Beijing Itinerary - feedback

Old May 19th, 2004, 10:21 PM
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Beijing Itinerary - feedback

After months of reading various postings on this forum, travel guides, and other web site info - I have to admit I am totally overwhelmed at trying to properly plan our trip to Beijing!

But - I have come up with an intinerary and would like your advice, comments, or suggestions. We will only be there a few days and can't see everything - but we want to hit the highlights.

This is the first leg of a long, complicated trip and we don't want to burn ourselves out. I don't want this to become a "death march" across Beijing! We'll need some down-time.

We will probably be pretty jetlagged upon arriving - although coming from the Middle East - I'm not sure how we will actually feel. That's an unknown!

Day 1 - Thursday
Arrive in Beijing about 2 pm and transfer to hotel (Peninsula Palace). Rest, re-group, then head to Tiananmen Square. Hit the highlights there, maybe climb the tower, and see the flag lowering ceremony.

Day 2 - Friday
Do a Hutong tour in the morning. Have lunch and then head to Jingshan Park and climb the hill to view the Forbidden City. Tour the Forbidden City in the afternoon.

Day 3 - Saturday
Visit the Great Wall at Mutianyu - all morning and lunchtime. Maybe hit the Silk Market in the mid-afternoon. Evening acrobatic performance.

Day 4 - Sunday
Morning boat trip to the Summer Palace. Lunch and into early afternoon at the Summer Palace. Mid-late afternoon in the park riding paddle boats, doing remote-controled boats, etc.

Day 5 - Monday
Visit Temple of Heaven in the morning. Have lunch and then visit Hongqiao Market in the afternoon. Last minute shopping.

Day 6 - Tuesday

A couple of questions -

1. Should we switch the Day 4 and Day 5 plans so that we aren't in the park on a Sunday (weekend)?

2. Any advice on how to arrange the Hutong tour? Our hotel offers a tour that sounds great, but is quite pricey. Also, with 4 of us, will we need two of the bicycle ricksaws?

3. I plan on using a guide at the Summer Palace and the Temple of Heaven. Where can I get guides to these spots? Is that something the hotel can help with?

4. How are the restaurants,cafes, tea rooms at the Great Wall and Summer Palace?

5. Any favorite spots for lunch or dinner? As a family, we enjoy Asian food and enjoy eating out in interesting places. We enjoy good food and wine (I'll settle for good beer!) and don't generally like touristy places. Although, I do break down with the kids and allow some fast food places for lunch just to make life easier!

6. That reminds me - what US-type fast food chains are in Beijing? I know there is a KFC. The kids like to hit the places we don't have where we live.

Thanks for all the advice and suggestions I have gotten from this forum! It was a huge help!

Grcxx3 is offline  
Old May 30th, 2004, 09:55 PM
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I completed a similar journey for my parents over golden week, intend to post a report, but until then - my advice. I think you have a good plan, no need to worry - do what fits your energy and schedule.

Day 1 - Tianamen - With your late arrival,Be aware that the buildings/sites close about 4pm. The Square is open later, but it also closes. See guide book

Day2 - Ok

Day3 - Mutianyu is good choice for wall. I would skip the Silk Market( you are going to Hongqiao market) - Go to Behai Park instead. I really enjoy it. It is not far from your hotel. The acrobats are great fun. There is group at Chaoyang theater, a visting group " La Reivre" sp and a group near Temple of Heaven. I have not seen the last, see as many as you can.

Day 4 - Summer palace is very big, lot's to see and do. Let us know about the boat ride to the Palace.

Day 5 - If you can, go early to explore the park that surrounds the site, before it opens. You are smart to buy your stuff at Hongqiao market on last day. Bargain hard

Questions -

Schedule - Do not worry about how busy, fit your plan to your schedule.

Meals - We did not eat at Summer palace, there is food available, I will leave it at that. We ate lunch at Mutainyu - a new place, follow the new concrete driveway opposite the lower parking lot. You will probably need to have some Mandarin or trust the owner, great food. You will have no problem finding Mc'D, KFC, Starbucks or Chinese equiavlent. I cannot recomend any favorite spots to eat, it is pretty much find a place to eat when I am hungry in China, no idea of name or

Don't worry - everything will be good.

Ed King
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Old Jun 4th, 2004, 11:10 PM
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Your itinerary looks great.
A few hints from this American Mom of 2 living here in BJ.
1. definitely switch the Summer Palace day to a weekday. I realize you are taking the boat out there, so traffic won't be an issue, but it will be swamped on weekends. I also would dissuade you from getting a guide. Bring a guide book and get the info you need from there. Regardless, you will be approached by people once there to offer to be your guide. Keep in mind there is no tipping in China and that the average hourly wage is 10 Yuan, or US$1.20 But if you really want a guide, yes, the hotel can help with that. You are staying at the Peninsula. They can help you change your underwear if you so desired.

Scrap the silk market

I would recommend you combine the Jingshan Park with Forbidden City. If you visit the square then head into the Forbidden City through Tiananmen (under the huge portrait of mao) and exit out the back gate you will be directly across the street from the Jing shan park. F.City has an awesome audio tape tour you can rent in English and is worth it. I would only get one or two as they can be rewinded and shared. I think it is about $8 for that. (you have to leave a passport or ID depsoit but you get it back at the other end!) Note: if you want to "pay your respects to mao" he lies in state in the square. Closed Monday and you have to check all bags at the counter across the street to the east. Starbucks inside the F. City! Not very well posted, but towards the back gate.

Pearl market after Temple of Heaven is perfect. There is a KFC right next to the pearl Market. Mc Donalds are everwhere but no Burger King. (hey, my kids also look for what we don't have here when on vacation, too). Buy a cheap kite and let them fly it in the park.

I would bring a packed lunch for Mu tian Yu. Call subway, or Beijing Sammies to deliver to your hotel. At Mu Tian yu, take the cable car up, walk about an hour to the tobaggan for a ride down. Tou will need 3 tickets: one for each ride plus an entrance ticket to the wall.

As for hutong tours, there are plenty of independent peddlers (ha! no pun not intended) offerng their services for a fraction of the "real" tour. Yes, you will need two pedi-cabs. The best thing to do though is just walk around or rent bikes (depending on your kids ages, you may want to get the bicycles built for 2 at the east part of houhai.) Hutong tour is essential for a trip to BJ and am glad to see that in your short trip here it is included. Try climbing the drum tower for a great view of the city.

If pressed for time, I would skip summer palace. It isn't as interesting as Temple of Heaven and is very time consuming given its location.

If you arrive at 2pm, you won't get to your hotel until around 4-4:30PM.

The Red Capital Club (restaurant) is a great place for first time visitors. decent chinese food in a courtyard setting, with a throw back to the cultural revolution theme. Ask them to open the wine cellar, which was a bomb shelter during WW2. Your kids, if old enough, will like the feeling of climbing down the ladder to check it out.

Annie's Pizza place caters to kids and while you aren't coming to China for pizza, it is a nice place with decent food. Make sure you get a copy of That's beijing (free english magazines with all listings).

Let me know if I can help with your trip
[email protected]

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Old Oct 16th, 2004, 11:55 PM
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It's been several months, but I wanted to thank everyone for all the feedback and advice and to give you a quick summary of our trip. We had a great time, saw what we wanted, and never felt rushed.

Thursday - We arrived in Beijing later than I had expected. So we just wandered around the area and spent some time walking along the big pedestrian street. We also ventured down some of the smaller neighborhood streets.

Friday -Started at Tiananmen Square. Then we spent most of the morning and early afternoon in the Forbidden City. Barbara - thanks for the tip about the starbucks - it was a real treat! We finished with a tour around Jinghsan Park and a walk to the top of the hill. THen we took a long - but leisurely walk back to the hotel - detouring along the smaller streets when possible. That night we went to an acrobatics show.

Saturday - We arranged with the hotel for a private taxi to the Mutianyu Great Wall. Can't even begin to explain what it was like seeing the Great Wall - kind of like seeing the Giza Pyramids for the 1st time! We took the cable car to the top and took our time walking. It wasn't very crowded and we were able to get some nice photos. The luge ride down was a real kick! I wanted to go back up and do it again!!

Sunday - We visited the Temple of Heaven. Afterwards, we found the nearby KFC (a nice treat for the boys!) and then shopped some at the Hongqiao Market. Then we went back to the hotel and chilled out at the pool for a few hours. Dinner that night was at the Red Capital Club. It was wonderful - even my kids loved the food! My only advice - if you need reading glasses - bring them - the menu is difficult to read!

Monday - We decided to skip the Summer Palace and just spent our day in Benhai Park. We rented a motorized boat and my boys had a blast "driving" it in the lake. It was a nice restful time. The afternoon was spent doing last minute shopping.

Tuesday - Off to the airport.

A couple of comments -
We "splurged" and had the hotel arrange our transportation to and from the airport. Expensive? Yes. Worth it? Most definitley! We were met as soon as we got through customs. There was cold water in the car, air conditioning, and we had no worries!

We never bothered with a guide. We had a couple of travel books and some info from the internet. Each morning at breakfast, I would "brief" the family on what we were going to see and it's history. Then, I just used to travel books for further descriptions at the sites.

We used taxis to get us to and from places. It was easy and inexpensive.

The Chinese people were great. They seemed genuinely glad to see us and many asked to have their photos taken with our kids.

Overall feeling about the trip - can't wait to find a reason to go back!

Grcxx3 is offline  
Old Oct 17th, 2004, 12:43 AM
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Good to read that you didn't bother with a guide - we've just returned from China, and one of the sadder sights we saw was groups of Western tourists being led around the hutong and Back Lakes areas they could so easily have done by themselves, and moreover at their own pace. We found Beijing an easy city to navigate and the cabbies great.

(You know you're into an advanced stage of caffeine deprivation when Starbucks is a treat - they don't serve much purpose here in Australia, but in coffee-deprived China they definitely fill a niche.)
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Old Oct 17th, 2004, 07:09 AM
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Starbucks was a definite treat for us! We live in Egypt and bring in our Starbucks supply from the States each summer.

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Old Oct 18th, 2004, 02:04 PM
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Grcxx3, Thanks for posting the update on your trip! I'm in the process of taking advantage of an opportunity and getting ready for a trip to Beijing (with only about 2 weeks to prepare!). I may follow your Thursday through Sunday activities fairly closely because your plan sounds like a "tested" approach to seeing some major sites. May I ask you for some insights into the Peninsula Palace hotel? Did you ever have a chance to evaluate the fitness facilites and pool? If so, what did you think of them? I didn't use to care about such facilites but I've had to make some health changes this year and sticking to my exercise routine, even on the road, is important to me.
Also, how far in advance did you arrange with the hotel for your trip by taxi to the Great Wall? And what was the cost of the trip? Thank you in advance for your help!
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Old Oct 25th, 2004, 11:23 AM
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this past summer i spent a week in bejing and stayed in both the peninsula and the grand hyatt. the grand hyatt is definitely a step up in terms of the spa/athletic facilities/pools, etc. it also has a more cheerful yet luxurious vibe to it.

but honestly, you cannot go wrong with either. the peninsula also has a nice indoor pool and workout room....and the service is great, rooms are very nice. the rooms cost the same when i was there - so i just got a little less bang for my buck staying in the peninsula...
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Old Oct 25th, 2004, 01:55 PM
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asykes1: Thanks for the evaluation! I was looking at the two hotel's websites over the weekend, and they do seem quite comparable. I even "tested" the responsiveness of their concierges by e-mailing them questions about arranging airport pick-up. Both concierges responded in a reasonable time with adequate information and courtesy. At this point, I'm leaning to the Grand Hyatt for its location, the number of restaurants (and variety), and the fitness facilities.
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Old Oct 31st, 2004, 10:07 PM
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To Sadiegirl -

Sorry I haven't answered back - have had computer problems lately.

We loved the Peninsula Palace. I can't compare their pool/fitness facitilies with the Grand Hyatt - but I thought they were quite nice. THe whole hotel was wonderful and the staff was great! Anything we needed was taken care of immediately. I would stay there again without hesitation.

As for the taxi to the Great Wall - I arranged it a couple of weeks before we got there, but I think you could do it just a few days before. I just wanted to make sure we had someone who spoke some English and a sturdy car with seatbelts and A/C. I think it cost about $100. Of course, the driver did stop for us to get drinks at a cloisonee factory. We didn't want to spend time shopping and had to be pretty firm about proceeding, but it wasn't that big a deal.

HOpe you have a great trip!
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