Beijing is a beautiful city but there are some things you can afford to miss:

1. Tea Market – It may sound fancy to go and taste some tea but aside from the fact that the place is far away from the city and has no character, it is really a place for retailers who want to buy bulk or someone who knows teas very, very well. Unless you want to buy tea sets or stack up on your Chinese tea, I’d say avoid it. 

2. Hutongs – Now they were a disappointment. A lot of hutongs I visited have been converted into commercial streets selling all sorts of tacky souveniers. I wish there was a way to see how people lived in the past. Some grand houses are closed for public viewing. The only way to see the interiors is to have a drink at a cafe or visit restaurants and design shops to admire the architecture of these courtyard houses.

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The commercial street in the Skewed Tobacco Pouch Street or Yandai Xiejie

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A nearby lake which attracts many tourists to go for a boating ride

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The side lane attracts parking and not many tourists

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The house of a wealthy landlord from the past – not open to public for viewing

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Spotted some kind of a mythical animal carved from a rock on the way to the hutong looking inside the water. The water lilies were pretty but I doubt the animal will find any fish in there.

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The only quiet intersection in the hutong. Most crowds walked along the main artery, which was often a commercial street in the hutong.

3. Flag hoisting at Tianmen Square – I woke up 4.30 in the morning to go and see the flag-hoisting ceremony, thinking there will be a handful few at those wee hours and what a surprise I was in for – the place was brimming with people. The main road is closed off and there is heavy security cordoning off the entire place. Plus the haze is quite heavy. I saw the flag-hoisting from half a kilometer away and it was not worth it. The picture below is all I took, It was not the kind of experience I was hoping for.

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The truck in front is a police van and the yellow lights in the distance are the cars waiting for the road to be cleared. Most of what you see is haze.

4. And finally, avoid the month of August – The heat and humidity is unbearable and the school holidays means you have to wait in long lines and put up with huge crowds.

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