Great Wall of China

Great Wall of China is one of the Seven New Wonders. You must see it in China. The walls measure ca. 8850 km. 6250 km was built by people and the rest is natural barrier. The very first walls was built in VII century B.C. These days we can admire the fortifications built or reconstructed during Ming Dynasty (XV -XVI century).
There are a few fragments of the wall available for tourists nearby Beijing:
  • Badaling
  • Jinshanling
  • Simatai
  • Huanghua
  • Mutianyu
  • Juyongguan

You can visit them during one day trip from Beijing.
The most popular and photogenic is Badaling. The disadvantage of it is huge number of visitors (more than 100 million people per year). The section is often closed due to security of vip visitors. The advantage of the Badaling is very good public transport connection. It is very ease and fast to go from Beijing to Badaling by train or bus. Perfect information how to get there you can find on the following web pages:

The other sections of Great Wall are not so popular and less tourists visit them but it is complicated to get there. Lonely Planet guide - China provides more information about it.
We visited Badaling on foot and the ticket cost 40 RMB. You can also go from the parking to the wall by sliding car - extra 30 RMB. In my opinion it is waste of money. It is short distance and it is ease to walk. I recommend to walk around section. You can start at the sliding car final station on the top and go to the right. At the end of the section there is a passage down to the parking. You can do it opposite direction as well. The wall is going up, down and turns. The floor is very slippy. Don't forget to take comfortable sport shoes with anti slipping soles. There are panoramic and gorgeous views from the towers, located every 100 meters. It takes almost all day to visit the site.


Forbidden City
- the most popular attraction in the capitol. In 2013 entrance fee was 60 RMB + 40 RMB for audio guide - recommended. It takes all day to visit the site.
Temple of Heaven Park
(35 RMB) was built in XVI century and rebuilt in XVII century. Emperors pilgrimage to the temple every year at winter solstice. They prayed and sacrificed cattle for good harvests.
Summer Palace
used to be emperors' summer residence. There are 3000 buildings on huge area of 290 hectares but 70% of the park is a lake. Palaces, temples and pavilions are perfect examples of Chinese architecture. Oriental music and dancing shows are performed at the palace complex. There are two option of entrance fee. Combo ticket - 60 RMB almost all attractions are included. The second option is entrance fee to the park (30 RMB) and you can extra pay for preferred sites from 10 RMB to 20 RMB. In my opinion palaces and temples are worth to visit but you can skip exhibitions and galleries pavilions. The dancing and music show is included in both fees.
- one of the most famous squares in the world. It must be at your short list. Mao Tse Tung's mausoleum was built at the square in 1977 and it is free to visit. Although you must be prepared to have very detailed security check and leave all your belongings like camera, small bag, mobile in deposit.
Olympic Park
is very modern attraction of Beijing. It is wonderful illuminated in the evening, especially: Bird's nest, National Aquatic Center and Linglong Tower. There is also special wall with all medal winners of Olympic Games in 2008 in the complex.

Ping Yao

Small Chinese town ( 0,5 million inhabitants) is famous of city walls. They were built in 800 B.C. and rebuilt several times later. The walls are 6 meters wide and 8 meters high. You can walk around them and enjoy panoramic view on old and new part of Ping Yao. There are many old buildings, tremendous examples of Chinese architecture, at old city. One day it is enough to see all attractions of Ping Yao but it is good idea to stay overnight in the peaceful town and enjoy sunset from ancient walls.
Combo entrance fee to the walls and all historical sites is very expensive: 150 RMB. The ticket is valid 3 days.
Don't hire a taxi or rickshaw to visit attractions. Old City is closed for road traffic.
Ping Yao is small town with limit train connections from/to Beijing or Xian. It is good idea to book train ticket a few days before departure.

Terracotta Army, Han Jingdi Mausoleum and Xian

Accommodation in Xian. Double room in Xian Zi Men International Youth Hostels costs 180 RMB, a bed in dorm 85 RMB. It is complicated to get there. Bus 603 takes you from Train Station to North Gate of City Walls. Get off and go straight (don't cross the wall). There is a street where you find the hostel at your right ( distance - 50 meters). You can go down the street on your left and find another hostel.
I think the directions will not be out of date in 2015. The subway is being built very fast in Xian and you will be able to get to the hostel by train.
Xian Great Mosque
(25 RMB) is the oldest Islam temple in China. It is divided into four full of plants courtyards. There are many ancient pavilions, gates, platforms and halls. The most important building is the Mosque but only Muslims are allowed to go inside. Anyway I recommend the site and walk around Muslim district.
Big Wild Goose Pagoda and Fountain Light&Sound Show
Following internet reviews we have not gone to Big Wild Goose Pagoda. It is better to watch it beautiful illuminated outside. You should be there before 20.30 and enjoy spectacular Fountain Light&Sound Show in a park next to the Buddhist temple. You can watch it on short movie:

Take a bus no. 609 from Xian Zi Men International Youth Hostels.
Terracotta Army
To get there take a bus no. 603 to Railway Station (last stop). At the station find big information banner with a map of bus stops. Locate bus stop of 5(306) and go to the stop. It is ease to find it because there are many people waiting for the transport to Terracotta Army museum.
It takes about one hour to get to the destination. Get off at the last stop. Entrance fee was 150 RMB in 2013. You can visit 3 pits and Mausoleum of the First Qin Emperor. Transport from the pits to the mausoleum is included in the ticket.
I recommend to visit burial pits in the reverse order (3,2,1). You will see the best preserved warriors at the end, in pit 1.
You can hire a guide for 2 hours. It cost 100RMB-150RMB. Audio guides were not available in 2013.
Han Jingdi Mausoleum
Emperor Qin took the terracotta army to the grave and Han Jingdi took all empire to giant tomb. You can see terracotta statues of eunuchs, servants, peasants, chariots and even local animal like pigs.
Entrance fee to the museum: 90 RMB. It is hard to get to Han Jingdi Mausoleum. First take a bus 600 from Xian Zi Men International Youth Hostels and go to the last stop. When you get off you need to go back 300 meter to crossroads with traffic lights. Pass the street and there is bus stop on your left. Check on the information board bus no. 4. If you can find it you will have to wait for the bus. According to a schedule there are 2-3 buses per hour. Finally you get in the bus and travel to the last stop.
Paintbrush Street w Xian
This is perfect place to buy souvenirs and Chinese less or more shoddy arts. It is located very close to the Zi Men International Youth Hostels. Leave the hostel and go to Nan Dajia Street. Pass the street and go straight 50 meters and here you are. There are many art and souvenirs shops in the area. Don't forget to bargain and check prices in a few shops before you decide to buy paintings or any other items.

Luoyang, Shaolin Monastery and Longmen Grottoes

Park Wangcheng w Luoyang
Luoyang Peony Festival is very famous in China. You can enjoy beautiful blooming flowers in April. Entrance fee to the park : 40 RMB and 15 RMB after 19.00.
Shaolin Monastery
There are two option of visiting famous temple:
  1. expensive one - organized tour with a guide
  2. cheap one - do it on your own

Both options are available at the bus station in Luoyang. If you decide to go on your own take public bus (17 RMB). It goes to many attractions around Luoyang. Before departure ask driver to stop next to the monastery.
Entrance fee is 100 RMB. The monastery complex is huge and it is good idea to take public electric vehicle (10 RMB) to go around all attractions.
Kung-fu show is included in entrance fee. It starts at 8.00, 9.00, 10.00, 11.00, 16.00, 17.00, 18.00 and lasts 30 minutes. It is better to be 15 minutes before the beginning and take good seats. You can watch short movie from kung-fu show:

Shaolin Monastery was built next to Shoshi mountain. There is beautiful panoramic view on the temple and mountains from the top. You can get to the top on foot or take cable car or chairlift. The cable car takes you to the most scenic part of the mountain.
End your Shaolin Monastery trip before 17.00. You can have a problem to go back to Luoyang after 18.00.
Longmen Grottoes
It takes half a day to visit Longmen Caves. Take a bus no. 81 (1,5 RMB) from the bus station and go to the last stop.
There are 60 pagodas and 100 000 Buddha statues in the Longmen Caves. They were created from V till VIII centuries. The biggest statues are 17 meters and smallest ones - 25 milometers. There are an invaluable inscriptions in the caves as well. The most impressive part of the cave is situated on the west bank of a river.
If your time is very limited visit Longmen Caves and quit Shaolin Monastery.

Shanghai and Suzhou

This is huge city and symbol of modern China. Shanghai is not only skyscrapers but old city as well. Visit Yuyan garden in the old district. Beautiful Chinese style garden is not very big. You can go for a walk from old city to the Bund. In the evening skyscrapers of modern district Pudong are illuminated beautifully.
Shanghai Museum is free of charge and take you in a wonderful time trip of four thousands year of Chinese civilization. Audio guide is available in the museum.
People's Park is next to the museum. At the weekend there is very unique 'matchmaking market'. Parents looking for love - for their children.
Venice of the East was very disappointing for me. Narrow and stinky canals with typical Chinese architecture around. I took some photos on the small bridges. Humble Administrator's Garden (70 RMB) is very ordinary. There are flowers in pots, not trimmed grass and trees in the garden. Yuyan garden was much more interesting in Shanghai.

Tai Shan

Taian is the best base to climb to the top of one Sacred Mountains of China. Taishan International Youth Hostel (45 RMB for a bed in dorm and 190 RMB double room) was our accommodation. Bus K37 took us from high-speed railway station. We changed the bus at 'Old railway station' stop to K4 and went directly to the hostel. It is easier and faster to go the hostel by taxi.
You can visit food street in the center of the town. There are many local meals and snacks on the street. The prices are very reasonable.
Get up in the early morning to climb to the Tai Shan. First take a bus K3 and go to the last stop. You can start climbing from the bottom but the trail is next to the road or you can take a bus (30 RMB). If you take a bus you will pass along 1/3 of the way. Then you can go upstairs - 6000 steps up or take cable car to the top. I went up on foot. There are many food, devotional articles and suveniers stalls on the way. When you reach the top you can enjoy the beautiful panoramic view. There are many temples, shops and restaurants on the top of Tai Shan.

China Ancient Chariots Museum in Zibo

China Ancient Chariots Museum is 'off the beaten trail site' in Zibo. The trip to the museum was nightmare. We took a bus from Linzi and went to Zibo (2 hours). We went from bus station to the Museum by taxi in Zibo. China Ancient Chariots Museum is situated outside Zibo. There is no public transport and any taxi service next to the museum. We asked the driver to wait for us but he refused. We spent one our in the museum (40 RMB). There are 10 chariots with skeletons of horses in the museum. Probably the horses were buried alive. We left the museum and there was no taxi or any other public transport. We had to hitch at the highway. Luckily one car stopped and gave us a lift to the center.
Generally we spent one hour in the museum and traveled 4 hour in total. You need almost a day to visit the museum. I don't recommend to go there. If you are fascinated with ancient chariots take a taxi from Linzi railway station to the museum, ask a drive to wait for you, and come back by the taxi. It cost c.a. 300 RMB + 40 RMB entrance fee to the museum.

Useful Tips

  • Money Exchange Don't exchange money at the airport. The rates are not good. Exchange 50-100 USD for the beginning. You find better exchange rates in the banks. Must have a passport to exchange the money.
  • Shopping in China You can buy electronic devices at Zhongguancon. You can go there by subway. Samsung or apple are expensive but Chinese or no-name brands are cheap. You need to be very tough and bargains a lot. 
    Clothes They are very cheap in China. You can go to Silk Market (subway line 1. station Yong'anli). Salesmen speak very good English and they are very good and in price negotiations and rude. Last price should be about 10%-20% of the first price.
  • Streets are very clean in Chinese cities There are recycle waste bins on every corner. I was very surprised by huge number of public and free of charge toilets.
  • Chinese food and restaurants You can have good and cheap dinner on the night food markets in the evening. There are many food stalls on the street. You can have a meal or local snacks, some of them are very exotic: snakes, silkworms, octopus, locust and even chicken embryos.
  • Peking duck It is not fast-food. You need about two ours for the meal. The cook slices the bird in front of you. The duck is eaten with pancakes, scallion, and hoisin sauce or sweet bean sauce. It costs about 200 RMB in good restaurants.
  • Tai chi, fitness, dancing on the streets. They are very popular in Chine. Please watch a film shot in Chinese cities: 'Chinese people dance and enjoy their time on streets and parks of cities'
  • Guide book Don't go to China without good book. Good - it means all names of the cities, attractions, hostels must be printed in Chinese. Generally Chinese people don't understand English, you must show them Chinese letters.
  • Maps are as crucial as good guide book. When you reach bigger city first try to get a map. It must be the map with Chinese and English names of the streets. Again, Chinese people don't understand English, you must show them Chinese words on the map. Don't even try to pronounce the name of the street. They won't understand you or it will be big misunderstanding and you will get lost. Show Chinese people name of the street on the map.
  • Audio guide book usually costs 40 RMB. Some of them are Wi-Fi devices, you don't need to press any button or code to start. When you approach to the site it starts working. Sometimes it starts to early and you don't know what it is talking about eg. You are outside the building and the guide is talking about attractions inside.
  • Railway transport First you need to buy a ticket. You can ask hostel crew to do it for you and pay commission 20-50 RMB or do it yourself. Don't forget to take a passport with you to buy train ticket. Cashiers usually speak English but it good idea to have a name of destination in Chinese language eg. In guide book or mobile. You will avoid misunderstandings. There is a number of your passport on the ticket. Train number is the most important information for you. Buy a ticket a few days earlier if you are planning to travel in the weekend. During Chinese holidays trains are full and it is good idea to buy tickets a week before departure.
    Only people with valid ticket can enter railway stations. Your ticket and passport are checked at the entrance to the station. Then your luggage is screening. Inside you are looking for a split-flap display. There are plenty of Chinese letters and some Arabic numerals. The numbers are important for you. You need to find number of your train and at the same line there is a number of waiting room. You are going to the room and wait. A door to a platform are opened 20 minutes before departure. Check number of your carriage and find the same number on the floor of the platform. Your carriage will stop at this point. 
    There are four tain classes in China:
Soft sleeper are 4-bed compartments with two upper & two lower berths .All necessary bedding is provided. There's a table with tablecloth, and usually a vacuum flask of hot water for making tea (or drinking chocolate or cuppas soups if you've brought some). The compartment door locks securely, and attendant looks after each car.
    Hard sleeper consists of open-plan carriages with a broad aisle on one side of the car, bays of 6 bunks (upper, middle & lower) on the other side. In spite of the name, hard sleeper bunks are reasonably well padded, and bedding is supplied.
      Soft seat & hard seat - Equivalent to first & second class seats on a European train. Hard seat carriages are usually very crowded. Some passengers don't have seats and they must stand all the way.
      • Coaches are not popular in China. Tickets are always available, even during public holidays. Standard of traveling is good. There are sleeper buses on long distances. There are two levels of the beds (lower and upper) are available in the buses. The beds are very narrow and short.
      • Public transport in cites is very good organized. Buses run very often. Tickets are cheap: 1-4 RMB.
      • Prices:
      Accommodation are not cheap and depends on the season and location.
      Double room : 130RMB - 360 RMB (Shanghai during May holidays)
      Bed in dorm : 50 RMB
      Western breakfast in hostels : 20-25 RMB.
      Local dinner 15-20RMB
      Tea 15-20 RMB
      Peking duck 200 RMB. A course for two people served with Chinese tea.
      Beer. 20-30 RMB in hostels. 4-7 RMB in local bars and restaurants
      Train tickets - route Pekin-Ping Yau:
      soft-sleeper: 250 RMB
      hard-sleeper: 150 RMB
      hard-seat: 90 RMB

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