Travellers Pat Ladds and sister
Dates 5 – 15 September 2011
Reason for visiting Eight years ago, my twin sister and I listed ’70 things to do before we turn 70′. To walk on the Great Wall of China was one of them, but really it was a goal we just never thought we would achieve. Then a work colleague brought home the most hauntingly beautiful photographs of China, showing misty mountains, high rise buildings, modern architecture and old-world charm – and we bumped this destination up to number one on our bucket list.
Our little black book
The best hotel
Sofitel Wanda Beijing
93 Jiango Road
This is luxury accommodation with expansive beds, a TV in the bathroom and a remote vanity screen between bathroom and bedroom. It even featured a pillow menu. The long indoor pool was to die for.
The best place for dinner
The Tang Dynasty Theatre Restaurant
75 Changan Road
The after-dinner show is spectacular!
The best place for lunch
The Spaghetti House
221 Nathan Road
Price: HK$64 – HK$158
Cuisine: Italian, Pizza, Pasta
Don’t be put off that it’s below street level.
The best place for a drink
Staunton’s Wine Bar & Café
10 Staunton Street
Best people watching spot in Hong Kong. Watch commuters coming home on the mid-level escalators.
Currently hosting World Cup Soccer viewings and serving special edition Budweiser World Cup beers.
The best place to shop
Walmart is conveniently situated right next door to the Sofitel Wanda hotel in Beijing. Reasonably priced, there is nothing that you cannot find here, from clothing, toiletries to food and drinks. It is open late at night and is a safe walking distance away from the hotel. Plenty of ATMs in the vicinity too.
The best way to get around
The Octopus Card in Hong Kong, available from all MTR stations including at the Airport Express station at Hong Kong Airport. You can buy one for UK£150, of which HK$50 is a refundable deposit. Rides cost about HK$8 and it can be used on the metro, buses, trams, ferries, coaches and some taxis. It can also be used at some convenience stores and cake shops.
If you want to feel like a local you should… Join an early morning Tai Chi session. This ‘soft’ martial art is often practiced by older people, but is beneficial to all. It is a non-competitive, gentle and generally slow paced form of exercise. It increases strength, flexibility and mental concentration and prepares the busy tourist for the day ahead.
Watch out for… People who approach you incessantly on the streets of Hong Kong offering watches, bags etc or asking you to teach them English. Our local guide also warned us that the electronic shops stating ‘duty free’ were not reliable. Staff working at some Apple stores don’t even know they are selling fakes. Although no vaccinations are required to get your China visa, several are recommended, including Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B, rabies, typhoid and polio. I was unaware and had none of the above. Ten days after returning from China I was diagnosed with Swine Flu (H1N1).
Don’t leave without… A visit to the ancient Hutong area in Beijing. Take a rickshaw ride and dine with the locals. Although it is a poor area that you access through a dingy alleyway, the houses surround a courtyard and each family contributes to the meal.
Insider tip In Beijing, we were advised that once we had drawn money from the ATM, we should exchange it for smaller denominations at the hotel’s concierge, to prevent being given counterfeit notes as change by the street vendors. Present yourself at the ICF 1 and 2 Buildings; show your passport and as a visitor, you may catch the lift to the 55th floor, for free views of the city. Pre-book Nong Ping cable car tickets in Hong Kong to avoid long queues. Squat toilets take quite some getting used to, so take a disposable smog mask – not for the smog, but rather when entering a squat toilet. Western toilets can however often be found hidden right towards the back of the rest rooms, so check there first.
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