Thursday, 8 December 2016

5 Interesting Facts About Beijing

1. Beijing subway is super efficient, but dangerous if not careful.

Subway system in Beijing is indeed incomparable with any city in China. Speed and efficiency, they're actually written in the motto. Chances of getting disrupted during your train ride is so little, that you barely hear any complaint made by the users. And even if you missed a train by few seconds, you don't have to worry getting late, because there is one coming just less than a kilometer away. Keep in mind, though, that good system is a result of constant adherence. Most of the levers, doors and trains are completely computerized. One foot wrong and the door will not hesitate to crush you like a bug, well, not literally, but you get my point. Nothing will stop it unless someone is quick enough to press the emergency button. My best advice are, halt your step when the signal light blinks or when the bell rings; and never cross the yellow line until the train stops, especially during peak hour.

2. The city is divided by 'rings'.

Beijing is one of the few cities that possess road rings. They are designed in strategic ways to ease heavy traffic in the city. There are seven rings in total and all of them size differently. It starts from the city center (Tiananmen Square) as the first ring. And moves toward the outskirt. The further the number goes the larger the ring expands. Hence, you will not find it odd hearing the locals use those rings to refer certain locations. For example, I stayed in a hotel that was located in Chaoyang (semi-outskirt). Sometimes when I hailed a taxi to go somewhere in city area, the drivers would ask me which ring the address was in. Not that they don't know the address, but Beijing is a big city, perhaps that's just how the local memorize locations.

3. Certain cars are restricted to enter 5th ring on weekdays.

This was once taught by my Chinese teacher. Every Monday to Friday, the city only allows certain cars to stay within 5th ring, and all cars are categorized by the last digit if their plat number. On Monday, cars that end with 0 and 5 are not allowed in. Tuesday, 1 and 6. Wednesday, 2 and 7. Thursday, 3 and 8. Friday, 4 and 9. As for weekends, all cars are free to go anywhere. Any car that disobey this rule will definitely receive a ticket. So, it's pretty important to understand this if you wish to travel through the city using a car. Or maybe if you wish to hire a driver. Make sure of the day and plat number.

4. Changes of air quality are extreme.

We heard multiple times in the news that Beijing is notorious for its poor air quality and thick haze. You may believe that, but but it's not entirely true. Because air quality in this city is very conditional. If you travel during arid and windy season, there's no way the haze would stay around. All you will see is a tremendous blue sky with very little cloud. A complete stunning view. In many of my trips, I had experienced two different air qualities within two short days. One day it was smokey, and the next it was bright and clear. Take this advise and dome some research before deciding your travel date. There are websites that provide air quality forecast for cities with constant haze condition.

5. Phone simcard is as important as ID or passport.

Getting a simcard is always on top of my safety list, especially when I'm traveling with a group of newcomers. But lately, the laws are getting even more silly when they require foreigners to register for simcard in mobile center. It used to be easier and it could be done only on the street, or any little mobile store. Although the requirement is simple, only to bring a passport, it's pretty hilarious to see that they perform the exact procedure as if you're registering for an ID. Here is the entire process - they scan the passport, photocopy, snap a photo of you, ask for fingerprint and a signature. Only then the officer will ask you what of simcard you want. The entire process of queuing and waiting took us around 30 to 60 minutes. I'm not trying to ridicule the law here, but as a short-term traveler, I did not have 60 minutes to waste.

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