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Old 2 Mar 2007
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Beijing Travel Guide – General Information

Lying on the north tip of the North China Plain, Beijing is the capital of the People’s Republic of China. 43.5 meters above sea level, Beijing covers an area of 16,808 square kilometers and has a population of 12 million. Under the city’s jurisdiction there are 10 districts and 8 counties, among which Dongcheng District, Xicheng District, Chongwen District and Xuanwu District within the Second Ring Road are the inner city in the traditional sense.

The brash modernity of BEIJING (the name means "northern capital") comes as a surprise to many visitors. For the last thousand years, the drama of China's imperial history was played out here, with the emperor sitting enthroned at the centre of the Chinese universe, and though today the city is a very different one, it remains spiritually and politically the heart of the country.

First impressions of Beijing are of an almost inhuman vastness, conveyed by the sprawl of identical apartment buildings in which most of the city's population of twelve million are housed, and the eight-lane freeways that slice it up. It's an impression that's reinforced on closer acquaintance, from the magnificent Forbidden City, with its stunning wealth of treasures, the concrete desert of Tian'anmen Square and the gargantuan buildings of the modern executive around it, to the rank after rank of new office complexes that line its mammoth roads. Between the swathes of concrete and glass, you'll find some of the plushest temples, and certainly the grandest remnants of the Imperial Age. Outside the centre, the scale becomes more manageable, with parks, narrow alleyways and ancient sites such as the Yonghe Gong, Observatory and, most magnificent of all, the Temple of Heaven, offering respite from the city's oppressive orderliness and rampant reconstruction. In the suburbs beyond, the two Summer Palaces and the Western Hills have been favored retreats since imperial times. Unexpectedly, some of the country's most pleasant scenic spots lie within the scope of a day-trip, and, just to the north of the city, is one of China's most famous sights, the old boundary line between civilizations, the Great Wall.

Beijing is a city that almost everyone enjoys. For new arrivals it provides a gentle introduction to the country and for travelers who've been roughing it round outback China, the creature comforts on offer are a delight. It's home to a huge expat population, and it's quite possible to spend years here eating Western food, dancing to Western music, and socializing with like-minded foreigners. Beijing is essentially a private city, and one whose surface is difficult to penetrate; sometimes it seems to have the superficiality of a theme park. Certainly there is something mundane about the way tourist groups are efficiently shunted around, plugged from hotel to sight, with little contact with everyday reality. To get deeper into the city, wander what's left of the labyrinthine hutongs, "fine and numerous as the hairs of a cow" (as one Chinese guidebook puts it), and check out the little antique markets, the residential shopping districts, the smaller, quirkier sights, and the parks, some of the best in China, where you'll see Beijingers performing tai ji and hear birdsong – just – over the hum of traffic. Take advantage, too, of the city's burgeoning nightlife and see just how far the Chinese have gone down the road of what used to be called spiritual pollution.

If the Party had any control over it, no doubt Beijing would have the best climate of any Chinese city; as it is, it has one of the worst. The best time to visit is in autumn, between September and October, when it's dry and clement. In winter it gets very cold, down to minus 20°C, and the mean winds that whip off the Mongolian plains feel like they're freezing your ears off. Summer (June–August) is muggy and hot, up to 30°C, and the short spring (April & May) is dry but windy.

Getting to Beijing is no problem. As the centre of China's transport network you'll probably wind up here sooner or later, whether you want to or not, and to avoid the capital seems wilfully perverse. On a purely practical level, it's a good place to stock up on visas for the rest of Asia, and to arrange transport out of the country – most romantically, on the Trans-Siberian or Trans-Mongolian trains. To take in its superb sights requires a week, by which time you may well be ready to move on to China proper. Beijing is a fun place but, make no mistake, it in no way typifies the rest of the nation.

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Old 2 Mar 2007
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OK Willy - figure out a way for me to get a legal drivers permit, interprovincial plates and a bike - then I'll bite
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Old 5 Mar 2007
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Can you just provide me some more details about what you want to have?
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Old 5 Mar 2007
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Hi Willy, most of us here are riding or driving vehicles from country to country, continent to continent, or even around the world. I think what CTB is saying is, "how does your post help me?" Certainly I am wondering that! I read your post and visited your website, which is quite nice. I hope to pass through Mongolia and China later this year and am always looking for ways to deal with the red-tape associated with this part of my trip. What I'd like to have is more info on independant travel in China, but I don't think that's what you're "selling."
"And I think to myself, what a wonderful world..." L.B. Armstrong. www.davesgreatescape.net

Last edited by hook; 5 Mar 2007 at 21:45.
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Old 6 Mar 2007
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Smile Make me Smile

Thanks for the nod of interest Willy – specifically I would like to travel China (legally) this summer (looking doubtful now) on a motorcycle I hope/hoped to purchase in China. For that I need:

1. A Chinese drivers permit – I understand that foreigners with a residency permit can write the exam for a license. But I would be traveling on a Tourist Visa (90 day) and from everything I’ve read and heard I would not be eligible for a drivers permit. I have heard that it might be possible to get a car license but likely tied to the rental of that car – not a motorbike.

2. When I found a bike I would need insurance and plates that would allow for inter provincial travel. I’ve found a few folks over there willing to sell me a bike but whenever I enquire about the plates they seem to disappear quite quickly.

Note: I’m not morally apposed to cruising around illegally but the thought of spending my short holiday time trying to get a confiscated bike out of a police compound doesn’t interest me, especially when there are many other places in the world where I can ride without that threat.

So if you could pull a rabbit out of your hat and suggest some ideas as to how to get the license and plates I would be a very happy fellow. I’d even pose for a visit Beijing tourist poster with a smile on my face.

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Old 14 Apr 2007
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I am in the same predicament as you. I am planning a trip to ride across China either entering from kashgar and reaching Beijing or exiting via Kashgar to the KKH. I am struggling to understand the Chinese policy, The latest I read is they are now recoganising Intnl DL,but I am not sure whether you are legally allowed to bring your own bike and ride through China?
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Old 26 Apr 2007
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Put simply: what is required for a foreign tourist to enter China with his/her own bike?

Based on information Ive come across so far, it looks like you´d need the following:
- chinese visa
- chinese traffic insurance (not sure, if its available at the border?)
- chinese drivers license (perhaps loosening that up a bit, or not)
- temporary chinese plates for your bike
- a guide to accompany you through the country

Then, on the other hand, some have been claiming they´ve managed to cross the border without a guide, and probably without new plates and no local drivers license, either. Said they´ve been able to travel freely inside the country, too. But I wouldnt count on that, and they might be in deep trouble, if they have an accident, etc.

Still, it would be so nice, if someone could provide some accurate information about this. What is needed, what is not needed so you could then consider if its worth the hassle. Now it seems more like anyones guess.
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Old 26 Apr 2007
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Talking China costs

Originally Posted by pecha72 View Post
Still, it would be so nice, if someone could provide some accurate information about this. What is needed, what is not needed so you could then consider if its worth the hassle.
From an agent in Xinjiqng, China, I quote, you need 11 items. First ten are:

1.Xinjiang Border Management Bureau permit
2.Xinjiang Custom Department permit
3.Xinjiang police Bureau permit
4.Xinjiang military Department permit
5.Xinjiang Border Transportation Bureau permit
6.Xinjiang Border Security Bureau permit
7.temporary Chinese driving licence
9.temporary Chinese licence tag
10. Insurance (3rd party)

The cost of all the above, including someone to meet you at the border is about $750 (usd) PER BIKE.

Number 11 is a guide.
Number 11 will cost you $100 (usd) per day - PER GROUP.

It is possible to "avoid" number 11. Not legal but nor is breaking the speed limit, anywhere.

This cost is ONLY for Xinjiang. If you travel to another province, you can/will be charged again for the new set of permits. Not sure about the plates/licence.

You pays your money and takes your chances.
I'm planning on 15 days in Zinjiang in June/July. Enter at Korgas, exit at Kunjerab pass.

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Old 28 Apr 2007
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This is a good read about 2 guys who bought some Zongshen enduros and rode for 30 days. If you search around for the guy's email, he might still be in China and will help you out with a trip of your own...including getting hold of new bikes (the bikes go for $1000). Say what you want about Chinese bikes anywhere else in the world, but they are made in China, and repairs/spares are obviously easy to get there. Read the story and see if something like this sounds good for you.

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