Beijing-last minute questions

Oct 5th, 2001, 06:51 AM
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Beijing-last minute questions

We're leaving for Beijing on Sunday and I'm a little nervous since it's our first trip to Asia so forgive me if my questions are incredibly silly

1) Is there anything that we should bring that you wouldn't bring to a European destination? I am bringing some wetnaps, antibacterial hand gel, and Immodium AD that I normally wouldn't pack.

2) Can we arrange to go to an acrobat show or the Beijing Opera through the hotel once we get there or are tickets sold out in advance?

3) I'm in the middle of reading "Wild Swans" which I understand was/is banned in China. Should I leave it at home and bring something innocuous?

4) We have a hotmail account we use to communicate back home. Will this work from Beijing? We're staying at the Great Wall Sheraton if that makes a difference.

5) I'm going to try using chopsticks but if I can't master it is it considered offensive to use/ask for silverware?

Any other advice is welcome!
Oct 6th, 2001, 07:14 AM
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(1) You may want to take some anti-histamines.... I've always taken some to China just in case but luckily never needed them (same with Immodium!)

(2) You can get the tickets for the show once you get to Beijing.

(3) No idea about this one.

(4) Yes, hotmail will work as long as there's access to the web ---- try the business centre at the hotel.

(5) People don't usually mind if you have a go at using chopsticks but can't.... Just bear in mind that depending on where you eat, some restaurants may not have knives and folks!

Have fun in Beijing! It's a lovely city!
Oct 6th, 2001, 09:00 PM
John G
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Not only would I bring WILD SWANS with me but I would bring copies to trade for goods. I have read the novel and just happened to mention this to my guide in China. He said it is banned but almost any educated Chinese would kill to get their hands on a copy. I highly doubt that the authorities would confiscate this material from you. They usually don't bother with American tourists. I, myself, had a disparaging article on the Chinese gov't response to the Falon Gong (sp?) spiritual movement in my luggage, and it wasn't even touched. Also, it really isn't that hard to use chopsticks. Just put your food into the little rice bowls you will be given and hold it up to your mouth and "shovel" the food in. This is perfectly acceptable in China. When you are in Beijing, please go to restaurant and try "hot pot"--it is fabulous! And don't forget to ride the subway.
Oct 8th, 2001, 02:53 PM
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Don't want to be a wet blanket but one week before September 11 the NY times ran a front paget story about thousands of executions and missing persons taking place in China. They had a quarter page picture of young people lined up, dressed in modern clothes that without any identifying caption could have been from queens. Any concerns you are supporting a government with profound human rights abuses? I would at minimum go to the website and search for article. I would liket to see Cambodia but I don't think I bring myself to give them money. Of course this is your personal decision. I just feel that this human rights stuff in China has taken a back seat since Sept.11 attack. I WOULD NOT TAKE BANNED MATERIAL INTO THIS COUNTRY and I would be very careful about my behavior in this country.
Oct 8th, 2001, 02:55 PM
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The people lined up as I mentioned above where kneeling some crying with individual soldier standing next to each waiting to be interrogated.
Oct 11th, 2001, 08:09 AM
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In response to the original questions, I concur with the above responeses, except for the bit about the book. I am an American who has been living in Shanghai for the past 3 years, and not only did I buy my copy of Wild Swans in Shanghai, but I've also bought numerous other books about the Cultural Revolution here (Falling Leaves, Life and Death in Shanghai, etc.). I assure you that they are readily available in the numorous places to buy English language books in town, from the airport to hotels to the "regular" Chinese bookstore with an English section. The last store I mention is a Chinese version of Barnes & Noble - a 4-story bookstore with one section dedicated to English language books - not an exclusive or hard to find place at all (I say this to illustrate the point that I didn't buy my books in some dark back alley from a rogue trader, or in a place only open to foreigners).

So, don't worry about the book!
Oct 11th, 2001, 01:20 PM
John G
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Andrea, now you know damn well that Shanghai is not Beijing. Just because something is available in Shanghai doesn't mean you can get it in Beijing or anywhere else in China. Laws and how they are applied are different everywhere in China depending on the local gov't.
Oct 14th, 2001, 03:30 AM
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Hey Kris - First of all, never think your questions are "silly" if they are concerns of yours! (Yes, I'm a teacher - sorry) To add to your first aid list, I'm an international teacher and traveller and I always travel with 3 things - Pepto Bismal tablets to use as a food prophylactic (they coat your stomach - I take 2 about 2 times a day), rehydration packets (I can't tell you how many I've needed due to unhappy tummy and how many I've given away!!! Especially if you end up with diaryhea), and a round of antibiotics in case of any infection. Good move on the Immodium.

For the Hotmail account, I've often encountered problems getting online with Hotmail in various countries, so I added a Yahoo account. Now friends and family mail to both, and I access whichever one I can.

Finally - on the book - I wouldn't worry about it, but that's me. The fact that you even asked points out that it is a worry, even if it's slight. The more you respect local laws, the more comfortable you'll be and the less worried. How important is this book to you? I'd take another one. Good luck and above all else, enjoy the country! Cheers!
Oct 15th, 2001, 07:44 AM
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I just wanted to report back since we're home safe and sound.

We ended up not needing any of the medicine we brought along (Immodium or Cipro) but I still think it's a good idea to take it with. Took Pepto Bismal every morning just in case. A lot of the food we tried was spicier than we would get here in the US. We avoided street food which we would normally eat but just felt it wasn't worth the risk.

We went to two acrobat shows, plenty of tickets available for both. Our hotel made reservations for us for the first, the second we bought tickets on the day of the show.

Ended up leaving the book home but it wouldn't have been a problem since they didn't search my luggage. They did search my husband's carryon (and all of the other males getting on the plane back home, waived the women through).

Hotmail account worked from the Sheraton where we stayed.

We learned how to use the chopsticks but silverware was available in a lot of the restaurants we ate at.
Oct 15th, 2001, 12:28 PM
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I am glad you had a good trip. I leave on Friday.

What shows did you see? Which did you enjoy most?

Any restaurants you enjoyed most.


Oct 15th, 2001, 07:33 PM
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Michele, we went to two acrobat shows. The Opera really didn't seem like something we would enjoy. We liked the show at the Chao Yang Theater better. It wasn't as slick as the other show but I thought the performers were better. It was a short cab ride from our hotel (Great Wall Sheraton) at 36 Dongsanhuan Beilu. We got the tickets that were 120 RMB and were seated in the 2nd row.

We also went to the acrobat show at the Wangsheng Theatre at 95 Tianqiao Market. It was entertaining but I didn't think the acts were as entertaining.

Since we were on a tour for the first two days we had lunch where the guide took us. we had breakfast at the hotel since it was included. For dinner we tried a couple of Chinese restaurants near the Sheraton (excellent dumplings at both) but if you're not staying out that way they are not worth the trip.

A couple of other tips-taxis are incredibly cheap, most of the trips cost less than $2. If you are staying at a hotel, get a card from the concierge desk that has your hotel listed and also where you are headed listed. Most of the cab drivers did not speak any English. However, if you are staying closer in you might consider the metro as it seemed faster than traveling by car, especially during rush hour.

We visited a lot of the markets. The silk market was mostly clothes ( alot of North Face, men's dress shirts, silk clothing, backpacks). The Hong Qiao market had the most tourists and the biggest selection of pearls, jade, cloisonne, vases, souvenirs, etc. It went on and on and on. The ghost market was bustling on Saturday but almost dead on a weekday. Lots of junk, souvenirs, Mao stuff. We bargained for everything, except when the price seemed too low to haggle over. The Friendship stores had a better organized selection but the prices were 4-5 times higher than what we paid at the markets. There didn't seem to be any haggling at the Friendship stores except on the silk carpets.

Enjoy your trip!

Oct 22nd, 2001, 09:44 AM
Pam Ellis
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We leave for Beijing on Nov. 229 for six days. what would seem an appropriate amount of money? Did they take US currency and how difficult was it to exchange? Were there any problems? Thanks for the info Pam
Oct 22nd, 2001, 11:20 AM
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Pam, we stayed at the Great Wall Sheraton, one of the nicer hotels in the city. We used their exchange desk simply because of the convenience. I think we got a fair exchange rate there, 820 RMB for $100. I would recommend bringing travelers checks over cash, it's safer and you get a better exchange rate. We got 15 RMB($2) more for each $100 we cashed in.

How much money you bring depends on what you intend to do/buy and what you can put on a credit card. There didn't seem to be a lot of ATMs that accepted foreign cards.

Our hotel and first 2 days tour were prepaid. We paid for transportation, some admission fees and most of our souvenirs with cash. Taxi rides were between $2-4, the subway was very cheap. The acrobat show was $15 per person. Departure tax was 90 RMB each, approx $11 each. Meals at casual restaurants ran about $15 for the two of us. All of the little stuff added up, I think I cashed in $400 on our 5 day stay, used the credit card twice (once at a restaurant, once at the Friendship store)

Some of the more tourist oriented markets did take US$ but most quoted prices in RMB. They might take US$ but we didn't ask. I'd bring along a small supply of small bills ($1, $5) for the vendors at the tourist sites.

I didn't pick up any pearls or jade, the selection was overwhelming and I didn't know enough about either to ensure I wasn't getting ripped off. Not sure if they took credit cards at the pearl market.

We didn't encounter any problems during our stay. Be sure if you are taking taxis that you get a card from your hotel with the hotel's name on it and your destination. We didn't encounter any taxi drivers that were fluent in English.

And if you adhere to the boil it, peel it or forget it rule of eating, your stomach should stay healthy and happy.
Oct 23rd, 2001, 08:30 AM
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just a note on the Peking Opera. I got to see a performance in Beijing and even though the plot was not easy to follow, the acrobatic moves were very interesting and fascinating. But everytime we turned on the tv in our hotel room, the same opera was playing. It looked exactly the same as what we saw in the theater. It could have been another story, but I could not tell the difference.
Oct 24th, 2001, 02:45 PM
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I took all those things and didn't end up using them. I'm not particularly brilliant at using chopsticks but had fun trying! The Chinese were fascinated by it but as one of the other replies said you can tip the bowl up and shovel the food or alternatively with some things use your fingers. The most difficult was at the Peking Duck restaurant where we ended up in fits of laughter trying first to roll pancake rols, then eat them with chopsticks. Highly amusing!!

If you do go to restaurants, choose ones where there are lots of locals eating. We stuck by this rule throughout our trip to China, ate lovely food and were never ill.

My best advice would be to learn a couple of words in Chinese before you go if you can. Even just hello, goodbye and thankyou. The Chinese are very friendly and love this. They may stare at you because you are a westerner but its not to be rude, its just because we look so different from them. If they do and you say hello in their native language the reactions ranged from saying hello back or a smile and nod or giggles.

I loved Beijing and hope to go back soon. I'm sure you'll have a lovely time!
Oct 25th, 2001, 03:52 PM
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Just got home from Beijing last week. The Pearl Market takes credit cards. Your hotel will be able to book almost any show you are interested in.

Also, when checking into your hotel check and see if the room comes with internet access. We were in the Holiday Inn Crowne Plaza and nothing was mentioned about internet access when we booked, but when checking in it was casually mentioned in an "upgrade promotion" that included breakfast for 2 for $20 a night additional. The computer is in the room, is set up for English and has unlimited free access. Was a real deal for us. This hotel had 2 floors of rooms with internet access.

One question I had: We arrived in Beijing on a cruise ship that had several ports of call before Beijing. The cruise ship handed out a bulletin a week before docking saying all film that was exposed (Pictures taken) HAD to be processed prior to arrival in China. No exceptions. No other passengers had heard of this rule and we were sceptical as (of course) the cruise ship had 24 hour processing onboard...for a stiff fee which they doubled 48 hours later. Has anyone heard of this rule??

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