If you only visit one city in China, it is likely to be Beijing, at the start or end of your Trans-Siberian trip. And so it should be as the Nortern Capital 北京 (Bei Jing) has some of China's best attractions and gives you a real insight into the modern and cultural development of China. Apart from the obvious; Tian'anmen Sqaure, Forbidden City (see official website here), Mao's Mausoleom [wiki website]. Tick off Mao, then Lenin at the other end of the Trans-Siberian and Ho Chi Minh in Hanoi to have all three!
But there are some less obvious highlights - apart from visiting us caged Monkeys! The Lama Temple is excellent if you are not planning a trip to Tibet and has strong connections with Mongolia. Enjoy watching the locals practising Tai Chi or singing in the Temple of Heaven. The hidden Hutongs of Beijing are fast disapearing but the few which have been protected give an eye in to China past, with locals on bikes (the alleys are often too narrow for cars), playing Chinese chess or discussing politics and dinner options, with some fashionable streets hidden amongst them all, such as Nanlougou Xiang (南罗国祥) and Wudaoying Hutong (五道营胡同).
And of course The Great Wall. A great and slightly different option is to travel there by sidecar, Beijing Sideways offer tours to some great sections of the Great Wall, but also shorter trips around the old hutongs of Beijing. Not really an option during the long cold winter however!
Wiki Travel has an excellent section on the Arts, Shops, Restaurants of Chaoyang District.
Beijing is much larger than it looks on the map, and walking is generally not a good idea except around Tiananmen, or if you want to get lost around the older hutongs of Beijing. Buses are crowded and difficult to navigate.
The metro is quite useful for most tourist spots, especially since more lines were added in 2008. The best tip we can give is to carry a good, bi-lingual map of the city, available from tourist centres across the city for a small price. Second best tip is to buy a prepaid as soon as possible to avoid having to queue up each time.
Third best tip, realise taxis are cheap and except the ones that hassle you around tourist spots are honest – hail a passing cab and insist on the meter. Flag fall is 12 RMB and then 2 RMB per km after the first 4km. You need to know where you are going (preferably written down in Chinese). The downfall of travelling by taxi, it is often hard to hail a passing cab and when on the roads, the traffic jams can be ubearable. Consider walking if it's less than a few miles down the road!
The bus system is complicated and it helps if you can speak some Chinese to use it, but if you want to get close with the locals, this site is a must to help find your way around, Beijing Bus and yes, it is in English (the Olympics have left a lasting legacy!).
If you will travel extensively on the subway and bus system an IC Card (oyster / octopus card), is the way forward. Easiest to buy from a subway station, for a small deposit.
See the specific page for Beijing Accommodation options that we can book for our Transsiberian customers.
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