Back from Beijing Trip

I am back from a short business trip in Beijing. I slept a little bit on the Boeing 777-300 aircraft – very nice seat + a little bit tired Jian Shuo = a good sleep.

The two airports in Beijing and Shanghai are obviously busier than before. The Pudong airport expansion project is undergoing and very soon, after the second runway completed, the second terminal will be put into use soon. It is the same in Beijing – the second runway is under construction after the second terminal put into use some time before.

CTRIP or eLong

At Shanghai airport, when we stepped into the airport, someone (people call them farmer sellers) approached me and sent me the CTRIP booklet and a card attached to it. We have been so familiar with it but this time, I took one. 3 minutes later, a person from eLong comes and give another one. 5 minutes later, when I passed the security inspection, my ticket and boarding passes was returned with my national ID, AND another booklet from eLong.

The two booklet (or three to be more exact) looks so similar, and it is interesting that they both announced they are U.S. NASDAQ company with code CTRIP and LONG. They announced they are Internet company in U.S., but actually, they are still very traditional company and the biggest revenue still comes from the farmer selling at the airport. The CEO of CTRIP claimed that if you travel by air, they are 100% sure you will see CTRIP card.

Taxi in Beijing

To take a taxi in Beijing is often embarrassing, especially when the destination is just at the other end of the airport expressway. They waited for 4 hours and 55 RMB trip obviously cannot satisfy them. The difference between taxi drivers in Beijing and Shanghai is, in Beijing, taxi driver will explicitly complain about it on the whole way while in Shanghai, the taxi driver just keep silence…

Overpriced?

I saw the discussion about overpriced brands in China. There are some on the list:

Häagen-Dazs

Starbucks

IKEA

I agree that they are over priced. But the market votes. The recent Haagen-Dazs accident in Shenzhen (where they were caught to process the ice cream in dirty local workshops) not only put Haagen-Dazs into a position not easily recover, but also put Haagen-Dazs fans into very embarrassing situation. The same for Starbucks fans…

14 Comments

  1. The problem of short trips for airport taxis is not confined to Beijing and Shanghai. My hometown of Calgary, Canada has struggled for years to solve the problem.

    Just like in Beijing, a Calgary taxi driver may wait in a queue for 4 hours to get a fare. The trip could cost anywhere from $5 to $50, depending on the destination. A trip to downtown (most business trips) is around $25, but there is also a “business park” that is a $5 ride away. There have been cases where the driver refuses to take the passenger if the distance is too short, or demanded that the passenger pay extra.

    The city has attempted a few solutions:

    a) “Flat rate” (of $25) for the trip, regardless of distance.

    b) Give the airport franchise to one company. Any company can drop off, but only one can pick up. The idea is that the one company can manage their drivers better, so the queuing time is reduced.

    Each of these solutions was abandoned, and rather quickly, for various reasons (unfairness, complaints from consumers, etc). In the end, it is back to the process where any cab can queue for passengers, and take the risk getting a short trip. As long as queuing for 4 hours for an average of $25 is worthwhile, the drivers will do it.

  2. Häagen-Dazs is definitely over-priced. Only irrational consumers in big cities in China will buy into this supposedly “hign-class” brand.

  3. Follow the Singapore way, basic fare 5.00 + meter fare and all taxis will take you there.

  4. one of my friends comes from america said haagen-dazs is not very expensive there, maybe 3 dollar for the midiam size. the overpriced company make too many profits in this way and sometimes just pay attention to the crisis public relationship. terrible.

  5. Actually, Starbucks is the cheapest place in China to get a cup of coffee. Please don’t compare it to Nescafe instant coffee or coffee from KFC. If you want a regular cup of coffee then it will be very difficult to beat 12RMB in China. In fact, I challenge all of your readers to tell me where I can find a cheaper cup of coffee. Sure, coffee is a foreign commodity and therefore will cost more than a cup of tea but to say that it is overpriced is unfair. You CAN get ice cream cheaper than Hagen-dazs. You CAN get furniture cheaper than IKEA but you CANNOT get coffee for cheaper than Starbucks.

  6. First on CTRIP and ELONG membership cards: They claim that they can save you 50% of the hotel rates. Bull! Who pays rack rate anyway? Watch out whenever you have to prepay a hotel room. Let me share with you a bad experience we had booking a hotel room through ELONG.

    One time my husband’s secretary booked us a “lake-view” room at Sofitel Hotel in Hangzhou. We paid a premium (I believe it was over USD100)for the room as it supposely had lake view. We arrived in the evening, but didn’t seem to see any lake image. The next morning, we still couldn’t get a lake glimpse, so we went to the Front Desk to check. We were then pointed out in the distance, through the corner of our eyes we spot (barely) something seemingly like a lake. The view was so skimpy that one has to look carefly with a telescope to see it.

    We protested, but was told that our room was booked through ELONG, and we had to contact ELONG for any change. Who had the time and energy to look into such things then?

    Incidentally, we went to Hangzhou again late April this year. This time we booked a gardent-view room at Hyatt Regency at RMB 900 + taxes. Although the room didn’t have a lake view, the hotel itself is built in front of Wesk Lake. Within one minute walking out of the hotel, we were at the lake shore having an unobstructed 280 degree view of the lake. We booked the room directly through the Hyatt’s reservation website. The room was held with our credit card until 6 PM of the arrival date. The room could be cancelled prior to that time without any penalty.

    I advice all who are coming to China to book their rooms that are cancelabe without penalty. That means if you check in the hotel and find the room not acceptable, you can still turn the room down.

    As for airfares, I found that you can buy tickets at some sort of discounts with any major airlines. It doens’t have to be the particular airlines you’re flying on, nor a travel agency. I often go to http://www.goldenholidays to check the flights and fares before I call for a reservation. Buying air tickets in China is mostly on one-way basis. Flying from Shanghai to Beijing, you can usually get a 10-20% discount, but returning route has much greater discount, generally up to 65% of the discount.

    So do a little homework, check some travel websites and you will have some pleasant discoveries. Unfortunately, most of the web deals are written in Chinese, so if you don’t read Chinese, you might not have as much choices.

    Next on the travel cards: It’s really very annoying to sit at Beijing airport waiting area and have the so called farmer agent continue to approach you to give you the cards. How they were allowed to go into the waiting area is beyond me. I thought only the ticketed passengers are allowed to enter the security-cleared area. I guess, in China, many things one is not allowed to do is allowed here.

  7. In the Nederland, sometimes you can get a half-liter package of Haagan Dazs for only one Euro. Most of the time the price is 5 Euro.

    I can ensure you that Haagen Dazs is not the best ice-cream. I tried some organic ice-cream before. I am sure you will love it. And luckly, my wife is a expert for ice-cream. her MBA desertation is about the brand of ice-cream :-)

  8. You will notice either Elong or Ctrip declear that they can save “UP TO 50%”. I only consider this is a nonsense AD. I booked many times through Ctrip and Elong for hotels in Shanghai. They always tell me there are meetings in SH and rooms are difficult. So that I have to pay more than they advertised.

    Not every hotels have their own web booking service and Ctrip/Elong do bring some convenience.

  9. Booking air tickets through Ctrip (whose receptionists are more well-trained and more polite, but may not be as experienced as that of Elong) or Elong (staff is more experienced and so the booking process might be more efficient and smoother) is not that bad after all, the prices they offer are generally lower than our local travel agent in Beijing. But beware that the air ticket prices on the Chinese and English Elong sites are different!

    As to the overpriced brands, Häagen-Dazs is definitely the one, Starbucks is not, their price is more or less the same as in Hong Kong and Seoul. IMHO, IKEA is not over-priced, and I would say some of their goods are relatively cheap…

  10. Definetly haagen Dasz is not good!!! Wake up chinese market!!!

    Have you ever tried italian gelato (ice cream?)

    Tommy

  11. read your comments with much interest.. will be back for more of your comments

    sky :)

  12. Actually during spring festival all attractions here in Beijing are not so busy as you think just like other Chinese cities. You know, each spring festival finds most of the Chinese people stay at home for family reunion instead of going outside. But you will still find some domestic tourists coming to Beijing from other parts of China due to the week-long spring festival each year. The year 2007’s spring festival starts from Feb 18 to Feb 25,2007. If you happen to travel Beijing during spring festival, you will many interesting things to do as below:

    1) See firework on the evening of Feb 17, 2007 ( on the eve of Chinese new year ). Starting from 2006, people in Beijing are allowed to play firework on the eve of Chinese new year and during the week-long daytime. Firecrackers and fireworks are believed to be able to wipe out bad luck and bring happinese and fortune for the coming new year. So on the eve of Chinese new year, you will find Beijing in the sea of firework!!

    2) Lots of temple fairs during spring festiaval:

    The temple fairs in Beijing date back to around 1000 AD, when they were called “Spring Outings”. They steadily developed through successive dynasties of the Yuan, Ming and Qing. Now visiting temple fairs has become a Spring Festival routine for local people in Beijing as well as tourists. Activities and events during the fair will include folk performances,traditional arts, a food street. Please find below the important temple fairs:

    Ditan Park Fair:

    Location: About 100 meters to the north of the Lama Temple or Lama Temple Subway Station.

    How to get there: Yonghegong (Lama Temple) subway, bus 13, 116 and 62 for the south gate; trolley bus 104, 108, or bus 27, 358, 119, 407, 328, 803 or 912 for the west gate.

    Fair time: Feb 18th to February 25.

    Ticket: 10 yuan ( about 1.25 USD ).

    Baiyunguan Temple Fair:

    It is the biggest temple fair of west city, the only temple fair held in a temple. Baiyunguan is a Taoist temple that is more than 1,000 years old.

    Location: Xibianmenwai, Xicheng District.

    How to get there: Bus routes 320 or 414 to Baiyunguan Station or 114, 308 or 937 to Baiyunlu.

    Fair time: Feb 18th to February 25.

    Ticket: 10 yuan (about 1.25 USD)

    Changdian Temple Fair:

    The Changdian Temple Fair is often a favorite outing for Beijing locals during the Lunar New Year. The fair is popular among foreigners.

    Location: Liulichang Jie, Xuanwu District.

    Fair time: Feb 18th to February 25.

    Ticket: Free.

    Longtanhu Temple Fair:

    Fair events here resemble those in Ditan.

    Location: Zuoanmennei Dajie, Chongwen District.

    How to get there: Bus routes 807, 12, 6, 60 or 116

    Fair time: Feb 18th to February 25.

    Ticket: 10 yuan ( about 1.25 USD ).

    Dongyue Temple Fair:

    Dongyue is one of the oldest temple fairs in Beijing, starting during the Yuan Dynasty and having its peak during the Ming and Qing dynasties.

    How to get there: Bus routes 101, 109, 110, 112, 750, 846 or 813 to Shenlu Jie or 600 meters east of Chaoyangmen subway station (line 2).

    Fair time: Feb 18th to February 25.

    Ticket: 10 yuan (about 1.25 USD).

    Daguanyuan Temple Fair:

    This temple fair will be held at Grand View Park, a replica of the magnificent Daguanyuan garden of an imperial family depicted in th noted Chinese novel A Dream of Red Mansions by Qing Dynasty writer Cao Xueqin (17l5-l763).

    how to get there: Bus routes 59, 19, 819, 56, 122 or 423 to Daguanyuan.

    Fair time: January 29th to February 3rd.

    Ticket: 10 yuan (about 1.25 USD).

    Lotus Pond Temple Fair:

    It is located near Beijing West Railway Station, the Lotus Pond (Lianhuachi) Park is regarded as the birthplace of the city of Beijing, with a history of over 3,000 years. The temple fair here is quite traditional, with more than 100 events going on to make the park an ideal place to enjoy Chinese folk arts and food.

    Fair time: January 29th to February 3rd.

    Ticket: Free

    3) Skiing and see ice carving:

    You can enjoy ice carving at Yanqing, not far from Badaling Great Walll. There are totally 10 large ski resorts located in the outskirts of the city of Beijing. They are Beijing Badaling Ski Resort, Beijing Shijinglong Ski Slopes Resort, Beijing Snow-world Ski Resort, Beijing Jundushan Ski Resort,Beijing Lianhuashan Ski Resort, Beijing Huaibei International Ski Resort, Beijing Jindinghu Ski Resorts, Beijing Yunfoshan Ski Resort, Beijing Nanshan Ski Resort, Beijing Yuyang Ski Resort.

    Quoted from http://www.tour-beijing.com and http://www.etours.cn

  13. Ice cream Fan

    July 2, 2008 at 12:36 am

    Regarding ice cream…

    It’s the same as with other copies or badly-manufactured licensed brands.

    Original Häagen Dasz is truly one of the best quality ice creams, when you buy it in the US or maybe in Germany.

    It is the same as with other brands. When they are manufactured under licensed conditions it needs a very strict quality control from the mother brand.

    Coca Cola does a good job regarding this, but it is not an easy task to do. When such a scandal happens in China, it is the Chinese licensee who ruins the reputation of the H-D brand for the sake of maximized profit. H-D should get rid of this licensee and run the business with well-trained personnel under comparable conditions to the US – that’s all about the scandal to me.

    @Tommy: Italian ice cream is varying very much in quality. So don’t generalize. There are very good family-run cafes which only use best ingredients, but there are bad ones as well, where the ice cream tastes horrible.

  14. I have been to Beijing and Shanghai once and I was so suprised to see that there are a lot of Haagen Dasz cafe / little shop around. Back in my country, Haagen dasz only share a fair place in big hypermarket and some petrol station, particularly becoz the price is too high for an ice cream (tripple of normal local brand ice cream price).

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