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HOW TO LIVE THE EXPERIENCE OF YOUR WONDERFUL TRIP TO BEIJING

Some little secret and some travel tips by an old traveller
who come regularly in Beijing and in China from 20 years

You will find a new Beijing and new China, more organized and more open
The trip to Beijing will change your life. I tell this because I have some experience about it. The first time I went to Beijing in 1987. Then it was another China and another Beijing. Over the years I have returned several times, sometimes for work and sometimes for tourism. The last time I was there in 2010. Yes, no doubt, over the years many things have changed. When viewed from the perspective of us western, Beijing today (as well as China in general) has become more organized, more efficient, more enjoyable from every point of view. The years and the events have transformed the city and its people. Now there are more hotels (many, beautiful, fit for Western tourists), there is the subway, there are highways, the railway lines have adopted the high-speed. And people also changed. Now there's a new method of thinking, a new way to deal with situations, now there is more confidence in the future. Many people are also looking to participate in economic growth and there are already many successful, because now about 12% of China's population belongs to the wealthy class. And it also changed the attitude of the tourist, who was once came to visit China with the air of see an underdeveloped country, and now comes already aware of the strength of China and the charm of its past.

Beijing is fantastic, but you should travel without running
In Beijing you can come for many reasons, now are also many people who come to Beijing for business, thank to the large amount of trade fairs, exhibitions and economic events. Before it was only the tourist groups, now there's so much private tourism. Just book a flight and a hotel on the internet, and you're done. And then there are also many offers super cheap, for example, "a week in Beijing," or "a week in Beijing and Shanghai." Want an idea? Beijng, Shanghai and Xian, all in 12-14 days, organizing and doing it all yourself (making the train journey from Beijing to Xian). I believe that this tourism (not too hasty) is the best one. The pretension to turn the whole of China and see all in 20 days, in my opinion is absolutely ridiculous. In many trips organized for 3 or 4 weeks you must run from one place to another, from one plane to another, always rushing, always panting, but then realize, in return, had not seen and did not understand much of the real China. Believe me, a trip to China did with the intelligence will give to your life an unforgettable experience. When you return home you will notice that thinking in a more conscious and mature level. Furthermore you will be aware that something has changed even in your way of seeing things. Why China should be savored, should be pondered and lived with dedication, and can not be solved in a simple tourism "hit and run".

You can also visit Beijing without the group and without speaking the Chinese
But back to Beijing. It is possible go alone (or two, or a group of friends) in Beijing? Or you're forced to trooped in a group of people with whom you have little or nothing in common? The answer is yes, it is possible make private travel, not only it is possible but sometimes it is advisable. I know that many tourists would be inclined to this solution, but then promptly changed their minds when they begin to consider the problem of language. Then we change the question: to go to Beijing should know the Chinese language? The answer is no. If anything, it helps to know a little English. In all hotels in Beijing speak English and of course the hotel staff can help the traveller for any need. For example, if you want venture out into the taxi, at the reception can write for you a ticket with the destination written in Chinese (for safety, if the driver does not speak English). And of course do not forget to take a business card of the hotel (to go back!). Choosing this type of travel (private travel) the only opportune precaution that you need is to pre-booking hotels and flights in order not to get into trouble at the last minute. Then, if you want to stretch an extra day in a city and make a day less in another, with the internet you can change reservations, just advice the hotel two or three days before (so you do not have to pay some penalties).

Two essential things: the common sense and a background information
And once we are in Beijing, what should we do? We have the city in hand, we are free to go wherever we want and how long we want. But how do we organize? I must say that for more distant and demanding destinations (as the Chinese Wall or the Summer Palace) you can opt for a tour organized by local agency. You can also book these tours directly at the hotel. In these cases usually a small van will pick you up at the hotel. On board you will be in the company (only for one day) of a guide who speaks English and of tourists from various parts of the world! However, there are also those who (for example) simply take a taxi and goes to Badaling for visit the Great Wall of China. Even so, it is not bad. There are no difficulties, and once arrived, you can linger at will and choose to eat at a restaurant that inspires confidence. Or you can linger to take good pictures, or you can take away from the whim of a walk a few miles on the Great Wall of China. Whatever your preferences, your physical conditions and your organizational skills, there are two things that you absolutely can not leave at home: the common sense and a small bag of information to be collected before departure. Here in China (almost everywhere when you travel, but here in particular), more often need to walk a lot, so common sense should suggest to wear comfortable shoes: do not pretend to visit the Great Wall with high heels!

Useful information to plan your trip
Yes, maybe the secret to appreciate China is this: come here knowing a little bit on her. Many tourists come here unaware of all and travel doing the full each day with thousands of information (that every time they are forgotten in a few minutes). So I hope you are able to surfing the Web and you like to do some research on interesting subjects. Before leaving, we must gather cultural and organizational information. For example, since we mentioned the Great Wall, first general information on the Great Wall (when and by whom it was built, because it was built, what are the events that accompanied it). Then the useful information for your trip. At what points you can visit the Great Wall and most of all: how do to visit her from Beijing? The sections of the Great Wall can be visited from Beijing are two: the Badaling section (80 km north-west of Beijing) and Mutianyu (district of Huairou, 70 km north-east of Beijing). The Mutianyu section is older, tourist offices say it is part of the greater size and quality of the whole Great Wall. But most tourists prefer to go to Badaling. The reasons are several: first, also in this part of the Great Wall is all restored and in excellent condition, also here you can walk on for several kilometres. In addition here's Highway Beijing - Badaling, which makes the travel more convenient and fast. And, finally, to this destination can be combined in the same trip a visit to the tombs of Ming emperors (and its sacred path with the stone statues of many animals).

Beijing attractions: all things to see and visit in Beijing
Certainly not to be missed, coming to Beijing, are its five main attractions: Tiananmen Square, the Temple of Heaven, the Forbidden City, the Summer Palace and the Great Wall, which I already mentioned something. Of course you can not miss Beihai Park, the imperial garden built over 1000 years ago. Beijing also has some beautiful parks, for example Jingshan Park (on the back of the Forbidden City), The Fragrant Hills Park (in every season is filled with stunning colours), Taoranting Park will demonstrate how the old and new teachers can merge with results overtime. The temples are so many interesting, I quote only a few: Temple of Confucius, Yonghe Lamasery, Five Pagoda Temple, Temple of Azure Clouds, White Cloud Temple and Temple of Recumbent Buddha. If you want to immerse yourself in the heart of Beijing and know sumptuous aspects of ancient China, but also the simple life and characteristic of the alleys, you have to do a tour on the hutongs and Courtyards that, beyond the attractions, will show the true face of Beijing. At this point you should not think you have seen all in Beijing, in fact there are still many other places that may be of interest and surprise. Besides the restaurants (where you can taste the famous Peking duck), I also suggest the visit to the Stone Flower Cave, the Beijing Museum of Natural History, the Beijing Zoo, the Beijing Aquarium, the National Centre for Performing Arts (Chinese Opera Theatre). Of course these are just ideas for your own research. I make this clarification because this in China has to be the "your trip". Sights and itineraries must be chosen by you after your personal research on Beijing. So, dear friends, for now I just have to say goodbye. Have a good trip, and at your return please tell me and to other travellers about your adventure!

Bruno Monti, from Italy



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