Visit Beijing in 6 days....with tips and precaution!

I just came back from Beijing and it was a very fun and fulfilling trip.  However, there are some things that you need to be aware of and that is the risk of being cheated.  It's unfortunate that there are a group of people, who used tactics to cheat and con innocent tourists, knowing fully well that the tourists are 100% dependent on the tour guide and travel agency as most tourist are usually there for the very first time and are not aware that the tour is not genuine.  This has unfortunately happened to us and I would like highlight it out, so that more people are aware of this.

There are also a lot of kind people.  However, because of these group of people who cheated and spoiled the reputation of China, it became generalise and now Chinese are well-known as cheaters.  It's really unfortunate.

Being the land of left agnya, where conditionings are pretty strong, these group of people used this reason to cheat the locals, knowing full well that the locals believed strongly in these.

Anyway, let me just go to the fun part first.

We visited the Beijing collective on the first day.  

We were pretty lucky that day as we were told they were doing a small mini puja to welcome the arrival of Shri Mataji's sari from Cabella.  We also get to hear the experiences of those who went to Cabella.

Beijing collective is growing and now there are a lot of yuva shaktis.  Bhajan group is very interesting too as the leader can play multiple instruments, i.e guitar, tabla, drum, ukulele and didgeridoo and he used all these instruments during the puja.  Very warm and deep collective.

We officially started our tour on the 2nd day in Beijing.  We stayed at one of the Beijing sister's and her husband's apartment.  That day she brought us to visit 798 Art District located at Chaoyang District.  This place used to be an old factory.  You can read more about it here.  Now it has turned into every artist dream of showcasing their creativity.  But please take note, DO NOT go on a Monday as many shops are closed.  Most of them open from Tuesday to Sunday only.

That very night, our Beijing sister and her husband brought us to the 2008 Olympic stadium, Bird's Nest.  

Our purpose there that night was to watch a musical show called 'Attraction' which was combined with acrobats, music, dance and magic.  This show was directed by a famous Chinese director, Lu Chuan and it's a love story.

Third day in Beijing, we decided to take a one day tour to cover Great Wall and Ming Dynasty Tomb.  Unfortunately, we were conned.  In fact, our Beijing sister was conned as well as she found the website online and called and turns out the tour agency was a fake one.

The tour was supposedly to Tiananmen Square for the flag raising ceremony, then Badaling Great Wall and Ming Tombs and last we would be dropped off at Bird's Nest Stadium.  There was supposed to have no shopping in the tour itinerary.  RMB150 per person.

However, on that day itself, the only right thing was Tiananmen Square for the flag raising ceremony.  We were told to add on RMB90 for a show supposedly at the Bird's Nest stadium.  If we don't want to pay this, then we have to pay RMB40 tickets to the Great Wall.  And we thought RMB150 was inclusive of everything.

Apparently, the flag raising ceremony is done at different time each day.  That day, it was at 5.57am.

Then we head off to the Badaling Great Wall of China.

We found out that we were at the Shuiguan Great Wall of Badaling, which is not the famous Badaling Great Wall.  So, precaution, please make sure you are going to the famous Badaling Great Wall where there are cable cars now.  This Shuiguan Great Wall was built during the Ming Dynasty and is the most restored part to cater for the growing numbers of visitors at the main Great Wall.  You can read more about it here.

This is the tips given by Travel China Guide website : Travel Tips: Located near the Badaling, the Water Pass is sometimes called the 'Badaling-Shuiguan Great Wall'. It often happens that innocent visitors are guided here instead of their original destination - the Badaling Great Wall, especially during holidays or peak periods. Travel China Guide (TCG) kindly reminds you that no matter which wall you want to visit, please consult our guide-books and web-site beforehand. Especially check the admission fees.

I have been to the Badaling Great Wall  more than 15 years ago.  But it was the first for my husband.  So, it was pretty disappointing.  The Great Wall is nothing like this.  It is more grand and majestic.

The next stop was supposed to be the Ming Dynasty Tomb.  We were not very keen to visit any tomb actually, so thought it's still OK to give this a miss.  However, our bus didn't even stop at the tomb.  Instead, the tour guide just told us to looked left, then right and said that's the Ming Tomb.  What a bunch of idiots we were.

The next actual stop was at a Jade Factory.  All along the way, the tour guide refused to let us sleep with the reason that since we were passing our ancestor's tomb i.e Ming Tomb, it's bad to sleep.  Instead he brain-washed the whole bus load of people with stories about Pixiu.  Jade pixiu is supposedly for good luck, especially for gamblers.  Then he went on to mention that the factory will show you what is real and what is fake jade.  And he also recommended that it is good for health to wear jade, especially ladies should wear jade bangles on their left hand.

See how he is playing with the conditionings of Chinese people?  Since we were yogis, we ignored the whole hoo-haa about good luck and all that.  In fact, some of our tour group members fell for it and actually bought some of the jades after this visit.

Lunch was provided and guess what, all vegetables, no meat and everyone eat as much as you can, with everyone digging their chopsticks into the food.

Next stop was to an acrobatic show.  I must say, although by now we were starting to feel the con job, this was quite an entertaining show.

It was short though, only half and hour.  But entertaining.  So by now, we started to feel, OK, this tour has some worthiness in it.  This was the RMB90 that we paid for and it was not a show at the Bird's Nest.

Next stop is to another shopping area, where we were told we can taste the famous Peking duck.  Yup, taste as in with some toothpick and just eat the samples.  It was such a huge shopping area, with so much Beijing products, from Peking duck to sweets and stuffs.  This was quite an interesting place though.  If not for my bladder, I would have spent longer time here.  Some of the stuff were quite interesting.  But price wise, I guess it could have been cheaper outside.

Next stop was to a small temple.  We thought there were some historical values in it and went into it.  Unfortunately, more people were conned into buying more stuff.  First another tour guide brought us in and told us no photography is allowed to prevent bad luck, blah blah blah.  Then he talked about how good is this temple and the gods inside this temple.  Then he told that if we want, we can write our name on some small wooden board and hang it outside the temple and forever will be blessed.  Each tiny board is RMB99.  Killer price right?  Best part is, I wanted to leave by now because I was brewing with reactions.  One of the staff there stopped us and told us to follow our guide.

They brought us to the next room and the brain washing continued.  This time it was about some Feng Shui stuff.  Then they invited the 'Master' to explain about all these stuff.  Again, we can't leave as the same staff stood at the door, guarding it.  By now, I felt pretty eery about the whole thing.

Next, into another small room where some staffs were seated behind a counter filled with jade products.  Again, the 'Master' explained about horoscope and fate and stuff and all.  I cannot stand it anymore and walked out.  The door is so special that it can only be open from the outside and not from the inside.  Weird right?  Unfortunately, many locals are conned into buying all these stuff.

I felt it is so wrong to use God's name to cheat people for their money.  They even insisted that we donate to the temple on our way out.  How ridiculous this was!!!

We went back to the bus and thought our last stop should be the Bird's Nest.  When we reached the bus, the driver told us this is the last stop and we were supposed to take the metro to Bird's Nest if we want.  I was like, WHAT??!!!  Luckily, the metro station was just 5 minutes walk from the bus and we took it straight back home.

That was one unpleasant experience, but that should not put you off Beijing.  Next time, please make sure the tour agency is genuine and not fake.  Even my Beijing sister is conned, that means this group of people are so good in it.

This above one is the genuine one.  However, do call and ask to confirm.  My Beijing friend called up something like a Tour Agency Association or something to enquire and complained.

The above is the fake travel agency.  The website is non-existent now, maybe after receiving my friend's complaints.  Notice that they used the same company name as the genuine travel agency, but logo and phone number is different.  

The most scary part is that in every main tourist attraction that we went, i.e Forbidden City and Summer Palace, there were many people giving out brochures like the above.  Imagine how many more people are conned.  Some of these flyers givers even enter into the tourist attraction places to give the leaflets, mainly targeting locals who were there on a free-and-easy trip.  I really hope this fake travel agency will be expose before more people are conned.

Anyway, forget the bad experience.  Let's continue with the fun part.

That very night, our Beijing hosts brought us to eat the famous Peking Duck at a famous restaurant in Beijing.

Fourth day in Beijing, we decided to venture into the city on our own and our first stop was Forbidden City.  It's very convenient to go there.  Just take Metro Line 1 to Tiananmen East station and you will see it.  Beijing Metro is so cheap and connects everywhere (except Great Wall).  Only RMB2 to any place, far or near.

You can rent the automatic tour guide, many languages available.  When you reach a certain place, then the guide will start explaining.  It's RMB40 for other languages while RMB20 for mandarin.

Forbidden City requires a lot and lot of walking.  All the main attractions are in the center path.  On the left side is where Empress Dowager residence and exhibit some of her antiques and gifts.  If I am not mistaken, they also show the bedroom of Emperor Puyi.  On the right side, is the residences of concubines.  Now they turned it into exhibition of brasswares.  Not much to see there.  If you want to see the pearls and jewels of the imperial family, you will need to buy a separate ticket to see them.

Center path is where the halls in which the Emperor had audience with the officers are located.  Inside each hall, you will see the Emperor's throne.  At the back, towards the exit, is where the Garden is located.  Here you can have a picnic.

This visit will take you 3-4 hours, depending on whether you want to stop at every stop and how fast you walk.  Remember, the entrance and exit is at 2 different places.  If not mistaken, we entered from south gate (Meridian gate) and exited at north gate.  Don't even think you can go back to the south entrance to exit, because we tried to and then the staff there told us it's better to exit at a different gate than the one we entered, something about bad luck or bad fengshui or something.

After that we took a public bus to Wang Fu Jing (also Line 1) for some shopping and then metro Line 2 to Qianmen for more shopping.

Fifth day in Beijing, it was Mid Autumn Festival.  Since north China people do not celebrate Mid Autumn Festival with lanterns, they requested south China people to show them how and my husband carved out a lantern out of pomelo skin.

After that we went to Summer Palace.  Take Line 4 straight to Beigongmen.  Again, another huge place and required lots of walking and climbing up and down stairs.  Again we rented the automatic tour guide.

 This time it also took us 3-4 hours again and we walked pretty fast.
 You will need a good map.  See if you can download it online, if not then just spend few RMB to buy one.  It will be good.  We got lost few times because we took a free map and it wasn't very clear.
Summer Palace as nicer sceneries and breezy, lots of plants and trees.  It is also overlooking the Kunming lake and beautiful sights awaits you.
I preferred Summer Palace than Forbidden City.  It is just more leisure and nice hiking and nice garden.

That very night, we went to Nanluoguxiang (Line 6) and it's a very nice hutong area for shopping.  It is also connected to Yandaixiejie, literally translated to Tobacco Pipe Lane, another nice hutong area.

 Yandaixiejie is surrounded by the Qianhai lake.  Many couples come here for boat ride.
This place also filled with pubs and bars and restaurants.  Night life of Beijingers.

What I love about this place is that you can get very good handicraft, hand-made items, like bags, shoes, etc.  You can also find many artistic, cute decorations and souvenirs.  I wish I have more time here, going shop to shop.  Highly recommended to go.

Sixth day, we did a mini puja in conjunction with Mid Autumn Festival.  It was a nice puja with lovely vibrations.

It was also the day for us to leave.  We had very limited time in China and didn't get to go to all the places.

The places that we had missed:

  • Badaling Great Wall of China (the one with cable car)
  • Ming Dynasty Tomb (not really keen on this but still OK)
  • Temple of Heaven (again not so keen on this as well, but since it is famous, why not?)
  • Beijing zoo
  • Beijing museum
Here's some tips for travel in Beijing, or anywhere in China for that matter:
  • Bring wet tissues with you.  Most of the toilets that I have encountered do not have soap to wash my hands.  Some don't even have toilet paper.  However, most tourist attractions have very clean and well-equipped toilets.
  • Check whether the travel agency is genuine or fake.  Do more research.
  • Many people will be there to (1) sell entrance tickets and (2) offer you tour guide services.  Just remember, go and buy the tickets straight at the ticket counter and only take the tour guides recommended by the tourist attractions.  You can also take the automatic tour guide which I did.  Most of the places have very good signboard with detailed explanations of the place.  So, you just need a good map, that's all.
  • Learn how to differentiate fake money from real.  Some will try to return big notes to you, but fake. 
  • If you go during peak times, i.e China public holidays, be ready to have competition with other Chinese visitors.  There will be many, many people, all rushing to see the same thing.  Metro will be packed as well.
  • There will be lots of walking.  Get a pair of very good shoes, in my case, my FitFlop is the best.
  • Print out the Beijing metro map or better still, download the app on your smartphone.  Very useful.
  • Ignore spitting and loud conversations.  It's part of their culture.

Overall, Beijing is a nice place.  It is a bit more polluted than other parts of China and dusty.  But I enjoyed my trip there very much, despite the bad experience.  It is much more cultural than other parts of China, i.e I can get more Chinese handicrafts here than Guangzhou or Shenzhen.  Food wise, they add salt and vinegar a lot in their food.  Oh, and let's not forget the famous Beijing yogurt.  A must-try!  However, you have to drink on the spot and return the jar to them.  It is also pretty safe to walk at night.

Highly recommended to go.  Autumn is the best time, not so hot and not so cold.  But there will be slight rain.  

That ends the review of this trip.