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This beautiful and historical site is worth a half day, if not a whole one. The fact there
is a Starbucks inside didn't bother me--it was the last decent cup of coffee I had for three weeks
Don't go to the tourist trap Bedaling! See the real splendor of the Great Wall by hiring a driver, and going out at least as far as Mutianyu (or Jinshanling if you have time) and hiking. It is steep and challenging, but wonderful views of the Wall snaking through the mountains. Put this on your list of 100 things to do before you die!!
a must see while in Beijing. Peaceful, not as foggy (read:polluted) as the city. Great
architecture. Give it at least a half day.
Fascinating, a must see. Too bad they were discovered outside of the polluted, industrial city of Xi'an, but it's worth a lung shocking trip to see the legacy of Emperor Qin.
This beautiful home of the Dalai Lama (now in exile in India) is striking, and good exercise climbing the stairs to see inside! Actually, just moving in Lhasa is good exercise, at 12,000ft. This place often makes eighth wonder lists, and rightly so. The Buddhist devout ,who make pilgrimages there, add to the surreal feel.
Boarded the train to Lhasa from Xining, China. This cut the time on the train to 26 hrs,
which was plenty for me, although my friend called it "a unique experience". The highest class of compartment is a four sleeper-two bunks down, two bunks up. One bathroom for each car, and 3 communal sinks. The beds were planks of wood, with a soft cover on top. If you're exhausted, it'll do. The compartment was small, almost claustrophobic. Lucky for us, one of our
roommates was out of the compartment most of the time taking pictures, so it was tolerable. Unlucky for us, the toilet was filthy and out of paper four hours into the journey. When we passed the 5,000m mark I got altitude sickness, so the trainmaster gave me oxygen (without a word, and only after I stumbled over to her and asked), so I was sick and sleeping all the way to Lhasa. The only advantage to this long, tedious journey is if you do get altitude sickness you will be over it by the time the train gets to Lhasa, and you can immediately start enjoying the lovely Tibetan people. They are much friendlier, happier, and spiritual than the Chinese. What a shame the government of China is systematically destroying their culture. Better see the real Tibet soon, it's going fast. Also the train advertises "picture taking stops".
Those happened around midnight, and 6am, when it was dark.
Very important: take food and drink on the train with you. The food is limited and expensive. If you take tea or instant coffee, hot water is provided on the train. Remember to bring a cup!
don't miss the Muslim market in this smaller, less polluted China city. The market is the real, ethnic thing--fun and interesting.
This is a dirty, crowded city of 32 million people. Only enjoyable thing we experienced here was the lovely city zoo with the pandas. Before you tackle this crowded, pushy, dirty, noisy place decide how badly you want to see the adorable baby panda.