Friday, December 09, 2005


Badaling and Mutianyu are two sections of the Wall popular with big tour groups. They are crowded, the Wall has been restored, and there are souvenir stands everywhere. Other sections, such as Simatai and Jinshanling, have not been restored and the big tour buses don't go there. You usually have to arrange your own transport to these sections, but lots of young foreigners do it. I rec Simatai, Jinshanling, or similar sections. The Wall is crumbling, there are few annoying souvenir touts, and it's quiet. I went to Simatai a few years ago and I was the only one there. With the surrounding mountains, the silence was fantastic.Forbidden City and Summer Palace are worth doing, plus Tiananmen Square... you could go see Mao's body, too, which I haven't actually done yet. Highly suggest renting some bicycles and spending a few hours biking around the hutong, which are a maze of alleys that form the heart of the city. Lots of old courtyard homes through there, really nice. Otherwise, the government has been doing a great job of destroying anything of historical or aesthetic value in the name of progress (a common lament among expats here). But the old core generally remains. It's also a great city for cycling, cuz it's flat and there are wide bicycle lanes.There's a mosque in the heart of the Muslim community that might be worth checking out, but it's under scaffolding at the moment so I haven't seen it. The Yong He Gong Tibetan Buddhist Lamasery is pretty cool -- doesn't compare to anything in or near Tibet, and it's touristy, but it's a colourful temple and worth seeing when you are here. You can hear the monks chanting, which is kinda cool, and there are some nice Buddhas.Silk Alley Market is really good for cheap, fake designer brands. Set aside money for clothes, pirate DVDs, stuff like that because it is DIRT cheap. Don't leave empty-handed if you can avoid it. Everything there is cheap, but you gotta bargain.>Can you suggest restaurants that we can >visit while we are there?There are restaurants EVERYWHERE. Houhai Lake has some nice bars and restaurants. You should have duck while you're here -- Quanjude is the famous place for that. And the night market in Wangfujing is worth seeing for all the fried insects, snakes and scorpions on sale. Yummy.


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