Archives For Sights

I live across the street (actu­ally two streets) from prob­a­bly the most unique build­ing in China—if not the world. It’s the CCTV Tower, which I’ve been watch­ing with inter­est over the last five years. But when you live so close to it and see it every­day, it looses part of its unique­ness, as it becomes too familiar.

How­ever, I came across an inter­view in Newsweek of Rem Kool­haas, the archi­tect respon­si­ble for the build­ing, which made me want to go back and look at it again in a new light. The arti­cle had some inter­est­ing insights into his life story and some back­ground on the CCTV project. But it was this quote that really stuck in my mind, as he said:

“I would say it’s a build­ing that the Chi­nese could never have thought of but that we [in the West] could never have built.”

I think this sums up quite suc­cinctly the cur­rent state of archi­tec­ture in China. In fact this quote could equally be attrib­uted to a num­ber of build­ings in Bei­jing includ­ing theNational Sta­dium (Bird’s Nest) and the National Cen­tre For Per­form­ing Arts (Birds Egg). Both of these were con­ceived by west­ern archi­tects and built in part­ner­ship with Chi­nese construction. Which is why the world’s best archi­tects, are all work­ing over here. Design­ing iconic struc­tures, which give China some of the most inno­v­a­tive build­ings any­where in the world.

(Blog posted by Ray on November 15, 2012. You can see the original article by following this link to

In the 1520s, this village was an important military base. The village was encircled by stone walls, some leading up the steep hills of the valley, and some of the arched entries and exits still remain. The thickness of the remaining walls give some indication of the level of fortification, and the importance of securing this pass, a sort-of shortcut around the heavily fortified Badaling mountain pass.

As well as the old city walls, the village has several other sights to see: an old shrine which is alleged to cause difficulties for cameras; a restored-but-closed temple with a large bell inside, and a giant old tree just outside the temple entrance.

For more photos please see its website:

Fa Yuan Temple

john  —  May 28, 2012


Wangfujing is a must see during a trip to Beijing. It is an incredible mix between modernity with ultra-modern malls and old history with food snack markets.

All luxury brands decided to open a shop (or several) in this street which became, as Sanlitun Village, a reference for luxury shoppers.

The street also contains the biggest foreign bookstore (most of the books are in english but it is at least better than Chinese bookstores…) and one of the biggest church in town, St Joseph’s Church.

Wangfujing is also well known by tourists for its street food market, Dong’anmen Night Market. It is possible to find stick of any kind of food: snake, octopus, worms, starfish…

All sticks, dumplings or noodles only cost couple of yuans so adventurer should not avoid this experience.

Scorpions are still alive on their sticks and they move their tails and pliers before the shop owner put them on the oil to be fried. It is part of the spectacle and all tourists (either chinese or foreigners) come to take pictures and move back as soon as the owner suggest them to eat one. :)

It is a tourist place and local taxi drivers well understand this. They wait at the end of the street and ask for incredible price to drive you home. They refuse to use the meter. I recommend to go East with the subway to avoid this trap or walk West to Tiananmen and the Forbidden City. The walk inside small hutongs is really nice.

(Blog posted by Julian. You can see the original article by following this link to Julian, A French Man in Asia)

The Olympic Park is one of the most visited sites in Beijing following 2008 Olympic Games. This site groups together two of the famous Olympic Games places – Bird’s Nest and Water Cube.

2 visits can be done on this site:

• during the day with a visit inside the buildings (fee entrance for Water Cube is 30 RMB and for Bird’s Nest is 50 RMB)

• at night for a walk in the park and around these 2 famous places

I chose for my first visit to go at the end of the day during a week to avoid tourist crowd and above all enjoy the lights which transform the Olympic Park in a magical site…

I was there after my working day and I got from the beginning the feeling that China wanted to build an unforgetable place for the Olympic period : extra-large pedestrian streets, Olympic museum, Souvenir shops and of course the stadium and the swimming-pool.

Night fell then I started to feel the Olympic Games magic. I can imagine the crowd yeld on the Bird’s Nest for Usain Bolt races or the water movement on the Water Cube surface… Amazing!

Hope that the site can stay like today during long years and keep this Olympic fervor…









(Blog posted by Julian. You can see the original article by following this link to Julian, A French Man in Asia)

Hong Luo Temple

john  —  May 8, 2012

Official website: Hong Luo Temple

Chapter I – A Disappearing World

The Fate of Old Beijing: CH. 1 – A Disappearing World from Jonah Kessel on Vimeo.

Chapter II – David vs. Goliath

The Fate of Old Beijing: CH. 2 – David vs. Goliath from Jonah Kessel on Vimeo.

Chapter III – Beyond the Alleys

The Fate of Old Beijing: CH. 3 – Beyond the Alleys from Jonah Kessel on Vimeo.

Beijing is a colorful, multilingual city. I’ve heard Korean, Russian and Glaswegian. Likewise, everyone speaks the language of shopping.

As Olivia, my friend on vacation from Scotland, and I pushed through the crowded market, vendors from stalls left and right pitched sales at us.

“Hello friend!”

“You like North Face? How about Polo?”

“Hey, you’re so beautiful! You want a purse?”

“Come here, lady!”

We were probing around the first floor of the famous Silk Street Market. Upon entering the large complex we passed a large red banner stating: “Do not buy any unauthorized, buy original.”

Tourists from around the world come to this market to bargain down prices for fake designer goods. Some bags are gaudy, others are horrendous, but some items, tucked away in the backroom and listed only in an in-store catalog, take some digging to locate, but are worth the entire treasure hunt.

Our first haggle was over a pair of “Armani” khaki pants. A vendor in his late 20s – his name was Rick – asked me what I was looking for.

After I tried on a pair of pants in a makeshift changing room – a chest-high curtain which the sellers held up – in the center of the busy market, we started to bargain. I punched a number in his jumbo-sized calculator: 200 yuan ($31). He laughed as if I had asked him to give the pants away for free.

He tried to prove the pair was worth 900 yuan.

First, Rick took out a lighter and put the flame to the pants. “See! Look at the quality.”

I told him I admired how they were flame-resistant. Apparently this fabric was similar to the real Armani, though I cannot imagine going into an Armani store and demanding the same flame test.

Then he started spinning the pants in the air and twisting them as if wringing them of water. He whipped it around like a lasso, nearly smacking Olivia.

“Very good quality,” said the vendor. I nodded.

I ended up settling for 350 yuan, probably more than I should have paid. The problem was at the time, I was emotionally invested in these pants. I knew it made sense to explore other stores, but the vendor kept lowering the price and lighting the pants on fire to lure me back.

Olivia and I made a pit stop at McDonalds to count our loot and our dwindling cash. We mapped out a strategy; the crux of the game was for the buyer and the seller to zero in on each other’s true price. Whoever could do this more effectively without losing ground would haggle the best deal.

We went back and located a purse stand.

Saleswoman: “We are good friends! How much do you want for this Gucci bag?”

I punched in 200 yuan.

“You must be joking! I will make no money.”

Still 200.

“Impossible! Look, I give you this price.”

We went back and forth for about five minutes. Every time she went down by a hundred or two, she grew more flustered and indignant – or at least she acted that way.

“Why are you so stingy?!”

We decided to use the walking-away method. When we were just out of sight she called back to us and grabbed Olivia by the arm: “Three hundred, last price.”

“Two hundred”.

“A little more, give me a little more”

We started to turn away.

“OK, OK. Give money.”

You have to stand ground.

Just remember, the vendors may be cleverer than you – selling overpriced fake goods is their profession – but you ultimately have the upper hand. You can always walk away and try a different starting price with a different vendor, but if they lose a customer they lose a sale.

So play hard when you visit the landmark, six-story jungle on Silk Street and teach your friends the ropes. All foreigners in Beijing need to visit the Great Wall during their stay, but it is the Silk Street Market they will visit more than once. For me – and dare I implicate Olivia? – a bargain is something you don’t need, at a price you can’t resist.

(Blog posted by Kevin Tan on August 31, 2011. You can see the original article by following this link to ChinaDaily)

Sights Entrance Tickets Prices

john  —  March 30, 2012
Sites NameEntrance Ticket Fee(CNY)Combined Ticket Fee(CNY)Cable-car or Toboggan(CNY) 
Mutianyu Great Wall4560(including ferry bus)100/80(roundway/oneway)
Jinshanling Great Wall55/65(low season/high season)35

Ming Tombs

john  —  March 29, 2012

Last week while in Beijing, I had a very long and enjoyable day at Beijing’s really cool Summer Palace. Long because the Summer Palace is BIG and takes time to see it properly. Enjoyable because the Summer Palace is just awesome and I had the company of a really nice American couple D and D (their initials).

I met D and D the previous night while wandering the streets east of the Forbidden City with my friend and travel buddy K looking for the elusive Beijing hutongs. D and D took pity on us, gave us directions from their lonely planet guide and agreed to keep me company in the Summer Palace the following day.

For detailed information on the Summer palace, read this article Summer Palace in Beijing

Preparation – If you just want a quick visit so you can take a few photos, see a few buildings and cross the Summer Palace of your list of places to visit, 1-2 hours is enough. If you want to fully appreciate and savour the Summer Palace, you will need at least 5-6 hours so set aside a whole day. There is not much in the way of food or drink there so pack lunch.

How we did the Summer Palace

We met at 10am at the Qianmen subway station, took a subway to the 375 bus stop then caught the 375 bus to the Summer Palace using directions from the Lonely Planet. Took us around an hour to get there. A better way to get to the Summer Palace is to take the subway to Beigongmen station on subway line 4. The northern entrance of the Summer Palace is right next to the subway exit.

The Summer Palace is large park and imperial garden with an area of 2.2 kilometers, has a man made lake, a large temple complex and a large palace complex. Covering such a large area with so many building takes a lot of effort so I suggest you should use a map and plan your day carefully.

We started at the North Palace gate and worked our way south to Longevity Hill then continued south down to the lake front with a few detours on the way. This covered all the major temple buildings such as the Sea of Wisdom Temple and the Tower of Buddhist Incense.

Next we headed west to check out some interesting buildings like the Tower of Hill Lake Scenery. We then back tracked and headed east to explore the palace complex. The palace complex has many stories to tell, most of them about Empress Cixi who was one nasty piece of work. She embezzled funds from the navy and who knows where else to pimp the Summer Palace to her liking and when her nephew who she installed as the Guangxu Emperor got out of line, she placed him in house arrest. You can see his home/prison in the palace complex.

One of the most interesting buildings in the palace complex is the Grand Stage where Cixi and Beijing’s A list watched performances.

Lucky for us, a performance started just after we arrived in the courtyard housing the stage. The actual performance was pretty ordinary but a very enjoyable experience. I would have enjoyed watching the Wiggles perform simply because this was where the Chinese Imperial family sat and watched live performances.

By the time we finished with the palace complex it was mid afternoon and we were feeling pretty hungry so decided to do the 17 Arch Bridge, South Lake Isle, quickly circle around the park then head off and grab some dinner.

Being so big, we took almost two hours to circle the park and make it back to the North entrance. A great walk even when you are foot sore and starving. So you can see that needing a day to see the Summer Palace properly is no exaggeration.

A special thanks to D and D for being great company!

(Blog posted by Brendon on April 18, 2011. You can see the original article by following this link to China Travel Go)

• Visit Summer Palace website for further information.

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Cuandixia Village

john  —  February 21, 2012

On the ancient land of Beijing lies an ancient mountain village with peaceful tranquilities and distinctive characters. It is “the cultural pearl of ancient villages”—”Cuandixia Village”, which hides itself quietly in the deep valleys in the west of Beijing.

Cuandixia village lies on a ancient post road,90km far form Beijing. It was first built in the Ming Dynasty, where the Han’s Family has inhabited. After its development for several generations, it became a flourishing inn on the post road populated by many people. Its economics is dominated by farming, combining farming with trading, ploughing with reading. Cuandixia village, having a long history of several hundreds of years, has retained the beauty of traditional culture relics and vernacular environments. Mountains surround Cuandixia village and streams flow through them.The village layout merging with the slopes is quite orderly and harmonic. About 70 various and flexible courtyards were built one by one following the terrain of the slopes. The houses were built with natural stones and wood, the steep stairs and streets paved by the rocks are all simple,natural and colorful. The poetic landscape,the ancient architecture, the emotional carvings and antithetical couplets all express the villager’s love of beauty and the desiring for culture. The environments, where the villagers have inhabited, ploughed and enjoyed themselves for generations are full of serenity, just like “a Land of Peach Blossoms”. In this village, the beauty of nature,artifacts and society have been combined to a unity, producing and idyllic drawing full of vitality. It reflects the traditional concepts of harmony between”human and nature”, “human and human”, “human and society”.

Cuandixia village has the rare value as the “live fossil”. It records the historical development, the intelligence and practicing of the ancestor during the construction of the village.Historical relics from different periods have been reserved. Cuandixia village has experienced many things and changed much over the time. Although not brilliant any more, it’s still very attractive for its cordial, natural and vivid environment. The well-preserved village and the hilly courtyards,the intense depositions of vernacular culture and the captivating idyllic scenery are all astonishing and splendid!