Getting a taxi in Beijing could be quite a hassle. Yes, I agree, the notion sounds weird…Why would you have trouble getting a cab in a big city anywhere in the world? Well, Beijing is sort of unique. You could spend a number of long cold hours on the street anywhere in Beijing while trying to get a ride. In my experience, comparing all the way back to the late 1980s, the situation has become progressively worse up to today when you may be able to get a cab from your hotel or by calling one ahead of time to your appartment / house, but then your attempts to get one for the return ride while on the street could be incredibly frustrating.
So, in case you are trying to figure out how to manage this situation, here are some useful tips:
- If you live in Beijing or spending a significant / long period of time in Beijing, develop a relationship with a local taxi company / taxi drivers. Get their business card and call ahead for service;
- Make sure you have a card with your destination written in good legible Chinese (the taxi drivers are always afraid to pick up a foreigner as they may not be able to understand what they are being asked to do)
- Plan you trip into the city to make sure you do not have a need to take a cab for a very short distance — the drivers will just refuse; Same thing applies if you are going to a location which is out of the cab driver's routine…
- Many of the cab drivers have very poor knowledge of the city — they are recent migrants to Beijing and as such may not be able to assist you; Have instruction on how to find your destination;
- Plan your trip into the city in a way that allows you to look for a cab near big Western hotels — you are more likely to get service there
Having listed all this there are some good alternatives to having to deal with inconsiderate taxi drivers. Here is my list on the alternatives:
- Consider renting a car – whether for a weekend or for a year (if living in Beijing) — go ahead and take the Chinese drivers license test and get a car. You will enjoy the independence!
- If you in for a short visit – consider chosing a hotel which is near a subway stop or a public bus stop. You will get much more done if you could leverage these public transport options
- Consider renting or buying a bicycle.
Air pollution in Beijing is becoming almost a regular article in various news and media outlets. The most recent article is in the Financial Times from…. YES, April 1st 2013! I looked back through this blog and found that I am writing on the topic just about every year.
Here is the article from FT.com
Air pollution is driving expatriates out of Beijing and making it harder for companies to recruit international talent, according to anecdotal accounts from diplomats, senior executives and businesses.
No official figures are available on how many people are planning to leave after three months of the worst air pollution on record in the Chinese capital. But companies that mainly serve foreign residents are bracing for an exodus around the middle of the year when the school term ends.
————————— More from this article here ——————————–
At the same time I have experienced enough of the challenging climate and its air surprises to believe that the issue being raised by FT.com is real — folks are seriously considering their options on how to move to a different location. The article states the opinion / experience of some of the expats — that their kids cannot go outside without face masks. Yes, that is the case — I recall our daughter and her classmates not being allowed outisde during recess…..
Here is a photo from the area near the Astronomy Observatry in Central Beijing — you can judge for your self — this photo from late winter — February timeframe.
So, you be the judge…!
Airline Travel Deals – Another Survey (Spring 2013)
Earlier in February I published an update on air travel deals. So, now it is time for another update. In this posting, I will outline newer deals and the airlines that offer them. Keep in mind there are price fluctuations in plane tickets constantly. In my posting I am looking for the major / or in other words significant travel deals — those that can offer you a good bargain for major travel destinations. Here we go:
- Alaska Airlines – offering bargain airfares on flights to Mexico – for travel between April 16th and June 14th 2013; The tickets must be purchased by 11:59pm (PT) on April 4, 2013; The link is here – it also stipulates some blackout dates – check them out.
- Virgin Atlantic is offering special fares on travel between many major cities on the East and West coast of the US, including transcontinental flights. The deals are for flights between April 8th and June 14th. Example is Washington DC to San Francisco US$179 one way ticket — this is a very nice deal! Here is the link to more cities/airports;
- Until April 15th 2013, flights on Malaysian Airlines continue to result in double Advantage miles on American Airlines
- Interesting to see the somewhat of a price competition between American and United on their fare sales to Europe. Boston to Heathrow (UK) is $849 on American and $855 on United. Orlando to Paris is $1147 on American and $1222 on United. Hence it looks like American is the low cost leader;
- But if you can go to Europe earlier — i.e. in the Spring — you could leverage a set of special deals offered by Lufthansa. The roundtrip from NYC start at $549;
Well this is it for this installment. Let me know if you find any other special deals.
Yes, I decided to post some bird's eye view images of Beijing. The photos below were taken at several vantage points in Beijing – mostly from the top of Jing Shan Park – right behind the Forbidden City. Overall, a nice place to see Beijing from, of course on a relatively clear day.
These days amid the flury of various articles on missed flights and unhappy travellers, I wanted to congratulate American Airlines on getting a job well done and praise a number of American Airlines team members that made some miraculous happen on a recent international trip I took……This is a story of a brand new iPad which I thought I had lost and subsequently reaquired all within a week's round trip between Texas and India…!
What are the odds you would say?!?! Negligeable to Nill as my father in law liked to remark…. Please read the rest and comment if you would like.
The story started with me heading off on a many hour trip from Texas to Bangalore, India with connecting flights with stop overs in Chicago, London on the way to Bangalore. So here I was in my seat as we were waiting to get off the plane in London (after a 10-hour flight (almost)) and a significant delay due to weather in Chicago. I was getting concerned about making my connection in London since I had to change Terminals, go through security etc. With that on my mind, I managed to forget my iPad on the seat on the plane! Out of all places….I was going to put it in my bag and then we started moving and I forgot….
The realization of me having left the iPad on the plane came about 10-minutes later as I was walking rapidly to the bus for Terminal 5. Here where the story starts. We contacted American Airlines and by the time I was boarding the flight to Bangalore I knew that several folks from American Airlines are looking into the case.
By the time I arrived in Bangalore — another 9+ hours later — and in my hotel — I learned that more news will come the following day. 24 hours needed to go by to have the potentially found iPad makes its way to lost and found. Well a day later I was told "Yes, the iPad was located and will be possible to pick up from Termnal 3 on my way back through London"
So a week later – this past weekend – here I was landing in London and rushing from Terminal 5 to Terminal 3 – going through security and at this point in time I had only 30minutes left to the time my flight to New York was to take off. I ended up at the Transfer desk of American Airlines at Terminal 3 and had a VERY helpful person there who was not only able to locate the iPad at an auxilary office but also have a person from the company run it to the gate — where I was headed so not to miss the flight.
At the gate I had to tell the crew that there may be a person showing up bringing an iPad – and yes, that will be just great if they let him deliver it…. A helpful member of the crew told me that it will be fine but the plane won't wait….. which was fine with me. Well folks, about no more than 5 minutes later as I was sitting on the plane, a guy with American logo jacket showed up and waived at me the newly found iPAD! This was an amazing feat! I could not believe it! This iPad made if back to me — I really do not know what were the odds of this BUT – here it goes BIG THANKS TO ALL THE FOLKS FROM AMERICAN AIRLINES at the London Heathrow airport! You made something really special and amazing happen! Thank you
Airline Travel Deals – Survey of Current Good Deals
Airline travel deals, whether good ticket prices, or excellent mileage awards, or upgrade perks, are always in the minds of both leasure and business travellers. Admit it – many of you, road warriors, swap stories of how you were able to rack up tens of thousands of miles on your latest couple of trips, or while flying you innevitably encouter the smug tourist proud of their great deal on the tickets to sunny California (while you – yourself are headed for a less than sunny conference room in the same location).
Oh, well, travel is exciting and people like to get good deals on it, period! So, after having used myself for a number of years various sites like FlyerTalk, I decided that these sites while great, focus only on the American based airlines from standpoint of deals — while I wanted to give some additional coverage also on airlines from Asia and Europe.
With that in mind, I plan to continue publishing at least twice a month a listing of current airline travel related deals, across American Airlines, USAir, United, Delta, Southwest, and cover additional airlines – Air China, Malysaia Airlines, British Airways, Cathay Pacfic, Japan Airlines, Lufthansa, and possibly others in the future. So please check the site often…
Here are the new deals in this instalment:
- Southwest airlines: offers double miles: Earn double points on every flight you take between February 4, 2013 and May 15, 2013. Registration prior to travel required
- Air China is starting a new service: between Houston and Beijing; The flight will be operated via a Boeing 777-300ER beginning Thursday, July 11, 2013, pending approval from the United States Department of Transportation;
- Air China: these are some of the special deals: outside of these below other exist, higher rates;
- LAX – BEIJING US$951 Economy Round Trip; Dates: 01MAR13-31MAR13(MON-THU,SUN; Advance Purchase: 21days before departure)
- LAX – TAIPEI: US$925; Dates: Dec-24-2012 — March-31-2013;
- LAX – Hong Kong: US$915; Dates: Dec-24-2012 — March-31-2013;
- NEW YORK – BEIJING: US$751; Dates: Dec-24-2012 — March-31-2013;Advance purchase 50-days before departure;
- NEW YORK – SHANGHAI: for short amount of time between March 31-2013 and April 7-2013 the price is US$808
- For those of you traveling inside China – I see Air China on their Chinese Language site having special for flight between Beijing and Shanghai-Pudong March 6-9th 2013 for RMB170 one way. Excellent deal!
- American Airlines:
- Earn double miles between US and Tokyo; Dates: Dec-2-2012 – Feb-28-2013;
- Earn double miles: Fly Malaysia Airlines Feb-15-2013 till April 15-2013;
- British Airways: has a new service under the name of Open Skies – New York-Paris with actually pretty good deal even in Economy class $916; but with excellent sounding service;
- Lufthansa: Sale of tickets to European cities (long list); you must purchase the tickets by March 12, 2013 and commence travel no later than March 31, 2013 and return no later than April 30, 2013; Example fare: New York to Moscow is $529!!! Great deal believe me… New York to Berlin is $719; Dallas to Prague is $939;
Photo albums are very interesting way to convey information about any place around the globe. To that effect I am continuing the build the databases of photo albums on this site. So today I decided to add a front page posting just in case you have not noticed the link on the menu of this site. If you have not seen it – here it is – a link to the page with the listing of the countries in my photo albums
I have added information and photos on Monasteries in Bulgaria (and the posted material is just the beginning – expect to see a lot more soon)
Switching to a site on the opposite side of the world, I added album focusing on Taiwan with the first update being for Taipei – beautiful city with interesting sites – historic, religious, and of course modern architecture
As in the case of Bulgaria, you should expect a lot more to come — e.g. JuFen, etc.
Please go ahead and check out the other sections with albums as well – China, India, the US, rest of Bulgaria…..and expect to see new sites added – Thailand-Phuket, the UK – London, and more.
HongQiao Market – also known as HongQiao Pearl market is located in the Southeast part of Beijing near the TianTan – Temple of Heaven; It is accessible by subway and city buses and of course via taxi (if you can find one!). Here is the location of the market in Chinese characters so you can print this page and provide to the cab driver from your hotel:
The actual address and location is No. 46, Tiantan Dong Lu, Chongwen District; just opposite Tiantan Park, and to the east of the Temple of Heaven (you can see the Chinese characters for the street name above on the map); If you are coming with a subway – please take subway line #5 to Tiantan Dongmen Station and once you get off the train car, look for exit A, and you will see the Pearl Market ahead on your right and will need to across the street (see photo above for a visual orientation).
The market is actually pretty big and houses a very large number of vendors which have changed their wares and focus over the years. As of late the market management is attempting to revamp the venue to a new look and feel and is forcing many of the traditioanal vendors to move quarters to the basement floors of the building.
Of course the market is also a hustling and bustling place where you can easily spend a week exploring the different vendors and negotiating merchandise. Many folks consider these markets as outlets where one can look for fake brand name goods — those days are pretty much gone — i.e. I do not think this is the main business of the vendors here. In reality they are turning more and more to really interesting art work, jewelry, and in some cases you can find the actual artisans that make the pieces right there in the market stalls. So for those of you who have (a) the time and (b) the language skills to explore — you can actually find some very interesting conversations, art pieces and of course good friends for a long time to come….(believe me I speak from experience )
Otherwise for pieces of art and stylish traditional Chinese jewelry pieces (among other things) you can jump to the Web store for Chinafinds.com;
Over the last 10 years of being a frequent traveler I have always wondered – How Does One Provide Feedback on the TSA Effectiveness…? Why do I say this now? Because of more and more incidents of complete frivolous behavior by the TSA which certainly is hard to qualify as taking care of passengers or security — and more of lawless actions of unsupervised force that does not have to answer to anyone for its actions!
There are more and more cases of such actions — some more frivolous than others. Here is my experience:
Over the last 4-5 years on trips overseas we consistently get damages to the content of our luggage…Those are usually inflicted by overzealous TSA agents who do not want to apply common wisdom in doing their job. The most recent in my case was returning back to the States this summer — where we had a few jars with tough to find in the US tomato paste which was commercially packaged in jars, and the jars were placed in a plastic box with a lid. Once we came home and opened the luggage we were VERY SURPRISED to find that one of the three jars was opened and closed just slightly and put back in the luggage. Of course once the jar cap had been opened the content is at least compromised and won't last long even if I knew what had been done to it…. For all I know dirty fingers have been stuck in it! Or who knows what else…! The more I think about it the more annoyed I get !!! What on earth did the TSA had to do to "inspect the content" of a commercially sealed jar? There are no warnings whatsoever anywhere advising that we should not transport canned goods….! All in all this is just insane!
I wrote to the TSA and to my representatives in Washington D.C. — and of course I got letters with canned – no pun intended responses — as to "how concerned with security the TSA is…." — Great!!! Canned tomatoes are really a problem!!!
So, I thought I had seen it bad — but the latest incident of a wheelchair-bound pre-teen being held for search for an hour at Dallas Ft Worth airport is even more mind boggling — the article is here and another one here
I wonder at what point in time we will be able to grade and provide feedback that is being paid attention to on the effectiveness and fairness of the TSA…???
I think the Terracota Warriors of Xian are very familiar to many in and outside of China. Now we have a new discovery in Xian – a palace has been discovered in emperor Qinshihuang's tomb. According to a report published by China Daily, the discovery is significant for multiple reasons
- the palace complex is very large — based on its foundations it is believed to extend 690 by 250 meters — about 1/4th of the size of the Forbidden City in Beijing
- the palace is mostly intact – i.e. it will offer a great deal of artifacts to allow the study of the period with a lot more factual information
For those of you who have not seen the site I am talking about you can take a look at these photos:
The pictures above are taken at the cemetery is located in Lintong district of Xi'an city; Based on an ongoing study of the emperor's tomb, scientists believe that there may be as many as 6000 clay solders in the tomb. Here it will be appropriate and important to note that each of the solders is supposed to have a unique face — therefore there are 6000 unique clay statues buried in the emperor's tomb. Incredible!