Saturday, April 4, 2015

Beijing Exploration

Beijing is one of the most famous tourist destination in the world! It is the home for the Great Wall which we have conquered here but there is much more to do in Beijing aside from climbing the Great Wall. These are places seen normally in history channels that people all around China and around the World come to visit. However, with it's fame also comes several challenges such as fighting through the crowds of people in each destination while battling air pollution. But the biggest challenge for us was surviving the language barrier! Many people warned us on this and recommended getting 1 day tour guide which we decided not to follow because of our principles of being a budget traveler. But nonetheless, we survived exploring Beijing!

Here's a guide on to explore the city of Beijing and tips on how to overcome the language barrier:
1. Tiananmen Square and Forbidden City:
Often shown in History Channel, this is where you can see the world's largest public square and it is also the home to the Great Mao Zedong's Memorial Hall. You can also see several historical buildings and it's definitely a must visit for people who have great appreciation of Chinese culture. However, don't expect to see or do much here as what you see in pictures is what you get which is why we decided not to enter Forbidden City anymore.

How to get there?
Ride the MRT and alight at Tiananmen East Station (MRT Line 1).
Look for Exit B and ask for the entrance of Tiananmen Square (bring translation in Chinese Character).
Expect heavy lines in the entrance with rude people trying to cut you off! There is no ticketing booth here outside of the Tiananmen Square, the line is caused by security checkpoints. I highly advice you to go there early to avoid the long lines as we went there in the afternoon. Keep in mind that they are open only from 7:30 am to 5 pm.
2. Temple of Heaven
It's literally called the Altar of Heaven. It's a religious building that has been visited by emperors in the past for prayer to Heaven for good harvest. Similar to Tiananmen Square, what you see in the photo below is all that you'll see. But the structure itself looks great and you can drop by for a prayer into Heaven.
How to get there?
Ride the MRT and alight at Tiantandongmen Station (MRT line 5). Go to Exit A.
You will see this sign as you exit, then follow the arrow or turn right.
Ticket price for the park is 10 CNY or 60 PHP for each person. You will need to pay additional 20 CNY as you enter the park for the Temple of Heaven, so you can already get the Through Ticket which costs 30 CNY or 220 PHP. No need to pay additional 10 CNY for the guide.
The park is open from 6 am to 10 pm, but the temple is open only from 8 am to 5 pm. Make sure to follow opening hours of the temple as you'll visit the place for the temple and not the park.
As you enter, you will see a park there with huge elderly crowd. It's very energizing to see elderly people dancing and singing traditional music there but its quite unusual as well given they all bring portable speakers and their dances are all choreographed!!! :)
You will see another ticketing booth. You can purchase tickets to enter Temple of Heaven if you did not buy the Through Ticket at the park entrance. This will cost you 20 CNY.
Here's the Temple of Heaven. It's an enormous but breathtaking temple. However, there is nothing else to see aside from this temple. So make sure to make you maximize your entrance fee and take lots of pictures!  

3. Beijing Olympic Venue
For sports fan, this is definitely a must visit for you to see the venue for the 2008 Beijing Olympics. The structures are still well maintained from outside and you see the Bird's Next and Cube lighted at night but unfortunately you won't be able to enter the stadium.
How to get there?
- Ride the MRT and alight at Olympic Sports Center Station. Exit at B1 or B2.
- Warning! Direct link to the stadium is closed so you need to walk around 30 minutes from the station exit to get there. We don't have the exact direction but you can easily see the stadium from a far and you need to follow the path getting there. The Olympic Park is huge and a lot of the gates are closed so we had to take the long route so expect a lot of walking!
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