In-room Reviews: Beijing on Any BudgetAir, Backpacking & Trekking, China, City Travel, Dispatches from the Road, Hostels, Hotels & Resorts, In-Room Reviews, Lost Girls, Wifi & Internet Cafes — By Holly C on May 11, 2009 at 8:15 am
On the same day the Lost Girls and I turned in the first draft of our manuscript, I boarded a plane to China to celebrate. I had two big incentives for visiting a country that’s home to some of the oldest civilizations in the world. First, my friend and former co-worker, Jen, lives in the capital and offered to show me around. And second, flying to the other side of the world cost less than I’d expected: A direct flight on Continental from Newark to Beijing was $768 ($837.86 with taxes).
I’ll be doing a series of posts about hiking the Leaping Tiger Gorge, climbing waterfalls at Cangshan Mountain, and getting lost (of course!) while biking through Bai villages. But Beijing tends to be the starting point for any trip to China, so here’s a quick roundup of some places to stay once you’ve landed-whether you’re looking for luxury or wallet-friendly accommodations.
Sofitel Wanda Beijing
Location: After trying to sleep sitting up and sandwiched between two people on the 13-plus hour flight, I figured the best way to ease jet lag was to splurge my first night there. I wanted a room that’s like a sanctuary to ensure a good night’s rest. So I opted to stay in an upscale hotel before checking in to another place that better fit my budget. Located in the central business district, the Sofitel Wanda Beijing was about a 30-minute cab ride from the airport, and only a few subway stops away from major attractions such as Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City.
Rooms: I stayed in a luxury room that had two double beds and a rack rate of about $220 US. With free in-room wi-fi and ten conference centers, it’s convenient for business travelers. As for myself, who was traveling purely for pleasure, what I appreciated most was the cloud bed. It didn’t matter if my body clock was programmed for 8 a.m. New York time instead of China’s time of 8 p.m. I plummeted into an almost-instantaneous deep sleep as soon as I poured myself into that feather bed blanketed in a down comforter and topped with billowy pillows.
When I awoke the next morning eager to wash away the weariness and grime of a long flight, I soaked in the room’s sunken bathtub. Even the bathroom was a retreat stocked with L’Occitane products and adorned with fluffy robes that hung outside the separate shower with the “rainfall” showerhead.
Amenities: With my muscles still feeling stiff from sitting for so long, my favorite feature of the hotel was the 28-meter lap pool, complete with a waterfall and bordered by a wall of windows overlooking the city. A morning swim combined with a comfortable night’s sleep gave me energy to explore the city. The locker room, also stocked with fluffy bathrobes and showers with rainforest showerheads, offered other options for guests to relieve jet lag-a steam room and sauna.
Beijing Jade Hostel
Location: By far the biggest reason to stay at the Jade Hostel is location. Smack in the center of the Dongcheng district, it’s so close to Forbidden City that you can actually see the monument from some of the rooms. Also within walking distance are other prime tourist attractions such as Tiananmen Square, Jingshan Park, and the Wangfujing Dajie shopping street.
Rooms: Clean but Spartan, the accommodations offer simple pine beds and wardrobes for tucking your suitcases out of sight. Double rooms have ensuite bathrooms with showers, and cost around $60 US a night. For more spacious sleeping quarters, you can opt for a suite that offers a TV and an additional seating area for only a few more bucks.
Amenities: The main lobby is a wireless hotspot, and the Jade Hostel has a restaurant that serves both Western and Chinese dishes. The buffet breakfast is pretty basic-offering soggy fried-egg sandwiches, pork dumplings, and Tang labeled as “juice”-but what do you want for US $4? The on-site laundry facilities came in handy after my clothes collected a layer of grime from trekking around the city. The hotel also has bicycles at no charge so you can navigate through the smaller streets in the old part of town.
Beijing Downtown Backpackers Accommodation (BDBA)
Location: The coolest part of Beijing is the hutongs, or old alleys, that form a maze throughout the old part of the city. Unfortunately, many have been bulldozed to make room for more modern buildings, but the Beijing Downtown Backpackers Accommodation sits in the center of it all. Built on a restored street called Nan Luo Gu Alley in the Nanluoguxiang area, its neighbors are funky bars, cozy cafes, and trendy boutiques. I tried to book a room here during my visit to Beijing, but they were all sold out! Other travelers have raved about this place, so it’s best to reserve at least two weeks in advance. It’s within walking distance to the Drum Tower and close to Houhai Lake and its surrounding nightlife.
Rooms: The rooms are nothing special, but you probably won’t be spending much time in them anyway with all there is to do in the area. Some of the doubles don’t have windows, but the concrete walls are papered with old newspapers as an artistic twist. Accommodations are super clean, and you can’t beat the rock-bottom prices for the prime location: A double starts at only US $20. And that includes a breakfast of toast and butter, fried eggs, and juice.
Amenities: Staying here can make your visit to Beijing very easy, as the friendly staff speaks English and are eager to give advice on things to do in the area. They offer organized trips to The Great Wall, Kung Fu performances, and Peking Opera. There’s also laundry facilities, a reading area stocked with tons of books, and bicycle hire.
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