The Hongqiao Market building was under repair during my April 14 visit, but I think will be beautiful when finished before the Olympic Games. It is located across the street from the metro stop for the Temple of Heaven, a Beijing Attraction you’ll want to visit. A day in Biejing would be a shame but if that is all you have and you have great stamina you could visit Tianenmen Square, Forbidden City, Temple of Heaven, and Wanfujing Street for shopping, food stalls, and souvenir vendors. All these places are along the excellent Biejing Metro which is very crowded but clean, cheap, and efficient. Taxis are also cheap and easy to find if you prefer that approach. For taxis try to have a written description of where you are going to show the driver. The subways announce the stops in English.
Hongqiao Pearl Market is one of several huge market buildings in Beijing where there are hundreds of vendors in small stalls hawking their wares. I didn’t see any Pearls here but bought a suitcase to carry home all the stuff I bought at … other markets!
Note that the vendors in China often practice a kind of cutthroat capitalism that is not common in the USA. Initially the price they quote you will be far above reasonable and the game is to get them to come down a huge amount while they make you feel guilty for doing that. I enjoyed the little jousting with the vendors, especially because they tended to have good English and I’d bring up other topics to discuss.
However I think the aggressive style common in the markets might upset or intimidate people who were simply looking for a good deal and in that case you should learn to say (phoentic spelling here) “Byao Byao” which means “no!”.
On the China trip I enjoyed the Shanghai street food more than that of Beijing but not sure if that really represnted differences in the cities of just where I happened to go.
These Shanghai dough balls had a rolled pork ball in the middle and were then steamed and fried on one side. Yum! However my favorite dish during the 14 day trip was the simple, but simply perfect Wonton Soup served near our hotel in Shanghai.
When travelling to or from Beijing’s Airports, keep these items in mind:
BCIA stands for “Beijing Capital International Airport” and is commonly used when referencing the Beijing Airport even though PEK is the same Airport.
Know your Terminal! PEK is a *huge* Airport, and the taxi will need to know which Terminal you are departing from. My United Airlines PEK to SFO flight was from Terminal three and I think most international departures are now from that terminal. Your hotel concierge may ask you “which airport” and I think they really mean “which terminal”. Clear this up before getting in the Taxi as the Chinese Taxi drivers rarely (read that as “never”) speak English. If you plan to use Taxis in China be sure to get the excellent printed cards from your concierge (or make some yourself before you leave) that list locations in Chinese so the driver will understand where you want to go.
PEK is the Airport Code for Beijing’s main Airport which, without much traffic, is approximately a 40-50 minute taxi ride from most areas of the city. The cost for the taxi should be about 100 Yuan, perhaps a little more. In Beijing and Shanghai always ride in taxis with meters to avoid scams.
Note: This is a repost from AirportCityCodes.com, where this got no traction. I’m trying to see how the ranking will differ at JoeDuck which has higher authority with Google, seemingly pretty much for anything I write about!
Update: Generally, if you are approached by a good English speaker there is a *very good chance* he or she is trying to scam you or sell you something rather than “practice English”. In Tea houses confirm pricing *before you sit down* or you’ll probably be in for a surprising bill.
Beware the SI ZHU XIANG Tea House in Beijing!
I fell for the Beijing Tea Scam (also common in Shanghai) where you are approached by a person claiming to want to practice english, then subtly lured to a Tea House for a “Tea Ceremony” that is hugely overpriced.
The scam is so good I have learned that many other travelers have also been duped by this because it preys on the fact that you don’t want to insult anybody and generally are unfamiliar enough with the landscape, money, etc. that you just pay the bill. My bill was $85 for a few tea samples. I’m guessing some who fall for this never even realize that they have been scammed – rather just think they paid “a lot” for Tea as I did untili I realized this was a very clever con game common in Beijing and Shanghai. I have challenged the charge and cancelled my card and will post follow ups on this later.
The China Tourism groups and guidebooks are guilty of NOT warning people enough about the fact that generally if you are approached in popular tourism areas by people who can speak english they are usually working some sort of sale or scam. Several sources suggested to me that it is common in China for people to come up and ask to take pictures and “practice” their English. Although I’m sure there are exceptions to the rule, the notion that people are looking to practice their english is only true in that that they are improving on these very clever short cons. I think I was approached at least ten times – mostly in Beijing – sometimes it was obvious they were working to sell me something but sometimes not at all apparent.
I can only hope that law enforcement does something to prevent this during the Olympics because a lot of this may overshadow the experience of meeting some of the wonderful people of China, only a tiny number of whom are perpetrating the scams.
Beware the SI ZHU XIANG Tea House in Beijing!
Looking for legitimate tea? Try Beijing Tea Street but still make sure you understand pricing. China really takes tea seriously and some are very expensive.
Wow, I’m back home from an amazing trip to China over the past 2 weeks. Hong Kong, Shanghai, and Beijing with 30 hours on the train between these cities so I could see more of the countryside. I have a ton to write about the trip and with my travel pal Charley Aebersold have over 1500 photos to post and caption over at Flickr. In Shanghai and Beijing we were really lucky to be with Kevin Wu, our Table Tennis friend and the best dentist in Medford, and his son as we navigated China’s massive urban landscapes and the fantastic Great Wall of China at Simitai, hosted by Kevin’s Cousin from Beijing. Kevin is originally from Beijing where he went through medical school before heading to the USA, so he was right at home and we enjoyed his unique western+eastern perspectives.
Charley stayed in China to train for Table Tennis, more about that when he returns from Hebei and the National Training Center.
I’d have to say everything on the trip paled next to the Great Wall of China, which was a simply staggering site to behold as well as an amazing historical hands-on adventure. On my next trip to China I want to hike along the wall with backpacks for several days, soaking up the 2000 years of history since this wall guarded the southern Ming dynasty from the Northerners who eventually prevailed, ushering in China’s final dynastic empire which was in turn overthrown by Sun Yat Sen around 1911, bringing modern China into being and setting the stage for the conflicts that led to the Communist and current era in China’s sweeping historical journey of many, many centuries.
Here at Starbucks in Kowloon´s Hung Hom train station I am getting a good wireless signal but not sure if it is Starbucks or not.
Things here seem to be named in complicated ways with some overlap. This is the key Hong Kong train station to mainland but it is in Kowloon and called Hung Hom. We will board for Shanghai in about an hour and take the 20 hour train north, hopefully with some scenery. We have soft sleepers but not the top class of them and I´m not clear how comfortable we will be yet, but I think just fine.
Here on Victoria Peak the view is legendary….but we can’t see due to fog right now. The tram was a fun and cool short ride up extremely steep slope to the top where there is a nice “Pacific Coffee” shop from which I’m writing this off a free internet terminal. Ironically I’m carrying around my spiffy 2 pound eee PC but it would have cost to use the WIFI that way.
We are booked for three nights at the Island Pacific Hotel in Hong Kong and I’m looking forward to enjoying what looks like a great hotel very near the waterfront along Hong Kong’s spectacular Victoria Harbor.
We appear to be about two miles to the west of downtown Hong Kong, though only about a mile from the metro which can take us all over the city, and I think we are easy walking distance from the Macau Ferry Terminal where we can catch ferries to other parts of the Hong Kong island empire. There are several huge ferry terminal complexes along the harbor and I’m not sure how this works yet. The site of all those ships in the harbor must be amazing.
* You must have the phone unlocked before the trip. Usually this is done by your provider. In my case this is Sprint
* In some cases you can buy an international calling plan from the providers.
* Cheaper service appears to come via SIM cards you can purchase online or in China. These seem to cost about $30 and include some phone time as well as reductions in per minute costs for international calling. I’m seeing about .18 per minute China to USA which I think is much cheaper than I’ve had with an International Calling plan.
* China Mobile is the big daddy cellular provider in China
Note – I’ll try to revise this and fix mistakes as I figure this out.