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Beijing – Lonely Planet Travel Video

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Beijing – Lonely Planet Travel Video

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Beijing

Beijing is a metropolis in northern China and the capital of the People’s Republic of China. Governed as a municipality under direct administration of the central government, Beijing borders Hebei Province to the north, west, south, and for a small section in the east, and Tianjin Municipality to the southeast.Beijing is one of the Four Great Ancient Capitals of China.

Beijing is China’s second largest city after Shanghai, with more than 17 million people in Beijing’s area of jurisdiction. The city is divided into 16 urban and suburban districts and two rural counties; the city’s urban area has about 13 million residents Beijing is a major transportation hub, with dozens of railways, roads and motorways passing through the city. It is also the focal point of many international flights to China.

Beijing is recognized as the political, educational, and cultural center of the People’s Republic of China, while Shanghai and Hong Kong predominate in economic fields. The city hosted the 2008 Olympic Games.

Few cities in the world besides Beijing have served as the political and cultural centre of an area as immense as China for so long. The Encyclopædia Britannica describes it as, “One of the world’s great cities, and declares that the city has been an integral part of  China’s history for centuries, there is scarcely a major building of any age in Beijing that doesn’t have at least some national historical significance. Beijing is renowned for its opulent palaces, temples, and huge stone walls and gates. Its art treasures and universities have long made the city a centre of culture and art in China.

Architecture

Three styles of architecture predominate in urban Beijing. First, the traditional architecture of imperial China, perhaps best exemplified by the massive Tian’anmen (Gate of Heavenly Peace), which remains the People’s Republic of China’s trademark edifice, the Forbidden City, the Imperial Ancestral Temple and the Temple of Heaven.

Next there is what is sometimes referred to as the “Sino-Sov” style, built between the 1950s and the 1970s, with structures tending to be boxy, bland, and poorly made.[63] Finally, there are much more modern architectural forms — most noticeably in the area of the Beijing CBD and Beijing Financial Street.

Beijing of the early 21st century has witnessed tremendous growth of new building constructions, showing various modern styles from international designers. A mixture of both old and new styles of architecture can be seen at the 798 Art Zone, which mixes 1950s design with a blend of the new.

Transportation

With the growth of the city following economic reforms, Beijing has evolved as the most important transportation hub in the People’s Republic of China, and within the larger East Asian region. Encircling the city are five ring roads, nine expressways and city express routes, eleven China National Highways, several railway routes, and an international airport.

Rail

Beijing has long been the largest railway hub in China. There are railway lines from Beijing to Shanghai, Guangzhou, Kowloon, Harbin, Qinhuangdao, Baotou, Yuanping, Chengde, and Tianjin. As of 1 May 2009, Beijing Railway Station has 177 trains stopping daily, while Beijing West Railway Station has 220 trains.

These two railway stations serve as major transportation nodes in the city. The state-of-the-art Beijing South Railway Station re-opened in August 2008, and serves as the Beijing terminus for the Beijing-Tianjin high-speed train, the fastest regular passenger train service in the world, as well as all other high-speed CRH trains. International trains to cities in Mongolia, Russia, Vietnam and North Korea, all run through Beijing.

Several other railway stations in urban Beijing handle regular passenger traffic: Beijing North, Beijing East, Fengtai and other smaller stations. There are also a number of other stations serving suburban areas. Passenger trains in China are numbered according to their direction in relation to Beijing.

Roads and expressways

Beijing is connected via road links from all parts of China as part of the National Trunk Road Network. Nine expressways of China (with six wholly new expressways under projection or construction) connect with Beijing, as do eleven China National Highways.

Within Beijing itself, an elaborate network of five ring roads has developed, but they appear more rectangular than ring-shaped. Due partly to its design as an ancient capital, roads in Beijing often are in one of the four compass directions.

Beijing’s urban transport is dependent upon the five “ring roads” (Chinese: 环路) that successively surround the city, with the Forbidden City area marked as the geographical centre for the ring roads. The 1st Ring road is not officially defined.

The 2nd Ring Road is fully located in Beijing’s inner city areas. Ring roads tend to resemble expressways progressively as they extend outwards, with the 5th Ring Road and 6th Ring Road being full-standard National expressways – linked to other roads only with interchanges. Expressways to other regions of China are generally accessible from the 3rd Ring Road outward.

One of the biggest concerns with traffic in Beijing involves its apparently ubiquitous traffic jams, although in recent years ITS has been implemented in many areas in attempts to alleviate the problem. Traffic in the city centre is often gridlocked, especially around rush hour. Even outside of rush hour, several roads still remain clogged up with traffic. Urban area ring roads and major thoroughfares, especially near Chang’an Avenue, are normally cited as high-congestion areas.

Exacerbating Beijing’s traffic problems is its relatively underdeveloped mass transit system. Frequently cited is the city’s subway system which has 8 lines for its 17 million citizens. In comparison, New York City has 26 lines for its 8 million citizens. Beijing’s urban design layout further complicates the situation of the transportation system.

Compounding the problem is patchy enforcement of traffic regulations, and road rage. Beijing authorities claim that traffic jams may be a thing of a past come the 2008 Olympics. The authorities have introduced several bus lanes where, during rush hour, all vehicles except for public buses must keep clear. Chang’an Avenue runs east-west through the centre of Beijing, past Tian’anmen. It is a major through route of the city.

Air

Beijing’s primary airport is the Beijing Capital International Airport (IATA: PEK; Chinese: 北京首都国际机场) near Shunyi, which is about 20 km northeast of city centre. With renovations for the 2008 Olympics, the airport now boasts three terminals, with Terminal 3 being one of the largest in the world.

Most domestic and nearly all international flights arrive at and depart from Capital Airport. Capital Airport is the main hub for Air China. The capital links Beijing with almost every other Chinese city with regular air passenger service. It is linked to central Beijing by the Airport Expressway and is a roughly 40-minute drive from the city centre during good traffic hours. Prior to the 2008 Olympics, another expressway, the 2nd Airport Expressway, was built to the Airport, as well as a light rail system, which is now connected to the Beijing Subway.

Other airports in the city include Beijing Liangxiang Airport, Beijing Nanyuan Airport, Beijing Xijiao Airport, Beijing Shahe Airport and Beijing Badaling Airport. Nanyuan serves as the hub for only one passenger airline, and these airports are primarily for military use and less well-known to the public.

Public transit

The Beijing Subway system opened in 1971, and only consisted of two lines until the opening of the northern arc Line 13 in 2002. Due to recent expansion, the evolving system now has nine lines, four of which are underground, and five are above ground. Line 1, along with its new eastern expansion known as the Batong Line crosses almost all of urban Beijing from east to west.

Line 5 serves as the north-south axial line. Fare is 2 yuan flat throughout. There is an extensive system nearly 700 bus and trolleybus routes in Beijing as of 2008, including three bus rapid transit routes. All public transportation can be accessed with the Yikatong card, which uses radio frequencies to be scanned at subway stations and on public transit buses.

Registered taxis can be found throughout Beijing, although a large number of unregistered taxis also exist. As of 30 June 2008, all fares on legal taxis start at 10 Renminbi for the first 3 km and 2.00 Renminbi per additional kilometer, not counting idling fees. Most taxis are Hyundai Elantras, Hyundai Sonatas, Peugeot Citroëns and Volkswagen Jettas.

After 15 km, the base fare is increased by 50% (but only applied to the portion of the distance over 15 km, so that the passenger is not retroactively charged extra for the first 15 km). Between 11 pm and 5 am, the fee is increased by 20%, starting at 11 RMB and increasing at a rate of 2.4 RMB per km. Rides over 15 km and between 11 pm and 6 am apply both charges, for a total increase of 80% (120%*150%=180%).

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Cape Town – Lonely Planet

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Cape Town – Lonely Planet

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Cape Town is the second most populous city in South Africa, forming part of the metropolitan municipality of the City of Cape Town. It is the provincial capital of the Western Cape, as well as the legislative capital of South Africa, where the National Parliament and many government offices are situated. Cape Town is famous for its harbour as well as its natural setting in the Cape floral kingdom, including such well-known landmarks as Table Mountain and Cape Point. Cape Town is Africa’s most popular destination for tourism.

Located on the shore of Table Bay, Cape Town was originally developed by the Dutch East India Company as a victualling (supply) station for Dutch ships sailing to Eastern Africa, India, and the Far East. Jan van Riebeeck’s arrival on 6 April 1652 established the first permanent European settlement in South Africa. Cape Town quickly outgrew its original purpose as the first European outpost at the Castle of Good Hope, becoming the economic and cultural hub of the Cape Colony. Until the Witwatersrand Gold Rush and the development of Johannesburg, Cape Town was the largest city in South Africa.

As of 2007[update] the city had an estimated population of 3.5 million.[3] Cape Town’s land area of 2,455 square kilometres (948 sq mi) is larger than other South African cities, resulting in a comparatively lower population density of 1,425 inhabitants per square kilometre (3,690 /sq mi).

Transport

Air

Cape Town International Airport serves both domestic and international flights. It is the second-largest airport in South Africa and serves as a major gateway for travellers to the Cape region. Cape Town has direct flights to most cities in South Africa as well as a number of international destinations.

As of June 2006, Cape Town International Airport is being upgraded to handle an expected increase in air traffic as tourism numbers will increase in the lead-up to the 2010 FIFA World Cup. The renovations include several large new parking garages, a revamped domestic departure terminal and a new international terminal plus a new double-decker road system.

The airport’s cargo facilities are also being expanded and several large empty lots are being developed into office space and hotels. The Cape Town International Airport was among the winners of the World Travel Awards for being Africa’s leading airport.

Sea

Cape Town has a long tradition as a port city. The Port of Cape Town, the city’s main port, is located in Table Bay directly to the north of the central business district. The port is a hub for ships in the southern Atlantic: it is located along one of the busiest shipping corridors in the world.

It is also a busy container port, second in South Africa only to Durban. In 2004, it handled 3,161 ships and 9.2 million tonnes of cargo. Simon’s Town Harbour on the False Bay coast of the Cape Peninsula is the main base of the South African Navy.

Rail

The Shosholoza Meyl is the passenger rail operations of Spoornet and operates two long-distance passenger rail services from Cape Town: a daily service to and from Johannesburg via Kimberley and a weekly service to and from Durban via Kimberley, Bloemfontein and Pietermaritzburg. These trains terminate at Cape Town Railway Station and make a brief stop at Bellville. Cape Town is also one terminus of the luxury tourist-oriented Blue Train as well as the five-star Rovos Rail.

Metrorail operates a commuter rail service in Cape Town and the surrounding area. The Metrorail network consists of 96 stations throughout the suburbs and outskirts of Cape Town.

Road

Three national roads start in Cape Town: the N1 which links Cape Town with Bloemfontein, Johannesburg, Pretoria and Zimbabwe; the N2 which links Cape Town with Port Elizabeth, East London and Durban; and the N7 which links Cape Town with the Northern Cape Province and Namibia.

The N1 and N2 both start in the Central Business District, and split to the east of the CBD, with the N1 continuing to the north east and the N2 heading south east past Cape Town International Airport. The N7 starts in Mitchells Plain and runs north, intersecting with the N1 and the N2 before leaving the city.

Cape Town also has a system of freeway and dual carriageway M-roads, which connect different parts of the city. The M3 splits from the N2 and runs to the south along the eastern slopes of Table Mountain, connecting the City Bowl with Muizenberg. The M5 splits from the N1 further east than the M3, and links the Cape Flats to the CBD. The R300, which is informally known as the Cape Flats Freeway, links Mitchells Plain with Bellville, the N1 and the N2.

Buses

Golden Arrow Bus Services operates scheduled bus services throughout the Cape Town metropolitan area. Several companies run long-distance bus services from Cape Town to the other cities in South Africa.

Taxis

Cape Town has two kinds of taxis: metered taxis and minibus taxis. Unlike many cities, metered taxis are not allowed to drive around the city to solicit fares and instead must be called to a specific location. Minibus taxis are the standard form of transport for the majority of the population who cannot afford private vehicles.

Although essential, these taxis are often poorly maintained and are frequently not road-worthy. These taxis make frequent unscheduled stops to pick up passengers, which can cause accidents. With the high demand for transport by the working class of South Africa, minibus taxis are often filled over their legal passenger allowance, making for high casualty rates when minibuses are involved in accidents. Minibuses are generally owned and operated in fleets, and inter-operator violence flares up from time to time, especially as turf wars occur over lucrative taxi route

Tourism

Cape Town is not only the most popular international tourist destination in South Africa, it is Africa’s main tourist destination even overtaking Cairo. This is due to its good climate, natural setting, and well-developed infrastructure. The city has several well-known natural features that attract tourists, most notably Table Mountain, which forms a large part of the Table Mountain National Park and is the back end of the City Bowl.

Reaching the top of the mountain can be achieved either by hiking up, or by taking the Table Mountain Cableway. Cape Point is recognised as the dramatic headland at the end of the Cape Peninsula. Many tourists also drive along Chapman’s Peak Drive, a narrow road that links Noordhoek with Hout Bay, for the views of the Atlantic Ocean and nearby mountains. It is possible to either drive or hike up Signal Hill for closer views of the City Bowl and Table Mountain.

Many tourists also visit Cape Town’s beaches, which are popular with local residents.[22] Due to the city’s unique geography, it is possible to visit several different beaches in the same day, each with a different setting and atmosphere. Beaches located on the Atlantic Coast tend to have very cold water from the Benguela current which originates from the Southern Ocean.

The water at False Bay beaches is often warmer by up to 10 °C (18 °F). Both coasts are equally popular, although the beaches in affluent Clifton and elsewhere on the Atlantic Coast are better developed with restaurants and cafés, with a particularly vibrant strip of restaurants and bars accessible to the beach at Camps Bay. Boulders Beach near Simon’s Town is known for its colony of African penguins. Surfing is popular and the city hosts the Red Bull Big Wave Africa surfing competition every year.

The city has several notable cultural attractions. The Victoria & Alfred Waterfront, built on top of part of the docks of the Port of Cape Town, is one of the city’s most popular shopping venues, with several hundred shops and the Two Oceans Aquarium. Part of the charm of the V&A, as it is locally known, is that the Port continues to operate and visitors can watch ships enter and leave.

The V&A also hosts the Nelson Mandela Gateway, through which ferries depart for Robben Island. It is possible to take a ferry from the V&A to Hout Bay, Simon’s Town and the Cape Fur Seal colonies on Seal and Duiker Islands. Several companies offer tours of the Cape Flats, a mostly Coloured township, and Khayelitsha, a mostly black township. An option is to sleep overnight in Cape Town’s townships. There are several B&Bs where you can spend a safe and real African night.

Cape Town is noted for its architectural heritage, with the highest density of Cape Dutch style buildings in the world. Cape Dutch style, which combines the architectural traditions of the Netherlands, Germany and France, is most visible in Constantia, the old government buildings in the Central Business District, and along Long Street.

The annual Cape Town Minstrel Carnival, also known by its Afrikaans name of Kaapse Klopse, is a large minstrel festival held annually on January 2 or “Tweede Nuwe Jaar” (Afrikaans: Second New Year). Competing teams of minstrels parade in brightly coloured costumes, either carrying colourful umbrellas or playing an array of musical instruments. The Artscape Theatre Centre is the main performing arts venue in Cape Town.

Cape Town’s transport system links it to the rest of South Africa; it serves as the gateway to other destinations within the province. The Cape Winelands and in particular the towns of Stellenbosch, Paarl and Franschhoek are popular day trips from the city for sightseeing and wine tasting.

Whale watching is popular amongst tourists: Southern Right Whales and Humpback Whales are seen off the coast during the breeding season (August to November) and Bryde’s Whales and Killer Whale can be seen any time of the year.[32] The nearby town of Hermanus is known for its Whale Festival, but whales can also be seen in False Bay.[32] Heaviside’s dolphins are endemic to the area and can be seen from the coast north of Cape Town; Dusky dolphins live along the same coast and can occasionally be seen from the ferry to Robben Island.

Approximately 1.5 million tourists visited in Cape Town during 2004, bringing in a total of R10 billion in revenue. The forecasts for 2006 anticipate 1.6 million tourists spending a total of R12 billion. The most popular areas for visitors to stay include Camps Bay, Sea Point, the V&A Waterfront, the City Bowl, Hout Bay, Constantia, Rondebosch, Newlands, Somerset West, Hermanus and Stellenbosch, as well.

Cape Town Tourism is the City of Cape Town’s Official Regional Tourism Organisation, responsible for destination marketing, visitor and industry services. They offer a comprehensive service offering information and bookings for Cape Town attractions, tours and accommodation.

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