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Which Days for What in Beijing

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We are planning our trip to China for September. We will have four full days in Beijing - a Friday, Saturday, Sunday and Monday.

We were wondering if others have thoughts as the best day to do the Great Wall. We think we will hire a car and driver for the two of us. And we think we would do one of the more remote locations such as Jinshanling or Jiankou.

So would maybe Saturday or Sunday be better? (Thinking less traffic to get there but maybe more visitors once we arrive.) or Monday? (Thinking more traffic but maybe less visitors. And Monday is also the day that many museums are closed in the city.)

Our other days we plan Forbidden City, a couple of art and history museums, various temples, some parks and the lakes, maybe the summer palace.

Any thoughts you have about best arranging which days for what are most welcome.

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    The basic rule is this:

    Draw up a list of the things you most want to do in order of importance. Try to group them according to geographical proximity or ease of connection by metro.

    Do whatever's most important first, and work down. You won't get done everything you want to do, but you will do whatever's most important. All kinds of spanners can be thrown unexpectedly into your works, and in particular the closure of sights without notice for political reasons. So never leave until last the thing you imagine will be the climax of your trip. That will be the day it turns out to be inaccessible for some reason.

    As far as the Great Wall goes consider alternatives.

    Chinese one-day bus tours are highly recommended for convenience and economy. Unlike English-language coach tours that pick you up from your hotel, and which should be avoided, they are locally priced, involve no shopping stops, and sometimes include the entrance fee for a site in the total price. There are several departure points, but the one with the most choice is at the northeast side of m Xuānwǔ Mén (Lines 2 & 4) exit B1 close to the South Church. These buses run 15 April to 15 October on Saturdays and Sundays and public holidays, excluding Saturdays and Sundays that are worked to make up for weekday public holidays. Buses require at least 15 passengers before departing. They often leave early and as soon as full. Departures are from 8.30am and it’s best to arrive well before that. Tickets are sold from a booth, and occasionally English-speaking volunteers will approach to ask your intended destination, help with ticket purchase, and put you on the right bus. Otherwise just show your ticket at any bus to be pointed in the right direction.

    The list of destinations and prices changes every year (have your hotel call 8353 1111 to check) but may include:

    Huáng Huā Chéng Shuǐ Great Wall, ¥84 including entrance fee
    Mùtiányù Great Wall, ¥95 including entrance fee
    Eastern Qīng Tombs, ¥130 including entrance fee.

    At the other end, consider visiting the wall with Beijing Hikers. These trips are frequented by aircon expats and priced accordingly, but reach a number of more obscure and tumbledown bits of Wall with great atmosphere, use guides who for the most part actually do have some idea what they're talking about, and often include lunch in a farmhouse or similar. These run on both weekdays and weekends. See:

    > And Monday is also the day that many museums are closed in the city.

    Some museums. But the majority are open.

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