Sunday, April 29, 2007

Taxis in China


  • General
    ~Usually easy to get. There are a huge number of them around. Just stand on the sidewalk where they can pull over and wave. At night they have a red sign in their windshield that is lit when they are available. All licensed taxis have the cost per kilometer on a sticker, typically on the rear windows. In Beijing it was 2.5 RMB per km after the initial startup fee, Xi'an was 1.5 RMB and Shanghai was 11 RMB per km. ( divide RMB by 8 to get approximate cost in US dollars)

    ~ Make sure they start the meter (the minimum charge is the number on the window sticker )
    ~ No tipping required--really! I usually round up (e.g. from 14 to 15 RMB), but that's it
    ~ In Shanghai for some reason the red taxis seem shady, make sure they start the meter
    or wait for a different color taxi.

  • Directions
    1. Best: Chinese characters for destination and cross streets if necessary. Your hotel card or stationary should have this. The people at the hotel desk will usually do this for you (for a resturant, for example)
    2. Point to a location on a map that has Chinese characters
    3. Point to a street intersection on the map if the streets are labeled in Chinese (this works about 80%) of the time.
    4. Try pronouncing the location in Chinese (good luck...)

Sightseeing -- Beijing area

  • A good detailed map of the city is a must

  • Be prepared to pay multiple entrance fees in the historical areas. Once you get inside a complex you sometimes have to pay again to see some special areas. Tickets tend to run from about 20 RMB to 50 RMB ($2.5 to $7) apiece.
  • Tour guide recommendation: We used Michal Fenghua and were very happy with him. He will bargain over his fee. He set up a very good tour of the Ming Tombs on the way to the Great Wall (MutianYu) and we had a very nice lunch. He also helped us set up our tour in Xian. Email: cell (86) 1312-028-7620).

Forbidden City

A large, almost overwhelming complex of buildings, courtyards, and plazas. Most signs are in English and seemed to cover most of the information included in the audio guide. The audio guide senses what area you are in and plays the appropriate segment. There is a replay button, so you can conveniently share the audio guide if you want. It also has a small map of the complex with little lights that show which areas you have visited--pretty cool. The main buildings down the center started looking pretty alike so we started exploring the building on the east and west side. We spent most of our time off on the east side of the complex, where we found a section that had been turned into a rocky glade surrounding a temple.

  • The 3 story theatre was pretty interesting too. We did miss a building with various clocks that was on the west side. That would probably be worth looking for.

Park just north of Forbidden city

The hill in this park is man-made. The dirt escavated from the moat around the Forbidden city was dumped here. It has good views of the city.

North Lake
Nice location with lots of resturants around it--at least on the south end.

Hutongs Old neighborhoods of Beijing

Drum Tower

Used to serve as the city's clock. Drums were beat at certain times. Good views of the city.

Lama Temple
We went on a late Monday morning and it was a hopping place with a lot of active worshipers. There was so much incense being burned that the temple workers had to come in and carry off tubs that were filled with flaming incense so new empty tubs could be put in place.

Ming tombs
Has a cool entrance road with statues of animals on each side (costs extra). The tomb area we went to did not have access to the burial chamber, so the attraction was primarily the temples associated with the tomb. One building had artifacts from another emperors' tomb that had not been looted. They were very impressive. Some of the crowns were made of gold wire mesh, and the emperors’ headdress had some pretty amazing jewelry on it.

Summer Palace

Another big complex that includes a hill and a lake

Chinese sod machine repairing a section of lawn

Old Summer Palace

Used by the royal family until it was destroyed by coalition of 8 countries (including England and France) in the 1800s. Was not rebuilt. Not all that interesting.

Temple of Heaven
Not that that great. Good people watching.

Random Place

Beijing weekend open market

The bike parking for the vendors was huge and very well organized.

Street vendor selling baked sweet potatoes. Nancy--Yummm Vance--gag!!

One way to reduce household spending on diapers...

Great Wall (at MutianYu)

Very impressive. The scale of the effort is immense--reminded me of the great pyramids in Egypt. We hiked about a mile to where the wall was no longer restored.

That whitish line on the distant ridge is more of the wall