One of my favorite travel writing websites is called the Matador Network. Last week one of their writers put up a post on what he considered the world's worst tourist traps.Beijing's Forbidden City made his list. That got me thinking about what I would include in a list of Beijing's worst tourist traps — my least favorite places in town.
Here it is (in no particular order):
1. The Silk Market. This place is so bad that I have a personal rule that I will never go here. It's just guaranteed to make me crabby. The worst character traits of Chinese and the worst character traits of foreigners come out in spades inside this place. The vendors have such serious 'issues' with rudeness that there's a giant sign in the entryway listing all of the abusive phrases they're not allowed to use. Check out Yaxiu near Sanlitun. The vendors are much mellower.
2. Quan Ju De Peking Duck Restaurant. Yes, I know that this is Beijing's oldest and most famous duck restaurant, but that doesn't make it the best. It's a giant state-run operation where you can still experience the bad old days of 'surly socialism.' And it's way over-priced. For better and cheaper Beijing Duck, try Tian Wai Tian or Da Ya Li.
3. The Ming Tombs. They may have been grand in their day, when the emperors were actually entombed inside, but today they are just giant empty underground vaults. The interesting tombs to see are the Eastern Qing Tombs, about 3 hours east of the city. You can see the tombs of Emperor Qianlong and the Empress Dowager Cixi. Without the crowds.
4. Badaling Great Wall. Avoid this place unless you love to hike with throngs of people. It's the favorite Wall destination of the Chinese masses (because The Chairman went there and made a statement) and tour companies. I will make a caveat, though. The new express train that runs up there from the North Station at Xizhimen is a great ride. I like to take it up to hang out at the Starbucks for an afternoon.