Busy Beijing 

Written by Aug 5, 2004 00:08
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Finding a place to stay in Beijing.

My Tianjin girlfriend and I took the night train from Tianjin to Beijing central train station (11RMB ticket, 2 hour trip). Outside the station people were scattered everywhere sleeping on the ground. We went to get a taxi to a nearby hostel but were astonished at the 50RMB price tag they were asking. We went across the street to get a rickshaw which asked 50RMB also.

After a quick phone call to the Dong Si Fu Yuan Hostel we hopped on bus 104 and in a few minutes we were there. The hostel turned out to be a hotel calling itself a hostel and the rooms were alot more expensive than all the internet sites stated (as high as 450RMB/night). We got in a taxi and asked to go to Da Zha Lan street (near Tiananmen square Xuan Wu region). My girlfriend said Beijing local name for the street, "Da Shi Lan'er", instead so we wouldn't be cheated. This street and the small adjoining streets rock for shopping.

After a 20RMB ride we arrived at the street. Upon entering it a child tried to pickpocket my girlfriend's mobile phone. The child's adult companion stood by to receive the loot and walk away if successful.

Da Zha Lan street is easy to find. Mao's home, Tiananment Square, the two large grey brick forts, and Da Zha Lan street all line up. From the square you go past the two forts and go down the big street and on the right hand side you'll be able to see active market streets. Da Zha Lan street is the biggest one.

There are lots of hotels around Tiananmen Square. We checked about 4 or 5 on that street ranging from 110-180RMB/night. We finally settled on HengYe hotel because it used card locks and was on par with western quality. They wanted 220 for the first floor but we got them down to 180RMB. A 100 deposit is required but returned. The other hotels had no security, either smelled and were dirty, or it was easy for to card the lock with your driver's ID. We were advised to switch hotels daily for safety but HengYe was secure so we stayed there for 7 days.

My days spent

Our first venture out was to the famous Xiu Shui Jie shopping market else know as the cheating market. It was packed with westerners all being ripped off something fierce. I asked the price for a tiny chess set. The man said 350RMB. My girlfriend said 'You are trying to cheat westerners' to which he replied " I'm cheating them not you." As we walked peddlers grabbed my arms and physically pulled me over trying to sell me things. My girlfriend got in a shouting argument with one peddler which she saw horribly cheating a western woman over a shirt. Advise.. don't go to this street if you are new to China.

We took our hotel's tour for 100RMB each to the Wall, Ming Tombs, and some other places. The tour guide had the bus in an uproar because they were trying to overpack it. At the Wall we were charged 30RMB to be physically shoved onto a sled to go up onto the wall. We didn't notice until on the wall that you could climb up for free just around the corner. It was so overpacked for as far as the eye could see, we got off the wall and sat waiting for our bus.

At the Ming Tombs I just slept on the bus because I didn't want to deal with the overpacked crowds.

The tour bus stopped at an expensive shopping store and water park as part of the tour, the water park costing another 65RMB to go to. Some tourists were sitting these places out because of the suprise costs and that fact they were dull. We left the group and bought some 30RMB tickets for a lame ride in pretend underwater tunnel.

Hengye is a great hotel but their tour sucks, 13 hours wasted. A block away there were tour guides sitting on the sidewalk selling 50RMB bus tickets to the wall. We should have gone with them.

In the area we found another hostel which was a hotel. I believe it was the Far East hostel or something. Its prices were 180RMB and up. Don't trust the hostel prices on the internet if you aren't booking online.

From the Da Zha Lan street area we paid 8RMB for a ride to Tiananmen Square to see the 05:10 raising of the flag. There were a couple thousand people there. The square wasn't really fascinating but thinking I was standing where 3000 or so student's blood was spilt was eerie.

When asking for rickshaw rides we were given silly prices. You must haggle. Tiananmen Square we paid 8RMB. To the bank of Canada we paid 5RMB. To Xiu Shui Jie cheating market we paid 12RMB. To the rail station we paid 8RMB.

We left after 7 days. My feel of Beijing was it was fun on Da Zha Lan street area but money is on everyone peddler's mind and the excessive cheating of westerners makes me feel alot of pity.

Da Zha Lan street and area

Da Zha Lan steet and the streets all connected to it are older chinese style, many are narrow and some are 500-600 years old. Its a market area and they sell everything for great prices. Every day for 7 days we walked the streets and bought things. Chinese shirts for 30RMB, large traditional paintings for 30RMB, smaller ones for 15. Farmer hats for 10RMB. Porcelain dragons for 13RMB. Ornamented eggs for 5RMB. They don't cheat you like other markets, you can bargain down real low :D There are famous silk shops here and tea markets which have tea as expensive as 6000RMB for 500grams, or was it 50grams..

Sometimes you'll be prompted when entering the street to buy illegal DVD/CDs. There are rooms scattered allover the area with music CD/VCDs, PC Game CD/DVDs, and movie DVDs/VCDs. Walking down the various narrow side streets will eventually lead you to someone asking you to buy. The price is 4RMB for a game CD, 5RMB for a music CD, and 7RMB for a DVD. Ensure to bargain and do the walk away to get your price.

Across the street from Da Zha Lan steet is one of Beijings 2 authentic peking duck restraunts. Its 68RMB for a small plate of meat. Presidents from all over the world have eaten there. A walk around in the area towards the Tiananmen Square will bring you to McDonalds, KFC, 7-Eleven, and an Internet Cafe which costs 5RMB/hour if you are chinese, 20RMB/hour if you are a westerner. Along one of the side streets you can find a local Internet Cafe for 5RMB/hour, no smoking though.

Beggars are everywhere in this area. Many are scam artists. Some put plastic bags on their feet to pretend they have leprosy and drag themselves along the most populated walk ways, some pretend they are blind. Some take unfortunate sick children from the village and put them up on display to make money. There was a nicely dressed chinese couple with their small child with a sign saying their luggage was stolen and they needed money. They were just scamming which was evident. They had been doing their rounds from street to street for the week we were there and hid their faces in their laps.

Beggars can earn 5 times more money per month than a hard workering street cleaner just by sitting on the sidewalk so try not to be a crusader and save everyone.

Da Zha Lan street is popular and sells the largest assortment of items. One thing to watch out for in Beijing when clothing shopping in the markets, which doesn't exist in Da Zha Lan street but does in Xiu Shui Jie shopping market, is the fake price tags. Some peddlers attach American price tags on their fake clothing (Nike, Adidas, Gap, Gucci, Versace) and use that in their argument to charge you 600-1200% more for the clothing. Always keep in mind that all clothing in the traditional markets is fake.

You'll enjoy this area probably more than any other area. I hit the main shopping streets and this was the only one which was fun and cheap.

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Comments (2)


Mar 19, 2005 16:25 Reply

WKSEAH said:

Thanks for sharing the info. I will be going there this month. I now have a better idea of Beijing and what to expect when I arrive.


Oct 14, 2004 16:31 Reply

STUBBS said:

Thanks for all the great info. now i know and knowing is half the battle. :D

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