Beijing Thanksgiving

Old Nov 8th, 2005, 12:35 PM
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Beijing Thanksgiving


We will be in Beijing over Thanksgiving and will have a half day of free time. Since we will travel with a tour group, we will hit the major sites, but I do have quesitons:

1. What should we definitely shop for? What should we expect to pay?
2. With 7 kiddos in the group, is the zoo a good option? Other suggestions?
3. How do I go about arranging a tour of the backstreets?? Suggestions?
4. We know it will be cold. Does anyone know the advantages to going while it is so cold? I assume there will be fewer tourists...

Thanks for all of your help!!

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Old Nov 8th, 2005, 03:26 PM
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Thanksgiving is in November, right? I see from that November averages in Beijing are 0-9C, which isn't so bad, dropping to -5 to +2 in December, which is a bit nippy. Sounds like you'll be OK if you keep moving!

Not sure how the weather will affect your plans, but in regard to Q3, my advice is not to bother with a guided tour. Beijing is an easy city to walk around and if you get lost you can easily flag down a cab - just make sure you always have your destination written in Chinese for the cabbie. And pick up the Beijing Tourist Map, which has place names in both Chinese and Pinyin (Roman alphabet) characters.

As a suggestion, you could take a cab to the Drum Tower, which is NNE of the Forbidden City (Palace Museum). You may be lucky enough to catch a performance by the drummers.

From the Tower you'll see the FC, and Jingshan Park immediately to the north of it (it has a prominent hill with a white building on top). To your south you'll see a chain of lakes, the Back Lakes. From the front (south) entrance of the Tower you can walk the short distance to Houhai Lake, cross a footbridge to get to the western side and follow those lakes as far as you like - the southernmost, Zhonghai and Nanhai are immediately west of the FC. You can strike off and explore interesting "back street" areas, and there are also cafes, bars and restaurants alongside the lakes that the kids will probably appreciate.

The benefit of doing it on your own is that you can explore at your own pace. You'll see tour groups being led around behind guides carrying little flags, and form time to time you'll be approached by the drivers of overpriced rickshaws - my advice is to keep walking.

Jingshan Park is also a nice place to stop off. There's a small entrance fee. (Tip: always carry cash in reasonably small denominations, 50-yuan notes at most.)

The above route is what we did on our first day in Beijing. We had no special plan in mind after leaving the Drum Tower, followed our noses and were fine.

Now the disclaimer: if some of the kids are small you'll have to shepherd them down the internal staircase of the Drum Tower, which is a single steep flight with very high risers. Of course, the Tower isn't compulsory. You will also have to keep an eye on them when crossing the street - this is not a big problem, just find a suitable crossing point and follow the locals.

Lastly, a former Fodorite, Peter N-H, once started off a thread in which he offered to supply copies of his guide to Beijing hutong walks. I don't know if he's still responding to requests, but you could check that out at

I strongly recommending buying and studying a guidebook before you go. I had the impression that the abovementioned Peter N-H wrote for Frommers, so you might like to check out their website and/or guidebook (sorry, Fodors - special case).
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Old Nov 9th, 2005, 03:06 AM
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Wonderful! Thanks!!

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Old Nov 16th, 2005, 10:44 AM
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I spent 2 weeks in Beijing and made it my mission to eat in all the cool places I could find!

I've reviewed all these restaurants on my website and you can also find my photos there.
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Old Nov 16th, 2005, 07:27 PM
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we went to the zoo to see the pandas and were very sorry that we did....the place was horid....dirty, old and very run down...this was 3-4 years may have improved since then however...
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Old Nov 16th, 2005, 07:44 PM
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We were at the Beijing Zoo last year and had expected the worst. We were very pleasantly surprised! Most of it had been nicely refurbished and landscaped. However, we were somewhat disappointed by the pandas. They did not look very clean and fluffy, but they are real creatures not stuffed animals, so maybe I wasn't realistic in my expectations! But if you do go to see them, be sure to go inside the panda house as well as around the back where their playgrounds are located.

In regard to the rest of Beijing, it is a great city to walk around. You will discover something at every turn. Enjoy your trip!
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