Mao's Mausoleum, Beijing
The security all around the huge Tiananmen Square is naturally fairly tight, which ensures everyone has to go through check points and have baggage scanned with airport type x ray type machines. There are no problems taking cameras into the square but they, or cell phones, are not permitted into the Chairman's Mausoleum so they have to be checked in. We were approached at the entrance of the Mausoleum by some guy who looked official, who told us cameras were forbidden inside and that we should follow him to a building across the road to check them in. Although I was somewhat suspicious of all this, we went along with him as he brushed aside the locals to get us to the counter where we were given tickets to enable collection of the cameras later. All was fine until we got back to the line up for the mausoleum, when we found him still with us, and quietly but aggressively was asking for 40 RMB for his services. I didn't totally disapprove of him as at least he speeded up how and where we should deposit our cameras, but told him he could have 20 RMB. This did not please him at all and he was very persistent he should be given RMB 40, but I could see he was getting nervous arguing about his fee as we approached the guards, and at that stage after me suggesting we discuss the issue with the Guards, he very reluctantly took the 20 RMB and disappeared waiting for the next unsuspecting tourist.
Unique Suggestions: With the Forbidden City behind you at the North end the Square, and to the left of the line up to the Mausoleum, there is always a crowd of people waiting for the police to stop the traffic to let them cross the road, Join them and cross and, looking straight ahead, is a building which shows that this is the place to deposit cameras etc and where you will be given a ticket to retrieve them later. You really don't need the "services" of one of these locals to find the place
Fun Alternatives: Go one day with a camera for the Tiananmen Square and maybe the Forbidden City across the road, where cameras are allowed and then another day without a camera for the Mausoleum. The latter is something that really, unless you are into Chairman Mao, is probably something to miss as the guards usher you through in virtual silence in less than three minutes and in the semi dark you will see presumably, the original embalmed body which I for one would not know if it is the real thing or indeed plastic - all a bit macabre for me, but the devotion of the Chinese is still great with most bringing in bunches of flowers to present to the Chairman.
This is a large structure at the south end of the famour Tian. Square...there is one entrance fee for the locals and it doubles for foreign visitors. (was 10 RMB in 2004) but may have hiked up more by now. Early in the day, Mao's glass coffin is on view with a rather rapid walk past. When you go in the afternoon, on the days it is open, the fee is still doubled but you are allowed to stand in front of Mao's throne chair and have two polaroid pictures taken...a nice perk for the paid fee! I prefer this pictrue routine to the actural viewing of the body. HUGE hint...be sure to check on the hours before you head out as they do vary from day to day, on being open at all.
Unique Suggestions: If you do go, I suggest the afternoon unless you are bent to actually see Mao under glass. Also, as the day passes in Tian. Square, more local activity is abound so does feel more like real Chinese pastime rather than a coined tour. At times, the kite flying in the Square is really fun to watch. Oh yes, there will be the vendors so maybe even purchase a silk kite for your unique souviner!
Fun Alternatives: If you go, do it on your own...a guide is really not needed to see Mao. Just walking around the Square, people watching, and crossing the main street to pose for a picture under the famous Mao 'poster' makes more sense than standing in a line for the masoleum. But if this is something you feel you must do, then incorporate some genuine 'people watching' all the while you are there. Often, if a Westerner is spotted, some local folks will ask for you to join them in a picture...do this with a smile as it makes a memory!
Spend only a few minutes ihside the tomb displays and then head outside to enjoy the surrounding areas and walk the Sacred Way...one mile of interesting statues and history. Much more interesting & relaxing than an hour in a dark Ming display, in my opinion.
Unique Suggestions: be polite, take a quick look, and only if you are truly interested should you purchase what is much more expensive than in the local markets. Your local guide is hoping for a sale which will bring a commission...beware of this and shop on your own when you find what you really want.
Fun Alternatives: When in a group that stops at some factory or display, just don't go in unless it does seem of interest to you. I always bring a good book along and just stay on the bus, or in the vehicle, read adn relax. It was, for example, the Wall I paid to see, not a silk rug demostration or a jade carving demo. This works for me everytime!
For the first time on visiting Beijing this year we were able to see inside the mauseleum. It's free except you have to hand your bags in at a small office situated on the right (looking towards the Forbidden city) outside the circling road. There is a small payment (this isn't the rip off). You then enter the cue to get in and are funnelled in in large groups. Inside the grounds you will tried to be sold artificial flowers to put infront of the great man. Don't buy unless ofcourse you really want to. Flowers placed infront of the body are trolleyed out after your group has left the hall and resold. i calculated about 20-30 times a day
When buying goods off unofficial sellers,
take the item first, check it & hold onto the item until purchased.
DO NOT give them large notes, keep change simple, likely to run away with money & goods.
Unique Suggestions: Keep an eye on wallet as groups work in threes or fours.
Keep regul;ar change in one pocket & wallet somewhere else.
Fun Alternatives: It's a must see placeto go
I know that many consider this a tourist trap - pay a fee to be herded through a room to see an embalmed body - but I was amazed at the total reverence of those who were there to see Mao, the flowers that were being left in his honor, and the huge line of people, aobut 99% chinese, who wanted to pay homage to his memory.
Unique Suggestions: I was glad I went. Seeing the great respect that so many have for Mao, despite the many mistakes that he made in his leadership, gave me some insight into the Chinese thought and feelings on their leaders. That, of course, is priceless.
Fun Alternatives: There is nothing like this, and no substitute.
Mao's Mausoleum (Mao Zhuxi Jinian Tang) is situated on Tiananmen Square, between Qianmen and the statue of the Revolution's Heroes.
Personnally, I haven't been inside because I'm not interested in seeing a dead guy's corpse.
Furthermore, my family has been part of a tour group and the visit to Mao was of course included. They can't bring in anything. Everything went really fast : when they entered the room where his body is shown, they cannot stop and have to keep on walking while watching. They have been in the room for no more than 1 minute.
Mao's body in Tiananmen Square - it costs around 50 kuai to get in and when you do you're just herded through and don't get a chance to look at the man. I didn't go but I heard from all my friends who did that it was just a waste of time.