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Kunming to Beijing, China

Day 121: Country #15

The free ticket to explore Kunming for a day was awesome and at the ticket price I wouldn’t have felt bad about staying longer, but the ultimately destination was Beijing to meet a friend. I arrived a day early so I needed to plan carefully which sights to see as to not repeat anything with her.

0601 China x4

Archery Tower, South Gate, Beijing, China.

I started off right at the heart of Beijing near Qianmen Historic Street where my hostel/hotel was located. The street was spacious, leading up to the Archery Tower at South Gate, but instead of going to Tiananmen Square, I turned right and wandered down whole city blocks of historic styled reconstructed houses and streets such as Caochang Bataio Alley, then I looped back and visited the Beijing Planning Exhibition Hall (museum) and Railway Museum so I could get a sense for the city’s overall layout and history. I was impressed by the advanced audio-visual technologies used to tell the Beijing story, including large scale models of the city and fly through cinematics.

0601 China x5

Beijing city model at the Planning Exhibition Hall, Beijing, China.

Finally, I crossed Tiananmen Square, all the way to the Forbidden City Entrance to get a sneak preview of the site, but I turned right again and freely strolled along the path outside the walls.

0601 China x6

Free path along the Forbidden City walls, Beijing, China.

I crossed the bridge on the East Gate, stopped by Pudu Temple, then Wanfujing Shopping Street, a long stretch of shops and malls that got progressively more modern and luxurious as you approach Wangfujing subway station.

0601 China x3

Wangfujing Shopping Street, Beijing, China.

After wandered through Beijing Mall, exiting the other side, I continued west to Leifeng Memorial Museum then the Imperial Ancestral Temple, a huge park, separate from the Forbidden Palace, but containing just as interesting and grandiose structures. It only cost 2 RMB ($0.30) to enter and closed much later than many other places. The sun set and flocks of birds flew over the palace’s open courtyard – yet there was only one other person in sight to enjoy the serene experience.

The park did eventually close, so I crossed next door to Zhongshan Garden which was an open space with no entry fees but just as many interesting sights such as the Alter of Earth and Harvests and a huge spherically shaped theater with a half starry night designed dome, perfectly fitting as night approached and I made my way back to the hostel/hotel.

0601 China x7

Stars on the Zhongshan Garden’s Theater, Beijing, China.

Tip:
Get a general sense for operating hours of various sites so you can plan an efficient path. Often you won’t know the hours until you get there. I carefully re-evaluate the map with each new piece of information and adjust my route so I can loop back at the latest possible time, assuming it makes sense to do so. This is easier to do when you have a dense concentration of attractions.

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