By Kan Qian
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Additional resources for Colloquial Chinese: The Complete Course for Beginners (2nd Edition) (Colloquial Series)
Make the trip worthwhile by being first in line for the Mao Zedong Memorial Hall at 8 am (early birds may want to take in the pomp of the flag-raising ceremony held each dawn, which takes place around 7 am during winter months). Within this stern-looking building, which dominates the center of the square, you’ll find the Chairman’s embalmed remains. Remember to take your passport (and deposit any bags at the designated storage facility before lining up). Follow this curious experience by heading to the north side of the square to the Gate of Heavenly Peace, which marks the entrance to the Forbidden City, a sight that needs no introduction.
It’s led by a tai chi master who trained at the Shaolin Temple as a child. Eat scary snacks There’s some wonderful food to be had here. There are also some truly terrifying dishes to try if you’re feeling brave. The likes of scorpions on a stick are served up at Wangfujing Snack Street. To be safer, choose carts with a high turnover. For something less weird but just as savory, head to Xiaoyou Hutong, where a dozen eateries, refugees from urban renewal, serve traditional specialties inside a renovated courtyard house.
But don’t worry if you get lost in the lanes, as that’s all part of the adventure. Climb either tower for a fabulous view. You’ll see the nearby Houhai lakes to the west—a good spot to rent a boat in summer or go ice-skating in winter. If you want to explore the area on foot, then head to the Silver Ingot Bridge instead, before finishing your day in the buzzing hutong around Nanluoguxiang (1 km [½ mile] east of Houhai), packed with boutiques, bars, and restaurants. Beijing in Five Days Lucky enough to have five days in the capital?