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One Week in Beijing, what would you do?

Old Jun 12th, 2014, 02:26 PM
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One Week in Beijing, what would you do?

Hi all,

Due to our two daughters both getting married this year, we pretty much gave up any hope of an overseas trip, BUT it is our 30th wedding anniversary a couple of weeks after the last wedding. So with a big trip planned early next year we decided to allow one week and our points to dictate where we might go. Yay, we can get to Beijing b/class with our existing points.

It will be the last few days of October and the first few days of November, which on my brief research so far, should be quite cool but dry?? We will stay in the one hotel for the week, the Fairmont is offering a really good deal for that period but most reviewers seem to think its 'too' far from anything?? We are avid walkers and are quite happy to use public transport.

We will spend the week exploring the city, allowing one day to go out and visit 'The Wall'. We don't wont to 'waste' time on a big group tour, stopping off at obligatory shops/factories etc.

Should we get the train and just wander around (I'm a keen photographer) or does anyone know of an awesome private/small group driver/tour guide that can take us to a 'less' manic part of the Wall?

Food is always a huge part of our trip and I would love recommendation for great places to eat. Love to try local/new things but having said that.....it is China and we're not outrageously adventurous ;-)

So excited, thanks in advance.
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Old Jun 12th, 2014, 04:14 PM
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I would fly somewhere else less polluted.
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Old Jun 12th, 2014, 04:40 PM
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It sounds like you know what you want to do, I'd say do it on your own. Guides in China are a poor investment. You will know more actual history by reading a guide book than by listening to a guide. You can take public transport or hire a taxi driver to take you where you want to go (negotiate a price ahead of time - you can hire by the trip or by the day).

Sorry, I don't have specific recommendations for you, but there are plenty of trip reports here on Beijing and I'm sure others with recent experiences will chime in.

Have a wonderful trip!
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Old Jun 12th, 2014, 05:00 PM
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I agree with Kathie: travel independently! Avoid guides in China if at all possible (and really, it is amazing easy to see Beijing -- and other parts of China! -- without a guide).

There are several parts of the Great Wall that are easily reached from Beijing by public transportation; search this forum or the web for more information. And check out some of our trip reports -- there are several of us who have filed them after successful independent trips through China. You can find mine by clicking on my screen name; it's a LONG report, but you can find the sections on Beijing easily by using the search feature (I was in Beijing at the start and end of my trip).

As for hotels, there are LOTS of hotels in Beijing, and lots of options at all budget levels. I would not stay at an inconvenient location if I could avoid doing so. Just my preference. And yes, the subway system in Beijing is extremely easy to use.

I would be sure to check out the information on pollution BEFORE you make a commitment to go: Levels of pollution in Beijing have reached some appalling levels in recent years, and you would do well to be forewarned about the possible ramifications. Get the information, consult your physicians, and then decide whether to go, and if so, with what precautions.

My information is out-of-date (I visited Beijing in 2010), but I think I mentioned each of the restaurants at which I dined in my report. I'm pretty sure I keep seeing positive reviews of Dadong (known for its Peking duck), but do some research before taking my word. BTW, I don't have an overly adventurous palate either, but found the food in China to be one of the many delights of my trip there.

Another tip: Search this board for posts by temppeternh -- he is a TRUE expert on China, having spent much of his career writing and editing guidebooks for the country (among other things).

Hope this information helps!
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Old Jun 12th, 2014, 06:23 PM
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Huangluo - long hair village. Have relatives that went here. Very scenic spot.

They keep their hair growing and fold it depending upon marriage or having kids.
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Old Jun 12th, 2014, 08:04 PM
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Thanks so much...so helpful
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Old Jun 12th, 2014, 09:54 PM
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Take the pollution advice seriously. Beijing is unappealing during heavy pollution, and photographs will be drab and gray.
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Old Jun 13th, 2014, 06:05 PM
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Pollution is like weather, unpredictable. I had beautiful blue skies when I was last there two weeks ago.
Nothing wrong with using guides as it can enhance your experience. But there is certainly no need to have one every day. You could hire one on your first day to help you figure out how things work there.
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Old Jun 13th, 2014, 08:12 PM
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Hire a driver for the day, it's absolutely worth it! I went out to the Jinshanling section and absolutely loved it. I had the GW pretty much to myself, I think I saw maybe half a dozen other tourists throughout the entire day. Check out the greatwallforum.com for current info on the Wall. My driver was Joe Qiao and he was a wonderful driver and really a sweet guy, we talked the entire drive and he answered all kinds of questions. Off the top of my head, I think he asked for an amount around $100 for driving a couple hours out and being able to stay for the entire day. I can try to find his email address if you'd like it.

I was in China at the end of December a few years ago and had beautiful weather. I'm currently looking up at my wall at a poster size photo from the GW with bright blue sky in the background. I remember that it was windy in Beijing, but I don't remember it really being that cold for the most part.

As to pollution, I actually really didn't have any problem with it while I was there. I've seen photos since I've returned where you can just see the horrible smog but it really didn't feel/look like that at all.

I completely LOVED Beijing and plan to go back someday. I did not have any problems at all getting around... the metro is very easy and there's no such thing as lost, just waiting for a taxi. Always carry the business card for your hotel with you (and have the address/hotel info printed in characters when you get off the plane) and if you get turned around or just get tired then you just show any driver the card and they'll take you home. I had printed off the names of a handful of places I wanted to visit in characters before I left so I could just point to the name of where I wanted to go to ask for directions or for a taxi but I don't think I ever needed to use that, I pretty much just used the metro and walking. The staff at the front desk of my hotel were wonderful and if you wanted to go somewhere, they would write down the name/address on the back of a card for you to give to a taxi driver if they couldn't just put you in a cab at their front door and tell the driver for you.

People were extremely friendly throughout the country and more than happy to help out a random westerner. If you're interested, I have a hideously long trip report posted from a couple years ago with details of what I did, how I got around, etc. Go for it! If I could find good food and get around easily on my own then you certainly can too!
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Old Jun 14th, 2014, 01:58 AM
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Woh, thank you both awesome info, I will hunt out your t/r.

Thank you
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Old Jun 16th, 2014, 07:56 PM
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FWIW, many people seem to recommend using drivers while in China. In contrast, I found my moments on public transportation priceless -- the chance to see the interactions among locals and even, on occasion, to have them engage me in mimed "conversations", rather than traveling through the "bubble" of a driven car, was something I really treasured.

Enjoy!
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Old Jun 16th, 2014, 09:09 PM
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Websites usually have hotel maps and addresses in local lingo that u can print out if u know in advance where u r staying.

Amazing how many tourists get lost.

Hiring a driver and public transport can both be rewarding. No reason u cant do both. Variety is good.
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Old Jun 17th, 2014, 12:48 AM
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A combination of both sounds like the way to go!! Thankyou
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Old Jun 17th, 2014, 12:49 AM
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Yes worth a try. Enjoy your trip.
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Old Jun 17th, 2014, 01:15 AM
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If, by a "combination of both," you mean public transit and private drivers, do consider your options. IME, private drivers are rarely an economical option in Beijing, and really easy public transportation alternatives are often available at a tenth (or less) the cost.... Just something to consider....
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Old Jun 17th, 2014, 01:31 AM
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A private driver for 1 day isnt going to be that expensive. For a 30th anniversary people arent going to be living like 5 dollar backpackers.
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Old Jun 17th, 2014, 06:33 AM
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That was what I did and it was well worth every cent as it got me out to a section of the Wall that isn't serviced by public transit. I mainly used the metro and my feet around the city, with a taxi from the airport and to the rail station. I think I used a taxi maybe one or two other times in Beijing. They were friendly (despite me not speaking their language) and just looked at the piece of paper with my destination on it and generally smiled and waved me in. They always used the meters, never any headaches or hassles about that in Beijing.

The metro was fun (do be prepared for some crowds depending on when you go) and I remember getting some kind of prepaid card at a teller window in the first station I used and that made it very easy to just pop on and off of the metro for the rest of my time there. I remember that the metro had English on most signs.
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Old Jun 17th, 2014, 11:35 AM
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Fantastic advice as always .

...was well worth every cent as it got me out to a section of the Wall that isn't serviced by public transit.

That's what we are hoping for....will our hotel arrange this do you think, or should we book before leaving home?
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Old Jun 17th, 2014, 01:35 PM
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Don't book any "tours" or private drivers before you leave home. That's a way to ensure that you pay 10x the going rate. You can have your hotel arrange it for you, though it will be more expensive. I usually just talk with a taxi driver (if I get one I like) and negotiate a price.
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Old Jun 17th, 2014, 04:25 PM
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I arranged my driver ahead of time, NOT a tour, just a driver for the day out to the Wall. I found him via TripAdvisor and liked the reviews he got from various people. His price was entirely within the expected range for what others were reporting they had spent with other drivers.
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