Beijing in Nov.-Any Tips???

Old Jul 31st, 1999, 08:03 AM
Bob Morgan
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Beijing in Nov.-Any Tips???

My wife & I are going on a Club ABC Tour to Beijing in Nov.
Has anyone gone on this tour before? If so, please e-mail me with tips.
Also, I'm wondering:
1. Capital Hotel-Any good? Convenient? Is $130 upgrade to Palace Hotel worth it?
2. Tours for $49- worth it?
To Great Wall & Ming Tomb?
To Forbidden City & Summer Palace?
To Hutong & Temple of Heaven?
3. What good tour books are there for Beijing?
Thank you for reading this & any tips that you can give us.
Old Aug 2nd, 1999, 08:58 AM
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Hello Bob,
1) The Palace Hotel is by far the nicest hotel in Beijing if not all of China. Put it in any cities around the world, it would still be one of the best hotels in town. I never stay at the Capital Hotel. It looks okay from the outside. You can look at a photo of it:

2) If you want to see the Great Wall, you must join a tour. And make sure to join it from the hotel.... there are a lot of hustlers in Beijing and don't accept tours from the street. I stayed in Palace Hotel last time. You can see Forbidden City by yourself, but the Summer Palace is far away. So it's better if you join the tour as well. I enjoy the Hutong and you can see it by yourself.

3) Books...I have to mention Fodor's(this is their site) For the internet, my travelogue website(itself gets nothing useful), but contains good links to other sites on China. Try China Vista.
Old Aug 3rd, 1999, 05:49 AM
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We visited Beijing on our own in late November a few years ago. We had our travel agent, Cameron Tours, arrange for a car/driver and tour guide in advance. The price was similar to a group tour because of it being off season. JoAnna Cameron told them what our interests were--Forbidden City, Temple of Heaven, Great Wall, Ming Tombs, Beijing Opera show, acrobat show, Beijing duck dinner, and time to wander through neighborhoods and shops. The guide (very good because of the agent's ongoing relationship with the firm) then planned an efficient itinerary (the traffic in Beijing is very congested and the Great Wall and Summer Palace are a long drive) with lots of free time for us to wander the neighborhood near our hotel and in two other neighborhoods she picked out. We enjoyed having the guide to answer our questions even though we had studied before our arrival. She selected some great restaurants. Although we usually travel independently, we found having the guide very helpful in this case and since we chose the destinations, we had a lot of control over our time. The guide did have to take us to some stops we did not request, but were required by the government (a cloissone and a pearl shop)to try to get us to buy. There was no pressure and we knew she was required to do this so we kept the stops short and learned something at each one. Be sure to take warm clothing. We were wearing down coats with hats and gloves and were still freezing in the wind on the Great Wall and walking along the path at the tombs.
Old Aug 3rd, 1999, 08:52 AM
Michael Thompson
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The Palace is a nice hotel. It is conveniently located as well. Is it worth an extra $130/night? Probably not. If the upgrade is for 4 or 5 nights it is probably worth it. I've stayed in over a dozen hotels in Beijing and they all are fine for most westerners.

$49 per person for a tour of the Great Wall and Ming Tombs is not worth it. Typically on tours such as these one will have to go to cloissonne shop, eat lunch at a rip-off place, etc. (oh, by the way, there are no government required places)Most Hotels will be able to get you a driver and a tour guide if needed for a reasonable price. Is say if needed because there are now decent guide books one can buy at most tourist sites and guides are not necessarily needed if one has a good English speaking driver. It's great to be able to go to multiple places, on one's own time, see more in a day and not be hurded on and off buses.

On the sites:
Summer Palace is a definite must.
There are several places to see the Great Wall. (Badaling is most popular because it is nearer the Ming Tombs and Summer Palace. Mu Tian Yu is also fairly close to Beijing and is popular. Simatai is Northeast of the city and really is an all day excursion by itself. It is not as pristine (rebuilt as the other two place, however it is much less commercial and a great hike up a ridge with spectacular views for those who are in pretty good shape)

Ming Tombs - Not much to see. I would recommend the Wall at Badaling followed by the remainder of the day at the Summer Palace

Forbidden City - A lot of the same buildings over and over. It's a must however has never really impressed me. (I've been through it three times)

Tiantan (Temple of Heaven) Another must + a good market in the area.

I'd advise you all to just go walk into some hutongs and forget about a guide. The people are really friendly and there are lots of ways to communicate besides speaking English. Besides, a lot of the younger folks now speak a little English and are happy to practice on Westerners.

Another place is Beihai Park which is just North of Tian An Men. Also, see if there are any tours of the Great Hall of the People. (West side of Tian An Men)Sometimes they have tours and it is a neat place.

As I said earlier one can buy tour books at the tourist sites, also in the bookstores in Beijing.

Bring warm clothes. Years ago a Chinese friend told me that the first week in November is nice. Then the wind comes off the Siberian plain and the weather gets very cold. Believe it.

Fodor's restaurant guide is decent. Tuanjiehu is a good restaurant in the Chaoyang district. Wangfujing Quanjude is crowded but one of the best duck restaurants. I love Sichuan food and the Hometown and Ritan Park restaurants are two of the best. (they are in Fodors) However the Hometown is only half the size it once was as it has been "remodeled" I was there last month and half of it was rubble, the bar is now a post office and the remaining half is still operational.

Have fun. China is great and the people make it that way.
Old Aug 5th, 1999, 06:45 AM
dan woodlief
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You have already received some great advice. I would check out several major guidebooks at the library or look through them at a bookstore and consider what others have told you here. I was there with a school group a few years ago, so I can't really give you much input on how to do it on your own. We did have more control perhaps, since we hired our own guides and could tell them where we wanted to visit and didn't want to visit. We got them to take us to Beijing University for example, but the guards wouldn't let us much past the gate. They do like to take you to shopping places though. I would suggest doing the Forbidden City on your own, taking a cab to the Temple of Heaven (agree on price before you ride - generally cabs are very cheap), and going on a tour to the Summer Palace and Great Wall. If you can find better tour options through the guidebooks, you can always consider these. Regardless, I consider all four of these places as must-sees, and I would pay the $49 if that was the only way. Through our guide, for about $50 a person, we got the Great Wall, Summer Palace, a lunch, two dinners, Beijing acrobats, and Chinese Opera. We had already been to the temple and palace, as well as Tiananmen Square. I have heard many people say that they really didn't like the Ming Tombs very much. Be prepared to be bombarded with hawkers anywhere you visit. Good for some cheap souvenirs and postcards though.
Old Aug 9th, 1999, 02:11 PM
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I know from friends that the club ABC tours are worth the (inexpensive) price. what does get pricy are the addon tours. I hired a driver for a couple of days and I saw everything and was able to stop where and when I wanted as well as get to tourist areas at times when the tour buses has already left. My trip did include the Great Wall trip which I think I would do again on my own with a driver and not w/ a group. I was in Beijing solo for a week last mid-november and luckily I had a friend to e-mail to tell me the weather. I took my winter wool jacket w/ a fur hood and lined boots and was I glad -- 25 degreesF was the high all week w/ 5 inches of snow the day after I arrived. It was freezing at the Great Wall, Summer Palace and Temple of Heaven and I was only one of a handful of tourists that was dressed appropriately and didn't get frostbite! All the touring info you got from the others should be well taken.

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