Heading to Bejing

Discussion in 'Geographic Location' started by Alexz, Sep 19, 2006.

  1. Alexz

    Alexz Member

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    My wife will be flying to Bejing for work, chances I'll join her also. We'll be staying there for about a week in a hotel.
    I'll be taking my SLR gear (a Canon body with 2 lenses + film...) to enjoy and shoot the city, my 4x5 LF isn't going with me this time - not realistic bearing the trip conditions.
    My wife will be at work during daytime and at evening will be spent together exploring the evening city, enjoy restaurant meals, etc... :wink:
    During daytime I intend to take a strolls along shooting around, probably also one or two city tours.
    This is our first time there (albeit I used to fly to Honk Kong, Taiwan in far past for work as well) so I'll eager for your recommendations of places to visit during daytime hours, evenings to enjoy evening city or nearby environment, a good (not necesserily overly expensive though...) seafood restaurants. We both are seafood fans, especially the fresh kind available in Asia countries (the kind of resaturants where there is huge aquarium filled with various kinds of life creatures, so you just point to the one that you seem to like to be eaten and they will prepare it right away. I was in such place in Taiwan 5-6 years ago - the most joyable seafood eating experience I tried ever, now must have my wife to enjoy it as well).
    Usually, such kind of restaurant are away from most turist-crowded places..

    So guys, your advises on photogenic daytime and evening places are most welcomed as well as regarding the meals.

    Also, is Bejing a secure place to wonder around with exposed camera gear ? Of course, there must be places that aren't particularily advisable to get in with anything expensive (as in any other country), but in general ?

    Thanks in advance, Alex
     
  2. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Member

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    Dear Alex,

    Most of Beijing is very new -- something absurd like 80 per cent was built/rebuilt in the last 50 years -- but even the new parts of it can still seem old. The hutongs or lanes district is on every tourist itinerary but still well worth seeing, and there's a big public market near that area which is almost free of tourists and very photogenic. My wife and I found the Forbidden City rather depressing -- endless tour groups and Chinese triumphalism, and all the buildings locked up -- but it's still probably worth seeing. Tien-an-Man Square is pretty bleak too.

    It's very safe; my wife and I wandered around with Leicas and Alpas, so don't exercise yourself on that score. Carry your hotel's name with you, in Chinese, and point to that when you need a taxi back. The driver will probably get lost on the way anyway but taxi fares are so low that the wasted time matters more than the wasted money.

    There are astonishingly many beggars, including lepers and the limbless. Some (usually the able bodied ones, to whom I am less inclined to give money) can be irritatingly persistent but most aren't.

    One bizarre thing in September/October is the number of art students who invite you to their final-year exhibitions and try to sell you their work.

    If you possibly can, add on a couple of days of your own time and go to the Summer Palace north of the city at Chengde; that was easily our favourite place in Han China. But I have to say we were happier in Yunnan, which is not really China at all; part occupied Khanate, part annexed Tibet.

    You can see some of our Chinese pictures in the Gallery at www.rogerandfrances.com.

    Cheers,

    R.
     
  3. Alexz

    Alexz Member

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    Thanks a lot Richard, nice pictures in your Chinese gallery. B&W appears to fit perfecty in the concept of non-modern China mood.
    Perhaps I indeed take a tour in Forbidden City just have it "nailed down" in my sightseeing list, I guess it will still worth a roll or two..
    Hutons and lanes will also make their way into my visiting list. Not sure about the market, if I'll get the chance available time-wise) I'll do to see it..

    Out of the city tours are also an option as long as the entire adventure can fit into one single day (say, going there on morning, getting back on evening).
    How far are those places from Beijing ? (the Summer Palace, Yunnan, etc..)
    What is Han China ? How far is the Great Wall from the capital ? Do you think it is viable to have the Wall tour fit into single day ?

    As I mentioned no any extensive shopping is planned (unless my wife will change her mind regarding clothes and similar...hopefully that will not happen or at least to the bearable extent), are there any places where a quality electronics can be acquired for reasonable prices (cheaper or at least at the same as in US prices) ? Though I guess brands are expensive everywhere...
    I may probably be checking into buying an additional laptop battery, but here original thing is improtant...

    Thanks once again, Alex
     
  4. highpeak

    highpeak Member

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    Alex, this time of the year is the best time to visit Beijing, the weather is nice and you can see some foliage at Xiang Mountain near Beijing. But try to avoid the time period from Oct. 1st to Oct 7th, because this is a big holiday in China, the capital will be full of people (It's full already in my opinion :smile:).

    You can go to the Great Wall and come back in one day, a lot of tour group go there. I am sure you will find that information fairly easy when you get there. Yunnan is very far from Beijing and you need several days to travel there.

    I don't know any seafood restaurant in Beijing, but I will ask my friend and let you know ASAP. One thing I want you to try is the BBQed lamb, very good in deed and also peiking duck near Tian-an-Men Square.

    As for picture taking, try the old Beijing, take a ride on a bike or ride a man- powered tricycle.

    China is big place, a lot of diversity in terrain and people. Many people speak different languages and wear different costumes. If you like your stay in Beijing( BTW it's perfectly safe if you follow your common sense), there maybe some other places you want to see also. You will be shocked to see how different they are.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Sep 19, 2006
  5. Alexz

    Alexz Member

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    Great Richard, sounds to be very helpful.
    The perliminary dates of our stay are 24/09 - 29/09, so this is before of their holidays.
    BBQed lamb is on my list now as also peiking duck (any aprticular restaurants that offer these or it can be found in most of regular restaurants over there ?)
    Ride on bike ? Do you mean rent a bike or what ?
    Just any location in old city ? Or to ask to go to to any specific one there ?
     
  6. Monophoto

    Monophoto Member

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    Alex -

    My wife and I were in Beijing in early October last year, so our experiences are rather recent.

    Be prepared for crowds - everywhere. Also, be prepared for vendors who will try to sell you anything and everything. They are especially obnoxious at major tourist attractions - the Forbidden City, Great Wall, etc.

    Probably one of the best things to do would be to arrange for a formal tour. The principal sights (Forbidden City, Summer Palace, Ming Tombs, the Hutongs, Great Wall, Prince Gong's Palace, Garden of Heaven, etc) are scattered about over a rather large geographic area. There is probably a practical limit to the number of things you can do in one day, and a tour operator can put together a schedule over a period of days that will get you to the main areas of interest. You will spend lots of time in traffic - that's just part of Beijing.

    If you do arrange for a tour, be prepared for the fact that the tour operator will include some shopping opportunities whether you want them or not. There seems to be a requirement that tours include jade factories and pearl shops.

    The one thing that I bought is a chop. They are inexpensive and can be made to order just about every in Beijing - including at the airport as you are waiting for your departing flight.

    I didn't have any concerns about my camera during our visit. Frankly, if you have a film camera, you will probably be in a real minority - it seemed to me that the Chinese have completely digitized.

    I also didn't have any actual concerns about pickpockets. The last trip of this sort that we took was to Rome in 2000, and we had a "close encounter" with pickpockets on that trip that was unsettling. Being surrounded by hawkers in China trying to sell various things sometimes can feel intimidating, but I never felt that there was any threat of theft.

    There are specialty restaurants in China, but the traditional Chinese meal includes seafood courses. In fact, the tradition in China is that the last course of a good meal is always the fish course. Our tour operator had arranged for lunch, and the experience was mixed. Some were good, while others were pretty grim (especially the "famous" noodle place in the National Museum across the street from Tianamen Square).

    Our son lived in Beijing for three months last year (not while we were there, unfortunately), and since he is very adventuresome about food, he thoroughly enjoyed the experience. I'm not sure that can accept that deer penis is edible.

    Weather in early October will be moderate - cool enough in the evening that you will appreciate a light jacket, but warm enough during the day that you won't need anything. We had one day of pretty bad smog, but the rest of our stay was very bright and sunny.
     
  7. Jim McD

    Jim McD Member

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    I was going to post a long reply, but Monophoto hit it right on the head. I second his recommendation (and warnings) of a tour.
     
  8. highpeak

    highpeak Member

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    Alex, sorry I didn't make things clear. If you know how to ride a bike, rent one, if you don't know how and want somebody that know the place to give you a tour, you can get a ride on tri-cycle, the operator normally know where to take you.

    In regard of the restaurant, I will give you some detailed info later.

    Alex W
     
  9. copake_ham

    copake_ham Inactive

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    Hi, while I realize that Beijing is the capital city - it really is nowhere near the coast - so seeking out seafood may not be the best way to get good food.

    OTOH, that BBQ'd lamb sounds real good . Wonder if that is a Mongol influence since lamb is usually frowned upon in the other main Chinese cooking traditions (e.g. Hunan, Szechuan, Cantonese etc.)?
     
  10. bjorke

    bjorke Member

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    I had some really great Szechuan seafood in Beijing at a restaurant in the mall under the Grand Hyatt, a couple of (huge) blocks from the Forbidden City - the restaurant is called "Southern Flavors" or something like that. There's also a Dairy Queen nearby (!). The mall also contains a photo gallery, run by Epson. When I visited last they had a d-printed show of 4x5 images.

    Here is their website: http://www.epson.com.cn/epsite/beijing/

    and my recollections: http://www.botzilla.com/blog/archives/000342.html

    if you negotiate a bit, you can get a driver cheaply. I think I spent about $70 and had someone drive me to a busted-down and obscure part of the wall in the incredibly impoverished countryside. Quite an eye-opening afternoon.
     
  11. johnnywalker

    johnnywalker Subscriber

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    There is a restaurant in Beijing called the "Sick Duck". They specialize in duck, as you may have guessed. The "sick" part of the name is because they are near a hospital. It was a favourite restaurant for the Chinese to take visiting dignitaries.

    There are a few (maybe more) Mongolian restaurants, and I think they all serve lamb.

    "Silk Alley" is a really busy market, and lots of fun to visit. Lots of bargains.

    Beijing is huge, and I wouldn't try and wander around on my own. Tours and/or taxis to specific places are the best bet. As someone said, take a piece of stationery from the hotel with you to show the cab driver.

    The fish is almost always carp, and not the most tasty of fish in my opinion.

    Try going to the city parks early in the morning for some great people shooting.

    The local white lightning is very potent, and the locals love trying to see how much the foreigners can handle. "Gam Bei" means "put your bottoms up", and this is the only way to drink it.

    Beijing is very safe. I haven't been there in a few years but I'd love to go back. Have fun.
     
  12. highpeak

    highpeak Member

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    Alex,

    Here is the website for the restaurant: http://www.quanjude.com.cn/defult.html
    if you can't open it, I have the address and phone number for you.

    Address: No. 14, Qianmen West Street, Beijing, P.R.China
    Post Code:100051
    Tel:86-10-63048987 Fax:86-10-63048990
    E-mail:intl@chinaquanjude.com

    Also, I think you are looking for shen-hao distributor in Beijing, here is the phone number and address, show it to the cab driver, you will be there in no time.

    北京绿影室摄影器材公司
    北京市西城区西单新文华街16号
    T:010-66012499
    F:010-66017499
    Contact Mr. Zhong

    If nobody speak you language there, just let me know what do you want and I will translate for you and maybe call him to tell him what are you looking for.

    Enjoy your stay,

    Alex W
     
  13. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Member

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    I think you can do the Summer Palace in a day (I'm not sure as I went by private car via the Great Wall both ways). You can certainly see (a small fraction of) the Great Wall in a day.

    Han China is the south-east of the current empire, about 40% of the land area claimed as China. Bear in mind that the population of the empire is 90% Han -- which is why they have invaded the lands of the 'Minorities' for centuries. Remember too that until the Tibetans voluntarily withdrew about 1300 years ago, on the grounds that empire-building and empire-running are inherently wrong, China was a tributary of Tibet.The Great Wall marks the boundaries of 600-1000 years ago. Yunnan is WAY too far for a day-trip.

    Google Tibet/Tibetan, Uighur/Turkestan, Mongol/Mongolia, Manchuria for an introduction to what the Chinese Empire is about. Needless to say, ignore any official Chinese government site.

    The market really is only a few minutes (five or ten) from the hutongs, and (for my money) a lot more interesting. Hire a rickshaw; hop out when you want to take pictures. Expect to be hit for extra money for the extra time spent taking pics. Pay. It ain't that much.

    Food in Beijing -- even in quite expensive restaurants -- is often very good but rarely truly memorable, and quality is not very closely related to price. One of the great duck restaurants, we tried to visit three times but walked out each time (huge queues, crawling with tourists, too much hassle). We had excellent duck in several other places. Look out for street food like scorpion-on-a-stick (I am not kidding). The Chinese are like the English, ALWAYS eating in the street.

    Cheers,

    Roger (not Richard)
     
  14. Alexz

    Alexz Member

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    Thanks a lot guys.
    Well, the things has changes all over again, I'll not be flying, my wife will do alone. In light of that, I'm considering contacting She-Hao retailers online and asking them to sell me the stuff so that I'd pay online by credit card and they would bring the good over to the hotel where my wife will be staying...
    Alex W, your help indeed will be highly appreciable.
    Do you happen to know the email address of Mr. Zhong in Beijing ? Perhaps he is right person to dea in this regard...
     
  15. Alexz

    Alexz Member

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    Oh, my bad, I'm sorry...
     
  16. Roger Hicks

    Roger Hicks Member

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    No big t'ing, as the saying goes. As nothing compared to the disappointment of not going. Better luck next time!

    Cheers,

    R.
     
  17. Alexz

    Alexz Member

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    Well, frankly, not much dissapointment. It was a kind of rush trip - my wife has to fly urgently for work so made the decision in no time. I wasn't prepared well for this kind of trip (usually I do prepare our itenerary in details, where, when day by day, the route to drive (if we rent a car), entire trip schedule is well planned including of course where to shoot and when), I was never fond about
    spontanious, rush trips abroad.
    Besides, we had only 5-6 days to be there (5 shooting days netto), and the round flying tickets to Beijing are at least 1k$-1.5k$ for me (add here the cash spent during the stay such as meals, attractions, tours, occasional shopping...you know..
    Never mind, this is for good...