BEIJING: Red Lantern House

Way back in 2010, I went to China alone. I met two co-passengers at the airport who recommended The Red Lantern House in Beijing. The Red Lantern is a very nice place to stay in Beijing, China. This is not a paid post. I just like to share my experience to those people who are looking for a place to stay in China and doesn’t know where to stay. This is based on my personal experience and I do not represent the hostel.

Red Lantern House in Beijing has a great location and I considered it as a great hostel to stay. It has a very clean rooms, with comfortable beds and wifi. I love the peace and quiet atmosphere of the place. You could relax at the sofas located near the reception. I stayed there for 5 days and 4 nights which comes with a free breakfast. 

At Red Lantern House you get the unique chance to get close to old living styles in Beijing because it is near the  Hutongs (typical little street of Beijing).  It is approximately 10 minutes to the subway. Subway makes it super easy and cheap to get around Beijing. It is in the middle of restaurants. I enjoyed eating shabu shabu for 14 yuan in Beijing. I went there in November of 2010, it was nearing winter, so a cup of soup feels like heaven to me.

The staff was fantastic and very helpful with everything. One particular staff I met is quite good in English.  She even lent her map to Temple of Heaven to me and even carried my suitcase and held a taxi for me on my way to the airport. Before I forget, please note that I availed of the one day tour to the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall of China at Red Lantern House, I recommend this to everyone.
With super clean rooms, free breakfast and very friendly staff. I’ll rate them 4 stars! Excellent Hostel! I would definitely stay at Red Lantern again.
Photo from Trip advisor. I still have to find the cd containing my Beijing pictures.

Quan Ju De Peking Roast Duck Restaurant

Quan Ju De is a well known local restaurant chain that specializes in Peking duck.  We went to Quan Ju De Restaurant on November 24, 2010, Houhai location, for Gracie’s birthday.
Address: Xicheng District, No. 57 Dianmen Street (Di An Men Da Jie)
Address (Chinese): 西城区地安门大街57号 (荷花市场) 什刹海体校内
Phone: (010) 66171570
The bus driver dropped us off at Lotus Lane (He Hua Shi Chang) in Houhai. Walk north along the west side of the lake (the lake should be on your right).  The very nice guard/ soldier nearby ordered one of his men to accompany us there. We passed by many other bars and restaurants. Quanjude restaurant is near the end of the row, on your left.
We were delighted when we learned that this particular branch of Quan Ju De  throws in a complimentary cultural performance every evening at about 7 p.m. Arrive early to secure a table near the stage.
You can check out the surrounding Houhai lake area (plenty of bars and restaurants) before or after dinner too. 

Chinese Visa Validity

Chinese Visa Validity
 
The validity of a Chinese visa can be anywhere from 3 (three)- 24 (twenty four) months depending on the type of visa you requested.
Normally this are the validity of Chinese Visa issued in the Philippines
  • a single entry visa which is valid for 3 months
     
  • a double entry visa which is valid for 6 months
     
  • a multiple entry visa which is valid for 6, 12 or 24 months. 
The validity of a visa starts from date of issue, and applicant needs to enter China before the expiration date listed on the visa.
If  you are going to China for example on April 1, and your visa expires on April 10, you can still enter China, as long as you enter China before the expiration date.  You can stay for 30 or more days as specified on your visa. The duration of stay starts from the day you enter China. 
The best time to apply for your Chinese visa is 1-2 months before your travel date. However, if you are running short on time, you can avail of the rush visa processing @ China Embassy.
Sawasdee Bi Mai!!!
Kiong hei wat chay!
Kung Hei Fat Choy!
Happy New year!
Manigong Bagong Taon sa atin lahat!

DO IT YOURSELF CHINA VISA

DO IT YOURSELF CHINA VISA

Yes, kamatis! It is doable! You, yourself and you, beautiful being, could do it by yourself, sans travel agency which charges from P 1,600 to rocket high P 2,500 per application per person basis. Yes, dude! Whether you get a visa or not, you still have to pay P2,500 everytime your visa application is denied. Ouch!

Peace, dear travel agents! I just wanted to share to my readers how they could save some moolah doing it by themselves, but of course, dear friends, you could still opt to get the services of these travel agents. Just choose well. I saw some list of banned travel agents at the Chinese embassy. So please be careful and choose well!

First and foremost, before going to the Chinese embassy you could download the visa application form from http://ph.china-embassy.org/eng/sgxx/lxfs/


Or you could get a FREE visa form directly at 

Chinese Embassy

2nd Floor World Center Building
330 Sen. Gil J. Puyat Avenue, Makati City.

Office hours (for giving out queue numbers): 8:00 a.m.-11 a.m. 
The Chinese embassy is located just in front of Mapua Campus corner N. Garcia St., formerly Reposo St. in Makati City opens at 8 in the morning. There’s already a long queue by 7:00a.m. So be early! They usually stop giving out numbers at eleven o’ clock in the morning. So better be early ‘coz you will not be allowed to get inside the embassy without the ticket number.

Applying for a Chinese Visa is easy but would require you to have a lot of patience to wait for your turn!

Tourist/L Visa Requirement for China First-Timers (Filipino Citizen):

  1. Original Passport  – please take note that passport must have blank pages and be valid for at least six (6) months before expiration.
  2. A photocopy of your passport’s first page -bio and last page -details of contact person in case of emergency. 
  3. Round-trip plane ticket. If not coming back to the Philippines, you must present an onward flight ticket. e.g China to Hongkong, etc.
  4. Hotel booking or letter of invitation from friend or relative living in China.
  5. NBI Clearance- Original copy, valid for travel abroad.
  6. SSS ID or E-1. Photocopy or a static information or contributions info. May be a print out from SSS online.
  7. Photocopy of your TIN ID and ITR .
  8. Bank certificate. Should have at least 50k  100k (new requirement*)- Should at least be three months old or much better if it is a year old account. Attach the original official receipt for the bank certificate. To be safe, bring your bankbook too.
  9. Certificate of Employment and a photocopy of your company ID.
  10. Accomplished visa application form ( provided at the embassy; may be downloaded too) 
  11. Affix with one passport-sized photo. Photo should be against a light background.
  12. If you have a Chinese name, better practice how to write it, because you could write it in your application form.

Armed with your documents, go to the Chinese embassy early then take a number from the person in charge, if your number is a zillion away, celebrate! Because you could go shopping at nearby Glorietta, and just estimate what time you should go back.  Don’t worry if you miss your turn,  you will always be accommodated at around 5 p.m. after all the numbers are called. Just be there before 5 p.m. with your number.

You need to approach the particular window indicated at the LED signage. Then after submitting all the requirements at the designated window, the interviewer would then review your requirements. They will ask you a few questions, and  if you are qualified then they will tell you how many days you will be allowed to stay in China and give you a pink slip, which means you’ll be getting your visa in 4 days if you will not opt to have it rushed. But if your requirements are lacking , then they will ask you to submit more documents and other requirements they find suitable to ask from you.

A single entry visa is usually given to first timers. Length of stay being given ranges from 7 days, 15 days and 30 days.
Visa fee is Php 1,400 pesos to be paid on the day you claim your visa/passport.

Yes, dude, you have to come back to claim your visa/ passport after 4 days~! So if you don’t have time, just ask your relatives or friends and let them do the lining up and pick up for you! Just make sure that he/she has the money and the pink slip!

You can Contact The Chinese Embassy regarding your Applications by sending your Inquiry by calling their landline: 0063-2-8482395 ( Work Day 09:00 –11:00, 14:00–16:00 )
Or by sendfing a fax:0063-2-8482386Or via Email: phchinaembassy@hotmail.com

Beijing Forbidden City

Beijing Forbidden City
Address: No.4 Jingshan Front Street,Dongcheng District 65132255
Opening Hour: 8:30-17:00
Time for the last ticket to be sold: 3:00 pm
Travel Time: two hours
Entrance Fee: RMB 60

How to get there:
By Bus
No. 1, 2, 4, 5, 10, 20, 52, 57, 22, 54, 101, 103,109, 111, 120, 802, special No.1 bus and get off at Zhongshan Phongshan Park stop or Tian Am Men stop. 
By Subway
Subway line 1 & 2: get off at Tiananmen west station or Tiananmen east station.

The Forbidden City is the No. 1 of top 10 Beijing must-to-see attractions. It is the most visited and the most popular sight in Beijing.


The Forbidden City was declared a World Heritage Site in 1987, and is listed by UNESCO as the largest collection of preserved ancient wooden structures in the world.

Chinese name Zijin Cheng (Chinese: 紫禁城; pinyin: Zǐjinchéng; 
literally “Purple Forbidden City”). 


The Forbidden City is the world’s largest palace complex, covering 720,000 square meters with 800 buildings and 9,000 rooms in total. It was the home to 24 emperors during the Ming and Qing dynasties, and is recognized as one of the most attractive five palaces in the world (the other four are: the palace of Versailles in France, Buckingham Palace in the UK, the White House in the US and the Kremlin in Russia).


We entered the Forbidden City from the Tian’anmen Gate. Through the gate, across an expansive brick – paved square, we reached the main entrance to the palace, the Meridian Gate (Wumen in Chinese). The Meridian gate was the place where the Emperor announced the new lunar calendar on the winter solstice. 


We then, entered the Meridian Gate, and went across the Golden Stream Bridge and we arrived at the outer court. The Forbidden City falls into two parts: the outer court and the inner palaces.

The outer court is made up of three main buildings:

  1. The Hall of Supreme Harmony (Taihedian)
  2. The Hall of Central Harmony (Zhonghedian) 
  3. The Hall of Preserving Harmony (Baohedian). 
These halls were where the emperors attended the grand ceremonies and conducted state affairs. The first hall waiting for you is the Hall of Supreme Harmony, the most important and largest structure in the Forbidden City. The emperors’ Dragon Throne (Longyi) is in this hall. Behind the Hall of Supreme Harmony is the Hall of Central Harmony (Zhonghedian), the resting place of the emperor before presiding over grand events held in the Hall of Supreme Harmony. Emperors would rehearse their speeches and presentations here before departing to the Temple of Heaven for the sacrifice rites. The last hall is the Hall of the Preserving Harmony used for banquets and later for imperial examinations.


Out from the Hall of the Preserving Harmony, you will notice a huge block of marble carved with cloud and dragon designs. Go straight, and you will see another gate, called Gate of Heavenly Peace(Qianqingmen). This is the main gateway to the inner living court.

The inner court is composed of the three main structures at the rear of the Forbidden City, namely the

  1. Palace of Heavenly Peace (Qianqinggong), 
  2. the Palace of Union and Peace (Jiaotaidian)  
  3. Palace of Terrestrial Tranquility (Kunninggong). 

Besides the three main buildings there are the six eastern palaces and six western palaces, where the emperor used to handle every day affairs and was the living quarters for the emperor, expresses and concubines. Those palaces have been converted into exhibition halls, where a spectacular set of imperial collections is displayed.

The first structure inside the inner court is the Palace of Heavenly Peace, the emperors’ sleeping quarters. Behind it is the Palace of Union and Peace, where the imperial seals were stored. The third hall is the Hall of Terrestrial Tranquility, the emperors’ wedding room. Exiting and going further north, travelers will find the Imperial Garden. The garden offers an aesthetic change from the crimson and gray building complex to a colorful and luxuriant atmosphere. On the left side of the inner court, travelers will find the Mental Cultivation Hall(Yangxindian), the most important building except for the Hall of Supreme Harmony. From the time of the third emperor, Yongzhen, all the Qing emperors, 8 in total resided in this hall. The palaces on the eastern and western sides, the former residences of the concubines have been converted into exhibition halls.

The main exit gate of the Forbidden City is the Gate of Divine Might, behind the Imperial Garden.

For security the Forbidden City is enclosed by a 10 meter high city wall, which has a circumference of 3, 430 meters. At each corner of the Forbidden City, there stands a magnificent watchtower, which was heavily guarded in the past. Around the city there is a moat as the first line of defense.


Weather/Best Time to Go
The autumn months between September and November have the best weather and fewer tourists. Summer (June to August) is considered peak season, when hotels typically raise their rates and the Great Wall nearly collapses under the weight of marching tourists. Spring is less pleasant not many tourists but lots of wind and dust. In winter, you’ll have Beijing to yourself and many hotels offer substantial discounts, just remember it’s an ice box outside. Everything is chock block during the Chinese New Year (usually in January or February).

The best tourist season to Forbidden City is from late March to early June and from late August to late November. During these periods, choose someday not on the weekdays and holidays to avoid the crowds of people.

WEST LAKE ADMISSION FEE AND TRANSPO

Travel Tips:
1. West Lake is a large open lake area with some scenic spots around it charging admission fee. For example:
Spots Addr. Admission Fee Bus Routes
Leifeng Pagoda 15 Nanshan Road CNY40 Y1, Y2, Y3, K4, J5, Y6, Y7, Y9, K291, K504, K808, 822/K822
Three Pools Mirroring the Moon the bigger islet in the southwest of the lake CNY20 —-
Chenghuang Pavilion 3 Wushan Road CNY30 38/K38, Y7, Y8, 8/K8, J9, 25/K25, 34/K34, 35/K35, 40/K40, 59/K59、60/K60
Lingyin 1 Fayun Nong, Lingyin Road CNY30 (Lingyin Temple)
CNY45 (Fei Lai Feng)
Y1, Y2, 7/K7, Y13, K807/K837
2. To the West Lake, visitors can easily find bus routes at Hangzhou Railway Station, Huanglong Sports Center, Wulin Square or Hangzhou East Railway Station, and get off at Su Di, Ling Yin, Duan Qiao, Qu Yuan Feng He, Yue Miao, Shuang Feng, Long Jing Si, Yan’an Road, Hu Bin or Xihu Dadao Stations. 

Available bus routes are 4/K4, 6/K6, 7/K7, 15/K15,16/K16,18/K18, 21/K21, 27/K27, 28/K28, 81/K81, K504, 527/K527, Y1, Y2, Y3, Y4, Y5, Y6, Y7, Y8, Y9.

3. Round-the-lake battery car: CNY40 per person

The battery car can stop at any place along the route and it takes about 70 minutes to round the lake.


4. Sightseeing bus: Y9 is double-decker tourism bus running around the West Lake. Ticket is CNY 5 for the whole journey. The starting and end point is Huanglong Tourism Dispatch Center. 
5. The free tourism bus line has been opened between the West Lake and Xixi Wetland. The bus starts from Leifeng Pagoda and departs every half an hour from 09:00 to 14:30, back from Xixi Wetland from 11:00 to 17:00. 
6. Free shuttle bus from Leifeng Pagoda to Hangzhou Polar Ocean Park is also available. There are four buses a day from 09:30, not timely though. The last bus leaves at 15:00 and will be back from the ocean park at 16:00. 

HANGZHOU WEST LAKE: Heaven on Earth

HANGZHOU WEST LAKE: Heaven on Earth 

I heard a lot of good things about Hangzhou in Eastern China. As an old Chinese saying declares, “There is heaven above, Suzhou and Hangzhou below.” For the Chinese, Suzhou and neighboring Hangzhou are the closest things to Heaven on Earth.  
I wanted a glimpse of the piece of Heaven on Earth! Human as I am, I tend to be super excited about a new place that I’ve never been to before. So, I flew from Beijing to Hangzhou via China Eastern Airlines.
Marco Polo even called Hangzhou the most beautiful and magnificent in the world. 
This is most evident in the West Lake area–the effective, if not the geographic, center of Hangzhou. Hills embrace the lake on three sides. The city proper lies to the east.
Ancient Chinese people praised the West Lake area as a land of intoxicating beauty. 
Su Shi, a poet from the Song Dynasty, likened the lake to Xizi, a Chinese Cleopatra, for its allure. 

I gasped in awe when I first saw this scene while walking in Sudi, a 3 kilometer stretch that has the best view of the Famous West Lake.

Intoxicating beauty indeed

Ten (10) of the most beautiful sites include:

  1. Spring Dawn at Sudi Causeway
  2. Melting Snow at Broken Bridge
  3. Sunset Glow over Leifeng Hill
  4. Lotus in the Breeze at Crooked Courtyard
  5. Autumn Moon on Calm Lake (a lakeside park at the west end of the Bai Causeway)
  6. Listening to Orioles Singing in the Willows
  7. Viewing Fish and Lotus Ponds at Flower Harbor
  8. Evening Bell at Nanping Hill
  9. Three Pools Mirroring the Moon
  10. Twin Peaks Piercing the Clouds
The West Lake is like a shining pearl inlaid on the vast land of China, reputed for beautiful scenery, a multitude of historical sites, brilliant cultural relics, and a profusion of native products. Legend has it that the West Lake was a heavenly jewel fallen to earth. Pragmatists insist that it is a mere lagoon on Hangzhou’s western fringe. In any case, West Lake has inspired painters for centuries.

Who would have thought that in ancient times, this place had been a shallow sea gulf before it evolved into a residual lake. The Baidi and Sudi causeways provide access to many parts of the lake. Most of the best known tourist sites lie around and within the lake. With a circumference of 15 kilometers , the lake area itself is easy for the visitor to negotiate.

My Hangzhou adventure still lingers in my mind. Hangzhou does not only have an intoxicating appeal but also very kind people!  I met a lot of angels who, despite the language barrier, had help me find my way around and did not expect anything in return. They’re complete strangers, not even a Filipino, but the kindness in their hearts shines brightly. 

TEMPLE OF HEAVEN

The Temple of Heaven, literally the Altar of Heaven (simplified Chinese: 天坛; traditional Chinese: 天壇; pinyin: Tiāntán; Manchu: Abkai mukdehun) is a complex of Taoist buildings situated in the southeastern part of central Beijing. The complex was visited by the Emperorsof the Ming and Qing dynasties for annual ceremonies of prayer to Heaven for good harvest. It is regarded as a Taoist temple, although Chinese Heaven worship, especially by the reigning monarch of the day, pre-dates Taoism.

The temple complex was constructed from 1406 to 1420 during the reign of the Yong Le Emperor, who was also responsible for the construction of the Forbidden City in Beijing. The complex was extended and renamed Temple of Heaven during the reign of the Jiajing Emperorin the 16th century. The Jiajing Emperor also built three other prominent temples in Beijing, the Temple of Sun in the east (日坛), the Temple of Earth in the north (地坛), and the Temple of Moon in the west (月坛). The Temple of Heaven was renovated in the 18th century under the Qianlong Emperor.

In 1914, Yuan Shih-kai, then President of the Republic of China, performed a Ming prayer ceremony at the temple, as part of an effort to have himself declared Emperor of China.

The Temple of Heaven was inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1998 and was described as “a masterpiece of architecture and landscape design which simply and graphically illustrates a cosmogony of great importance for the evolution of one of the world’s great civilizations…” as the “symbolic layout and design of the Temple of Heaven had a profound influence on architecture and planning in the Far East over many centuries.”

The surrounding of the Temple of Heaven is also a very popular park for exercising. If you go to the Temple of Heaven in the early morning, you can see groups of people practicing all types of kung fu and taiji. You can lso practice with them if you are so inclined. This is another good activity for the jetlagged.

The Temple grounds cover 2.73 km² of parkland and comprises three main groups of constructions, all built according to strict philosophical requirements:

The Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests (祈年殿) is a magnificent triple-gabled circular building, 36 metres in diameter and 38 metres tall, built on three levels of marble stone base, where the Emperor prayed for good harvests. The building is completely wooden, with no nails.
The Imperial Vault of Heaven (皇穹宇) is a single-gabled circular building, built on a single level of marble stone base. It is located south of the Hall of Prayer for Good Harvests and resembles it, but is smaller. It is surrounded by a smooth circular wall, the Echo Wall, that can transmit sounds over large distances. The Imperial Vault is connected to the Hall of Prayer by the Vermilion Steps Bridge, a 360 meter long raised walkway that slowly ascends from the Vault to the Hall of Prayer.

The Circular Mound Altar (圜丘坛) is the altar proper, located south of the Imperial Vault of Heaven. It is an empty circular platform on three levels of marble stones, where the Emperor prayed for favorable weather. It was built in 1530 by the Jiajing Emperor and rebuilt in 1740.

Address: on the east of Tianqiao, Chongwen District 67018866

Opening Time: 6:00-21:00
Take 6, 20, 39 Buses
Travel Time: 1.5 hours
Entrance Fee: RMB 35

SUMMER PALACE BEIJING

BEIJING SUMMER PALACE is a must see site. It is included on the list of UNESCO World Heritage sites. Summer Palace is a masterpiece of Chinese landscape garden design. The natural landscape of hills and open water is combined with artificial features such as pavilions, halls, palaces, temples and bridges to form a harmonious ensemble of outstanding aesthetic value. 


The North gate is easily accessible from Beigongmen Station on Line 4 of the Beijing Subway.


Located at the northwest suburb of Beijing, the Summer Palace was originally a royal garden and a temporary dwelling palace for emperors of Qing Dynasty. The Summer Palace in northwest suburban Beijing is the largest and most complete imperial garden existing in China.

Summer Palace mainly consists of Longevity Hill (Washoushan) and Kunming Lake. Covering an area of 290.8 hectares. Of which 3/4 is covered by water.

Hill-and water- surrounded palaces,temples and garden buildings are divided into three areas: 
  • the palace area, with the Hall of Benevolence and Longevity (Renshoudian) as the center, where Cixi held court from behind a screen in most time of her late years; 
  • the residence area, with Yulan Hall, Leshou Hall and Yiyun Hall as main bodies , where the emperor and empress lived before death; 
  • the tour area integrating landscape, buildings, flower and plants, a place of tour and rest for rulers of that time. As the building center in the whole Palaces, the Tower of Buddhist Incense (Foxiangge) stands highly relying on the Hill and facing to the water.

The water surface of Kunming Lake is spacious like sky, charming, gentle and appealing. In the vast mist- covered water stand the magic hills and wonder islands. 


The Seventeen-arch Bridge spans the green water like a rainbow. The West Dike of the lake runs from north to south. 

Forming a God-fiven scene together with six graceful bridges. Business on the palace market is flourishing. 

Towering palaces shine with the hill and water, Group peaks of West Hill (Xishan) and the Jade Spring (Yuquanshan) are even taken as the background.

With masterly design and artistic architecture and integration the essence of Chinese garden arts, the Summer Palace has a title of  “Imperial Garden Museum”. It is an imperial garden most completely preserved with richest landscapes and concentrated buildings. 

It is a popular tourist destination but also serves as a recreational park.Add:

Yiheyuan (Summer Palace) Road, Haidian District 62881144-209Open Time: 6:30-20:30
Take busses No.726, 826, 718, 332, 331 or 737 and get of at Yiheyuan Dongmen
Entrance Fee: RMB 40 (low season) / RMB 50 (peak season)

THE CUBE IN BEIJING

The Beijing National Aquatics Center, also known as the National Aquatics Center, and nicknamed the Water Cube, (simplified Chinese: 北京国家游泳中心; traditional Chinese: 北京國家游泳中心) is an aquatics center that was built alongside Beijing National Stadium in the Olympic Green for the swimming competitions of the 2008 Summer Olympics. 
Despite its nickname, the building is not an actual cube, but a cuboid (a rectangular box). Ground was broken on December 24, 2003, and the Center was completed and handed over for use on January 28, 2008.  Swimmers at the Water Cube broke 25 world records during the 2008 Olympics.

The Water Cube’s design was initiated by a team effort. The Chinese partners felt a square was more symbolic to Chinese culture and its relationship to the Bird’s Nest stadium, while the Sydney based partners came up with the idea of covering the “cube” with bubbles, symbolising water. Contextually the cube symbolises earth whilst the circle (represented by the stadium) represents heaven. Hence symbolically the water cube references Chinese symbolic architecture.

Comprising a steel space frame, it is the largest ETFE clad structure in the world with over 100,000 m² of ETFE pillows that are only 0.2 mm (1/125 of an inch) in total thickness. The ETFE cladding allows more light and heat penetration than traditional glass, resulting in a 30% decrease in energy costs.
The outer wall is based on the Weaire–Phelan structure, a structure devised from the natural formation of bubbles in soap lather.
The structure had a capacity of 17,000 during the games that is being reduced to 6,000. It also has a total land surface of 65,000 square meters and will cover a total of 32,000 square metres (7.9 acres)
After the Olympics, the building underwent a 200 million Yuan revamp to turn half of its interior into a water park. The building officially re-opened on August 8, 2010

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