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Trip Report Mr. & Mrs. HT Go to China and Japan 2007

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Well we have made it back from our annual trip and I have made a few notes along the way. I took my trusty Sony Vaio TX series laptop which is ultra light (2.84 lbs with batteries attached) and fit into all of the room safes we had on this trip. It enabled me to sit down after every day (well most days) :) and write some notes which made this trip report a lot easier to do.

We started our travel with a 26” suitcase, a 22” carry on, a 24” suitcase and an empty 26” for things we wanted to buy along the way. The 26” was almost full before we left Beijing.

I will elaborate on areas in which we traveled that I had a hard time finding info on (Japan and some onsens)and skim by the areas which already have tons of info available on this board and elsewhere. We spent 16 days in China and 12 days in Japan. I got eight free nights and two nights at a special discount rate along the way as we used some Hyatt and Sheraton points help us save some.

Please excuse me if I bore you in details and if anyone wants me to be more specific on any area please ask.

March 15 & 16

We left HNL on time wheels up 10:27 am wheels down 2:39 pm Japan time March 16 via ANA airlines on an upgraded ticket to business class.

Best service by the flight attendants that we have ever received. Always bowing and serving. Food and wine were outstanding.

I was disappointed in the seats as we were expecting something better than United International Business Class but ANA uses the older 767 planes on the HNL/NRT route and the seats on this plane were not very good. In fact the worst seats we have ever had on an International Business Class flight. They barely recline, not even as much as a regular economy seat. The flight from NRT to PEK was much better and the seats were bigger and reclined to an almost horizontal position and the 767 used was of a newer version.

Attendants constantly cleaning the bathroom every hour on the hour, I have never seen that done before on any airline.

We were picked up at the Beijing airport by the Peninsula Mercedes limousine. We had an uneventful half hour ride to hotel. Check in was very smooth and quick.

March 17

All of our first 4 days breakfasts were at The Peninsula as it was included in our hotel rate as I had opted for the “Winter Escape” package that I had found online at The Peninsula Beijing website. The rate was 1590 Yuan per night and included a limo ride to and from the airport. We opted for the upgrade to the Deluxe King room for 1750 Yuan per night. The rooms at the Beijing Pen are a bit smaller than the ones in the Peninsula Bangkok but are really nice and have all of the techno gadgets and great service that all the Peninsulas offer.

We shopped and walked around the Wangfujing area on our first day trying to just take it easy and adjust to the time difference.

We had lunch at The Quanjude Restaurant in the Wangfujing area and dinner at the Chinese restaurant in the Peninsula hotel. Both were just ok by our opinions.

March 18

We visited the Silk Market in the morning. We bought a lot of silk scarves and souvenirs for ourselves and gifts. There are really aggressive sales people here. Two of them actually grabbed Linda and pulled her deep into one of their stalls where I had to go in and rescue her.

Had the concierge of the hotel buy us our inter China airline tickets. They add a 60 Yuan service charge to all tickets and you have to pay in cash. We could and should have walked the street outside the hotel, as I noticed a few days later, and bought them from one of the many travel agents we saw along the road but…….

We had dinner at Danieli’s Italian Restaurant in the St. Regis Hotel Beijing. Total cost 1619.20 Yuan. I had the veal scaloppini and Linda Had the Ossobuco. A Bottle of white Italian wine cost 730 Yuan yikes! Nice atmosphere but a very average dinner would not return, way too expensive for what you get.

March 19

We hired the Peninsula limo car to go to the Great Wall at Mutianyu for 1100 Yuan. I know we could have gotten a taxi outside for about 600 Yuan but hey, I enjoy traveling in style and China is a place to do so without paying NYC prices.

It was snowing when we got there. Our driver was very helpful as he bought our tickets for the wall and the cable car ride up for us and waited while in the car while we did the wall. We were on the wall for a little over two hours and the wall in the snow was surreal. I could only imagine what it was like defending these places centuries ago without the modern day advantages we now possess. The slide down was closed that day because of the snow so we took the tram back down. It was really nice to have the tram because of the steepness of this section of the wall. There is a walking trail but just the walk to the tram entrance was very steep and more than enough of a hike for me. The ride to and from the wall was about three hours so we were back at the hotel before 2:00 pm sooooo…..

We went to the Jiayi market for more shopping! There were real nice sales people there that do not push as they do at the pearl and silk markets. We again bought more gifts and souvenirs and Linda got more pearl jewelry. Our empty 26 inch suitcase we had brought along was filling up fast.

We had dinner at The Da’ccapo Italian Restaurant in the Regent Hotel Beijing. The food was great along with an elegant atmosphere but a little pricey by Beijing standards as was expected being in the Regent Hotel.

March 20, 2007

We changed hotels to the Grand Hyatt Beijing as I had enough points for three free nights there out of the four that we stayed here. Nice big rooms and almost as nice as the Peninsula but not quite but the price was right so it really didn’t matter. Another advantage to the Hyatt is that it is inside the Oriental Mall which is one of Beijing’s largest. They have tons of shops and a huge food court with dozens of restaurants and fast food places to eat. It seems all of Beijing was eating there one Friday night. They also have a laundry shop which will do your laundry for a lot cheaper than the Hyatt rates so we did our dirty laundry there which was very convenient. We also saw quite a few local laundries in our walks around town but all of them had no English but I bet they were pretty cheap.

We had lunch at the Noble Court Restaurant in the hotel which serves dim sum and Mandarin Chinese food and we also had dinner at the Italian restaurant in the hotel called Da Giorgio.

Da Giorgio is a charming venue with nice atmosphere and very good food to boot. I ordered the Rack of lamb and Linda ordered the Steak tenderloin. They were out of the lamb so I had to settle for the Veal Chop which was good. We also had a nice bottle of Italian wine which is very expensive in China due to the heavy import tariffs the government levies. The local Chinese wines are maybe 10% of the cost of the imports but not very good.

We had a delightful dinner there except for a very young and immature manager from France named Matthew. He was pompous and extremely rude to us. I wrote a note to the hotel F & B manager about my experience there after we left and he called to apologize before we went to bed. He also met us at dinner the next night in Made in China and bought us a nice bottle of Italian Chianti which was excellent to try to smooth over the bad situation that had occurred the previous evening. It worked!

March 21

Today went to The Summer Palace, what a magnificent place we really enjoyed our day there. We took a taxi from the Hyatt and the fare was 56 Yuan to get there and 68 Yuan coming back in very heavy traffic.

Dinner was at Made in China in the Hyatt, IMHO a much better place to eat Beijing duck than Quanjude as the duck here has a better flavor and coupled with outstanding service and atmosphere. As you walk through the place everyone, I mean every waiter, waitress, bartender, managers, etc, greet you and wish you a pleasant meal. The same happens when you leave as they all wish you a fond farewell.

Note: We noticed that at Quanjude and Made in China that if you order a whole duck the bigger the party of people the bigger the duck. Parties of two would receive a smaller duck than parties of four but the prices remained the same. I guess it makes sense, just something we noticed.

March 22, 2007

We went to the Alien’s Street Market today. This market is really nice and low key with no pressure to buy and hassle from the sales people. This market caters mainly to Russian visitors and locals so not very many other tourists in sight. It is a wholesale market so prices start out cheaper than other places but you still must bargain hard. We had lunch downstairs at the food court. We both had a combo set which included a big bowl of beef and noodles, two pickled appetizers and 3 delicious mouth watering dumplings that burst with juice when you bit into them all for 51 Yuan……amazing. We took some clothes to get washed at the laundry right in the food court. Jeans and regular pants were 16 Yuan each while sweaters and shirts were 22 Yuan, a lot cheaper than the hotel rates.

Dinner was at the Japanese Restaurant in the Beijing Hotel named Gonin Byakusho. Linda had the shrimp tempura dish which included the shrimp, rice, miso soup, a tossed salad with sesame dressing, tsukemono and a gelatinous type dessert for 88 Yuan. I on the other hand opted for the sukiyaki which included the beef sukiyaki which was cooked at our table and a garden salad for 290 Yuan, Our total bill with 3 drinks each and service charge was 495 Yuan. The food was very good and we were pleasantly surprised.

We had Hagen daz ice-cream on our walk home from the outlet on Wangfujing which was 25 Yuan for one scoop.

March 23, 2007

We did more shopping and sightseeing today. The air quality had gotten real bad as you couldn’t see two blocks in front of you. We Shopped at the Honquiao Pearl market and got some great deals and cheap prices on gifts for friends. We ate lunch back at Made in China and had the Beggar’s chicken that people rave about. The chicken is baked for two hours in a clay shell. Inside the shell it is wrapped in lotus leaves and stuffed with shiitake mushrooms. The presentation is fantastic as they bring a big mallet and crack open the clay shell and peel off all the leaves and present you with a steaming sweet smelling dish. Unfortunately the chicken’s white meat is very dry and the other parts are just alright,,,,,,nothing great. We would not order this dish anywhere ever again. We also had the dumplings of the day and some fried dim sum which was excellent. Cost of the meal and drinks was 435 Yuan. The chicken alone was 285 Y.

We then went to the pool at the Hyatt which is a marvel in itself for some downtime before dinner at Gisa Italian restaurant in Chao Yang park area of Beijing. Linda again had the Osso buco while I tried the Veal Scaloppini. We had pasta fagioli soup and a prosciutto with parmesan and mozzarella cheese and bib lettuce salad. Dessert was profiteroles for Linda while I had the vanilla gelato with chocolate sauce and a shot of Marsala wine which really made this dish, We also had a bottle of Italian wine and a couple of glasses of port. We got it all for 745 Yuan. Good food with nice service. The place is not 5 star but has a personality all its own. We would return here for dinner if ever in Beijing again.

Back to the Hyatt in 10 minutes and 20 Yuan taxi ride compared to the 55 minute and 31 Yuan ride in the extreme Friday night rush hour traffic. We had a night cap before heading up to our room in the lobby which had a trio singing that Simon Cowell would have panned. I had a glass of Chianti while Linda had a glass of white wine. 299 Yuan yikes!!!!!!
Side note, smog and air quality was the worst today. You could not even see 2 blocks.

March 24

Today we were leaving Beijing via the overnight train to Xian. What a difference a day makes as today was the most beautiful since we’ve been here. You could see for miles with a blue sky above. We ate lunch downstairs at the food court at a Japanese ramen shop. I had the miso ramen with pork while Linda had the pork ramen. We also ordered a side dish of dim sum and two soft drinks for 62 Yuan. After lunch we checked out and went out to do some last minute shopping. We then hung around the pool area till 6:00 pm so we could use the facilities and showers. We then took a taxi to Beijing West Train Station for our over night ride to Xian. Cost for the taxi was 34 Yuan from the Hyatt to the station. We had reserved a deluxe soft sleeper car so we were entitled to wait for the train in the soft sleeper lounge which has more comforts than the general waiting platforms. They also let you board from the back of the waiting room and let you board 5 minutes earlier than the regular minions so you get to beat the crush of people who are in the general boarding area.

If you have a lot of bags like we did you can hire porters to help you load your luggage. They will take your luggage from the waiting room and load it on the train in your compartment for you. This service is cheap (25 Yuan for 4 bags) and saves you carrying the bags down four flights of about fifteen stairs each. The areas to hire these porters are in the main hall area. You can tell by the desk with the porters dressed in red jackets hanging around.
We left right on time at 8:28 and arrived one minute late in Xian at 7:54 am. We situated ourselves in the room and then headed to the restaurant car where I had read that the food on these trains was supposed to be very good. Key word is “supposed”, we found the food terrible and would recommend doing what everyone else was doing by bringing your own food aboard. There were only two other couples dining with us and we all thought the food to be pretty lousy. They had vegetable soup, pork and mushrooms with ham har sauce.(for those of you who don’t know what ham har is think the smell of gyms socks in a locker that have been used and fermented for a year then times that smell by a thousand), a celery lotus root stir fry which was pretty good and some very spicy pickled vegetables and a bowl of rice all for 40 Yuan. Next time I would definitely opt to bring our own food aboard.

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