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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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Mongolia: Lonely Planet Travel Video

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Mongolia: Lonely Planet Travel Video

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Mongolia is a landlocked country in East and Central Asia. It borders Russia to the north and the People’s Republic of China to the south, east and west. Although Mongolia does not share a border with Kazakhstan, its western-most point is only 24 miles (38 km) from Kazakhstan’s eastern tip. Ulan Bator, the capital and largest city, is home to about 38% of the population. Mongolia’s political system is a parliamentary republic.

The area of what is now Mongolia has been ruled by various nomadic empires, including the Xiongnu, the Xianbei, the Rouran, the Gökturks, and others. The Mongol Empire was founded by Genghis Khan in 1206. After the collapse of the Yuan Dynasty, the Mongols returned to their earlier patterns. In the 16th and 17th centuries, Mongolia came under the influence of Tibetan Buddhism.

At the end of the 17th century, most of Mongolia had been incorporated into the area ruled by the Qing Dynasty. During the collapse of the Qing Dynasty in 1911, Mongolia declared independence, but had to struggle until 1921 to firmly establish de-facto independence, and until 1945 to gain international recognition. As a consequence, it came under strong Russian and Soviet influence: In 1924, the Mongolian People’s Republic was declared, and Mongolian politics began to follow the same patterns as Soviet politics of the time. After the breakdown of communist regimes in Eastern Europe in late 1989, Mongolia saw its own Democratic Revolution in early 1990, which led to a multi-party system, a new constitution in 1992, and the – rather rough – transition to a market economy.

At 1,564,116 square kilometres, Mongolia is the nineteenth largest and the most sparsely populated independent country in the world, with a population of around 2.9 million people. It is also the world’s second-largest landlocked country after Kazakhstan. The country contains very little arable land, as much of its area is covered by steppes, with mountains to the north and west and the Gobi Desert to the south. Approximately 30% of the country’s 2.9 million people are nomadic or semi-nomadic. The predominant religion in Mongolia is Tibetan Buddhism, and the majority of the state’s citizens are of the Mongol ethnicity, though Kazakhs, Tuvans, and other minorities also live in the country, especially in the west. About 20% of the population live off less than US$1.25 per day.

Independence

With the fall of the Qing Dynasty, Mongolia under the Bogd Khaan declared independence in 1911. However, the equally newly-established Republic of China claimed Mongolia as part of its own territory. The area controlled by the Bogd Khaan was approximately that of the former Outer Mongolia.

The 49 hoshuns of Inner Mongolia as well as the Mongolians of the Alashan and Qinghai regions expressed their willingness to join the new country, but to no avail. In 1919, after the October Revolution in Russia, Chinese troops led by Xu Shuzheng occupied Mongolia. However, as a result of the Russian Civil War, the White Russian adventurer Baron Ungern led his troops into Mongolia in October 1920, defeating the Chinese in Niislel Khüree (Ulaanbaatar) in early February 1921.

In order to eliminate the threat posed by Ungern, Bolshevik Russia decided to support the establishment of a communist Mongolian government and army. This Mongolian army took the Mongolian part of Kyakhta from the Chinese on March 18th, 1921, and on July 6th Russian and Mongolian troops arrived in Khüree. Mongolia’s independence was declared once again on July 11th, 1921. These events led to Mongolia’s close alignment with the Soviet Union over the next seven decades.

Democracy

The introduction of perestroika and glasnost in the USSR by Mikhail Gorbachev strongly influenced Mongolian politics leading to the peaceful Democratic Revolution and the introduction of a multi-party system and market economy. A new constitution was introduced in 1992, and the “People’s Republic” was dropped from the country’s name. The transition to market economy was often rocky, the early 1990s saw high inflation and food shortages. The first election wins for non-communist parties came in 1993 (presidential elections) and 1996 (parliamentary elections).

Transportation

The Trans-Mongolian Railway is the main rail link between Mongolia and its neighbors. It begins at the Trans-Siberian Railway in Russia at the town of Ulan Ude, crosses into Mongolia, runs through Ulaanbaatar, then passes into China where it joins the Chinese railway system in Jining. A separate railroad link connects the eastern city of Choibalsan with the Trans-Siberian Railway; however, that link is closed to passengers after the Mongolian town of Chuluunkhoroot.

Mongolia has a number of domestic airports. The only international airport is the Chinggis Khaan International Airport near Ulaanbaatar. Direct flight connections exist between Mongolia and South Korea, China, Japan, Russia and Germany. MIAT is Mongolia’s largest carrier in Mongolia and provides both domestic and international flights.

Most overland roads in Mongolia are only gravel roads or simple cross-country tracks. There are paved roads from Ulaanbaatar to the Russian and Chinese border, and from Darkhan to Bulgan. Some road construction projects are currently underway, for example construction of the east-west so-called Millennium Road.

Languages

The official language of Mongolia is Khalkha Mongolian, which uses the Cyrillic alphabet, and is spoken by 90% of the population. A variety of different dialects are spoken across the country. In the west the Kazakh and Tuvan languages, among others, are also spoken.

The Russian language is the most frequently spoken foreign language in Mongolia, followed by English, though English has been gradually replacing Russian as the second language. Korean has gained popularity as tens of thousands of Mongolians work in South Korea. Interest in Chinese, as the language of the other neighbouring power, has been growing. Japanese is also popular among the younger people.

A number of older educated Mongolians speak some German, as they studied in the former East Germany, while a few speak other languages from the former Eastern Bloc. Besides that, many younger Mongolians are fluent in the Western European languages as they study or work in foreign countries including Germany, France and Italy. Mongolian is one of the Mongolic languages. Mongolic is frequently included in the Altaic languages, a group of languages named after the Altay Mountains that also includes the Turkic and Tungusic languages.

Religion

According to the CIA World Factbook[31] and the U.S. Department of State[32], 50% of Mongolia’s population follow the Tibetan Buddhism, 40% are listed as having no religion, 6% are Shamanist and Christian, and 4% are Muslim.

Various forms of Tengriism and Shamanism have been widely practiced throughout the history of what is now modern day Mongolia, as such beliefs were common among nomadic people in Asian history. Such beliefs gradually gave way to Tibetan Buddhism, but Shamanism has left a mark on Mongolian religious culture, and continues to be practiced. Amongst the Mongol elite of the Mongol Empire, Islam was generally favored over other religions, as three of the four major khanates adopted Islam.

Throughout much of the twentieth century, the communist government ensured that the religious practices of the Mongolian people were largely repressed. Khorloogiin Choibalsan complied with the orders of Joseph Stalin, destroying almost all of Mongolia’s over 700 Buddhist monasteries and killing thousands of monks.

The fall of communism in 1991 restored the legality of public religious practice, and Tibetan Buddhism, which had been the predominant religion in the region before the rise of Communism, again rose to become the most widely practiced religion in Mongolia. The end of religious repression in the 1990s also allowed for other religions, such as Islam and Christianity, to spread in the country. According to the Christian missionary group Barnabas Fund, the number of Christians grew from just 4 in 1989 to around 40,000 as of 2008.

Culture

The main festival is Naadam, which has been organised for centuries, consists of three Mongolian traditional sports, archery, horse-racing (over long stretches of open country, not the short racing around a track practiced in the West), and wrestling. Nowadays it is held on July 11 to July 13 in the honour of the anniversaries of the National Democratic Revolution and foundation of the Great Mongol State.

Another very popular activity called Shagaa is the “flicking” of sheep ankle bones at a target several feet away, using a flicking motion of the finger to send the small bone flying at targets and trying to knock the target bones off the platform. This contest at Naadam is very popular and develops a serious audience among older Mongolians. In Mongolia, the khoomei, or throat singing, style of music is popular, particularly in parts of Western Mongolia.

The ornate symbol in the leftmost bar of the national flag is a Buddhist icon called Soyombo. It represents the sun, moon, stars, and heavens per standard cosmological symbology abstracted from that seen in traditional thangka paintings.

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