Ask Beijing Today is our weekly attempt to make life in China less confusing. Whether it’s tracking down the papers to apply for a Chinese green card, dealing with KTV-crazy neighbors or finding the best buy on saffron, we are happy to help.
Q. Where can I see the traditional (non-tourist) Beijing?
A. Go to the hutongs, of course! These hidden alleyways are the best places to see the real Beijing. You can rent a bike and ride it from Yonghegong to Gulou, within Second Ring Road.
Some foreigners also favor hiking sections of the Great Wall that are not well-preserved, and thus free of tourists. Huanghuacheng, Jiankou and Jiuyanlou Great Wall in Huairou are all regarded as parts of the “Wild Great Wall.” For security concerns, you’d better join an activity group.
If you have time, we also recommend taking a stroll around Wudaokou in Haidian district to see what an authentic, modern, non-touristy Chinese college town looks like. Visit the Tsinghua and Peking University campuses while you’re there and have a meal at one of the great local restaurants. It’s also not far from Summer Palace and Yuanmingyuan, if you change your mind and want to visit a tourist attraction.
Q. Which is the best café in Beijing?
A. Beijing Today wrote a story recommending cafés where people can relax and read. You might want to check it out this article.
Besides, there are many vintage cafés like the Bridge Café in Wudaokou and the UNION Bar and Grill in Sanlitun Village. But the best way to find the café that’s right for you is to go exploring.
Q. I’m married to a Chinese national, and we have a baby. Am I qualified to receive a Chinese green card?
A. It depends. You must have been married and living in China for five years and own a home registered under your or your spouse’s name.
Q. I recently applied for a 90-day Chinese visa with two entries through an agency in England. Unfortunately, when my passport was returned it only had a 30-day visa with two entries. Is there any possible reason for this?
A. If it was your first visa application for China, then it’s perfectly normal. Very rarely will you be granted more than a 30-day visa the first time. You’ll find that any subsequent visas will be much easier to obtain, and you shouldn’t have any problems with a longer-term visa provided you stick to the terms of this one.
Q. I’m going to take the high-speed train from Beijing to Shanghai during the holiday. Are there things to see or small towns to visit on the route? They don’t have to be marquee attractions, just anything interesting or off the beaten path.
A. If you want to break the journey into stages, there are several places well worth visiting along the route. Qufu is the ancestral hometown of Confucius in Shandong province, and has various temples and museums. Heading south, there’s Suzhou, a city in Jiangsu province that is famous for its classic royal gardens, and Nanjing, a former capital of ancient China. Both of them have much to offer and give a different idea of China from what you get form Shanghai and Beijing.