Terrific Trips: Places to go in and around Beijing

Even though the exams were taking up quite a bit of my time during the past weeks, I still managed to make some short, but interesting day trips in and around Beijing. One reason was my brother who came and visited me. Of course we toured main sights, like Tian’anmen (天安门), the Palace Museum (故宫), the Palace of Heaven (天坛) and made a day trip to the Great Wall to Jinshanling. From there we walked to wall to Simatai, a nice walk although a little bit challenging because it was constantly going up and down and the sun was burning. However, tourist were few because we did not go on the weekend.

Tiantan - Temple of Heaven in Beijing
Tiantan – Temple of Heaven

The trip to the Lama Temple, a temple built in Tibetan style, that this has a quite active community, it definitely worth a visit. The neighboring Confucian Temple can be left out, as it is renovated at present and one cannot go into one single hall. The architecture, that is typical for Confucian temples (made after the “original temple” in Qufu) can be seen, but without being able to enter the halls should better tour the Hutong streets that are also in this area.

Pavilion in the Fenghuangling area
Small pavilion in the Fenghuangling area

I also went to some places near Beijing: A little while ago we toured two temples with our school, Tanzhesi and Jietaisi. The temples are one of the oldest in the Beijing area, and the later one also has an interesting section with old stones, see a picture taken by Chris.
Another location not directly in the center of Beijing was Fenghuangling (凤凰岭), a park in the hills outside of Beijing. After a 30-plus-kilometer bus ride, one gets to the park where temples, little pavilions and great view were the reward for the climb in the burning sun. We first heard of this place in the Insider’s Guide to Beijing, a book worth buying if one stays in Beijing for a longer period of time.

An interesting walking path to the temples and pavilions in the Fenghuangling area.

Other one-day trips included the 798 art district in Dashanzi, the Botanical Garden and Beijing Zoo. The Botanical Garden was very nice to talk a walk, however, at the time I went, there were not a great deal of flowers blooming. From Westerner’s eyes, the Beijing Zoo might be considered as a prison, especially the cages for lions and tigers are very small. In the reptile area I even spotted a poisonous, green Bamboo Snake (I forgot the exact name) that I had seen in Taiwan – not in a zoo, but crossing my way in a nature resort.

Lion cage in Beijing zoo
Lion in its small cage at Beijing Zoo

After my exams were over, I still had some days left in Beijing that were filled with paperwork (buying train tickets sometimes can be annoying), preparations for my “Tour de Chine” that will start today and saying good-bye to friends. But I also had time to travel in Inner Mongolia and did some short trips in Beijing: I went to Lugouqiao (卢沟桥) and Yuanmingyuan (圆明园) and the Capital Museum.
Lugouqiao, better known as Marco Polo bridge, it not bad, the 485 stone lions on the bridge are each unique and the old bridge was already praised by Marco Polo in his travel reports. However, as the Marco Polo Bridge Incident was subject in our history class, I decided to go. I did not go in the memorial park for the war against Japan but had a quick look at the city wall in this area instead.

Marco Polo Bridge in the south east of Beijing
Stone lions on the Marco Polo Bridge in Beijing

I could not have left Beijing without seeing Yuanmingyuan, also known as Old Summer Palace, because it is just opposite of Beijing University. But I am glad that I did not go earlier, because at this time of the year, there are a lot of lotus flowers (荷花) blooming in the lakes of the park. On the downside, this makes it one of the tourist attraction that is not missed by the stream of Chinese spending their summer holidays in the capital.

Lotus flowers in Yuanmingyuan (Old Summer Palace)
Lotus flowers in Yuanmingyuan (Old Summer Palace)

The Capital Museum is worth going only because of it’s architecture. There is a huge hall inside and the stairways are very interesting. It features a lot of exhibitions, but as I only had time to spend half a day there, I just saw a temporary exhibition, the part about old customs in Beijing and some Buddha statues from different eras that were found in and around Beijing.

Beijing Capital Museum
Beijing Capital Museum

While going to these places I got familiar with the transportation system. Actually it is not as difficult as I first thought it would be when I arrived in Beijing. A Chinese friend told me to use a web page to look up bus lines in Beijing – much easier than searching a map were hundreds of bus lines and thousands of bus stops are marked. I sometimes have the feeling that I better understand the directions than some Chinese – when going with Chinese friends, they sometimes don’t know which direction is the right one… However it is usually no problem to ask someone at the bus stop to help you.


One Response to “Terrific Trips: Places to go in and around Beijing”

  1. Sherry Says:

    hey,there. Find your website through the internet.well,cut in short. i wanna find someone who can help with my English speaking and also i can give him or her a hand with Chinese. u r in Peking uiniversty ,right? my working place is just outside it ,near the east gate.
    so, if you have any interest ,pls contact me . my msn :sherryhjh@hotmail.com

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