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Beijing Parks and Gardens

Beijing Zoo

The zoo is much improved after constant complaints from foreign visitors caused the zoo to shape up.

The pandas, formerly found in dirty enclosures, now have their own, temperature-controlled habitat, although its a tad small. The panda umbrellas sell for 50 yuan and make great gifts.

Be aware that Chinese visitors see nothing wrong with throwing things at the animals, banging on cages or glass dividers, or even allowing their children to shoot at the animals with toy pellet guns available at the zoo. 3 yuan (includes entrance to several shows inside the park).

Daily 7 am-6 pm in summer, 8 am-5 pm in winter. 137 Xizhimenwai, Xicheng District, phone 6831-4411.

Blue Zoo Beijing

A US$25 million Sino-New Zealand joint-venture, this international-class aquarium is fairly small but worth a visit, especially for kids.

The main attraction is a 140-yard-/130-meter-long moving walkway that swirls around underneath the main tank, with sharks swimming overhead and other creatures finning by.

Most kids want at least two passes around the walkway.

The Blue Zoo is a bit short on informative displays, but does address such marine issues in China as the damming of the Yangtze River and the slaughter of sharks for shark-fin soup.

Daily 9 am-7 pm. 75 yuan adults, 60 yuan elderly, people with disabilities and students with ID, 30 yuan children, free for children under 3 ft/1 m tall. (Children that short may get in free, but theyll have to be lifted up to see most exhibits.) South Gate, Workers Stadium, South Workers Stadium Road (Gongti Nanlu), Chaoyang District, phone 6593-5263.

Taipingyang Underwater World

The name means Pacific Ocean, and its one of three aquariums soon to be added to the city.

Its similar to the Blue Zoo (above), except that certified divers can arrange to dive in the aquariums main tank on weekends, sharks and all.

Sometime in 1999 the Beijing Zoo plans to open an aquarium of its own.

Taipingyhang is open daily 9 am-6 pm. 11 Xisanhuan Zhonglu, Haidian District, phone 6846-1172 or 6846-1173.

Beihai Park

The Central Park of Beijing, Beihai Park has an 800-year history as the royal garden of the Jin, Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties.

The park is grand and sprawling, with some beautiful plantings, a lake and paddleboats for rent by the hour (10 yuan).

Visit at 6 am to see hundreds of people doing tai chi chuan.

Daily 6 am-9 pm in summer, 6:30 am-9 pm in winter. 50 fen (0.50 yuan). 1 Wenjin St., Xicheng District, phone 6404-0610.

Coal Hill

Coal Hill was formed from the soil excavated to create the moat around the Forbidden City.

Located just north of the Forbidden City, the hill is now a park with the Ten Thousand Springs Pavilion at its summit.

Nice flowers in season, good for strolling.

Daily 5:30 am-9:30 pm in summer, 7 am-7:30 pm in winter. 30 fen (0.33 yuan). Beijing Jingshan Park, phone 6887-4060 or 6887-4825.