Beijing - A Few Comments

Nov 22nd, 2003, 07:13 AM
  #1  
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Beijing - A Few Comments

Just back from several days in Beijing. A few comments that will hopefully help others. Please Note: these are our opinions only (we're a 50 y/o couple that has traveled extensively & we still take 4 - 5 international trips a year .... but we're laid back & have seen enough museums & temples to last our lifetime).

Great Wall: best part of the trip. We went to the Ba Da Whatever section (the nearest) and it was great. Not too crowded (late Nov) but certainly chilly. Consider taking a taxi & skipping the tour.

Ming Tombs: Very okay. That's it.

Forbidden City: A waste of time. An Asian ghost town with extraordinarily poor maintenance and essentially nothing to be seen except the vacant buildings themselves.

Mao's Tomb & Tia'min Square: Not bad.

Group tours to the jade market & Chinese Health Center: Can you spell "Tourist Trap"? Can't emphasize that enough. If you take an orgaganized tour you'll probably be held hostage in one or both of these places. "Just say no".

Marco Polo Hotel: Very okay. Three blocks from Tia'min square is a 40 minute walk (30 minutes at high speed).

Pollution: They said it was fog. Didn't burn off until three the following morning. Never did get a good night's sleep there.

Silk Market: not worth the hassel. "Maybe" you'll get a good price on a (countefeit) North Face jacket that might really be Gore Tex. Simply not worth the bargaining hassle to us.

Shopping: the local shops near the major stores (also to the side of Tia'min Square) offered excellent deals, with or without bargaining. Check out the little shops near the restrooms on either side of Mao's Tomb for neat little propane lighters (10 RMB each). We bought 15 or 20 for gifts and a few gaudy Mau wristwatches. Also, the shops along the right side of the square (facing Mao's picture) offered down jackets for less than $10 and wool coats for less than $20.

Street hawkers & hassle factor was high, but not as bad as Hanoi. I actually had to strike one guy under the arm when he nearly hit me in the face with his stuff after I'd said no 2 or 3 times. Beijing will never be a good tourist site until the local government controls the tourist abuse.

Food: Peking Duck (roast duck) is about $20 a couple in most restaurants your hotel might recommend. We went to a local spot not far from the Marco Polo. Roast duck for 4, plus a couple of appetisers (mushroom something & something else) plus another couple of entrees (there were 6 in our party) plus 10 or 12 beers (they're the quart size) was 118 RMB - about $15. No tipping allowed.

Overall our Beijing experience was worth it, but....they're certainly not ready for prime time. The Olympics has all the makings of a PR & tourist disaster: pollution, traffic, hassels, etc.

One last bit of important information: We had picked up a canned coke in Macau that my wife wanted to keep as a souvenir (had the Macau Grand Prix logo on it). We also had a few bottles of liquor we had been hand carying since Hanoi. Got to the airport, got checked in, through passport control and we were stopped at the security point. They told my wife she had to open the coke right there. She went ballistic. Ultimately had to leave our passports, go back to the check-in area, pay to have the liquor put in a few cardboard boxes, then go stand in line & get them checked in with our luggage, then go back & pick up our passports & go through security again. It was amazing the liquor made it to LAX with the liquid on the inside. Essentailly all the westerners (except us) simply gave up and abandoned their liquor at the security checkpoint. See the agenda there?

I doubt we'd ever go back to Beijing, but other spots in China are still on the radar for us.

/Dale & Kathy
Baton Rouge
[email protected]

dddick is offline  
Nov 22nd, 2003, 01:02 PM
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A chacun son gout, so I have to disagree about the Silk Market. We got some wonderful things there, but not the US brand knock-offs. We bought burn-out velvet silk scarves (I bought about 15 of them at US$10 each, would go for $50-100 here) and cashmere sweaters for about US$25.
Marilyn is offline  
Nov 22nd, 2003, 01:56 PM
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I agree there were some okay deals; my wife picked up a few cashmere sweaters for $25 or less and some silk scarves in the less than $5 range also. But at the local stores with zero hassel.

I guess we're just too old and tired for the BS. And the few bucks difference - plus or minus - really doesn't concern us.
dddick is offline  
Nov 22nd, 2003, 02:14 PM
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I didn't do any haggling, pretty much paid the asking price. One vendor threw in a scarf for free because I bought most of the others from him!
Marilyn is offline  
Nov 24th, 2003, 01:50 AM
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On the basis of observation and advice from friends who've lived and worked in both Vietnam and China, "going ballistic" is entirely counterproductive. You'll just go way down in the estimation of the people you're dealing with, i.e. "lose face", as someone who's unable to control his or her emotions, and you'll get nowhere. If as a guest in someone else's country you encounter a difficulty, polite firmness will get you a lot further.
Neil_Oz is offline  
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