Favorite thing: This picture was taken at Prince Gong's Mansion in Beijing ~a Chinese tour guide leading a group of local Chinese tourist. She was giving a narration of the juicy tales from the past at the prince's mansion. Some very good local tour guide's narration is much more colourful and interesting compared to the same language audio guide available for rent at all the attractions. If you can understand Mandarin, try to tag along with a local tour group to listen to the narration by the tour guide.
Check your airline website if they have a lounge in Beijing airport and you may be able to buy a pass, usually, it costs $50-70 per person.
I lived in Beijing for three years (just left last month) and I know that there was no shower/bath in the airport, but business class lounge might have one. You cannot leave your luggage, you need to pass customs before you exit. Airport is at least 30 min to an hour to the city, depends on the traffic. You will be fine to do a bird bath in the bathroom. Fortunately, their bathrooms in the airport are cleaner than the City public bathrooms....be ready! Buy yourself a face mask to protect you from pollution and smelly bathrooms!
Fondest memory: Great Wall, temples, and people. I miss the rich Chinese culture that you cannot find in Taipei. I dont miss the pollution though.
Two important issues that we noticed:
1. Beijing is a city of 20 million people. There is a high chance that the taxi driver may not know where your hotel is. If you show him on the map and he still doesn't know then just find another cab. This happened to us a couple of times and it's really no big deal.
2. English language. Be prepared for communication issues and be patient when speaking to people who do not speak your language. We were appalled by how rude foreigners were to the people they were speaking with when they were clearly struggling to grasp the conversation/ question! Shouting at people right into their faces does not make them understand you more!!!
China is opening up to tourism and it is still a young process - particularly in the North. Beijing is not like Shanghai where English is more widespread.
There is absolutely no excuse for rudeness.
Before I went to Beijing, I bought a map with street names, sights etc. written both in Chinese and in English.
If you are going to explore the city and visit some of the sights, it's important to have the name written in Chinese. Most people don't speak English at all.
Favorite thing: the National Currency. the currency of the People's Republic of China. the latest series of Banknotes of the Renminbi are for ¥1, ¥5, ¥10, ¥20, ¥50 and ¥100. The Latest series uses the portrait of Mao Zedong on all banknotes. the coins are 1 and 5 jiao and 1 yuan. Yuan in Chinese literally means a "round object" or "round coin". During the Qing Dynasty, the yuan was a round and silver coin. they are widely available and a caveat, you cannot take out more than 1,000 yuan outside china and the yuan is not an exhangeable foreign currency in countries outside China! the current exchange rate is $ 1 to 6.85 Yuan.
I have been to countries where shops provide costumes and produce nostalgic-looking photographs like it was taken decades ago. Beijing has, to my surprise, many costume shops in tourist spots which allow you to dress up like a majestic Chinese persona and have your photo taken and keep forever - all in a matter of 3 minutes. And the price - believe me - is very affordable.
Fondest memory: I have worn four costumes so I look like an Empress of 4 different dynasties (ha!). One of them shows the Great Wall behind me. They did not mount it - I was crazy enough to wear the costume, didn't mind the tourists around me, and had a photo taken at the Great Wall!
The hutong hotels in Beijing can be lovely and if you have a favourite stick to it. But they can be changeable and hard to find. The best bet for hotels here (and elsewhere in China) are the Hanting Express or Home Inn chains (They must have a central website but I have not found it - I always book through local friends). They are great value, clean, well equipped (Chinese beds have hard mattresses and pillows, that is the way they like it, get used to it), friendly and all the ones I have used have a very good, Chinese, buffet breakfast. They can be very well located. It is unlikely that anyone will speak English but sign language of a local freind help here. They cater to Chinese business people and local tourists.
I attach a picture of the Hanting Express in the Ju-er Hutong - first class.
While Buying at a Supermarket, I was surprised to see Oishi Snacks on the aisles of the snack section! Oishi is a japanese word but it was used as a brand in the Philippines by Taipan Ben Chan, a second generation Fil-Chinese with roots in Fujian Province. Oishi is the Number one snack brand in the philippines and he then introduced in to China and other asian countries that nowadays it is one of the most popular snacks here in Beijing.
Note there are different flavors for the oishi brand here in china and in the philippines, for example the scallop flavored potato chips in not available in the philippines. A small pack of Oishi Snacks here costs 2 RMB while a bigger pack costs 3 RMB. Grab one now!
Fondest memory: Oishi Snacks, now becoming popular here
Favorite thing: not all buildings in Beijing Provide smoking areas but most have especially in public areas and theaters wherein there is an isolated small room exclusively for smokers since there are many smokers of cigarettes and cigars in Beijing. Even Hotel Rooms provide inside areas for smoking beside smoking rooms so a smoker will feel at home here in beijing. However prices of cigarettes are pretty expensive here wherein a pack of cigarettes cost 15-20 RMB each.
they say that 20 years ago, beijing has hardly any high rise buildings but since the 1990's because of Premier Deng Xiaoping's economic revolution, growth rate of China is 10% or more each year that it preceded a construction boom in china, Beijing Included, that nowadays, what you see in beijing is the trappings of a Modern Megapolis with many high rises and the metroplitan traffic and off course, mass transportaion hubs. Beijing is Cathing up with the megapolis of the world in terms of population, growth rate and modernity. But undereath this is still a consevative people with asian values!
Fondest memory: wonderful skyline, a blend of the old and new
since beijing is getting to be congested, the trend there to to build large multi-storey condominiums that offer housing to people. Condominiums can be classified as public and private wherein the less wealthy are given condo units by the state wherein they pay minimal rates and the affluent buying private condominiums since land ownership is limited in china hence you see see that many hutongs were demolished and replaced by these high rises as living quarters for Beijing's 15 million plus burgeoning population.
for private condominiums, prices range from 6,000 RMB a square meter to 20,000 RMB a square meter to prime areas. Foreigners can own condos but never can own land here.
Fondest memory: many large multi-storey and beautiful condominiums!
Changing Money in Beijing is simple but a tip, changing foreign currency in hotels are better than changing in moenyshops downtown why? exchange rate of $1 - 6.75 RMB in hotels but they charge NO commission fees! while in moneyshops in beijing area the exchange rate is $1 - 6.86 RMB (which is higher) but they charge a 30 RMB commision per TRANSACTION so it is better to change foreign currency in hotels since they have no commision charge!
also good to exchange in Money exchange shops in various factories that you visit after tours, they may be tourist traps but you can exchange foreign currence to RMB there WITHOUT Commision charges! so when in a factory (whether jade or silk or ceramic or whatever) change your money into RMB and have no commision charge!
Fondest memory: Besides US Dollar, they also accept euros, japanese yen, thai baht, HK dollar, Macau pataca, Philippine Peso, Singapore Dollar, Malaysian Ringgit and Others!
Favorite thing: Beijing has a very vast and Wide network of Roads, Bridges, footpaths, underground pedestrian crossings. Again very Wide! so that just crossing a street involves long and brisk walks over pedestrian overpass that are very long and wide too so if you plan on walking around the city, wear rubber shoes and be ready for brisk walking, definitely not for out of shape people or those with athritis or gout. Hence if your one with walking problm, I suggest getting a taxi instead.
Favorite thing: as all of you know, I always try to do ATM tips on every country that I visit and here in Beijing is no different. Automated Teller Machines (ATM"s) are numerous in Beijing but a caveat, not all machines accept international withdrawals so you better look at the sides or in the center of ATM's to see if it accepts International Withdrawals, see the pictures for the logos. ATM's of Beijing that accept international withdrawals usually on the Cirrus, Plus, Mastercard, Maestro Consortium at they are the largest ATM networks in the world. (Discover and Star consortium of the US are not accepted here). Transaction charge is 20 RMB flat per withdrawal regardless of amount so if you would withdraw, I suggest to withdraw large since the 20 RMB service charge is constant!
If you are in Beijing, I think you have to try their Peking Duck.
There are several to choose from, so the selection is plentiful.
I suggest asking a local where many dine, since locals usually know what is best.
Fondest memory: The culture is amazing!
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