Beijing--worth 2 hotels

Feb 14th, 2005, 11:11 AM
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Beijing--worth 2 hotels

We'll be in Beijing for 6-7 nights in April. We're scheduled to stay at the Palace the whole time. (walking distance to Forbidden City and other popular sites) Wondering if it would make sense to move 1/2 way through the stay to be in a different part of the city. We found that works sometimes in big cities where sites are so far from each other and better to be able to walk to them. Don't have a good enough feel of sites and locations at this point. Could use some help. Any thoughts anyone? Thanks
jodo is offline  
Feb 14th, 2005, 11:21 AM
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I wouldn't move. First, the Peninsula Palace is a very nice hotel in the best area for tourists. The Wanfujing area has lots of shops and restaurants, and transportation is easy.

You can't really walk to many places in Beijing anyways. Distances are very far, so you'll need transportation to go to most sites.

Stay at the Palace.
rkkwan is offline  
Feb 14th, 2005, 06:49 PM
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Agree with rkkwan. Palace is a excellent hotel, in terms of location and service.

Since most sights are quite big, especially around Tian. Square, you still need to take a long walk to the entrance, even though you see on the map that the sights are pretty close to each other. So, be prepared to walk a lot anyway.
r_shum is offline  
Feb 14th, 2005, 07:07 PM
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thanks for the input. We are traveling on our own (almost 60 year old couple)---been to Xian and Hong Kong before, but never Beijing. Do we need a guide or contact or can we manage on our own. My attempts at Mandarin have been less than successful---Any suggestions?
Thanks everyone.
jodo is offline  
Feb 14th, 2005, 07:23 PM
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Hey Jodo,

I stayed at the Palace (Peninsula group)way back in 1996, which then was dull & crumpling in its "deluxe splendour" but was possibly resurrected by entensive renovations in 2003 though its ambience continues to be dark & drab.

However its location is absolutely fantastic - bang in the centre of downtown Beijing viz. Wang Fujing !

So I beat it by staying at the Novotel (in 2003) which is right opposite the Palace at a quarter of its Palatial price !

Beijing is a widely spread city & Forbidden city is not really "walking distance" nor are many of the "tourist sights".

You could try the Shangri-La hotel Beijing for a different "feel" of the city or perhaps the "Trader Hotel" which offers easy access to the Beijing tube (underground railway).
rickshawdriver is offline  
Feb 14th, 2005, 07:31 PM
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Considering your age, I would recommend you to pick up the daily day-sit-in coach tours with English speaking guides (most hotels have the brochures & booking facility) or you could do the same on a pvt basis which most hotel easily arrange at a short notice.

Besides the excellent service that these coach tours offers, you could actually plan a lot of your private evening/night touring/dining/cultural programs by asking for help from the guide on the coach tour, who are generally very helpful & extremely resourceful.
rickshawdriver is offline  
Feb 15th, 2005, 02:31 AM
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I like the Palace a lot, and don’t understand the comment from richshawdriver, as I first stayed there in 1999 and it was in very good shape then, and I am pretty particular. FYI it is a LONG walk to Tiananmen Square from the hotel, don’t let the map deceive you, those blocks are huge. You can take a taxi if you want. The area around the hotel is nice though so all in all it is a good choice. I would not recommend that you move hotels either.

As for guides, you do not need a guide, IMO, for(i) Tiananmen Square (pretty self explanatory, do some reading, do go to Mao’s Mausoleum which is interesting mostly to watch the reactions of the local PRC people), (ii) the Forbidden City (there is a very good audio tape) or (iii) the Summer Palace (but do bring a guidebook with a map) I think a guide for the Temple of Heaven is actually very worth while as they can explain the various ceremonies that take place there. You can hire a car and driver to go to the Great Wall, no guide needed. I prefer the Mitianyu access area, about 1˝ hours by car from Beijing. There is a cable car here so you can save yourself a long walk up and down. The closest access point is at Badaling, but tends to be very very crowded. Your hotel can arrange for a car. I am not a fan of the Ming Tombs and would give them a miss. You could of course do all of this by organized bus tour; I have only taken one or two bus tours in my life and am NOT a fan, you end up spending too much time having lunch and “quick stops” to shop, rather than actually spending time at a sight. As you are staying at the Palace, I am going to assume you don’t mind paying a bit more to have the flexibility of your own car, driver and guide.

I would not worry about the language issue, the main tourist places have signs in English and English speaking personnel, and most restaurants which a tourist would go to have English menus. If you have navigated Xian on your own, you can do Beijing easily.
Cicerone is offline  
Feb 15th, 2005, 12:24 PM
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thanks for all the tips. Yes, we negotiated Xian on our own---BKK and Hong Kong too----we're "old" but not dead!! We've never done bus tours. Guess we're too old to start now. (Will get the guide for Temple of Heaven. We got one in Xian for the museum and it was the best museum experience we've ever had. As for the Great Wall, heard the cable car at Mitianyu is being repaired...anybody know the status of that?
jodo is offline  
Feb 15th, 2005, 02:00 PM
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You will love Beijing-it's magnificent-and although I've not stayed at the Penn Palace it is quite centrally located-as rkkwan says, Wangfujing is the happening area where many shops and restaurants are located. As long as you have the name of a restaurant or place written down for you in Chinese to give to the driver, taxis are inexpensive and an easy way to get around.

I would suggest dining one evening at the Courtyard Restaurant-which is not far from your hotel-the Courtyard is a converted home that sits on the outer moat of the Forbidden City-lovely sophisticated atmosphere-Asian fusion cuisine-about a 60/40 mix of westerners/locals-but the view from the windows of the Forbidden City lit up at night is just fantastic. It's fairly expensive though, roughly on par with what you would pay for a meal at a good restaurant with wine in major cities in the US.
Spygirl is offline  
Feb 15th, 2005, 05:27 PM
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I've stayed at the Peninsula Palace several times, most recently Oct 2004 and it was perfect. The central location near Wangfujing and Forbidden City were very convenient and we took taxis all around the city (though the subway is probably fine too). Beijing is not a great "walking" city and the traffic is a real mess, but the taxis are cheap and plentiful. If I remember correctly, there are two types of taxis that charge different rates so you can hail a cheaper one if you want. The rates are posted on the side window - I think they were 1.20 and 1.60 or something like that.

Since you'll be staying for 6-7 nights, I recommend taking a city bus tour the first day or two to acquaint yourself with the city. We had a great time on our bus tour and several of us even went out to dinner together afterwards. One girl spoke fluent Mandarin so we asked her to pick the restaurant and order for us all which turned out to be a great experience!

As far as language, you should be fine if you stick to the tourist areas. Take a card with your hotel (and wherever else you want to go) in Mandarin and English.
Lia is offline  
Feb 15th, 2005, 06:22 PM
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I, too, would suggest not moving.

BUT, if you must, perhaps you could try moving to a place like the Bamboo Garden Hotel, which used to be a private residence. It will give you a flavor of what life was like "in the good old days" and will provide you with a totally different experience from the mega-modern hotels.

As Lia has suggested, DO take your hotel's business card with you. If you can't find your way back to your hotel, just show the card to a taxi driver and he'll get you back.

The other suggestion is to get a good map of the metro system and know which are the stops you are likely to use the most. The metro is the fastest, easiest, and cheapest way of getting around Beijing. After you have gotten to a particular stop, you can always continue on by taxi. Taxi travel can be terribly slow; the traffic jams in Beijing are worse than those in Bangkok or Hong Kong, IMHO.

Try dining by the lake in the Back Lakes area, although April might still be a bit cool. Forget the hutong hype and just walk a few hutongs on your own, absolutely, do not take a tour there - BEEG ripoff.

You've gotten some great advice from some of Fodors' best! Enjoy!
easytraveler is offline  
Feb 15th, 2005, 07:45 PM
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jodo, it's true that Beijing is a spread-out city, but this less-than-fit 62-year-old and his somewhat fitter wife did a lot of walking and enjoyed it. Best to not be too ambitious, but as an example on our first day in Beijing we took a cab to the Drum Tower, then walked across to Houhai Lake and meandered SE along its west shore and the adjoining old residential areas. Further south (closer to the Forbidden City) there's Beihai and Jingshan Parks, oases of green in the middle of Beijing (a good view of the FC from the top of the hill in Jinshan) and no shortage of cafes and bars along the lakeshore for when you need a break.

At any stage you can hail one of the numerous and cheap cabs - even the Summer Palace, which is quite some distance, should cost you no more than US$7. But don't be tempted by anyone touting a "metered cab" at such places - it will be of the dodgy unlicenced variety. I strongly recommend picking up the readily-available tourist map showing street and site names in both Chinese and English. Make sure you have a supply of smaller Y10 and Y20 bills for cabs etc.

Around the Back Lakes you'll be approached by rickshaw drivers - these guys are best avoided, IMO. More fun to walk, and if you want to go any distance a cab will certainly be cheaper.

I agree with other posters that for most purposes a guide is quite unnecessary - this was our first visit to China and Beijing isn't at all difficult to navigate. Don't worry about the language barrier - a few Mandarin phrases are nice to have, even if it's just "hello" and "thanks", but sometimes it's surprising how far sign language will get you.
Neil_Oz is offline  
Feb 15th, 2005, 09:16 PM
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thank you!..Talking to you all before we go is one of the best parts of the trip (planning and learning)...We'll keep checking this thread to be sure we don't miss any other good advice.
jodo is offline  

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