Although Beijing is plenty big and steeped in culture and history to keep the most avid explorer busy for months, short-haul trips outside the capital beckon. You’ve been conquering your Beijing internship and learning more than you can say: It’s time to give yourself a weekend break, even if only for a day or two. Traveling outside Beijing is an opportunity to expand your horizons and see more of China. Not to mention the great conversation starters you’ll have with your colleagues when you return to work. Putting in some travel time is a great way to get more out of your internship program in China. Below are three suggestions by Get in2 China.
Don’t think for a moment Tianjin (Tiānjīn, 天津) – located 120 kilometers southwest of Beijing – lives in the capital’s shadow. Tianjin has a distinct feel and identity and is worthy of a day trip or two or more from Beijing. Best of all, you can hop on the high-speed train and arrive in no time.
The city is brilliant mix of modern skyscrapers with European colonial architecture. Like in Shanghai, the Europeans landed and carved out their own concessions, or districts with services catering to their own people. Not too far from the train station to the south is the British concession with its glorious Hong Kong & Shanghai bank building and the Sino-French Industrial Bank. Because there isn’t too much commerce happening here, the area is a welcome respite from the more bustling parts of the city. To the station’s west is the Italian concession with its numerous restaurants – perfect for grabbing a bite before hopping on the train back to Beijing.
Take a walk along Nanjing Lu (南京路) to get a more modern sense of the city during the day. At night, walk along the Hai River and marvel at the lit-up concession buildings and skyscrapers. Head to Heping Lu (和平路) and its adjacent streets for some shopping and visit its many food stalls for some 小吃 or small eats.
Northeast of the train station is the Ancient Culture Street and the Tianhou Temple.
Getting to Tianjin
If you haven’t experienced the blistering speed of a bullet train, now is your chance. The high-speed train from Beijing to Tianjin runs at roughly 285 km/hr for most of the trip, arriving in Tianjin in 30 minutes. The train lives from Beijing South Railway Station, which is connected to a subway station by the same name on subway Line 4. Booking in advance isn’t necessary given the frequency of trains to Tianjin. Ticket prices won’t burn a whole in your wallet either at 58RMB ($9, €7) for a second class ticket or 66RMB ($10.50, €8) for a first class one.
There’s plenty to see in Tianjin, so consider a couple of day trips (or even an overnight stay) to take it all in.
While Tianjin is the perfect day trip from Beijing, Chengde (Chéngdé, 承德), is the perfect two-day trip – and you’ll need two days to explore city’s magnificent summer resort and surrounding temples. Chengde is a third-tier city and is located in Hebei Province.
Chengde’s main draw is the Imperial Summer Resort (Bìshǔshānzhuāng, 避暑山庄), the largest summer grounds in the country. Built during the 18th century as a retreat for Qing emperors to escape the sweltering Beijing heat, the resort took nearly 100 years to complete. Radiating out from the main palace as you enter is a vast land of rivers, bridges and pagodas. The northern half is more mountainous for the more adventure-minded. Give yourself an entire day to explore the whole resort or half a day to explore the non-mountainous southern portion.
Surrounding the summer resort are eight temples built for visiting regional leaders at the time. The most stunning is the Puning Temple (Pǔníngsì, 普宁寺), which houses a 22-meter high, 42-arm Buddha statue.
For 180RMB ($29, €22), you get access the summer resort; the Puning Temple; the Temple of Sumeru, Happiness & Longevity; and the Putuozongcheng Temple. You can buy your multi-access ticket at the front gate of the summer resort.
Accommodations are affordable. A room with two twin beds at a 4-star hotel will cost 300RMB ($48, €37) for a night. At the time of this writing, a great many hotels didn’t offer wifi, but like many things in China, that’s bound to change.
Getting to Chengde
Because Beijing is a transit hub, reaching China’s cities is a cinch, including Chengde. From Beijing Railway Station (not to be confused with Beijing South Railway Station) on Line 2, you can grab a train, which will take you roughly 4 1/2 hours to reach Chengde. A one-way ticket is 42RMB ($7, 5€). Be sure to grab the first train at 8:05 a.m. to make the most of your day.
THE GREAT WALL
Naturally, you can’t return home from your internship in Beijing without a trip to the Great Wall. In fact, it’s a must (Shanghai interns, you can be forgiven). Get in2 China can help you organize your trip to the Great Wall. Many trips also include a visit to the Ming Tombs. You can even walk away with an 8×11 color photograph of your victorious climb up the Wall. The most famous portion of the wall is at Badaling (Bādálǐng, 八达岭), 70 kilometers northwest of Beijing.