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Blast Off to Beautiful Beijing

Earlier this month, CNBC News reported that sub-orbital airline flight could become a reality for the super-rich elite in the not too distant future. These rocket-style liners will blast up through the thermosphere and enable the global elite to travel between any two major cities on opposite sides of the world (such as London to Sydney or New York to Beijing) in a mere two hours or less; by comparison the current average flight time from London to Beijing is 9 hours and 45 minutes. Whilst these incredible new flights will only be available for the wealthy few, for us mere mortals, Beijing is a city worth taking a ten hour flight to see. You'll find pandas, pagodas and so much more waiting for you in this beautiful metropolis. Here are some of the highlights of choosing to take a holiday in Beijing, and some of the very best things to see and do when you reach the city.

What to See and Do

The two most popular attractions in Beijing are the Forbidden City and the Great Wall of China, and both of these are essential trips for anyone who have never visited the city before. The Forbidden City sits in the heart of the city, facing out to Tiananmen Square and Chairman Mao's Mausoleum. It was the imperial palace for twenty-four emperors during the Ming and Qing dynasties, and is the world's largest palace complex. In 1987 the Forbidden City was listed by UNESCO as a World Cultural Heritage Site, and the palace museum within the walls now displays some of the incredibly rare artefacts and treasures that were kept by the emperors inside the site. As well as the palace museum you'll also find endless pagodas, temples and hidden passageways to explore as well as some truly beautiful gardens. You'll also find something you might not expect: Why not stop for a coffee at the Starbucks situated in a pagoda inside the city walls? An ironic reminder that capitalism has truly filtered through to the formerly Communist heart of Beijing!

Whilst the Forbidden City is in the very heart of the city, the Great Wall is a little further away: the closest accessible part of the Great Wall to Beijing is in Badaling, which is approximately 50km northwest of the city. Time Magazine are right when they say that no visitor to Beijing leaves without at least a quick trip to the Great Wall, and this is the easiest place to do so. Despite the distance, Badaling is easy to reach from Beijing: you can take either a direct bus or train from Beijing North Railway station. This section of the wall is perfectly set up for tourists, offering restaurants, shops, and even a cable car to take you up to the top of the wall without too much exertion.

Safety Whilst Travelling in China

Beijing is a relatively safe city, particularly for foreign tourists, as the punishments for committing crimes against foreign nationals are prohibitively severe. However, as you would when travelling in any country, you should ensure that your belongings are stored safely about your person; you should also try to avoid any obvious displays of wealth, and keep expensive jewellery or electrical equipment in your hotel safe unless you need it. It's also worth noting that, according to DrugAbuse.com, China is one of the 20 countries in the world with the harshest drug laws. If you're caught with drugs in China then you could be forced to attend rehabilitation in a facility run by the government and execution is the penalty for some drug crimes, both for nationals and visitors. Because of this it's important to be vigilant about the location of your luggage when travelling through the airport in Beijing, and also to think twice about saying yes if anyone offers you drugs for any reason.

The People of Beijing

Finally, one of the things that makes Beijing so special are the people that call the city home. Whether that's the ex pats that have set up camp around the Sanlitun district (a haven or international shops, bars and restaurants), the children and the elderly who all take their morning exercises in the city parks, or the local working people living in traditional Hutongs across the city. Hutongs are traditional Chinese homes, and taking a trip to see some of these remarkable buildings is an absolute must during your time in Beijing. Hutong communities are very special and these ancient homes are a tourist attraction in themselves; why not hire a bike and take a ride through the narrow Hutong alleyways, and take the time to talk to the residents going about their traditionally slow-placed way of life? You certainly won't be disappointed.


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