Travel Preview – GPU Technology Conference Comes to Beijing Dec 14-15

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On December 14, 2011, NVIDIA will host another one of its global GPU Technology Conferences – this time in Beijing, China.  We asked Portland underground blogger Robert Murphy to give our readers a little background on this ancient city and what to expect.

Beijing, China

Located in Northern China, the beautiful city of Beijing has been the capitol of the People’s Republic of China since 1057 B.C. It is one of the four ancient cities, along with Xian, Luoyang, and Nanjing. Beijing, also known as Peking was established over three thousand years ago and was originally known as Jin City. This historic city is also referred to as the Cradle of Life. It is believed that Peking Man lived in the Zhoukoudian area of Beijing possibly as long as 700,000 years ago.

The population of Beijing is listed as approximately 19,612,368 as of November 28, 2010 according to Wikipedia. Beijing receives about 140 million Chinese tourists and about 4.4 million international tourists each year. If you are interested in seeing Beijing for yourself, you are among a growing number of international visitors willing to work through the visa process in order to enter the country.

Beijing’s unique blend of modern and ancient culture offers visitors an experience that simply cannot be found anywhere else in the world. Home of such historic attractions as the Great Wall of China, which was listed by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) as one of the world’s great national and historical sites. Stretching a distance of about 5,500 miles, The Great Wall is the longest man-made structure in the world. According to legend, a great dragon traced the course of the Wall, and the builders simply followed the dragon’s course. Seeing the Great Wall is a must if you visit Beijing. There is an old saying; “One who fails to reach the Great Wall is not a true hero.”

Another site of great cultural and historical significance to add to your sight-seeing list is the Emperor’s Summer Palace. The Summer Palace has proven to be a favorite site for tourists year after year. A vibrant blending of rocks, trees, lakes, ponds and brilliantly designed man-made paths, the Summer Palace is the largest and best preserved imperial garden in China.

Other famous Beijing attractions you might want to consider checking out include Tienanmen Square,  The Forbidden CityThe Temple of Heaven and the Beijing Zoo, just to name a few. One thing is for sure, there will be no lack of impressive and breathtaking sights to take in during your stay in Beijing.

Beijing is Northern China’s main transportation hub, and is very tourist-friendly. One thing to be aware of when visiting Beijing, is that urban transportation is not always fast as there are millions of vehicles on the road. Taxi service is a reliable and convenient way to travel around the city. Taxis can either be flagged down or called in advance. Tipping a taxi driver is not a requirement, but it is greatly appreciated, and over the years has become more commonplace. The same is true for tipping in restaurants and hotels. Beijing is also a very bicycle friendly city. Bicycles can be rented from your hotel or from local shops. Another fun alternative for transportation is taking a rickshaw. Rickshaws operate in tourist areas and are a great way to experience traditional Beijing culture.

If you are a night owl, you’ll be happy to know that Beijing offers a fun and exciting night life. One can choose to take in more traditional forms of entertainment such as the Beijing Opera, live martial arts shows, or can enjoy more modern options like concerts and night clubs. Night life was virtually nonexistent to most in Beijing as recent as about 20 years ago. Today, it is very common, and includes cinemas, karaoke bars, night clubs and restaurants that are open late into the night.

And just in case you find yourself feeling a bit homesick during your stay, there is no shortage of western style coffee shops and fast food restaurants to make you feel right at home. In fact, you shouldn’t have any trouble finding a nearby Starbucks or even a McDonald’s.

You will undoubtedly want to have a camera handy while visiting this beautiful city, however, there are a few important factors to take into consideration when taking photographs in Beijing; Never take photographs on airplanes, in close proximity of military bases, or in any other politically sensitive areas. Also, keep in mind that religious places such as palaces and monasteries typically cannot be photographed. Occasionally, exceptions are made, but it is important to always ask permission before hand. As a general rule of thumb, if you are going to take a photo of a person in Beijing, always ask for their permission first. You should also avoid purchasing roll film and memory cards in local tourist areas. Photography studios can easily be found and film processing is convenient and quick.

You can also rest assured that Beijing is a very safe city to visit. In fact, it is the safest city in China. This may be due to several factors. First of all, Beijing has an incredibly high density of police. And in addition to the obvious presence of law enforcement and safety patrols, firearms are prohibited within Beijing. According to a survey conducted in October of 2010, Beijing is listed as China’s safest city due to its impressive public security. Whatever the reason, the crime rate in Beijing is incredibly low compared to other cities of the world, so tourists can feel safe but should still follow common sense travel rules such as traveling in groups and not wandering into non-commercial areas of the city without a guide.

Beijing Capitol International Airport is the main hub of Air China, and is where you will land when you arrive in Beijing.  Air China flies to approximately 120 destinations around the world. In 2008, in preparation for the summer Olympics, the Beijing airport added a third terminal to accommodate the growing number of visitors. It is currently one of the busiest airports in the world in terms of passenger travel.

So, for most of you, sit back and relax on what will probably be a rather long flight.  Take time to catch up on some reading or movies you’ve been wanting to see, and get ready for a memorable experience.  You’ll find that the time in Beijing goes very fast with not nearly enough time to see all the beautiful historic sites.