Beijing is one of the most exciting cities in China. Located in northern China not far from the sea, Beijing is the capital city of China. The citizens of Beijing are anxious to share their culture and history with the rest of the world as they work towards hosting the 2008 Olympics, so now is a great time to take a Beijing cruise tour. Marvelous sites such as the Great Wall of China, the Forbidden City, the Summer Palace, and Tiananmen Square are all found in or near Beijing. Our Yangtze River cruise tour on the Viking River Cruises' Century Star included three nights in Beijing at the wonderful Hotel Beijing, located just a short distance from Tiananmen Square. We spent the first day visiting the Summer Palace, Tiananmen Square, and the Forbidden City. The second day we drove north from Beijing to the Great Wall of China and the Ming Tombs, and the final day we rode the streets of the old hutong area of Beijing in pedicabs, taking time to visit an elderly Chinese couple and tour their home. Nights were filled with wonderful Chinese dinners. Before I go into more details about our Beijing tour, let's get a little background information on Beijing.
Visiting Beijing on a Cruise Tour
Beijing is not located directly on the ocean, so it does not really qualify as a cruise ship port of call. If you look at a map, Beijing is about 2 hours (90 miles) inland from the port at Tianjin, which is actually about 30 miles up the Hai River from the Gulf of Bohai on the China Sea. So, what's a cruise lover to do? How can one combine a love of cruising with a Beijing tour?
Most Yangtze River cruise tours, such as the memorable one we took with Viking River Cruises, include China's capital city of Beijing on their itinerary. Passengers fly from Beijing to the Yangtze River at Chongqing to join their river cruise ship. Cruise lovers can also tour Beijing as part of a pre- or post-cruise land excursion from an ocean going cruise ship. Some cruise ships also dock overnight in Tianjin and bus the passengers to Beijing for a unique overnight shore excursion.
Beijing is probably the best known city in China to Westerners. When I was a child growing up, we referred to the city as Peking, with its most famous dish being Peking duck. I always thought that the city was renamed Beijing, but recently found out that the name of the city did not change. We Westerners were just spelling/translating it incorrectly from the Chinese characters to English script.
Things to Do in Beijing
If Shanghai can be compared to New York City, then Beijing is comparable to Washington, DC. History abounds in Beijing. Beijing has been the home of three major Chinese dynasties for the past 1000 years.
The Far East and China can be terrific, exotic cruise destinations. Cruise lovers can visit Beijing as part of a cruise tour or a pre- or post- cruise extension. China is changing rapidly from a country that was almost closed to outsiders to one that is embracing change, but still not sure exactly how to move its 1.2 billion people into the future. It is an exciting place to vacation, and with the Olympics in 2008, the world will be focusing on China and her people. Traveling there certainly gave me a better understanding of this dragon of a country.
Let's now look at each of our three days in Beijing. Each page below includes links to some wonderful pictures I made in and around Beijing.
Page 2 > > Summer Palace > >
Page 3 > > Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City > >
Page 4 > > Great Wall of China and Ming Tombs > >
Page 5 > > Beijing Tour of the Hutong > >
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