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Beijing Travel Guide

As a native Beijinger, I lead a two day quick tour in Beijing city area for my US good friends early this April. It is my first time being a local tour guide to foreigners so everything was new and fresh to me. I found the experience was very valuable and interesting, so I wrote it down and am sharing it with any foreign travelers who are planning a trip to Beijing, especially those who are planning a short trip either for sightseeing or for the coming 2008 Olympics. I hope it will be a helpful guide and that you find the information useful.

Here is a list of important scenic spots which you can choose to visit during your trip; you may learn how to pronounce them with the pinyin I have provided:

1) The Temple of Heaven (tian1 tan2). There are 3 famous spots within this park. The ticket price is 35 RMB.

2)The Forbidden City (zi3 jin4 cheng2), also called the Imperial Palace or the Palace Museum(gu4 gong1). You cannot miss it whenever you come to visit Beijing. The ticket price is 60 RMB. You can rent an automatic guide (Audio Guide Device) at the ticket office.

3) JingShan Park(jing3 shan1 gong1 yuan2). It is just north of the Imperial Palace. The ticket price is 2 to 5 RMB depending upon the seasons. You can take a full view of the Imperial Palace from the top of the hill in JingShan Park.

4) Beihai Park (bei3 hai3 gong1 yuan2). It is just west of JingShan Park and it is one of the oldest and most authentically preserved imperial gardens in China. It has a history of 1000 years. The ticket price is 20 RMB.

5) Hutongs in Qianmen Area is just south of Tianenmen Square. Hutong (alley or lane) is one of the distinguishing features of Beijing. Some Hutongs are just residential areas; others are commercial areas with many shops selling antiques or silk stuff. The hutong area is basically a very old residential area of Beijing with commercial properties along many of the hutongs.

6) Chairman Mao Zedong Memorial Hall(mao2 zhu3 xi2 ji4 nian4 tang2). It is free for public visit but security is very tight. You can take your cellphone and wallet with you but if you carry a bag, you need to go to the Bag Check which is across the street to the east of the Memorial. Make sure to make enough time for the visit (8:00 a.m. to 12:00 a.m. Tuesday to Sunday).

7) Laoshan Mountain Bike Course (lao3 shan1 zi4 xing2 che1 guan3), sports area for bicycle and Bicycle Moto Cross (BMX) races. You can take the subway Line 1 and get off at Ba Jiao You Le Yuan Stop. There is a sign in the subway shows the direction of the train and the names of all the stops. It is easy for you to find it. Currently you cannot go inside any of the Games facilities until the Games begin. It will also be open to the public after the Olympic Games.

8) The Summer Palace (yi1 he2 yuan2). It is a famous Imperial Park and world cultural heritage site. This is a beautiful place which you should not miss when you visit Beijing. The ticket price is 30 RMB.

9) Bird's Nest (niao3 chao2).is the stadium in which most of the track and field events, soccer matches as well as the opening and closing ceremonies of the Beijing 2008 Summer Olympics will be held. It will also be open to the public after the Games. Currently you can only take photos of it on the expressway pedestrian overpass near it.

10) Chaoyang Park (chao2 yang2 gong1 yuan2). is near the east Fourth Main Ring Road. Olympic Beach Volleyball courts are located in this park. It is the largest metropolitan park in Beijing, offering numerous attractions and superbly maintained planted areas which include numerous kinds of trees and shrubbery and many large grass areas surround a large lake. The ticket price is 5 RMB.

11) The (Ba Da Ling) Great Wall (chang2 cheng2, Ba1 Da2 Ling3 chang2 cheng2). You cannot miss a visit to the Great Wall. If you want to maximize your time at The Great Wall then you may want to arrange the trip by yourself. You can take subway Line2 and get off at Ji1 Shui3 Tan2 stop, and then walk a few minutes to De2 Sheng4 Men2, take the No. 919 Bus. You may ask the driver the time of the last bus -- qing3 wen4, mo4 ban1 che1 ji3 dian3? Only take a bus that is in the large bus parking lot because there are reportedly fake No. 919 buses that will charge you a very high fare to The Great Wall. The fare on No. 919 Buses should be approximately 12 RMB. At the end of your exploration of the Wall at Ba Da Ling you may want to catch an early bus because there will be many people squeezing on each bus. In order not to have to stand during the two hour return trip you will need to establish your position at the door when the bus pulls up to take on passengers. Be aggressive!! Get one of your friends on board to save the number of seats you need.

Necessary Chinese sentences you may master before the trip:

1) Useful sentences when speaking with taxi drivers:
chu1 zu1 che1 --Hi Taxi!
"qu4 + a place name" or "wo3 qu4 + a place name"-- I want to go to ... (destination)
duo1 shao3 qian2? - How much is it?
"wo3 yao4 fa1 piao4." or "qing3 gei3 wo3 fa1 piao4." -- Give me the receipt please.

2) Useful sentences when bargaining with private shop owners:
neng2 pian2 yi yi4 dian3 ma? -- Can it be cheaper?
neng2 zai4 pian2 yi yi4 dian3 ma? -- Can it be a little more cheaper?
hai2 shi4 you3 dian3 gui4. --Still a bit expensive.
cheng2 jiao1 !--That's the deal, I will buy it!

3)Useful words and sentences in Chinese restaurants:
you3 kou3 wei4 qing1 dan4 yi4 dian3 de cai4 ma? -- Do you have dishes with bland tastes?
rou4 cai4 -- meat dish
su4 cai4 -- vegetable dish
bei3 jing1 kao3 ya1--Beijing Roasted Duck

Here are the dishes I ordered that day my US friends enjoyed a lot:

gong bao4 ji1 ding1 -- chicken cubes with peanuts; diced chicken with paprika; diced chicken in chilli sauce; stir-fried chicken with dried red pepper
ri4 ben3 dou4 fu -- Japanese beancurd
hao2 you2 sheng1 cai4 -- green cabbage in oyster sauce
hai3 xian1 tang1 -- seafood soup
mi3 fan4 -- rice
bing1 pi2 jiu3 or pi2 jiu3 -- cold beer or beer (Tsing Tao beer is very famous. YanJing beer is good too.)

Shopping and Restaurant tips: Usually if you go with a Chinese guide, you can directly let him or her order the food using the Chinese menu provided by the restaurant. Although most Chinese restaurants have only one menu, some small restaurants may charge foreigners double the price if they present you with a bilingual (English and Chinese) menu. It is good idea for you to give your Chinese tour guide money and let him pay the bill as if he invited his foreign friends to eat with him or her. Such a method is also practical for shopping; your guide can more easily discuss the price with the owner. When ordering remember Chinese dishes are usually much cheaper than most western dishes. If you do not like hot food or spicy food, you'd better tell the waiter.

About Beijing Taxis: Beijing Taxi drivers are now learning English for the coming Olympic Games. One of our drivers prepared a map with English translations of all the event locations as well as all the famous tourist attractions in Beijing. If you are poor at English and cannot say clearly your hotel name, then keep the hotel phone number handy. That is a good way to avoid getting lost in Beijing. Most taxi drivers in Beijing can provide good and considerate service. The starting price is 10 RMB for the first 3 kilometers, then 2 RMB per kilometer, that is the daytime price. From 11:00 p.m. till 5:00 a.m., the starting price is 11 RMB for the first 3 kilometers, then 2.4 RMB per kilometer. Most of the time you do not need to pay the taxi driver any tip (xiao3 fei4). They won't complain about it. But if you really want to give the driver a tip, I think 5 to 20 RMB is more than enough. An official taxi usually has a Taxi sign on top of the car, and there is a nameplate near the driver's seat inside the car with the driver's color photo and work number, name of the taxi company and telephone number. The official taxis also have meters to show the distance and the price. You should take a legally approved taxi when you are in Beijing. There are some "illegal taxis" (hei1 che1) which usually overcharge passengers.

About the Beijing subway (di4 tie3) and buses (gong1 jiao1 che1): It is very convenient to take the subway in Beijing. Currently we have line 1 and line 2 (loop line), line 5, and line 13. Line 10 will start operating at the end of June, 2008. The total length of subway and light railway will reach 300 km in the year 2008. The bus service in Beijing is also good. There are many buses in this city, very convenient for you to go anywhere at very low fares. You can buy a transportation card for all the subways and buses in Beijing (Beijing shi4 zheng4 jiao1 tong1 yi4 ka3 tong1). The deposit of the card is 20 RMB, for example if you want to get 80 RMB transportation fee, then you should pay for 100 RMB, 20 RMB is the card deposit. You can get full money back if you return the card, of course including the 20 RMB card deposit. Using the card can save you a lot of money especially when taking the buses. The subway price is only 2 RMB, no other charges when changing to other lines. You can buy the transportation card at the subway ticket office or any terminus bus station. As a native Beijinger, I do not suggest foreigners take the buses if they are crowded and often traffic jam in this city but I do suggest you taking the subway.

About the Author

Ms. Apple is an experienced Mandarin teacher and professional editor on the subject of online teaching and Chinese language e-book writing. Her website, , provides a wealth of free Chinese audio programs which are helpful to self-taught Chinese learners and also resources for foreign tourists to China