become old.

Do you think what I told you above are really interesting? I’m sure your answer is yes. If a map with more information like this, I believe that your curiosity can makes you travel to there and you can engage in your travelling, you can even obtain more knowledge that others do not know. Who don’t want to have such a travel? All in all, the china travel map I describe is a map can cause your curiosity and give you more knowledge. Now you can know what should a China travel map like? Now go make the Beijing Tours!

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A Day In the Life of Beijing: A Journey Through Pictures

On September 15, 2010, in Cultural Experience, by Jack Li

From sunrise to sundown there is always something happening on the bustling streets of Beijing. Grab some breakfast at Breadtalk, a delicious bakery with outlets across the city or invest in some Chinese tea to kick start your day. Watch the dawn flag raising at Tienanmen Square or join the locals for a spot of […]

Sunrise at seventeen arch bridge, Summer Palace

From sunrise to sundown there is always something happening on the bustling streets of Beijing. Grab some breakfast at Breadtalk, a delicious bakery with outlets across the city or invest in some Chinese tea to kick start your day. Watch the dawn flag raising at Tienanmen Square or join the locals for a spot of taichi at one of the city parks. The Temple of Heaven is a great spot to engage in some early morning exercise.

Following your early morning adventures hit the tourist trail and discover some of China’s most iconic sights, from the Forbidden City to The Great Wall you won’t be disappointed with the choice and diversity of Beijing.

The Forbidden City

The Great Wall

For lunch try The Schoolhouse at the Mutianya Great Wall for wholesome fresh produce to fuel your climb or Da Dong Roast Duck restaurant in the city to try arguable China’s most famous dish. Peking duck. On your return from exploring head to Houhai to enjoy some drinks and dinner by the lake and watch the sun disappear behind the lake.

Evening at Houhai

HHead to the Park Hyatt Hotel in China World Trade Centre Tower for a Nightcap and watch Beijing sparkle below from the floor to ceiling windows or for the more adventurous head to the Workers Stadium and experiance Beijing nightlife at its best in one of the many bars and clubs surrounding the venue. A perfect day in a vibrant city.

Beijing at Night

To experience 24 hours in Beijing for yourself contact China Travel Depot or for more travel inspiration check out China Travel Depot’s online guide

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