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MAry Jan 7th, 2003 03:41 PM

Beijing accommodation recommendations pre-cruise
We will be arriving in Beijing, 4 days early, for a cruise on the Star Princess sailing on 10/22/03. Does anyone have any ideas about a nice clean fairly upscale hotel in the Forbidden City area? Have checked the Asia travel web site but need some feed back from others who have really been there. <BR>Thanks!!!

Peter N-H Jan 7th, 2003 05:21 PM

Best five-star choices would be The Grand Hyatt (newly opened, excellent, and 20 mins on foot from the Tian'an Men) or The Palace (run by the Peninsula Group, about 20 mins walk from the Wu Men--the Forbidden City's main entrance). Avoid the Beijing Hotel or the Grand Hotel--similar prices, but entirely Chinese-run and with dissimilar service.<BR><BR>Peter N-H<BR>

Louis Jan 7th, 2003 05:56 PM

Oct. 2002 my wife and I stayed at the Chinese 4-star rated, French run Novotel Peace Hotel near the Forbidden City area. We were completely satisfied in their deluxe room on the 10th floor of the 15-story east building (you want the east building, not the west building). The rate, through Accor Reservation, was US$75 per nite for 2 persons including tax, service charge and delicious buffett breakfast. The only complaint we had was that all their beds are very hard. However, after the 1st nite we got used to it. My wife is very fussy about hotels. She will stay there again. By the way the French pastries at the hotel were excellent.<BR><BR>Of course if you are willing to pay $200, the very upscale luxurious Palace Hotel across the street is unbeatable.

Peter N-H Jan 7th, 2003 06:30 PM

Just to clarify: There's no hotel in Beijing where you need to pay $200, although such figures may occasionally be seen as published rack rates, which it's almost never necessary to pay. However, even The Palace itself is currently advertising $145 on its Web site, and showing up at the hotel will produce cheaper rates than that. Only two or three hotels in Beijing are actually able to average above US$100 per room per night (usually China World, Kerry Centre, and St Regis).<BR><BR>Peter N-H<BR>

Louis Jan 7th, 2003 07:50 PM

I just went to the Peninsula Group (Palace Hotel) website and found the cheapest room I can get from 10/18/03 for 4 nites is US$185 per nite for 2 persons inclusive of American breakfast, but there is a service charge of 15% making it a total of $212 per nite. The hotel rates are at their highest during months of Sept/Oct/Nov. I will be very surprised if you can get a room for less than $200 per nite inclusive of breakfasts and service charge at the Grand Hyatt during month of Oct.

Peter N-H Jan 7th, 2003 08:32 PM

I was speaking generally about hotel rates in Beijing, but there is a large flashing ad on The Palace site, advertising rooms from $145:<BR><BR><BR><BR>Of course, if you choose the most expensive way to book as an example, and choose a busy month, then you can easily find rates well in excess of the average. Booking so far ahead *guarantees* you will be offered the full rack rate or something very near it, and doesn't reflect the reality of what you would need to pay nearer the time. <BR><BR>The beginning of October is always busy, and rates then are much higher than average (so they will be around February 1st, the first week of May, and so on). Nevertheless, nearer October, better rates will be available to avoid leaving empty rooms on the shelf, and much better rates will be found by showing up in person, although perhaps not many people are comfortable with this method. Better rates are frequently advertised locally in Beijing, but they can be tapped from overseas by checking the ads in expat publications and email newsletters such as Xianzai Beijing:<BR><BR><BR><BR>The fact remains that in general only two or three hotels in Beijing in general manage average room rates above US$100 across the year, as the figures they circulate amongst themselves clearly show. Even the Palace's own Web site has rooms as low as $125 in the shorter term, which would be cheaper still bought over the counter.<BR><BR>The Grand Hyatt, having recently opened, is only just finding its feet, but had a much better autumn than it expected, and was very busy even in part of November, as was the Kerry Centre, although no one could quite work out why. Other five star hotels (the new and rather good Marco Polo, for one) were just pottering along as they would expect after the early October rush. <BR><BR>For most of the year there is a glut of upmarket accommodation, with more hotels coming on line all the time, and rates actually paid reflect that. We'll have to get a lot closer to October to find out what rates will really be at that time, and the situation in the Gulf, the state of Western economies, and other unforeseeable circumstances will all play a part.<BR><BR>Peter N-H<BR><BR>

Louis Jan 8th, 2003 08:10 AM

I almost stayed at the New World Courtyard (by Marriott) Hotel last Oct. It has a good review. I believe it's a 4-star hotel (definitely not 5). It's near the Forbidden City/Tiananmen Sq. My estimate is about a 15-minute walk. It is also very near a subway station (Palace Hotel is not). The room rate for 2 listed on &lt;; for Oct '02 (not '03) was around US$82 including tax, service charge and one breakfast. Do you have any comment on this hotel, Peter ? Based on it's location, the review I read, reasonable room rate and being a Marriott Hotel, I would have no hesitation staying there next time.<BR><BR>I heard about the new Oriental Harbor Plaza Hotel also in the same neighborhood. I believe it's 5 star. I also believe that it's run and owned by an overseas Chinese group. Perhaps Peter can tell us more about this hotel.<BR><BR>So far key 5-star hotels in that area have been mentioned. The two foreign run 4-star hotels in that area have also been mentioned.

Louis Jan 8th, 2003 08:43 AM

I almost forget to mention the Crown Plaza Hotel (part of Holiday Inn group) near the Forbidden City. It is close by the Palace and Novotel Peace. Crown is 5-star rated, but I believe it's a notch below Palace or Grand Hyatt. Crown has a good review. From my research, rate-wise you can do just as well by calling their US 800 number. For last Oct., the best I could do was a rate for 2 persons of about US$130-140 inclusive of tax, service charge and breakfasts.<BR><BR>Please note that in Beijing or Shanghai, especially those foreign run 5-star hotels, a buffett braakfast can easily cost you US$20-25 per person.

Peter N-H Jan 8th, 2003 10:07 AM

I've only briefly visited the Courtyard Marriott, but it looked like a standard four star to me, very busy with tour groups on the day I was there. It's a little further away from the FC, east and south, and I think more like 30 mins at least on foot. Being on the subway is definitely a plus when thinking of getting around Beijing, however, and should be a major factor in decision making (although the station neares the Marriott is on the circle line, and not the No. 1 line which passes directly in front of the Tian'an Men). The Grand Hyatt stands directly above Wangfujing Subway. On these ground the Marco Polo is an excellent hotel, newly opened and with very good rates, just south of Xi Dan metro, only one stop from Tian'an Men, and a shorter walk than the Marriott.<BR><BR>There are numerous other four- and five-star hotels on Wangfujing, but most are Chinese-owned and run, and would not have the stars they have anywhere else in the world. The Crowne Plaza is owned by the same group as Holiday Inn (Six Continents) and is their flagship brand. The hotel is fine, but it was a very early joint-venture and is indeed now a little tired compared to its neighbours. A refit is on the way, however, in mid-2003, so it might be brand spanking new by October. <BR><BR>In general, booking through central 1-800 numbers will never get you access to inventory at the best rates. Some hotel chains are now making it a policy to put their best remotely-accessible rates on their Web sites. But calling the hotel directly will almost always get you access to better rates than the 1-800 stock, and turning up in person better still. Some people make a reservation through the central system on condition that that's the cheapest rate they'll get, and then ask anonymously for the best rate of the day when they show up. If it's lower, they take it, and cancel the other reservation. This can, of course, lead to arguments, and it's not something I'd do myself.<BR><BR>It might be there's a new Harbour Plaza on the way. This is a Hong Kong hotel group of good reputation. But I suspect the hotel Louis is thinking of is what is now The Grand Hyatt inside Oriental Plaza. This was supposed to be a Harbour Plaza until the last minute. Hyatt usually gets involved at the design stage, and it was unusual for the company to take over a half-built project, but never the less, for those who like the comfortable modernity of the Grand Hyatt brand, its all there in the way the rooms are fitted out. Only the vast, but bizarre swimming pool, kitted out like a multi-cultural jungle, gives away that something else might have been planned originally. It's highly enjoyable kitsch, however. I think this hotel might soon take over from the Kerry Centre as Beijing's most popular, at least for the non-diplomatic/government business markets, because of its excellent location, vast and impressive curved lobby, and other sumptuous facilities. Excellent Cantonese in the basement, and Beijing's best chocolate shop, to boot.<BR><BR>Louis is right about breakfasts. If they are not included then it's best to eat out. You can easily stuff yourself on jiaozi, baozi, or noodles for Y5, but if you want something Western, albeit not appetizing, there are plenty of McD and KFC. Numerous bakeries sell decent buns and cakes of various varieties. The best buffet breakfasts are at the Sheraton Great Wall, the St. Regis, and the Grand Hyatt, with the Shangri-La and Kerry Centre coming in second.<BR><BR>Peter N-H<BR><BR><BR>

danny Jan 8th, 2003 11:44 AM

Regardless of seaonality, there is no way you can get a room at Palace Hotel for $145 inclusive of taxes and buffet breakfast. Say you are offered a room for $145, but the total comes to $220 if you add breakfast for 2 at $23 each and the 15% service charge to the bill. Just returned from Beijing last month. Stayed at Crowne Plaza for one night but will never go back. It's the worst foreign-run 5-star hotel in Beijing! You have to wonder what the Chinese standards are in rating the hotels. Planned to be at Crowne Plaza for 3 nights but moved to Palace Hotel nearby the next day. Why? The rooms at Crowne Plaza must have seen better days and the breakfast and the lobby etc just don't measure up to the standard of a genuine 5-star hotel.

Peter N-H Jan 8th, 2003 02:28 PM

Perhaps the earlier posts need looking at a little more carefully, as well as The Palace's Web site. This is currently advertising $125 for the coming nights, or $135 including American breakfast. Of course, service charges are always extra in luxury hotels, as is, in Beijing, the city bed tax of Y6 per bed or Y12 per room (depending on the accountancy method of the hotel). So right now, even if booked on the Web rather than in person, the all-inclusive cost for room, breakfast, service and taxes will be $156.75. <BR><BR>Peter N-H<BR>

Casey Jan 8th, 2003 05:29 PM

Just for the record. I am staying at the Palace hotel for 6 nights in April at a cost of $943.00 all taxes and breakfast included. <BR><BR>Peter, how far away is the Palaca hotel from the different markets. <BR><BR>thanks for any info.

Prime Hotel Jan 8th, 2003 05:49 PM

5 star <BR><BR>This hotel is conveniently located in Beijing's business, culture and shopping district-Wangfujing Avenue. The Prime Hotel's generously sized rooms, convenient location, good facilities and high standards of service will help make your stay pleasant and comfortable. <BR><BR>-Location<BR>Downtown Beijing. Easy to access to all the famous attractions of Beijing; Forbidden City, Beihai Park The museum of Chinese Art Capital Theater and Donghuamen Food Street are all within walking distance. <BR><BR>-Restaurants and Bars<BR>Imperial Dining Hall, Banquet hall, La Dolce Vita Italian Restaurant, Alfred's Fun Pub, Cafe wanfujing. <BR><BR>-Recreation Facilities<BR>Indoors swimming pool, Gym, Sauna, Massage Mahjong, Snooker Room &amp; Mahjong Room<BR><BR>-Other Facilities.<BR>Business Center, Beauty and Hair Salon, Hotel limousine service to airport<BR><BR>we can reserve it for you a t a very low price<BR> Please feel free to contact [email protected]

Prime Hotel Jan 8th, 2003 05:49 PM

5 star <BR><BR>This hotel is conveniently located in Beijing's business, culture and shopping district-Wangfujing Avenue. The Prime Hotel's generously sized rooms, convenient location, good facilities and high standards of service will help make your stay pleasant and comfortable. <BR><BR>-Location<BR>Downtown Beijing. Easy to access to all the famous attractions of Beijing; Forbidden City, Beihai Park The museum of Chinese Art Capital Theater and Donghuamen Food Street are all within walking distance. <BR><BR>-Restaurants and Bars<BR>Imperial Dining Hall, Banquet hall, La Dolce Vita Italian Restaurant, Alfred's Fun Pub, Cafe wanfujing. <BR><BR>-Recreation Facilities<BR>Indoors swimming pool, Gym, Sauna, Massage Mahjong, Snooker Room &amp; Mahjong Room<BR><BR>-Other Facilities.<BR>Business Center, Beauty and Hair Salon, Hotel limousine service to airport<BR><BR>we can reserve it for you at a very low price<BR> Please feel free to contact [email protected]

Louis Jan 8th, 2003 05:55 PM

The same rate Peter and Casey just quoted at Palace is for single occupancy. There is a $10 + 15% extra for double occupancy per night. This information is from Peninsula Group (Palace Hotel-Beijing) website.

Peter N-H Jan 8th, 2003 06:57 PM

The Prime Hotel (Huaqiao Dasha) advertised twice above, and where I was once regularly a guest, is precisely not the kind of hotel you should consider. When I last stayed there it had gone six years without any kind of redecoration and refurbishment, and was getting fairly grubby. It wouldn't surprise me if it was now ten year.<BR><BR>Danny asked above what the basis for star grading in China was, and the answer for four star hotels is that the hotel has to have a certain list of facilities chosen by the provincial authorities--a bowling alley in some provinces, a swimming pool or tennis court in others. For five stars there's a central Beijing authority with its own list, various clever dodges for diverting funds into its own pockets, and which will never downgrade a hotel as long as it is kept wined, dined, or otherwise bribed, even if the hotel is falling to pieces. There are various funny stories about the lunacy of the inspectors (funny unless you are an hotel GM, of course).<BR><BR>Unless it has recently had a major interior refurbishment, the place has an impressive lobby, and grubby rooms with various fixtures not entirely working whose main benefit was that they were the largest standard rooms in Beijing. Its biggest drawback was that a few years ago it ceased to employ a foreign GM, and eventually the foreign marketing and rooms division people all went, too. I'm not sure if the F&amp;B director is still a foreigner. <BR><BR>Essentially, if you want a real five star, you have to stay with a familiar name or one of the Hong Kong luxury chains, and few of these will actually measure up 100% to your expectations. Chinese five stars are the same merely in the amount they hope to charge you, and not in service provided. At the Prime, desperate for business, they were letting in Chinese tour groups for about US$30 per head a night, and the staff loved to bang the doors of the rooms early in the morning as the groups checked out. Bell boys would hustle for tips (although some were fired for doing this). The concierge was sharp, but got poached elsewhere, I believe. <BR><BR>It's a shame because the expats used to keep the hotel pretty much up to the mark within the limits of the lack of investment on the interior, and the housekeeper was very thorough. The building is structurally very sound, too (Swedish-built, I believe). It's worth staying in at a 'very low price', but you get what you pay for.<BR><BR>The Forbidden City is indeed reachable on foot, but its the north (back) entrance, and to get an idea of the logic of the palace's layout you need to enter from the south. You can walk there, too, but it will take rather longer than from the other hotels mentioned above.<BR><BR>Peter N-H<BR>

Bill Jan 8th, 2003 10:14 PM

<BR>In the U.S., just call 1-800-Holiday<BR><BR>Crowne Plaza Beijing, Wangfujing Ave.<BR>Check-in Oct 18 for 3 nights, 2 persons,<BR>best available rate, per night for a superior room:<BR>818.30 Chinese Yuan Renminbi = 98.83 US<BR><BR>Walk to Forbidden City. <BR>The avenue, starting on the block just south of the Crowne Plaza, was closed to traffic on the Saturday that I was there. People strolling about &amp; shopping. And few people taking rides on a big insane looking slingshot-bunjee cord thing.<BR><BR>

Louis Jan 9th, 2003 12:41 PM

Thanks, Peter, for giving us an accurate account of Prime Hotel

Bill Jan 9th, 2003 01:05 PM

<BR>Peter N-H,<BR>The water from the faucet in the Crowne Plaza was not potable when I stayed there 13 months ago. What's the situation these days at that hotel and the others? I'm assuming it will be ok by 2008.<BR><BR>

Peter N-H Jan 9th, 2003 01:23 PM

The water isn't potable straight from the tap in much of the developed world, let alone elsewhere, so I'm not sure why there's an expectation that it will be in Beijing by 2008. According to someone of my acquaintance in a major international water company, based in Beijing, the water in some major Chinese cities is already reasonably clean (this is by French standards), but the pipework isn't, so the result is still undrinkable water. As someone else mentioned, The Palace has piped purified water straight to the bathroom through a separate tap, but that's treated inside the hotel. I vaguely remember one other hotel having such a system, but I've forgotten which, and it doesn't seem to have caught on with the hotel which have opened in the last couple of years. Oddly enough The Prime was the first to install water purification in Beijing, although it's long been in disuse, and mineral water in bottles is supplied, as it is almost everywhere else. I don't imagine there'll be any change by 2008 (although Beijing will otherwise by then be unrecognisable).<BR><BR>Peter N-H<BR><BR>

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