No trip to Beijing should be complete until you’ve viewed the immense Forbidden City from above- and the place to do that is at Jingshan Park. We happened to visit on day 9 of our trip… our last day, so we ended it as any busy trip should- with a lazy Sunday morning stroll through a park.
Possibly the best kept secret of Chinese tourism, I hadn’t even heard of this park until we arrived in Beijing and our Great Wall tour guide mentioned it to us. Luckily our hotel was an easy 5 minute walk from the East gate of the park which is right where you can find an entrance to the park.
View of the park hill from our hotel breakfast
It costs a couple of coins ( I suspect to keep beggars and homeless out) and is well worth the visit. We bought our tickets easily at the windows by the gate and headed in. The major draw of this park are the pavilions at the top of the hill, from which you have a sprawling expansive view of the Forbidden city. As we started our trek up a hill we passed a choir singing traditional music which we heard almost the rest of the way up.
At the top there were a few photographers setup with props you could pose with for a fee, and several others milling about but on this particular Sunday morning at 10, it wasn’t crowded at all. We snapped a few photos from the top pavilion where we got the best view of the Forbidden city in all its symmetrical and colorful glory. But it’s also to note how cool all the other directions are to see. You can see the temples to the North, West, and East, as well as city sky scrapers a little further out. It was peaceful up here among the small temples with views of ancient and modern combined in one.
View to the West with the city in the distance
Temples to the North of the park
But my favorite view is still of the Forbidden City
We headed down the hill to the West side of the park thinking we’d make a circle. At the bottom we passed a group of seniors perfecting the art of the Chinese yoyo, called a Diabolo which is a single or double string that the performer uses a stick in each hand to manipulate. The movement is like a dance and the performers were more graceful than I think I could ever be. The coolest part for me was the sound that comes from the Diabolo… the combination of sound and grace were mesmerizing and Braden had to practically drag me away from the group.
Luckily as we walked we passed another group of seniors dancing in a square with a boombox playing more traditional music and it seemed that no matter how far we walked, we were surrounded by music. The park has so many paths and gardens intertwining that you could wander it for hours, especially on a sleepy Sunday morning when families young and old wandered hand in hand.
As we continued back toward the East gate to exit where we entered, we passed a historic marker of memorial plaques and the tree planted on the spot where the Emperor Chongzhen hung himself rather than suffer the humiliation of surrendering to an insurrectional army in 1644. While a little grim it was interesting to read about and see a little known piece of history.
We spent about 2 hours wandering around before we headed back to our hotel to pack our bags and prepare for the long day of travel ahead of us.
It took almost an hour to get to the airport and was a struggle finding the right check in counter so I’m glad we had a relaxing peaceful morning before a long series of flights home.
That’s it! It was a wild ride but I hope my posts help you travel to China!
Day 9 costs: Breakfast included in hotel stay Jingshan Park entry: $0.58 Train to airport $8.16 Lunch at airport $19 Day 9 Total: $27.74
Total costs in country: $2,220 for 2 people
Overhead Costs: Plane tickets: $860 Visa Cost: $490 Dog Sitter: $120 Phone Bill: $100
Day 6- Exploring Shanghair from ancient water towns to modern skyscrapers: We wanted to see all we could in a day of what the Shanghai area had to offer.
The train from Huangshan dropped us off just short of 8AM at the Shanghai station.
*Note there are a few “shanghai” stations as well as airports so it’s important to know which one exactly you will be arriving at.
First matter of business was dropping our big packs off at a luggage storage so we wouldn’t have to lug them around all day. We took a random exit from the train station and found one right at the exit. (I think there are multiple) It was about $4/bag/day so we sorted out what we’d need for the next 2 days and said sayonara to our bags.
Next order of business: Mcdonalds for Breakfast. We went to a very cool underground Mcdonalds… you could say we felt very “hip” going here. Fed and happy we were ready to start exploring.
So now onto the fun stuff: Zhujiajiao Water Town! Don’t pay $200 for a private tour here, it was super easy to get to! (as easy as any metro goes that is) Unfortunately we were heading out during Shanghai’s morning rush hour, so it took us over 30 minutes to buy our tickets from the kiosks. * TIP: Pay attention down there to the top of the machine and whether you can pay with bills or need coins!
Tickets in hand, it was easy to follow the metro map, we only had 2 train transfers to worry about, but it still took around 90 minutes of travel to get to the Zhujiajiao station. Then it was another 10-15 minute walk using Google Maps as guidance to the start of the town.
*The cat statues pictured above signified our turn down to water town. The train station had signs to put you on the major street walking down, but then the signs were all gone and we had to rely on google.
Beautiful waterway right by the train station
Crossing the giant bridge into the water town
About Zhujiajiao Zhujiajiao is a water town on the outskirts of Shanghai, and was established about 1,700 years ago. There are numerous water pathways (no roads!) and thus many stone bridges: 36 in fact! Each one more beautiful than the next. While we visited for the bridges, other points of interest include: North Street: the best preserved ancient street with buildings that date back to the Qing Dynasty (1644-1912) Kezhi Yuan Garden: garden dating back to 1912 Qing Dynasty Post Office: exhibits include old post cards of Shanghai and letters written on bamboo Fangsheng Bridge: The main bridge coming into the town. It was built in 1812 and is said to be the largest stone arch bridge in Shanghai with five arches, about 230 feet (70 m) long, and 19 feet (5.8 m) tall.
While maybe not having a ton of other stuff to do activity wise, this little town is one peaceful village. We picked up some beautiful art for souvenirs, had a few drinks/ snacks as we meandered, and watched the little boats go up and down the canals. (We didn’t ourselves take a boat tour this time… it was just too hot, but if interested here’s some info: Boat Trips/Gondola Rides: Each gondola can hold 6 people. There are two kinds of trip – short distance and long distance. The short distance trip only takes passengers up and down the main canal price is about 80 yuan/per boat for about 10 minutes. The Long distance trip goes all over the town and back Price is 150 yuan/per boat. Tickets can be bought in the small wooden ticket booths by the docks
Views along the walkway. Some of the bridges are only 1 meter or under 3,5 feet wide!
If you are interested in visiting the gardens, post office, temples, or other historical buildings there is a small fee. The town/ bridges/ etc are free to enjoy visually but if you want to go in any of the historical buildings, visit the tourist info center for combo tickets.
Here’s a map of the “attractions” for reference
Highlights for me: Bridges and Willow Trees
Roof of the Buddhist Temple.
Time to head back to Shanghai
A carving we came across at one of the entrance points to the water town
Waterways you pass walking to and from the train station. The area is pretty scenic all around!
We headed back to the train/metro station which was a 10 minute walk back, and a short wait and then we were headed back to the city. We got off at the Dongchang Road Station and started exploring the skyscaper financial district.
. There are 2 buildings you can go to the top of in Shanghai that are popular: the older Shanghai Pearl TV station tower, and the newer Shanghai World Financial Center. The latter was cheaper so that’s the one we chose. We bought our tickets and walked through a short exhibit for the building itself, and the massive growth of Shanghai over the last couple of years.
Display at the start of World Financial Building tour
Then you hop in the elevator and ride (very quickly) to the 94th floor. Here they have a couple more exhibitist that are part of a different ticket, and you take the escalator up to floor 97. You can peep out the windows here, but the view is much better from the 2nd elevator ride up to the 100th floor so you may as well hold tight.
The building was also currently hosting a Studio Ghibli exhibit and so there were references to the movies in a few places along the normal “100th floor” visit. The exhibits were separate and fairly expensive so we held off on visiting figuring one day, we will visit the main exhibits in Japan/
Lots of people at the “very top”
It was crowded and hard to get any decent photos with me in them, but it was cool to look out at the sprawling expanse of buildings that make up Shanghai. (though I could’ve done without the smog which lowered the visibility somewhat)
You can see the other popular building, the Pearl TV tower in the background
After gawking at the view for a little while, we made the journey back down and found a pizza place in the restaurant/mall portion of the building for a lunch/dinner
More Studio Ghibli exhibit references on the escalator
After eating our fill, we headed out to continue our trek through the financial district to the river where our next stop was: The Bund. We walked to the Lujiazui station to ride one stop to the East Nanjing Road station. Since the Huangpu river is so wide, there aren’t any bridges in downtown! And so the only way to cross the river is via metro in a tunnel!
Amazing buildings we passed on our walk to the station
From the East Nanjing station it was a short 5-10 minute walk through shopping areas to the Bund photo area.
From here we got to admire the buildings we’d just come from (and visited the top of!) which was very cool. We’d considered doing a night cruise on the Huangpu river (which is generally considered a MUST DO) but we had a decent trek out of the city for our hotel that night so we called it a day around 6:30 and headed on our way…
Lots of people and other cool buildings at the Bund
Heading back to the station
Unfortunately we were headed to our hotel… in the MIDDLE OF RUSH HOUR.
Never before have I stood so close to other humans, or narrowly avoided being guillotined by subway doors. We had 2 connections we had to make and at both of them we had to wait for 2 trains before we could squeeze our way on. That being said, it did finally start to empty out after we cleared the main city center. We even ran into an end station for one line where everyone got off but us and we sat there like confused idiots when the train returned to the station we had been at prior. *facepalm BUT the next time we realized in order to continue on our line we had to GET OFF the train and cross the platform. Oh boy. Other than that, painless to take the metro all the way out to Disneyland Shanghai.
Once there, we walked out into the dark and after a little walking we found a lot of cars lined up that were essentially like uber taxi drivers. Our hotel was only 3 km for Disney but we didn’t want to chance walking in the dark so we paid a couple bucks to have a drive take us. Our hotel was sort of a converted house into a B&B and when we got there, no lights were on and there were several buildings to choose from. Our taxi driver looked at us like we were crazy when we got out… and we thought we were too. (seeing as there was literally a dude bathing outside at one of the buildings, and dogs barking at us everywhere)
Eventually after e-mailing and calling the property (about 10 minutes) the hotel owners came out to guide us in. And everything was peachy from there! We settled into our little room and prepped for our next Disney adventure exhausted but satisfied with everything we saw in one day.