Friday, January 25, 2013

Wow! This is a crowd!

This Forbidden City statue seems
to be saying, "80.000 people?
You've got to be  kidding!"
Two people may be company, but 80,000? Now that's a crowd!

In researching for my next Beijing guide, I came across an interesting statistic. Officials at the Forbidden City reserve the right to close admissions any day that 80,000 people have passed through the gates. 80,000 people? Oh my gosh! That's almost as many people who lived in Bloomington, Indiana; Troy, Michigan, or Bellingham, Washington, in 2010. Those cities came in at just over 80,000 residents each in the last U.S. Census.

The Forbidden City gets lots of visitors, that's for sure. It averaged 10,000 a day on weekdays and 20,000 on weekends when I lived there. It gets 36 million visitors a year, which works out to approximately 10,000 a day. Even then, there were so many people, you had to spend a lot of time waiting in line to peek through the doors in the main halls. I cannot even begin to imagine how crowded it would be with 80,000 people. The article did note the limitation was pretty much limited to holidays, but still...

I have been unable to verify this statistic, so if anyone can, would you please leave a comment? Xiexie. (That's "thank you" in Mandarin.

Are you going to China?

If a trip to China is in your plans, check out my website, Cheryl's China, for tips and suggestions on what to do for your trip. Please feel free to email me if you have any questions about travel in China.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Two places to visit in China

Most people visit China to
see the Great Wall, but the
New York Times says wine
 in Ningxia and skiing in
Changbaishan are also
good to visit.
Every January, the New York Times publishes a list of places they think people should visit in the coming year. Two places in China are named in this year's article, The 46 places to go in 2013: Ningxia, at No. 20, and Changbaishan, at No. 27.

Ningxia is in western China and is a place I've always wanted to visit, but the closest I've been to it is Baotou in Inner Mongolia, on a day trip I made from Hohhot. The terrain between Baotou and Hohhot reminded me of eastern Montana, but Ningxia is even more desert-like. The Chinese are working hard to reclaim the desert and turn it into arable farm land. The reclaimed desert in Ningxia has been planted with cabernet sauvignon grapes that are turning the province into a major wine region in China. According to the Times article, the Chinese want to become the Bordeaux, France, of China, and this is why you should visit Ningxia. Ningxia is 550 miles from Beijing and not on the ordinary tourist path; maybe the grapes will put it on the map. Ningxia is one place I've always wanted to visit, but for cultural reasons other than wine.

Changbaishan is a major new upscale ski resort in northeast China's Jilin Province near the border with North Korea. Skiing is becoming more popular in China all the time. Some $3.2 billion has been invested in Changbaishan, making it one of the largest ski resorts in China, with 20 miles of trails. The article didn't say how the skiing was, however.

Of course, there was more reasons to visit China than wine and skiing, but these choices indicate how westernized China has become in the last few decades. Forty years ago, during the "cultural revolution" these activities would have been decadent unthinkable.

Are you going to China?
If your travel plans include China in 2013, check out Cheryl's China for recommendations and tips. Feel free to email me if you have any questions about travel in the Middle Kingdom.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Visa-free entry to China

Forbidden City in Beijing
Effective January 1, new transit visa rules went into effect for visitors to Beijing and Shanghai. Visas will not be required for U.S. citizens who stop over in China's two most important cities for stays of 72 hours or less. The rule only applies to air travelers with tickets leaving China within that time. Travelers must land at Beijing's Capital Airport or Shanghai's Pudong and Hongqiao airports and show ongoing tickets when they land.

Passengers who want to stay longer or who have China as their final destination will be required to have visas that must be obtained in advance as China does not issue visas at ports of entry.

The rule change is good news for travelers bound for other countries in that part of the world. Flying from the United States to China is long and tiring, even if you're leaving from the West Coast; imagine how tiring it is to fly straight through to other Asian and South Pacific destinations.. A stopover in Beijing gives travelers a chance to rest up before continuing their journeys and see a little of China as a bonus.

Seventy-two hours is enough time to see the major highlights of Beijing, such as the Great Wall and the Forbidden City. It is not enough time to really get to know Beijing or Shanghai, but it is better than not going at all.

Travelers should check with airlines to see if stopovers this long are allowed without charge.

There are two other instances when China does not require U.S. citizens to have visas: the travelers belong to organized tour groups visiting Hainan Ptovince and the Pearl River Delta region (Guangzhou) for short trips.

Is China in your 2013 travel plans?

If you're planning a trip to China, please check out my website, Cheryl's China, for travel ideas and recommendations. And feel free to email me if you have any questions.