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One Week Vacation: Beijing or Hong Kong?


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At the end of April, I took a holiday to Taiwan, and had such a great time. In the fall, I want to travel again. So I'm looking at Beijing or Hong Kong, as I would like to see something different (though definately I will be going back to Taiwan in the future).

I've been told Hong Kong is good for shopping, and Beijing is better for sight-seeing. Is it true? What would one recommend in Hong Kong? And how about relative prices? I found Taiwan to be quite affordable (for 100 yen or NT$30 I could get a 3 包子 for breakfast. How much for a similar breakfast in Beijing and Hong Kong? And how about the public transit? Is it easy to get around both cities? Is it easy to take day trips outside of the city as well?

Also, does anyone know how long it takes to get a PRC L-Visa for US Citizens? I really hate trying to plan vacations months ahead of time, as my customers sometimes have to change their schedules and it throws off everything.

Thanks for your input!

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i only spent 5 days in hong kong, but it seemed like mcdonalds was one of the cheapest places to eat! unfortunately i didn't really know where to go for cheaper, local food. hong kong was fun, i wish i could live there. there's a lot of cheap guest houses that look pretty clean, and the people are extremely nice to caucasians. i have heard that asians had different experiences trying to talk with the locals though. the subway isn't too hard to use, although there are quite a few different lines meaning that you may have to change. the people are curdious and all line up nicely to get on the subway.

beijing is another animal completely. it's much cheaper than hong kong, although you may pay more for your hotel room. i recomend xi jiao bing guan in the wu dao kou area. food is way cheaper in bj. the people aren't as considerate as hong kong, though, and you will fight to get into busy subway lines. there's a recording that says in mandarin "depart first, enter second," but people trying to get on invariantly push their way through the people trying to get off. bj is a lot dirtier too... but it's sooooooo much fun!! a lot of history there, and yes, a lot of things to see. but don't let people on the streets trick you into going to see the art "galleries." they will just make you feel guilty for not buying anything after walking around a gallery that you didn't want to go to in ther first place. and don't eat at any restaurants that don't have prices on the menu. yes, there's a lot to see, but there's always people perched around the tourist spots, ready to rip you off. hong kong seemed better about that, aside from the knock off watch salesmen on the streets.

bao zi are the best breakfast in bj if you ask me, and also very cheap. i think it was about 3 kuai for a dozen????? can't remember... but it's cheap. i hate to tell you though, i didn't see any places at the great wall near beijing that didn't have any hand rails and the every present ripper-offers. hand rails at the great wall is a little cheesy, but i understand that some people need it.

you could go to hong kong first, stay for a little while, and then take a train to beijing. i think it's like $100 USD or something???? a lonely planet could tell you all about how to set that up. i don't know how long an "L" visa is good for, but you could get the PRC visa right there in hong kong. you could use a guide book to find out about that, too.

hong kong was a lot of fun, but i wish that i had gone to check out some more stuff there, like the big buddha. beijing was one of the best times of my life, but i was also there for a year and a half.

hope this helps!!

man zou

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Even though Hong Kong is one of my favorite places on the Earth and was my home for 7 years and is where my parents grew up - I'm going to have to recommend Beijing.

Here's my pro/con list for both cities:

Hong Kong - pro

Best cityscape in the world. (two seperate views - the view down from Victoria Peak and the view across the harbor towards Hong Kong from the Tsimshatsui Promanade)

Food - HK's mix of great Chinese food and some of the best international food in the world - both high end and budget wise makes it one of the world's great eating cities

Shopping - not the bargain it once was, it's still a great place to pick up great deals on clothing, Chinese gifts, and some electronics (although coming from Japan, it might not be as special as someone coming from somewhere else)

Rule of Law/Respect for rules - seems like a silly reason to travel, but HKers (despite a reputation for rudeness) follow queues, are a lot more orderly, etc etc. than their mainland counterparts. It can be frustrating say, lining up for a subway ticket or buying a McDonald's meal in the Mainland.

Bars/Clubs - I think they're a lot more fun in Hong Kong than in Beijing

Con's -


Not a lot of "must-sees" - but if you enjoy city life, I think it's more interesting to hang out in HK than in Beijing, but there's more to see and do in Beijing

Beijing -

Things to see: Forbidden City, Tienanmen Square, the Great Wall, Temple of Heaven, Summer Palace, hutongs - there's simply a lot more sightseeing and "important" things to see and visit in Beijing. It's a much more historical city than Hong Kong

Cheaper than Hong Kong

Npw it'll seem like the Beijing pro list is a lot shorter, but I think the THings to see is compelling enough to outweigh the other factors.

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yeah, you should go to the summer palace. you could hit the ming ruins (old summer palace) in the same day. forbidden city is pretty neat... temple of heaven. tian an men is really a big slab of concrete... kind of boring if you ask me. but you could get some could flics there. and you should definitely try to go wander around some hu tong... while they are still there. when i was last in bj 2 years ago, they were tearing down these communities in order to prepare for 2008. i don't know how many are left... but actually i think there are some near the entrance to the summer palace in northwest bj. that's by far my favorite place in bj, but you must go on a clear day. smoggy days ruin the summer palace. also, you need to hit xiang shan ("fragrant hills"). it's a really cool mountain, no matter what time of year you go. hou hai in the middle of bj is pretty cool, and you could see some older gentlemen playing the er hu.

to answer another one of your questions: china's rail system is extensive and reliable. the trains always felt pretty safe. but if you're leaving bj then you will probably catch a train from bei xi zhan, which is enormous and crowded. naturally, you will have an easier time if you speak mandarin, but may be able to slide on english alone. however, there are so many things to do in bj that one week wouldn't allow you much time to get out of the city. i lived there and didn't really leave the city much, just for that reason!

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Thanks for your input everyone. I think I will try to go to Beijing. The part about things being torn down for the olympics really struck a chord I guess. Reminded of that film "Shower" about the old part of Beijing and the people there. :( Guess I will call the embassy in Tokyo and see what papers are required for me. Thanks again.

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  • 3 months later...

If you go to Beijing I recommend staying at the "Downtown Backpackers hostel". They have single rooms as well as dorms for as little as $5 a day and the staff there is great. It's close to all the sights and is in the heart of one of the oldest hutongs (alleys) in China. I stayed there last year and had the time of my life.

Good luck


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Personally, Beijing will be better shopping ans sightseeing. If you are only after western brands of everything, then HK possible would have a better range at same price as Beijing.

Tourist visa can be issued ina matter of days. Check with the embassy/consultates in the US for the process for lodging a visa application. My understanding is the applciation must be pade in person or through an agent (can no longer post the application).

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No reason you can't do both. Just back from Hong Kong myself and noted that the Chinese Tourist Agency there apparently processes tourist visas in about an hour. If for any reason you have problems the Chinese Consulate down on Harbour Street can do next-day rush service for an extra 150 HKD (~$20 USD).

There is an overnight train from Hong Kong to Beijing that takes less than a day. It leaves in the mid-afternoon and arrives in Beijing around noon. Its a very comfortable train trip, and you'll be able to see a variety of Chinese landscape as you travel north. Flights leave regularly and are relatively inexpensive.

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