I was very impressed by the beginning of the Lonely Planet China Guide book. “The Best of China” page offered a quick summary of the classic highlights of the country that one should never miss – The Forbidden City and the Great Wall of Beijing, the Terracotta Warriors of Xi’an, etc. The photos are beautiful. I also liked the section that introduced the writers, bringing a human face to advice they are dispensing. Then the Rural China, Eat China, Hike China and Red China pages all offered some interesting sites, and are very helpful for those who want to venture off the Yangtze Cruise to experience the real China.
But, to me, it also demonstrated the lack of access due to language constraint. For example, the Hike China section is a bit limited. Having hiked most of the trails listed in that section, I beg to differ. For example, the Yubeng hike, or Pilgrimage Trail to Mt. Kawagebo, is among the most breathtaking and spiritual hike. WildChina team members first hiked in this area in the late ’90s, and only now that trail is gaining some awareness among Chinese speakers. Not sure if the guide book is outdated or the writer didn’t know about it. Either way, I think there could be a better guide on hiking opportunities in China.
Then, I went straight for the section on lodging (called “Sleeping” in the guidebook) in Beijing. It is unfortunately written by a backpacker who is too well-versed in adjectives such as “top notch”, “elegant,” “gorgeous,” “stunning,” “impressive,” “outstanding,” “splendid,” “enticing,” etc. I’ll save you the rest, but seriously, these words all appeared in 3 paragraph describing the St. Regis, Grand Hyatt, and China World Hotel. You can basically randomly re-allocate these words, and the information you are getting won’t change a bit.
Obviously, the writer hasn’t stayed in any of these places. I wish there were a few more details, such as the Made In China restaurant in the Grand Hyatt serves the best “Begger’s Chicken” and is one of the most interesting Chinese restaurants to dine in because of the open kitchen layout. You get to see the chefs tossing the greens in a wok alight with fire! Also, for families traveling with children, the China World Hotel Service Apartments offer the best option- with large rooms, ensuite kitchen, etc. (By the way, I think the Frommers Guide does a much better job with restaurant recommendations.)
Also, among the top notch is The Opposite House for its zen-like design and personal service – not to mention the beautiful Aman at the Summer Palace. These are the more boutique hotels that really make Beijng an interesting place in which to stay.
What got me most is the section on “Beijing for Children.” I have a feeling that the authors didn’t really travel to Beijing with kids. The hardest thing I found upon arriving in Beijing is how to kill the early morning hours due to jet lag.
Two very important things for me: breakfast at 金湖茶餐厅 / GL Cafe Restaurant and morning walks in Ritan Park. The Café is a 24-hour Hong Kong style restaurant – very helpful at 4am when there is no other place to eat and the kids are crying! They have branch locations next to the St. Regis and the China World Hotel, and they have high chairs. Ritan Park is a major source of entertainment, as it opens at 6 am for the morning exercises. It’s an entertaining place for the kids to watch others play badminton, or do taiqi. Maybe it’s me, but I need to have the jetlag bunch taken care off before I can think of ice skating in Beijing.
For a good source of ideas and tips on what to do with kids in China’s capital, follow @BeijingWithKids on Twitter.