Hello! I am back and armed with sufficient knowledge about China (Beijing, Shanghai, Chengde and Suzhou) to give some advise and tips about what you can do if you were to go on a free and easy tour!
Day 1 in Beijing
You can spend one whole day at Tiananmen Square, Tiananmen Gate and the Forbidden City. Just take the subway to the Tiananmen Square East/West Station for 2 yuan and get out at any exit that leads you to the Tiananmen Square.
The Tiananmen Square is right in front of the Tiananmen Gate (literally, Gate of Heavenly Peace) which leads to the Forbidden City. Like every other
damn attraction in Beijing, this place is colossal. You can spend one entire day there and be super drained at the end of it.
Entrance to the Tiananmen Square and Gate is free but entrance to the Forbidden City costs 45 yuan per person (SGD 9). Not cheap okay! Between the Tiananmen Gate and the entrance to the Forbidden City are a whole lot of “attractions” that you will need to pay betwwen 5 yuan to 15 yuan (SGD1 to SGD3) to get in to see. In my opinion, you can give those a miss. Those are time consuming and if you really go for all, you’re going to be broke.
There is one however, that I think everyone must go just for the view – ontop the Tiananmen Gate just like how Mao Ze Dong used to do. That costs 15 yuan (SGD 3) per person and you will need to deposit your handbag (small one costs about 3 yuan for an hour) at a counter before entering.
There will be plenty of tour touts asking you if you’ll like to go on a day tour to the Great Wall of China, ignore them all unless you want to be brought to tourist traps like the cliched Jade, Pearl or Silk Factories. Uh-Uh. Keep them far away.
Moving on, the Forbidden City is a magnificent place with over 500 years of chinese history. What of the palace could be preserved was perserved, what was destroyed was restored. This palace was once home to 24 emperors from the Ming and Qing Dynasty. Now it is a public muesuem that sees millions of visitors from all over the world.
This place is a definite must-go when in China. The extensive grounds of the Forbidden City cover 720,000 square meters! Imagine that! There are 800 buildings that have about 9,000 rooms in total. The Forbidden City is the world’s largest palace complex.
The entire palace was made of carefully carved white marble, golden roof tiles, wood made with intricate designs, and a whole load of paint. The result? Outstanding beauty.
Take your time to admire the beauty of how intricately designed seemingly insiginificant things like pillars, ceilings, floor tiles and so on were. The rich lived lavishly here. Everything meant something. So hire a personal guide if you can (shouldn’t cost more than 40RMB for the whole place) or rent an automated guide for 40RMB as well. These come in most languages and can be easily found beside the ticketing counter. China now super modern already. The automated guide is triggered when you walk into a place of interest and it will explain to you the history and the significance of important items.
If you ask me, I suggest hiring a personal guide. A personal guide will be able to cater to your needs and what you are more interested to know (well, instead of telling you something generic).
He/she can also be your photographer!! LOL
Sorry I couldn’t help camwhoring. The river was too pretty! Alright, that’s about enough of Tiananmen Square, Gate and the Forbidden City. I was there from 11am till 5pm. Was seriously shacked!
Walked from Forbidden City to the nearby Hutongs. Its amazing how a short walk from a modern Beijing area could lead us to such a place that still looked so backward. I regret that I was too hungry at that point in time to think about taking pictures. If you ever do go there, remember to hire a rickshaw (shouldn’t be more than 40RMB for 40 mins) and tour the place.
Big big tip when visiting any attraction in Beijing: Make sure you’ve had a heavy meal before going into any sight-seeing place and bring snacks and water with you. Why? Well, first can anybody tell me why on earth there are little or no F&B for sale within tourist attractions? Gosh I was famished this first day of sight-seeing.
I treated myself to a good dinner. But that is a story, for another time. :)