A number of companies now offer tours of Beijing's hutong by pedicab. The narrow street's of Beijing's hutong are not really suitable for cars, making pedicabs and bicycles the best and most environmentally sound way of seeing them.
Beijing hutong pedicab tours usually take in the Drum Tower, Prince Gong's Mansion, a Siheyuan (traditional Chinese courtyard house), Lama Temple and Pipe Tobacco Alley close to the Bell Tower. There is usually a stop for a drink at a hutong cafe or teahouse.
A number of large Chinese tour companies offer pedicab half day and full day tours.
With more Christian churches than any other city in China, Hong Kong has a special Christmas atmosphere. In both Hong Kong and Macau, Christmas Day is a public holiday, though Christmas Day in not a public holiday in mainland China.
Hong Kong's department stores and shops go into overdrive in the run up to Christmas and the Christmas lights of Victoria will be shining throughout December.
The large number of Christian migrant workers from The Philippines are often enthusiastic church-goers.
Here are a list of churches in Hong Kong with Christmas services and Christmas mass.
Whether you're in Beijing on business temporarily or permanently relocated to China’s capital, keeping in touch with your family back home is essential for curing homesickness. If you’re looking to call the US from Beijing, here are a few tips and tricks that will help you connect with your loved ones.
How to call the US from Beijing?
To call from China to the United States you have the dial the following sequence: 00 (prefix for international calls) + 1 (country code) + City code + Local Number
How to call Beijing from abroad?
China's international calling code is +86 while Beijing’s area code is 010. To call Beijing from anywhere in the world, simply use the following code: 011 (international code from the US, 00 for the UK) + 86 + 010 + Local number
Calling from and to Beijing cheaper
International calls can get very expensive if you’re calling from your regular landline or mobile, that is why you should consider other, more affordable options. Here are a few of the most commonly used tools by expats to call home
• IC cards or Integrated Circuit card can be found at any post office or most convenience stores and can be used mainly for local calls. It’s a good alternative to calls from your hotel or to roaming.
• Prepaid phone cards are very versatile when it comes to calls to and from China. They can be used by your family back home and by you at lower rates than other offers on the market. The calling card can be purchased online, charging as little as 2cents per minute for international calls. You can even get some free calls if you act now.
• Skype and Google Talk are two good ways to call from PC to PC locally or internationally. However, if you have a slow internet connection, which is quite frequent in China, you will find it very hard to talk to your friends and family.
• Mobile phones are very common in China and can be very cost-effective as long as you get a local SIM. Try to avoid roaming as much as possible since it is generally very expensive for voice and data. Instead, use your mobile only for receiving calls and messages.
So what are you ways of calling abroad from Beijing?
Shanghai's Dragon Boat Festival (Duānwǔ Jié) occurs in May or June each year (the fifth day of the fifth lunar month).
Dragon Boat Festivals take place throughout China including Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan. The origins of the festival are obscure but legend has it that following the suicide by drowning of poet Qu Yuan in ancient China, people threw rice into the river to prevent the fish from eating his body and people paddled out in boats to retrieve the corpse.
The festival is associated with the eating of zongzi rice dumplings, which harks back to the rice thrown into the water to distract the fish keen to eat Qu Yuan.
The Whampoa Club in Shanghai will be offering rice dumplings to celebrate this year's Dragon Boat Festival. Available for pick up at RMB 188 per box.
The Home Inn Beijing is part of a chain of Home Inn hotels in the Chinese capital.
The Home Inn pictured above is near the International Exhibition Center. Other Home Inns include the Home Inn Ciyunsi Bridge in Chaoyang, near the Central Business District & Silk Market. Functional, well located and clean the Home Inn chain is ideal for business and budget travelers to China.
The Juyongguan section of the Great Wall is in Changping District, about 60 km from Beijing. Recently renovated, this section lacks the authenticity of other parts of the Great Wall, but still makes for an interesting day out.
Connected with Badaling in the north, the main feature is the heavily fortified Juyongguan Pass, which was one of the three great passes of the Great Wall (the other two were Jiayuguan and Shanhaiguan). The Juyongguan Pass has long acted as a military stronghold, serving as a natural barrier to invaders from the north.
The Juyongguan Great Wall comes down to the level of the parking lot in two locations, so no climbing or cable car is needed. Near the center of Juyongguan is a marble structure known as the Cloud Terrace, or Yuntai. This is a rare survivor from the Yuan Dynasty and was built in 1365. Among its exquisite carvings are a Dharani Sutra in six different languages: Chinese, Mongolian, Sanskrit, Tangut, Tibetan, and Uyghur.
The Mutianyu section of the Great Wall, about 70 km north-east of Beijing, is a masterpiece of restoration, with 22 original style watchtowers.
Around 2 km in length, it is the longest fully-restored Great Wall section open to tourists. Winding over lofty mountains and high ridges, Mutianyu has a cable and wheeled toboggan ride which is fun for kids. Besides its strategically important location and compact layout, the Mutianyu Great Wall is also famous for the breathtakingly beautiful scenery, surrounded by woods on both sides.
Simatai is the most spectacular and aesthetically pleasing section of the Great Wall. Simatai is a relatively short span (5.4 km) that is situated near the town of Gubeikou, roughly 120 km northeast of Beijing.
Like most of the other sections of the Great Wall, the Simatai section was refortified by General Qi Jiguang during the Ming Dynasty (CE 1368-1644).
With 35 watchtowers it has the greatest number of watchtowers per kilometer than any other section. The extreme topography means steps are often very narrow and steep, making Simatai more suited to the adventurous and energetic.
Badaling is about 80 km from Beijing and is the most convenient place to view the Great Wall.
Admittedly Badaling is very touristy (the most visited section of the Great Wall, in fact), but it's easy to ignore that fact when you are confronted with one of the world's seven wonders.
Family friendly, Badaling has a cable car that will save you the walk to the top of the wall. There is a fee for the ride, but it's a great time saver, and the spectacular views as you rise will inspire photographers of all skill levels.
Conveniently located in a quiet neighbourhood close to Wangfujing and the Forbidden City, this Chinese take on funky boutique wraps its distinctive milky-green latticed frame around a five-storey former government building. Designed by influential local architect Zhu Pei, the 89-room hotel flips the traditional hutong concept on its ear - re-working the system of courtyards and public spaces in the vertical for the modern-day traveller. Glass corridors wrap around a central courtyard leading to the 27 suites and 62 standard rooms, some with private pebble courtyards. Service can be sketchy, but great value considering the location.
The Ritz Carlton Hotel Financial Street caters to a corporate clientele but retains a homey feel - with the best beds in town.
Spacious marble bathrooms come with his-and-her sinks and televisions anchored in front of the bathtub. The basement health club and spa are top-notch. Upgrading to an executive room gives you access to a 24-hour club lounge, plus free WiFi. In-house restaurant Cepe serves the city's best upscale Italian fare. About 20 minutes to Tiananmen Square by metro.
Great location above Oriental Plaza Mall and close to Wangfujing, Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City. Standard rooms are spacious and well-equipped, service second to none. The palatial lobby is a popular meeting place, with live music in the evenings. Some of Beijing's best eateries - including Noble Court and Made in China - can be found at the Grand Hyatt Beijing.
Cooking Peking Duck properly is something of an art.
First the duck needs to be hung and correctly dried preferably in a natural environment though an electric fan can be used indoors.
Then bring a wok full of water with dissolved corn starch, spring onions, Chinese wine, ginger, honey, and vinegar to the boil. Baste the duck with the liquid and then leave to dry again for a number of hours.
When completely dry, the duck is roasted and turned for about one hour.
Peking duck is eaten with hoisin dipping sauce and small circular Mandarin pancakes or crepes.
The Bank of China Building (abbreviated as BOC Tower) was designed by the Chinese-American architect I. M. Pei and completed in 1989.
The tower is 315 m tall with two masts reaching 367.4 m. The building, which is the HQ of the Bank of China in Hong Kong, is the fourth highest skyscraper in Hong Kong. The International Commerce Centre, Two International Finance Centre and Central Plaza are all higher.
The firing of the Noon Day Gun in Causeway Bay in Hong Kong is a throwback to the territory's time as a British colony.
The Noon Day Gun, immortalized in Noel Coward's Mad Dogs and Englishmen, is fired each day at noon with some ceremony.
The gun sits on the site of the first plot of land sold at public auction in Hong Kong, which was bought by the Jardine Matheson company in 1841.
Legend has it that the firing of the Jardine gun salute to the company's Taipan startled a senior British Naval Officer, who ordered that Jardines fired the gun every day at noon as a time signal.
The tradition has continued to this day, though the gun disappeared during the Japanese occupation of Hong Kong in the 1940s and was replaced in the 1960s by a smaller version, after complaints about the noise from local residents.
The firing of the gun is accompanied by the ringing of eight bells and since 1946 the gun also fires to welcome in the New Year.
The Noon Day gun is a short walk from Victoria Park.