Off the Beaten Path in Beijing

If a trip to Beijing is in your future, you’ve no doubt scoured the travel books and internet to map your itinerary. Here are five things to see and do that you might not have otherwise encountered in your planning:

      1.  Alpine slide down the Great Wall of China

Of course, no trip to China would be complete without a visit to the Great Wall; but to really hit the bucket list bonanza, the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall is well worth the two hour bus ride. While there may be locations of the wall that are closer to Beijing and more popular, only Mutianyu has the single most remarkable experience ever: a five minute alpine slide to the base of the mountain.  Unless you’re up for the two or three hour hike, ride the cable car to the top of the mountain. Spend a few hours walking the wall and exploring the watchtowers; and when you’re ready to descend, the alpine slide will give you the story of a lifetime.


2.  Barter in the Pearl Market

Even if shopping at flea markets isn’t your cup of tea, the Pearl Market is a fun stop to test your bartering skills. This five-floor indoor shopping extravaganza is home to a fascinating array of merchandise – both high value, such as the freshwater pearls found on the top three floors, and low value, such as the nearly endless tables of cheap knock-offs on the lower two floors. Be warned: the salespeople are highly motivated to get your attention, and you are expected to barter for the best price.


3.  Eat scorpion at the Night Market

If bizarre food is on your bucket list, the Beijing Night Market (Donghuamen) is the easiest way to find it. Yes, you can eat freshly skewered scorpion, sea horses, starfish, silkworms, and beetles. Just take a friend with a camera so you have proof that you did it.


4.  Pray from the Heavenly Center Stone - Temple of Heaven

The Temple of Heaven (Tian Tan) in the southern part of Beijing is a huge complex of temples built in 1420 for the emperors to worship Heaven. On a pretty day this park is the place to be for tourists and locals alike enjoying outdoor ballroom dancing or quiet tai chi. Within the complex, find the Circular Mount Altar, south of the Imperial Vault of Heaven. Visitors here wait in line to stand on the Heavenly Center Stone so their prayers will echo to Heaven.


5.  Boat through Beihai Park to find the Nine Dragon Screen

Constructed in 1756 during the Qing Dynasty, the Nine Dragon Screen in Beihai Park is among the most famous in China.  This two-sided, 89’ long glazed-tile wall is a bold and colorful relief of nine dragons, an auspicious number associated with heaven and the emperor.  Beihai Park itself is a beautiful, 171 acre public park, half of which is a lake. To find the Nine Dragon Screen, enter through the East Gate and take the ferry from Jade Isle to the Five-Dragons Pavilion, or simply enter the park from the Back Gate.


Talk to the travel experts at Elite Travel to help you arrange your tours before you leave; and for more information on traveling to foreign countries, check out our English Speaker’s Guide to Foreign Travel.