The new capital (if 350 years old is new)



Although Beijing is the capital of China, and has some points of interest, inside and out, we found it a bit inconvenient, as it is a sprawling city of "five rings".  Wang Fu Jing Da Jie, the famous shopping street, is also near the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square, and we stayed around that area.  However, other points of interest, like the Summer Palace and the Great Wall are outside the city and require arranging for transportation.

You can stay at the head of Wang Fu Jing Da Jie on Dong Chang'an Jie, in the Grand Beijing Hotel, for a hefty price, or you can go around the corner and stay at the Xin Tian Di Hotel, in a nice room with friendly staff for about 400 per night (walk north on Wang Fu Jing; take the second right onto Dong Dan San Tiao, and the hotel is down about a block down on the right hand side).  You can shop at the many shops and shopping centers on Wang Fu Jing.  There are also restaurants, cafes (including Starbucks), some back streets with fast Chinese food, and an entire block filled with food stands at night, up a few blocks on Wang Fu Jing on a cross street.  One of the food stand vendors tried to charge me 20 for a small dish of noodles.  Then, when I told him that I wanted my money back, in that case, he tried to take money out of a box, hidden on the ground under his cart, but I insisted he give me the same 20-yuan note that I gave him (there is a lot of counterfeit currency of every variety floating around China, so always be careful).  When in Peking, have Peking Duck.  The most famous restaurants for that delicacy are Quan Ju De, to the rear of Tiananmen Square on Qianmen Xi Da Jie, or Bian Yi Fang, a little farther to the east where the street becomes Chong Wen Men Da Jie, which has been around for about 600 years (although the chefs have changed).  Beware, though, many restaurants tend to close by 9:00.  Our first night, there, we didn't get settled until after 10:00, and we had to eat at Outback Steak House (for the first time in my life) on Wang Fu Jing.  Mostly, we wandered and found good smallish restaurants, which is what I usually tend to do.

There is a little stree called "bar street", in an area called Sanlitun, which apparently has a bunch of foreign embassies, a little bit east of Worker's Stadium on Gong Ren Ti Yu Chang Bei Lu.  There are actually a number of other bar streets, alleys and walks, in that general area and around the water in the park.  The atmosphere is smallish, sometimes cozy, and tradition of the Chinese boys, who frequent them, is to buy a flower from a little old lady canvassing the pubs selling flowers to give to the girl singers (I bought the whole bouquet from her and let her retire for the night), but it can be a fun time, if you look at it from the right angle (or if you buy the whole bouquet).

Walk west on Dong Chang'an Jie and you will find the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Square, and you will see the Olympic Stadium, the "Bird's Nest", looming in the distance to the south.  Just past those sites, to the west, is a huge interconnected park, Nan Hai, Zhong Hai and Bei Hai Parks with the famous White Pagoda on an island in the lake at Bei Hai.  Another convenience of staying in that area of town is that there is a subway station at the corner of Wang Fu Jing and Dong Chang'an, which can get you to other locations around the first ring as well as east and west along the Chang'an streets to the outer rings.  About 2 miles to the south, continuing Qianmen Da Jie, below Tiananmen Square will bring you to the Temple of Heaven Park (Tiantan), which brags the world's largest complex of temple buildings, and the Beijing amusement park, a little farther to the east along the river.

About 8 miles or so to the northwest of the center of town between the 4th and 5th rings is the Summer Palace (Yi He Yuan) and the ruins of Yuan Ming Yuan, the Old Summer Palace, in the same general area.  About 50 miles to the north of the city you can visit the Great Wall.  Either hop onto one of the tour buses that regularly go to sites along the wall or hire a car to take you there (there are many men making such offers around the front of the Forbidden City: just be careful who you get into a car with).  About 50 miles to the south west of the city is the site where Beijing man was discovered.



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