4 days in Beijing/3 days Shanghai

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Aug 11th, 2014, 12:40 PM
  #1
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4 days in Beijing/3 days Shanghai

I have to travel to Shanghai for work and as it is an opportunity that I will likely never see again, my fiancé is planning to accompany me and we are going to go to Beijing for 6 days (4 full days) after the conference (we can't stay any longer than that ) I would like some suggestions with respect to what people consider their must sees and also places to eat I am a vegetarian.
Also, we were going to book a tour/hotel package type thing with a tour company, but again, the comments here have made me reconsider as we don't have a lot of money and I don't want to waste it. Specifically,I've read some of the commentary on here about tours and tipping and overpaying and bargaining and I would like some guidance on that as we have never really travelled and I have no idea how to bargain (suggestions on effective bargaining also helpful). In short, I'd be really grateful for your advice about anything. Also, any suggestions for things my fiancé can do in Shanghai while I'm working (he'll be on his own about 3 full days) would be really helpful too. Suggestions for good guide books also welcome, as I intend to get a few, but real people are always better. Sorry, I ramble, but many thanks!
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Aug 11th, 2014, 07:09 PM
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kja
 
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There is absolutely no reason to join a tour unless that is your preference, and if you do so, be aware that you will almost certainly pay much more than you need to pay for much less than you could do on your own and with better information from a good guidebook or two.

Do not tip while in China. Although some people like to pretend that it is expected, it is not, and tipping in a non-tipping culture can have some very negative consequences, no matter how unintentional.

I am not an expert at bargaining, so maybe others will chime in. Here's my understanding: First and foremost, remember that THEY are accustomed to bargaining and that there isn't (or shouldn't be) anything personal about it -- it is just a business transaction. Know in advance what you are willing to pay, but don't make an offer until you've asked them to lower the price at least once and maybe twice. Smile and be pleasant, just look a bit sad when you hear the initial offer or two. If the price doesn't come down to the price you are willing to pay, smile, thank the person, and walk away.

For your purposes, I strongly recommend the DK Eyewitness Travel Guide to Beijing & Shanghai, edited by Peter Neville-Hadley (who has an awesome knowledge of China and its foods and how to travel there independently, and who sometimes posts here on Fodor's).

In general, I find guidebooks irreplaceable for planning and the input from other travelers best for "polishing" or "fine-tuning" plans. But if you want to more about our individual experiences, feel free to look for our trip reports.

One last thing: before going, do a little research on Beijing's pollution levels and be sure to consult your physicians about it, and about any travel inoculations you might need.

China is fascinating -- enjoy!
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Aug 12th, 2014, 11:37 AM
  #3
 
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Hi there!

As it was said above, there's no tipping in China. So don't tip at all. And don't feel bad about it

Regarding bargaining - you'd encounter that only on markets. So if you want to buy an item on a market, ask for the price, then say that you saw it elsewhere cheaper (or that you don't have so much money) and if the vendor doesn't want to go down at all, just start walking away. They'll often chase you and give it to you for your desired price. Use just basic English words, no long sentences. And if you sometimes overpay, it's nothing horrible, it'll still be cheaper than in the US

In Beijing, you shouldn't leave out the Great Wall (e.g. Badaling section is easily accessible by bus), the Summer Palace, the Forbidden City, ... there's a lot to see but at least don't leave out these 3. Also seeing a hutong (former narrow alleyways) is quite an experience, albeit touristy. As a vegetarian, you'll have quite a lot to try in Beijing! There are restaurants where they make meals that appear like they're with meat (sausages, fish etc.) but it's all made of bean curd and similar things. It's quite fun to eat and the taste is great. I've been to one amazing one but unfortunately can't remember the name Here's a full list of such restaurants, though: http://www.happycow.net/asia/china/beijing/ (it helps to have the names available in Chinese characters as well, then you can just hop into a taxi and show the Chinese name and address).

Getting around Beijing is easy in a taxi, but make sure they turn the taximeter on. They might refuse in the evenings.

What to do in Shanghai? There's a lot of things to do too There's e.g. the TV tower in the city centre. Also the Bund, which is a European-style river shore, is pretty impressive. It's worth going up to one of the skyscrapers to have a view of the city. I went to Jinmao Tower and could see the 'Bottle Opener' skyscraper from up close. Otherwise it's just fun to wander around the city. If he's interested, he can also go to the former Expo site, I think they still keep the China pavilion. Or it's also possible to see the Olympic sites of 2002: The Nest and the pool building (looks like made up of bubbles) right next to it.

You'll have a great time, surely! Enjoy!
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Aug 12th, 2014, 07:46 PM
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kja
 
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"Getting around Beijing is easy in a taxi, but make sure they turn the taximeter on." -- absolutely INSIST on use of the meter! If you use a taxi, make sure you have the name of wherever you want to go written out in Chinese characters to show the driver. Also, always be sure to have a card from your hotel that gives the name and address in Chinese.

Or just use the incredibly efficient subway system, which has excellent signage and announcements in English.

For bargaining, you really don't need any English -- the seller will almost certainly have something like a little calculator or other device on which s/he can show prices, and there's always paper and pencil. They will use and recognize Arabic numerals. Oh, and don't assume that you can get real jade or anything else of value unless you REALLY know your stuff and are prepared to pay serious prices for quality items.

Are there no longer any hutong that aren't touristy? I walked through several hutong in 2010 that hadn't yet become tourist destinations....
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Aug 13th, 2014, 04:33 PM
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I took a two-day Beijing tour a couple years ago. I think it was about $63. We went to the Wall, the Summer Palace, Forbidden City, etc. The content was a good value, but the sales pressure at the jade shop, the tea shop, etc was very disagreeable.

By the way, the Nest is in Beijing, not Shanghai.

In Shanghai, The Shanghai World Financial Center ("Bottle Opener"), once the tallest in Shanghai, is now dwarfed by the just completed Shanghai Tower. Either will provide a unique view of the city, especially the Pudong, the Bund, the Pearl Tower, etc.

Both cities have Blue Frog restautants, a western style chain that I enjoy when I'm in town.
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Aug 13th, 2014, 05:35 PM
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> Regarding bargaining - you'd encounter that only on markets.

On the contrary. You should be bargaining for your hotel room rates and for almost any purchases in shops except groceries. Regardless of marked prices, you should be asking for a discount, which you will frequently obtain.

It takes some time to type out everything there is to say about bargaining, but some of the key points for shopping in markets are these:

Any advice you may receive along the lines of 'offer 1/3rd and expect to pay half' is simple-minded. Bargaining is about knowledge, and prices are hugely flexible. First asking prices at places frequented by foreign visitors can easily be ten or twenty or even more times what you actually need to pay.

What you hear someone else paid for an identical item to the one you want is no indication whatsoever as to how much you should pay, except that it should certainly not be more. But your aim should be to pay a small fraction of whatever you've heard is the 'right price'. The 'right price' is merely an artifact of conversation between people who wish to reassure themselves, against all evidence to the contrary, that no better price might have been obtained.

If you allow the seller to speak first just be aware the main purpose of his first price is to see just how gormless you are. It's also the case that the first price mentioned has an enormous influence on the final price paid. (See 'Thinking, Fast and Slow' by Daniel Kahneman for an academic account of how our brains are wired this way.) You must work hard to avoid this influence as it tells you nothing at all about what you actually need to pay, and if you're asked for ¥100 do not be afraid to offer ¥3. Just as the seller has nothing to lose with his ludicrous price--he can drop to half as soon as you start to walk away and at once seem to have made a major concession while in fact only reducing his price to ten times what he would actually accept as a minimum. Your first price has an equally big influence on his understanding, and if you detect genuine shock (difficult--these are talented thespians) you can equally come up. But if his second price is ¥50, yours should be ¥4. It is not at all unusual, if you keep your nerve, and if you talk to a number of vendors selling identical items, to walk away having paid a very small fraction of the asking price. But if you shop at places frequented by large numbers of genuinely gormless foreigners then you may not succeed in getting anywhere near the lowestl price because the person just behind will be paying whatever he or she has first been asked, and the vendor knows it. Don't expect to bargain down to a low price, go away and think about it, and then come back and say 'OK'. If there are now less canny shoppers around you won't be in luck.

And note this: Just about everything you might want to buy in terms of typical souvenirs is absolute tat, mass-produced to the lowest possible quality. But this cheap stuff is all that you should be buying: anything that seems to be high quality and with a correspondingly high price, is fake.

And note that should you meet someone who has bought an identical item for a fifth the price you paid, you haven't been ripped off: you have voluntarily entered into a contest with a vastly superior and more experienced opponent in full knowledge that his aim is to get you to pay as much as possible.

And forget 'Well, it was cheaper than at home' as a consolation, since prices at home are meaningless. The only comparison is what you might have paid versus what you did pay.
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Aug 14th, 2014, 03:52 PM
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temppeternh, that is the best description I have ever read.

I remember when I first started going to China and bargaining. One of my American colleagues called me "soulless."
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Aug 15th, 2014, 05:22 AM
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In Beijing, don't miss the temple of heaven park. We spent a good part of a day there and it was one of the places we liked best in Beijing.
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Aug 15th, 2014, 09:17 AM
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What are your plans for Shanghai? Do visit a watertown, you won't see that in Beijing. Btw, where are you staying in Shanghai?
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Aug 17th, 2014, 11:50 AM
  #10
 
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Nee how, Aline and Michael..hope all is well...I'm still kicking but not so heartily as before.

I particularly like the Reclining Jade Buddha at its Shanghai Temple. The ceremony at 10 a.m is very colorful with all of the monks dressed in bright orange, red and yellow robes.

Tai chi early in the a.m. at People's Park is fun to watch, also. I think the OP's fiance' might enjoy these events. If the Shanghai acrobats are in town, a very stimulating take-in. All hotels have tix. The view from the top of the newly renovated Peace Hotel is all- encompassing, and leisurely strolling the bund tops it off.


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Aug 17th, 2014, 12:46 PM
  #11
 
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Ni Hao and Shalom back to you, Stu.

The Jade Buddha Temple is closed for renovation, go to the Ji'an Temple, convenient location, Metro Line 2 stops there. Or your fiancé can take the hop-on hop-off Big Bus.
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Aug 17th, 2014, 02:32 PM
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Sorry, I meant Jingan Temple.
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