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two free days in Beijing

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Apr 23rd, 2014, 11:07 AM
  #1
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two free days in Beijing

Will be in Beijing next week for two free days before our group starts touring all the usual important sites. Would love suggestions for something to see that is more typically cultural of China if that is possible in such a big city. Any particularly wonderful markets or gardens?

And does anyone know what the smog is like there now?

Also would it be wise to buy a canon lens there? I'm looking for a longer lens and would like to save some money.

Thanks!
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Apr 23rd, 2014, 12:04 PM
  #2
 
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> Any particularly wonderful markets or gardens?

The four great pastimes are flowers, birds, fish, and insects (mainly crickets for their song and for fighting), and the best market to see these traditions is at Shi Li He, just south of the metro station of the same name (exit D and turn left), just outside the Third Ring Road's SE corner: the Shi Li He Tian Qiao Wenhua Cheng. The entrance is marked by a modern pailou (memorial arch) just beyond the elevated railway. Here you'll find people shopping for songbirds (larks from Inner Mongolia, mynahs from the southwest), birds that do tricks (waxwings, crossbills, masked grosbeaks--but not at this time of year); traditional fish (skygazers, lion heads, 'grass' fish), and assorted crickets (golden bells, black-headed emperors, iron grasshoppers, etc.) plus an immense amount of paraphernalia for looking after them, much of it ornate, pocketable, and excellent souvenirs of very long-standing Beijing traditions. There are also kites, tea, and other traditional materials on sale, all much cheaper than at tourist markets. You're unlikely to see another foreign face. Open daily 8.30 to 8.30.

Not exactly traditional, but certainly cultural and very colourful, the Da Shanzi 798 Art District, full of galleries, arts centres, and trendy cafés in former industrial buildings makes for an entertaining day out. (Caochangdi, immediately north, is a bit more serious.) There's not much in the way of great art, but there's a lot of great entertainment, and some, mostly foreign-curated galleries have a more serious approach, and are mostly free. The original 798 Gallery (and its neighbour specialising in photography) should be seen partly for their architecture. There are lots of art book shops (and some bargains to be had) as well as clever arty knick-knacks on sale. Buying the art itself is generally not recommended. More serious galleries include the Ullens Centre, and Beijing Tokyo Art Project, but there's plenty of wandering. To the northeast of the city, south of the Airport Expressway. Easily reach by taxi.

Otherwise, take a one-day trip out to a village such as Cuandixia, by bus or taxi.


> And does anyone know what the smog is like there now?

What it's like now won't tell you how it will be, of course. It's always dreadful, just more visible at some times than at others. See:

http://www.twitter.com/beijingair

> Also would it be wise to buy a canon lens there?

Only if you like paying more than you would at home. All imported items are subject to taxes that make them more expensive. You're thinking perhaps of Hong Kong, which is duty-free.

If you're particularly interested in camera bits and pieces, particular in parts for out-of-date cameras or hard-to-find accessories, or oddities such as old Russian swing-lens cameras visit Bejing Shiying Qicai Cheng which is a two-storey market full of everything photography-related you ever heard of. Open 9–4.30 winter, and to 6pm summer. It's on the east side of the West 4th Ring Road. Walk north from metro Wu Ke Song. You might find a decent price on a second-hand item.

In haste.
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Apr 23rd, 2014, 05:39 PM
  #3
kja
 
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OMG, I want to go to Shi Li He!
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Apr 24th, 2014, 03:49 AM
  #4
 
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Do you know what your tour will cover? Then we could point you to what you are missing.
After doing extensive research in the past, I bought my last Canon camera in China because it was cheaper but for the usual tourist who would buy from the typical store, it is probably best to buy at home (think of the warranty for one thing).
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Apr 24th, 2014, 06:47 AM
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kja - me too!
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Apr 24th, 2014, 06:50 AM
  #6
 
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Any bird in china you see in a cage has been caught from the wild and may be eaten tomorrow.

This is currently the dust storm season so be prepared for 'natural' air pollution in Beijing and surrounds. Be thankful though, it's a big step above man-made air pollution.
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Apr 24th, 2014, 02:37 PM
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> Any bird in china you see in a cage has been caught from the wild and may be eaten tomorrow.

Mostly caught from the wild indeed, but the claim they may be eaten tomorrow is plain silly. These birds are all too valuable, and in some cases exceedingly small. Buying them is certainly not recommended, but is not something any foreign visitor is likely to do. Observing Beijing traditions in action will have no effect either way on the trapping of birds.
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Apr 25th, 2014, 04:07 AM
  #8
 
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Just returned from Beijing last week. Smog ++++, dusty, and a white pollen like fluff floating in the air. Not many people wear face masks there. Saw more people wearing masks in Tokyo, even though the smog was not that bad there.
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Apr 25th, 2014, 06:46 AM
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Well, temppet, we know in china that the more precious and expensive an item the more 'face' is gained by eating, drinking or using it up. The last elephant in the world would make a great pair of chopsticks for the chinese billionaire and provide him with lots of social prestige. So it's difficult for me to accept that cost alone prohibits the 'locals' from buying and eating whatever they want.
I've eaten tiny birds served up in chinese restaurants. Roasted nicely with crunchy hollow bones. Maybe sparrows or parakeets, or baby robins...who knows. I've seen many wild caught and caged beautiful woodpeckers and would ask you, or anyone, who can keep a woodpecker in a cage and why?
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Apr 25th, 2014, 08:30 AM
  #10
 
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> Well, temppet, we know in china that the more precious and expensive an item the more 'face' is gained by eating, drinking or using it up.

Which is why people eat diamonds, for instance.

Neither true as simply stated, nor relevant to the OPs question about markets, or traditional Beijing pastimes.

> ask you, or anyone, who can keep a woodpecker in a cage and why?

Widespread cruelty to animals in China is undeniable, but this question, like your other comments, is not relevant to this discussion.
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Apr 25th, 2014, 08:31 AM
  #11
 
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> a white pollen like fluff floating in the air

Happens every spring. It's merely from the willows, poplars, and scholar trees that line the streets.
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May 4th, 2014, 07:42 PM
  #12
 
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take high speed train to nearby Tianjin, for some unique buildings and cultural street; or go to Chengde if time is enough
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