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Two and a half day trip report

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Westport, CT
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Two and a half day trip report

I wrote a report while I was in Beijing on my ipad app, but it doesn't seem to have worked. I wanted to briefly share my experience in case it helps others. We had a fabulous time; comments below are only intended to help others in a similar situation.

Background: I was there on business, and my teenage daughter and husband joined me.

Hotel: We stayed at the Westin Financial, which was fine and near my business meetings. Buffet breakfast was excellent. Wifi worked extremely well. Ample bottled water is provided. Not easy to get a cab from the hotel (had to wait for quite a while at times). Upon checkout, a bar charge appeared for 2,000 yuan that we had not incurred. I got a fuss until I asked to see the related receipt. The charge was immediately reversed.

Tour guide: We booked a two-day tour with travelchinaguide.com. I know many people say that you can tour Beijing without a guide, but for our situation (limited time to plan, and limited time to tour), I highly recommend this approach. They provided the same guide and driver (2 different people) for the two days. We went to the Great Wall and the Hutong shopping area one day, and we toured Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City, the Summer Palace the other day (neither of these is a complete list). We were the only people in the van. The guide spoke good English, and was very knowledgable. A key advantage is that he has already dealt with the tickets, knows exactly where to go, and knows how to avoid the crowded areas. The price was great, in fact, I added up all of the admissions and the price of lunch and I think we came out ahead! If you have specific questions, please send me a message.

Other information: As many others have reported, we had a few incidents with cab drivers, even in the official taxi stand at the airport (we had info printed in Chinese, etc.). They refused to turn the meter on, and tried to negotiate a fare about 4 times what we knew it should be. So, we ultimately got out of these cabs. The second taxi turned on the meter and everything was fine. But it leaves a terrible first impression. (As a New Yorker, I remember when New York cracked down on this, but I didn't appreciate the significance of it at the time.)

Acrobat Show: In my one attempt at planning, I arranged for tickets to the Chaoyang acrobatic show through the hotel concierge. First, the show was really fun. However, it is very far from the Westin (a 30 minute ride). Second, we got a voucher from the hotel, with no specific seats indicated. A random man approached us as we were coming up to the theatre, took the vouchers and put us in our seats. As the theatre filled, we realized we might have been scammed, because we had no way to prove that we had paid for those seats. (Luckily, noone came to oust us.) We also had a terrible time getting a cab home in the pouring rain (and, the first driver tried to scam us). In retrospect, I would have booked this through TCG also.

Zoo and Aquarium: My husband and daughter took the subway to the zoo and aquarium while I was working. They loved it, but got lost for an hour and a half upon exiting the subway station near our hotel. They went out a different exit, and could not regain their footing (no passersby spoke English). They finally found another hotel and asked for directions!

Laminated Map: I wanted a laminated map of Beijing in English, which Streetwise does not make. I found one on amazon, and it was very helpful.

Food: We ate in the hotel 2 nights, and then were treated to an absolutely remarkable meal by my business associates the other night. I don't know the name of that place, but it was about 10 courses, preceded by a tea ceremony. A night we will never forget.

All in all, it was a great trip. Hope this was helpful.

Sherbrooke, Canada
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1. Re: Two and a half day trip report

Thanks for the report.

It would be useful to know how much you paid to have the tour company take you to these places.

After the Acrobat show you should have taken the subway which is less then 50 yards away. Despite Beijing having 60,000 taxis (compared to 12,000 in NYC), it is nearly impossible to get one when it rains. you need to be quite agressive about it.

About your daughter and husband getting lost when they exited the subway, they should have had a map. No need to buy one ahead of time. Every 5-star hotel, including the Westin, will give you free ones. They should also use some visual landmarks. When walking around Beijing it is quite easy as the city is a grid like NYC. Knowing that the hotel is east of the subway (and the ring road), they just had to head east no matter what exit they took.

I know that this information is useless to you now that you are back, just saying these things to help future travellers.

Westport, CT
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127 posts
79 reviews
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2. Re: Two and a half day trip report

Also in the spirit of helping future travelers, my husband and daughter did bring the above mentioned map (which was in English and Chinese, and my daughter has been taking Mandarin for a year). Perhaps it was a terrible map, but they really struggled (my husband has an excellent sense of direction). It did not appear that the street signs matched the characters on the map. Another thing we noticed with all of the maps we used was that they don't seem to be to scale. In other words, what seems like a manageable distance on the map is actually quite far.

3. Re: Two and a half day trip report

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