Adventures at Dawn:景山公园 (Jingshan Park), Beijing


I’m a morning person. And that means that there’s one thing I love about jetlag when flying from east to west: waking up before the world comes to life. There’s something so tranquil about being outside when the weakest rays of light start shining through the clouds, breathing in the crisp air and watching your breath fog as you exhale. It’s even better when the streets are still empty and you feel like the only person in the city.


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Beijing in January is bitingly cold. As a Canadian, I always profess that ice water runs through my veins, but when I visited, the cold still packed a punch and I wished that I had brought some boots or legwarmers. However, if you are one of the few people who can brave the cold (the majority of residents and visitors choose not to), you’ve stumbled on the best time of year to visit. In the month leading up to the Lunar New Year, Beijing’s streets become deserted as thousands upon thousands of migrant workers return to the countryside to celebrate the biggest ethnic holiday of the year with their families. And this means that the rest of us can finally enjoy the sights of the city without the crushes of bodies.

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Jingshan Park lies across the street from the back entrance of the Forbidden City. It’s impressive when you consider that the middle of the Forbidden City lines up perfectly with the middle of the park, but even more so, because the five peaks inside the park were entirely man-made, dating from a thousand years ago. Talk about ridiculously high expectations!

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There are entrance fees to every park in Beijing; those funds go to maintaining the historical buildings, the staff, the foliage within, and perhaps even the pocket linings of PRC officials! Just kidding… maybe. Seniors, students, and children pay less for their tickets and so do those who opt for annual tickets. Those who choose to exercise at dawn and dusk in the parks usually do so; year-round, you can find China’s notorious dancing grannies, opera aficionados, and practitioners of martial arts.


Atop each hill in the park is a pavilion. We climbed the middle one, which was the highest, because our toes were freezing and all we really wanted to do was settle down in a nice warm place. From there, we could see the whole city.

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The pavilions themselves were gorgeous. Painstakingly painted in bright reds, golds, greens, and blues, and lit up by the golden morning sun, they were ethereal.


There was only one other thing that rivaled the lacquered beauty of the pavilions: the view from the hill. To the south, a perfect view of the Forbidden City

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To the west, the White Tower at Beihai and, beyond the bounds of the city, the mountains


And to the east, the glittering new buildings of modern Beijing



Tibet Dreaming: Permits

You gotta have one to enter Tibet

Good morning, wanderers! This post is the 1st instalment in our very first series, Tibet Dreaming.

In recent years, the Chinese government has loosened regulations on foreigners visiting Tibet. Still, it’s not exactly easy or simple to obtain a permit.

First off, who needs/doesn’t need/can’t get a permit?

Needs Permit Foreign Citizens Taiwan Citizens PRC Citizens overseas without a passport
Doesn’t Need Permit Hong Kong Citizens Macau Citizens PRC Citizens
Can’t Get Permit (must apply through the Tibet Foreign Affairs Office) Government officials Diplomats Journalists and Media Photographers

Now, if you’re in the “Needs Permit” category like most of us, you’ll need to get a visa to China. That can be easily done through the Chinese embassy in your home country.

Then, you’ll need to apply for a permit through an authorized travel agency or tour operator. It’s okay if you’re going to be travelling solo, you just need to get your permit through these guys. Choose one that is larger and more reliable, so that you are more likely to receive your Tibet Permit. The travel agencies need scanned copies of your passport, visa, and itinerary to issue you a Tibet Permit. Pickup methods vary across operators, but you likely will be given the green light to go to Tibet soon after.

Please note: The Chinese government tends to be unreliable in permitting foreigners to enter Tibet. The regulations change regularly and there may be periods of time when foreigners are not permitted to be in Tibet at all. You should be prepared for the (small but still existent) possibility your trip may be suddenly shortened or delayed or perhaps cancelled completely.

Barring exceptional circumstances, I wish you all happy travels!