Beijing, China

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Beijing Guide – Spend Less, Do More

Beijing skylineYou've joined the thousands of tourists marvelling at the red and gold of the Forbidden City. As if you had not done enough walking already, you then put on your hiking shoes for a long expedition to the Great Wall of China, determined to cover as much of it as possible in one day (which turns out to not be very much of it at all). Finally, you stood in the middle of Tiananmen Square as the sun dipped behind the horizon, pondering the sheer significance of the ground you were standing on in Chinese history. Beyond these Beijing staples, The Celestial City has so much to offer the traveller who prefers something a little different and off the beaten track.

For your dose of the arts...

Visit District 798, otherwise known as the Dashanzi Art District. Here you will experience some of the best of the city's independent arts scene. The result of recent gentrification, factory buildings given a new lease on life as art galleries house impressive collection from some of China's best up-and-coming talents.

Skip the more popular Beihai Park

Great wall of chinaAnd take a jaunt through Lianhuachi Park, for an extremely minimal park entry fee, which is far more popular with locals. Practice some Tai Chi with nearby residents who come to the park daily to get their exercise, or play some majong. You will find yourself inside a scene from a Chinese watercolor painting: surrounded by lotus ponds, pavilions and rock gardens, with the sound of running water from the water features. It's picture-postcard perfect!

Get out of your comfort zone...

Especially when it comes to food. Step outside your hotel restaurant with its English translated menu and stop ordering fried rice, that's not what the locals eat. Head over to Longfusi Snack Street in the Dongcheng district to find something a little more authentic. Some restaurants and vendors will have goods for sale in their carts or windows wafting fragrant irresistible smells, or have pictures on their menu, well-suited for more creative food ordering. If you're really daring, why not just take a chance and order a Chinese dish without knowing what you're going to get? Try the smaller family-owned joints as these are often where you will find the best-tasting local cuisine. You will find these in the city's Courtyards and Hutongs, or alleyways, but find them before they all go as commercialisation sweeps over the city, wiping out many of the modest mom-and-pop businesses.

Instead of the typical Badaling section of the great wall...

Go further afield. Most tourists will either visit the Badaling or Joyongguan Pass sections of the Great Wall, purely based on the shorter travel time, and the fact that most of the guided tours take visitors there. To avoid the crowds, however, travel further from the city to the Simitai section of the wall – not only is it quieter and supposedly the most majestic section of the entire wall, it has not been entirely reconstructed, and you'll experience the privilege of walking on some of the original wall. Don't forget to slow down and take in the breath-taking scenery – on a sunny day you can see the wall stretching for miles in either direction and on a foggy day, it winds in and out of the mist and surrounding hills. Also take this opportunity to take a night trip to Gubei Water Town which is located just off the Simitai Great Wall, and surrounds the stunning Mandarin Duck Lake Reservoir!

You've saved on your humble abode...

So why not treat yourself to some tickets to the Peking Opera. While this is not for everyone, a reveller will definitely appreciate the exquisite costumes and headpieces, a great experience if you're at all interested in the cultural dance and singing that entertained the Chinese emperors of centuries ago.

Have a couple of days free? Why not hire a car and visit Chengde, 230kim out of Beijing and located in the northeast of Hebei Province? Historic and cultural, the city offers a Mountain Resort (the summer palace of the Qing dynasty) and Eight Outer Temples, which are listed as UNESCO world heritage sites.

Spend Less, Do More

Your Cheaperthanhotels Team

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