Archive for the ‘Beijing Travel Review’ Category

Seeing Great Wall of China from the Sky

Thursday, February 4th, 2016
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Plan your Great Wall tour? Maybe you are torn by the question “Which section of the Great Wall to hike, Badaling or Mutianyu?”. Many first-time travelers would choose Mutianyu Great Wall thanks to its good online comments along with the good word of mouth.

The main factor for good comments on Mutianyu is its less crowdedness. But when it comes to the grandeur of the Great Wall itself, Badaling Great Wall is not outweighed by Mutianyu Great Wall. “Badaling” literally means “Mountains Stretching in Eight Directions”.

Therefore, Badaling Great Wall snakes on the mountain ranges in many directions, more changeable and impressive,  unlike Mutianyu Great Wall which monotonously undulates on the mountain range roughly from east to west. That’s one of the reasons why Badaling Great Wall has always been so crowded.

Let’s get away from the question – Badaling or Mutianyu in terms of hiking. Don’t you have an itch for flying over the Great Wall of China? Viewing the Great Wall of China from the sky? At present, Badaling Great Wall is the only section commercially open to the helicopter tour.

Seeing the Great Wall of China from the air by helicoper is an exciting adventure and delivers unrivaled photo opportunities to capture images of China’s iconic landmark. Beijing Helicopter tour is also a great way to impress business associates, start up a little romance, or have a blast with a group of friends.

Beijing Capital Helicopter Co.,Ltd.
Beijing Capital Helicopter is a joint venture between Beijing Government and HNA Group with each side invented RMB 0.42 Billion, the only professional helicopter company for the aerial tourism flights in Beijing.

The Helicopter Crew Members

The Helicopter Crew Members

The helicopters appointed for aerial tours are the R-44 Helicopters from USA. Each seat in a helicopter has the insurance coverage worth RMB 2 millions.

Beijing Badaling Airport 
Beijing Badaling Airport has a good location in Yanqing with the overall weather forecast system, about 80 km northwest of Beijing city center.  It has an area of 211,788 square meters with one mixed concrete runway of 800 meters long and 30 meters wide as well as one parking apron of 12,000 square meters.

Beijing Badaling Airport

Beijing Badaling Airport

The main aviation facilities include the airport waiting hall  of 3,000 square meters, a hangar of 900 square meters, a working space of 650 square meters and living quarters of 1,000 suqare meters.

The Robinson R44 Helicopter
There are four Robinson R44 Helicopters that cater to the aerial tour of Badaling Great Wall. It is a four-seat light helicopter produced by the Robinson Helicopter Company. Based on the company’s two-seat Robinson R22, the R44 features hydraulically assisted flight controls.

 Robinson R44 Helicopter

Robinson R44 Helicopter

Now it is one of the most welcome light helicopters in the world. The helicopters are known for a smooth ride and exceptional visibility from within the spacious cabins. The Robinson R44 is 11.6 meters long,  1.6 meters high; maximum speed: 250 km/h, and range: 560 km.

The Four Seats of R-44 Helicopter

The Four Seats of R-44 Helicopter

Badaling Aerial Tour
The helicopter company mainly operates the 15-minute  and 30-minute flights over the Badaling Great Wall including its wild, original and unrestored extended section of the Great Wall.

For Badaling Helicopter Tour, check out Beijing Helicopter Tours.

Flying over Badaling Great Wall

Flying over Badaling Great Wall

 

Fly just above Badaling Great Wall

Fly just above Badaling Great Wall

 

Just hover above the Wild Badaling Great Wall

Just hover above the Wild Badaling Great Wall


Beijing Aerial Travel Tips

1. For the regular 15-minute and 30-minute aerial tour, you need to book 4 days in advance.
For your custom charters ( to Tangshan, Beidaihe…), you need to submit your specific request in two weeks.
2. If you want to cancel your booked flight, please notice us of your cancellation in 48 hours otherwise 10% cancellation fee will be charged.
3. In case of the grounding of helicopters because of force majeure (weather, air-control…), You will be noticed of the grounding at the earliest time. You will have either your flight date changed or money refunded.
4. You should participate in an aerial tour based on your health condition. Those travelers are not recommended to take an aerial tour who are either over 60 years old or suffer from Hear Disease, Hypertension, Cardiovascular and other diseases.

Add on 
Travel Tips for Visiting Great Wall of China
Visit Badaling Great Wall by Train

Top 8 Sections of the Great Wall Beijing

Monday, July 13th, 2015
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If you visit Beijing for the first time, definitely you want to leave some footprints on the Great Wall of China. When you do some preparation research online regarding the Great Wall around Beijing, you will surprisingly know that there are so many “Great Walls” – Mutianyu, Badaling, Juyongguan, Simatai and Jinshanling – just name some of them.

You may wonder totally how many sections of the Great Wall around Beijing and which part of the Great Wall to visit. Having hiked the major bits of the Great Wall around Beijing, I try to present you my version of Top 10 List of the sections of the Great Wall in Beijing in terms of their landscapes and hiking level. Hopefully my post will help you a little bit in choosing your favorites on your Great Wall Tour.

1. Jinshanling Great Wall ( For Experienced Travelers)
Of all the parts of the Great Wall around Beijing, Jinshanling Great Wall has always been my biggest favorite option. Strictly speaking, Jinshanling Great Wall doesn’t belong to the administrative control of Beijing (Chengde City instead), but the proud Beijing people show no hesitation to place Jinshanling Great Wall into their own bag.

Jinshanling Great Wall is located on the border area between Miyun County in Beijing and Luanping County in Chengde, around 130km to the northeast of Beijing city center. Jinshanling Great Wall is extended to Simatai Great Wall on its east. In the past people could hike from Jinshanling Great Wall to Simatai Great. But nowadays people have to stop in the mid-way, then either get off the wall or retrace to the starting point due to the closure of the Wall on Simatai side.

Jinshanling Great Wall

Jinshanling Great Wall

Unlike the restored and revamped Mutianyu Great Wall and the totally wide and deserted Jiankou Great Wall, Jinshanling Great Wall is half half – half original and half restored with stunning views!

You’d better off arranging your own transport, or hook up with other travelers to split the cost of the drive since the public bus system is not easy to handle.

How to get to Jinshanling from Beijing city center by bus:
Bus No. 980 Express (980快) To:
Destination: Jinshanling Great Wall 金山岭长城.
Very Important Notice: Actually the Bus 980 Express stops at Miyun County ( 密云汽车站 ), and then you take a mini bus from the downtown Miyun to Jinshanling.
Bus Fare: RMB 15
Minibus Fare: about RMB 50 ( you have to share a mini-bus for Jinshanling Great Wall)

2. Gubeikou Great Wall ( For Experienced Travelers )
Gubeikou Great Wall is located in Miyun County, 140 kilometers away from downtown Beijing. Gubeikou Great Wall is extended east to be connected to Jinshanling Great Wall. Gubeikou Great Wall itself is composed of two parts – Panlongshan Great Wall and Wohushan Great Wall. “Panlongshan” literally means “Coiled Dragon Mountain” while “Wohushan” literally means “Crouching Tiger Mountain”.

The two mountains faces each other with a valley in between from south to north, a strategic passage in the ancient times linking Inner Mongolia and Beijing. Now the valley has been turned into a fast developing Gubeikou Township under Miyun County of Beijing City.

Wohushan Great Wall is now still completely wild and unrestored, not officially opened to the public while Panlongshan Great Wall is partially opened by the local government. So when people talk about Gubeikou Great Wall, very often it refers to Panlongshan Great Wall. This section of the Great Wall is not reconstructed and unrestored with fantastic landscape.

There are two parallel sections of the Great Wall on the Panlong Mountain running shoulder to shoulder. One section was built during the Northern Qi Dynasty (550 – 557) and other section was constructed in the early Ming Dynasty (1368 – 1644). The last watch tower of Gubeikou Great Wall is a 24-window tower, also the end of the accessible Panlongshan Great Wall.

The further section to the east is the Wall is forbidden for hiking becuse it is within the military zone. People can make a detour bypassing the forbidden wall, and go down to a deep valley and walk towards Jinshanling Great Wall.

Gubeikou Great Wall

Gubeikou Great Wall

You may have a 2-3 hour hike along the wide original Gubeikou Great Wall, or you may hike further across the Gubeikou Great Wall and get to Jinshanling Great Wall, an estimated 5-hour 10 km hike.

3. Simatai Great Wall ( For Experienced Travelers )
The Simatai section of the Great Wall is located in the northeast of Miyun County, about 140 kilometers from downtown Beijing. It was first built in the early Hongwu years (1368-1398) of the Ming Dynasty. The Simatai Great Wall is cutted into two parts by the Simatai Reservoir, over which there is a chain bridge running through east to west.

The Simatai Great Wall is 5 km long with all together 28 watchtowers ( East 16 and West 12 ). Constructed by the Ming Dynasty general Qi Ji Guang, it is one of the few stretches of the Wall that still preserve the original look of that period. It not only feaures unique points from other Great Wall sections, but also shows some features found nowhere. To the west there 12 watchtowers snaking on the sloping hills. To the east there are 16 watchtowers atop peaks up to 1,000 meters high.

The views are amazing. The wall at Simatai has received very little renovation. So Simatai Great Wall still retains all its original look. It is well beyond the reach of the great crowds of visitors twho come to the more popular and easily accessible parts of the Wall.

The Simatai Great Wall, with densely-positioned watchtowers running along the mountain ridges, looks amazing and grandeur!

Simatai Great Wall

Simatai Great Wall

Simatai Great Wall is linked to Jinshanling Great Wall on its west. Most tourists would choose to hike up the east section of Simatai Great Wall since it is more photogenic and treacherous. After you climb up to the 12th tower ( you are not allowed to go further to other 4 towers due to safety reason), you may either hike down or take a cable car down ( from 5th tower or 8th tower ).

The cross hike from Jinshanling to Simatai Great Wall is still not allowed mainly due to the closure of Simatai West Section.

4. Mutianyu Great Wall ( For Leisure Travelers )
Mutianyu Great Wall ranks as the number one attraction in Beijing. The Mutianyu Great Wall is also one of my favorite sections of the Great Wall in Beijing. It has an extemely beautiful natural landscape once you are up on the wall, green, densely wooded. This section of the Great Wall is comparatively smoother than most of other sections.

Mutianyu Great Wall

Mutianyu Great Wall

Mutianyu Great Wall is located in Huairou District, about 80 km to the north of Beijing. There are 23 towers on the Mutianyu Great Wall snaking the ridge for about 3000 meters. The watch towers at the Mutianyu Great Wall are distributed at short intervals. If you have strong legs and continue to hike westwards, you will walk across Jiankou Great Wall.

5. Jiankou Great Wall ( For Experienced Travelers )
Jiankou Great Wall is located in Huairou District, 10 km to the east of Mutianyu Great Wall, about 80 KM from downtown Beijing. Huanghuacheng Great Wall is situated to the west of Jiankou. This section was first constructed in 1368 during the period of the Ming Dynasty.

Jiankou Great Wall is the most dangerous and ruined section of the great wall around Beijing. There are most risky areas along the section of Jiankou Great Wall.

Jiankou Great Wall

Jiankou Great Wall

“The Eagle Flies Facing Upward”: it is actually an enemy observation tower. It is such named due to the fact that the observation tower is built on the highest place of the mountain. So, if an eagle wants to fly to the tower, it has to fly facing upwards before it gets to the top of the tower.

“Ladders in the sky”: At this part of the Wall the ladders go actually straight up, and they are so narrow that it is almost impossible to hold a foothold.

“Beijing Knot”: the meeting place for three different linking sections of the Great Wall at Jiankou.
“The Nine-Eye Tower”: A watchtower with 9 holes resembling 9 eyes.

Yes, there are tons of online trip reports on the incredible steepness of the Upward Flying Eagle Tower to Tianti (Sky Ladder) and Beijing Knot. We are not advising anyone to scramble that section if you don’t have any rock climbing experience armed with special equipment though maybe you are an experienced travelers.

Starting from Zhengbeilou Watchtower ( east of the Upward Flying Eagle Tower and Sky Ladder), walk eastwards along the rugged Wall and get to the restored Mutianyu Great Wall, a relatively easy walk with stunning views.

At the time of my writing, Jiankou Great Wall is still officially not open to the public due to its risky hike as well as the government’s policy to protect the “wild wall”. If you choose to walk from Zhengbeilou at Jiankou Great Wall to Mutianyu Great Wall, the risk involved would be less. But still you should apply for travel insurrance for your coverage of injury or accident.

6. Huanghuancheng Great Wall ( For Experienced Travelers )
Huanghuacheng literally meaning “Yellow Flower City”. Huanghuacheng Great Wall, about 60 km north of downtown Beijing, is one of the most ruined sections of the wall in Beijing. It has become popular with hikers in recent years.

Huanghuacheng Great Wall

Huanghuacheng Great Wall

It is about 1000 meters long and connecting Juyongguan Pass Great Wall and Badaling Great Wall in the west and Jiankou Great Wall and Mutianuyu Great Wall in the east. Now it is a quite challenge to climb the wall since it has no stone steps or no smooth path found at other sections of Great Wall in Beijing.

7. Badaling Great Wall ( For Leisure Travelers )
Badaling section of the Great Wall is within Yanqing County, one of the two counties in Beijing. The wall is about 80 kilometers northwest from downtown Beijing. Badaling Great Wall is actually a mountain pass of the Jundu Mountain.

It is recorded that the Badaling Great Wall was built to protect the Juyongguan Pass ( Juyongguan section of the Great Wall ) on its south, further protecting the city of Beijing. Badaling is an ancient military defense project. It is about 1,000 meters above sea level.

The Badaling section of Great Wall is about 3, 740 meters long and averagely 8 meters high. The highest section is 15 meters high. The wall is wide enough for five horses to ride abreast. Badaling was the earliest part open to the visitors among all the sections of the Great Wall in Beijing.

Badaling Great Wall

Badaling Great Wall

The wall is narrow on the top and broad on the base making the wall stands firmly rising and falling ridges. The wall was made with huge stones. Inside the Wall are made of mud and stone block. This makes the wall clean, pretty and firm.

Every other 300 to 500 meters, there are fortresses. There are two kinds of fortresses. One is a two-storied fortress used as a fighting tower. Its ground floor was used for living, storing weapons and the top floor was used for watching and shooting. Another kind is fighting terrace or enemy terrace, which was used for patrolling and fighting.

8. Juyongguan Great Wall ( For Leisure Travelers )
The Juyongguan Pass is located in the valley sandwiched by the Jundu Mountains and the ending of the Taihang Mountains. It used to be a stronghold, difficult of access dating back to the Spring and Autumn, the Warring States period ( 5000-6000 years ago). Later the Pass was extended to be linked up with the Great Wall.

The Pass we see today was planned by General Xuda and completed in the first year of the reign of the Emperor Hongwu of the Ming Dynasty ( 1368 ) and the years that followed, it was renovated again and again. The Great Wall around the Pass extends over 4 km snaking the ridge of the mountains forming the valley. The natural landscape surrounding the Pass is extremely beautiful.

Juyongguan Great Wall.

Juyongguan Great Wall.

The Juyongguan Pass Great Wall is sectioned into two semicircles – east and west. Most people prefer hiking on its west semicircle for its steepness and beautiful view. Each semicircle takes about 2-hour hike. So if you have time and energy, hiking both sections is a good choice.

Any questions, just drop a line.

How to Visit Ditan Park

Wednesday, July 24th, 2013
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Beijing has five royal altars left from Ming and Qing Dynasties (1368 – 1911) including Tiantan ( the Altar for the Heaven, also knowns as the Temple of Heaven), Ditan ( the Altar for the Earth, also known as the Temple of Earth), Ritan ( the Altar for the Sun, also known as the Temple of Sun), Yuetan (the Altar for the Moon, also known as the Temple of Moon) and Xiannongtan ( the Altar for Agriculture, also known as Temple of Agriculture).

Now four of the original altars have been extended and turned into public parks known as Tiantan Park (the Temple of Heaven), Ditan Park (the Temple of Earth), Ritan Park (the Temple of Sun), Yuetan Park (the Temple of Moon).

Ditan, or the Altar for the Earth and the Temple of Earth, was built in 1530 during Ming Dynasty. It was the place where the emperors in Ming and Qing Dynasties who would attend the annual summer solstice ritual of sacrfices to the earth. In 1925, the Temple of Earth was built into a park open to the public. Later the park was destroyed and discarded due to the successive wars. The park was repened to the public in April, in 1957.

Ditan Park is open 24 hours a day all year around with a small entrance of 2 Yuan. But the entrance to the inner site of the Altar costs you another 5 Yuan. Each year during the Chinese Spring Festival ( Chinese new year), a grand temple fair will be held inside Ditan Park with added up entrance fee of 10 Yuan.

Ditan Park has four entrances – South, North, East and West. Its south gate is easily reached by taking the Subway line 2 and you get off at the station of Lama Temple and exit from Exit A and walk to the north for about 300m, you will get to the southern gate to Ditan Park. We recommend that you make a circular tour of the park from the south gate, to East Gate, North Gate and exit from West Gate, or back to the southern gate.

A morning stroll around Ditan Park is very much rewarding, seeing people ( most of them are seniors ) doing all kinds of morning exercises, dancing and singing. Ditan Park is also one of the best places to view autumn leaves in the downtown Beijing when the Ginkgo trees are all yellow, blanketing the major roads in the park. Another important occasion to come to Ditan Park is Chinese Spring Festival when a large temple fair will be held here annually, attracting huge crowds of visitors. There will a plenty of vendors selling all kinds of stuff, food, entertainment, and games.

Morning Stroll around Ditan Park
First, follow me for a relaxing stroll around Ditan Park in the morning. This time I enter Ditan Park through its west gate instead of its south gate. What allures you is the grand pailou outside the west gate. Pailou, also known as Paifang, is a traditional Chinese architectural form like an archway.

Pailou ( Paifang ) is a traditional Chinese architectural form like an archway.

Pailou is a traditional Chinese architectural form like an archway.

Pailou is a traditional Chinese architectural form like an archway.

 Then walk from the decorated pailou to the west entrance, a 200m some walking with its pathway covered by the dense trees. Actually there are two west gates – one 3-arch gate and another one arch gate both with green glazed tiles and re-colored wall. The tickting office is set by the inner west gate, a one-arch gate.

After entering the west gate, walk to the north, soon you will see a square red wall which houses the Palace Fasting where emperors would fast before they went to the Altar for sacrificial ritual.

the Palace Fasting where emperors would fast

the Palace Fasting where emperors would fast

To the north of the Palace for Fasting are the Devine Horse Stable and Bell Tower.
the Devine Horse Stable

the Devine Horse Stable

The Bell Tower in Ditan Park
The Bell Tower in Ditan Park

The Bell Tower in Ditan Park

Each morning numerous local residens, especialy senior people come to Ditan Park or the Temple of Earth for doing all kinds of exercises. This group of people are Tibetan dancing fans, dancing in frong of the open space by the west gate to the Palace for Fasting.
This group of people are Tibetan dancing fans

This group of people are Tibetan dancing fans

Move on to the east from the Tibetan dancing group, I see another group of people learning Tai Chi.
I see another group of people learning Tai Chi.

I see another group of people learning Tai Chi.

 Soon, I reach the wide and foresty paved road running from north to south leading to the North Gate. Many people are doing morning exercises on the road covered with high Ginkgo trees.
Many people are doing morning exercises on the road covered with high Ginkgo trees.

Many people are doing morning exercises on the road covered with high Ginkgo trees.

This is the northern gate to Ditan Park.
This is the northern gate to Ditan Park.

This is the northern gate to Ditan Park.

Let’s go on to make a loop tour of the park and move on to the east side of the north-south main road. Here you may find even more people doing Tai Chi, doing plentiful morning exercises.
Here you may find even more people doing Tai Chi

Here you may find even more people doing Tai Chi

A veteran of martial art is practicing in order to attract new students for commercial purposes.
A veteran of martial art is practicing in order to attract new students for commercial purposes.

A veteran of martial art is practicing in order to attract new students for commercial purposes.

Relying on apparatus to do exercises. Some just go to the extreme. 
Relying on apparatus to do exercises. Some just go to the extreme.

Relying on apparatus to do exercises. Some just go to the extreme.

This is the Chinese Traditional Medicine Health Cultivation Garden telling people how to keep fit and self-cultivation. The garden is located at the East gate to Ditan Park.
This is the Chinese Traditional Medicine Health Cultivation Garden

This is the Chinese Traditional Medicine Health Cultivation Garden

It is a beautiful garden immersing people into a mesmerising environment while learning the basics of Chinese traditional medicine.

Well. let’s walk to the middle of the park – the Altar in a square pond (Fangzetan) circled by red-colored wall with yellow glazed tiles.

 Fangze Tan ( The square and moated terrace), popularly known as “the Altar” was the place where the emperors in Ming and Qing Dynasty offered sacrifices to the God of the Earth. It is locked in the early morning, so I have to peep through the wooden gate and take a picture of the Altar from a distance.

peep through the wooden gate and take a picture of the Altar from a distance.

peep through the wooden gate and take a picture of the Altar from a distance.

Old pine trees and green lawn by the Altar. I happen to take a candid photo of a cute baby escorted by his grandpa.
happen to take a candid photo of a cute baby escorted by his grandpa.

happen to take a candid photo of a cute baby escorted by his grandpa.

Now I come to the southern gate, the most popular gate of the four gates in the park. In front of the gate is the House for Worrshipping the Earth God. The house is also surrounded by the red-colored wall with yellow glazed tiles.
the House for Worshipping the Earth God

the House for Worshipping the Earth God

This is the exterior of the Southern Gate to Ditan Park.
This is the exterior of the Southern Gate to Ditan Park.

This is the exterior of the Southern Gate to Ditan Park.

Just outside the southern gate, you can find one of the popular Cantonese restaurants in Beijing known as Jindingxuan Restaurant. You may have a bite of the Cantonese food.
the popular Cantonese restaurants in Beijing known as Jindingxuan Restaurant.

the popular Cantonese restaurants in Beijing known as Jindingxuan Restaurant.

Fall Foliage at Ditan Park.
Beijing is at its best in autumn with blue sky, comfy sunshine and colourful leaves. The best time to see the foliage in Beijing spans about one month ranging from October 15 to November 15.

There are many places to view fall foliage in Beijing including the mountainous areas (all sections of the Great Wall) and downtown parks. Among them, Fragrant Hill is unanimously considered as the most famous place to see autumn leaves in Beijing.

If you are scared of the huge crowds of visitors at Fragrant Hill or don’t want to go to the mountains or the Great Wall outside Beijing, and would rather have a leisure time in viewing the autumn leaves in downtown Beijing, Ditan Park ( The Temple of Earth ) is definitely your best option.

Autumn Ditan 1

Ditan 1

Ditan 1

Autumn Ditan 2
Ditan 2

Ditan 2

Autumn Ditan 3
Autumn Ditan 3

Autumn Ditan 3

Autumn Ditan 4
Autumn Ditan 4

Autumn Ditan 4

Ditan Temple Fair during the Chinese spring festival
As a foreign visitor, if you are in Beijing during the Spring Festival (Chinese New Year),  visiting a temple fair is definitely a good choice to experience the traditonal  Beijing custom and Chinese culture.

Like elsewhere in the world, temple fairs (Miao Hui)originated and developed as groups of vendors did business near temples when many pilgrimes came to pay tribute to the gods during traditional festivals.

Now there are over 10 major temple fairs held each year in Beijing during Chinese New Year. Most of them are in the parks, wide streets and other non-temple areas. Though some commercialization is greatly reinventing the essence of the Beijing’stemple fairs, and old Beijing culture is becoming a smaller part of the fairs, going to a temple fair is still one of the opportunities to know something about our Spring Festival traditions: eating, shopping and entertaining.

Eating and drinking at Ditan Temple fair. Shopping at Ditan Temple Fair

Shopping at Ditan Temple Fair

Shopping at Ditan Temple Fair

Entertaining at Ditan Temple Fair
Entertaining at Ditan Temple Fair

Entertaining at Ditan Temple Fair

Any questions, just drop a line