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Old Aug 29, 06, 3:12 am
  #12  
gregorygrady
 
Join Date: May 2003
Posts: 6,106
Originally Posted by Northbrook60065
HI GREG!!!

I can't thank you enough for your advice, I only hope that someday you have a question regarding something that I can help you with (albeit highly unlikely, I'm not that smart)

I gather from your reply that the Regis is OK, but I got the feeling that you thought the Hyatt was even better. I don't have a boss or accounting division to clear my travel budget, but my priority in travel is (1)personal safety, including sanitation such as drinking water; (2)service (hotel services such as cars and drivers to get me safely around town and back to the hotel; (3)comfortable accomodations for sleep and entertaining my business associates, clients and their guests for dinner; (4)Western amenities such as health clubs and equipment for daily workouts; and (5) business services typical of a business center. Since I travel solo on business most Hyatts and Sheratons generally fulfil my requirements, but a great example of indulging myself is the Ritz Millenia Singapore. The rooms there are amazing, along with the Club Floor, and it's really not significantly more expensive than the Conrad or the Sheraton Towers. If you know of a hotel in Beijing that is as convenient as the St. Regis but even better I'd love to hear about it. Likewise if you know of "local" hotels that are equally good and have staffs that can speak to guests like me in English, that sounds like an experience I'd enjoy!

The idea of bringing along a duffle bag for my shopping in Beijing sounds wild, but I'm assuming I can purchase a duffle bag in China. How does one politely request merchants to open the drawer for bidding on their copies? You mentioned that they conceal such merchandise - are you certain that I can't get in trouble for asking about it. Also, so long as I declare my purchases at customs, show my receipts and pay the duty I assume I'm safe from confiscation. (If some pencil pusher in Customs can discern a copy then I'm lucky to have it confiscated in lieu of giving it to my girlfriend or a pal anyway...) Here"s another question: do they accept credit cards or personal checks? If not, how much in local currency do you bring from the hotel with you on shopping outings, and is it safe to carry any money? Cash seems so foreign to me - have you noticed that you can breeze from continent to continent and come home with the same $20 you had in your wallet when you left? Of course I've never gone "shopping" before! (I don't even like shopping in the USA, but this sounds more like a trip to the poker tables at Caesars!); you mentioned a specific brand, I think Gucci or Yves St. Laurent...do I need to know specific brands of ladies' merchandise or do the merchants help? Best question of all, I suppose, do the hotel concierges or even the SPG Platinum concerierge give the advice you were giving me or is this considered a "delicate" matter? What would be awesome would be to hire a guide for two or three days to escort me on my shopping tours - possible?

Thanks again Greg! If our paths ever cross I owe you a steak/lobster dinner! You're a real sport to have offered me so much vital advice and I truly appreciate it!

Best regards,

Barry
Barry, again no real reason to use PM since all interested FTers can probably benefit from this info, so here goes:

I think the best advice was given by somebody else above. Figure out where in the city you will be working, and pick a hotel based on that. You do NOT want to be stuck in a taxi an hour each morning and an hour each evening driving back to the hotel just because you picked the wrong hotel. So pick based on work location, and if you want to, change hotels on the weekend or what not. As far as the St. Regis vs. the Grand Hyatt, you can do a search (in the SPG or Hyatt Forums) as I did a comparison between these two hotels maybe 8 months ago. I've stayed at St. Regis once, Great Wall Sheraton once, Grand Hyatt about 5-6 times, Holiday Inn Lido once, and also a few other more "Eastern-style" Chinese hotels in Beijing (that were nice, but they were just more "Eastern"..........sounds like you'd be better off in a Western-style chain hotel. Regarding St. Regis vs. GH, basically it boils down to they are almost equivalent, however I would probably choose the St. Regis if they were the same price solely based on Hyatts new Int'l Upgrade/Lounge policy for Diamond members. I'm Hyatt Diamond too and I always used to get Lounge access at GH Beijing but ever since the policy change it rarely happens according to most people in the Hyatt Fourm. That's why I switched my Beijing stays to Starwood this past trip to Beijing. I enjoyed both the St. Regis (where I was upgraded to the one-bedroom Statesmens Suite) and the Great Wall Sheraton (where I was upgraded to the Club Level.........they had a pretty nice club as well, much nicer than most other Sheratons).
Regarding your priorities:
(1). You will be safe in any $75+ hotel you pick in Beijing. Also, every hotel I've ever stayed at in Beijing gives you a couple bottles of bottled water every night for you to drink.
(2) Not sure about this as I never use cars and drivers in Beijing, I just take cabs as they are safe. But I'm sure all the higher end hotels (GH, St. Regis) would be able to arrange an overpriced car/driver for you if that's what you want. You honestly might consider hiring a private guide/driver for the time you are there, it would probably be cheaper than going thru the hotels, moondog or another FTer might have some recommendations for you.
(3) Both Starwoods and the GH are all comfortable hotels and nice restuarants, but you'd have better luck with a Suite upgrade (obviously) at the St. Regis in case you are interested in having any guests in your room. Or even if you do get Lounge access at the GH, they will charge you $20 (I think) per guest that you try to bring in the Lounge with you.
(4) The GH and StR have two of the finest gyms I have ever seen in hotels. They could both almost be membership gyms. They also both have nice indoor pools, and the GH has THE nicest indoor pool I have ever seen in my life, almost like a Hawaiian resort pool, but indoors.
(5) Both hotels have full-service business centers that have everything you would need.

They are on the same main road, but GH is about 1-2 miles closer to the center of Beijing than StR. The GH is right on Oriental Plaza/Wangfujing which is also a big shopping area (but these are actual stores, rather than "haggle the price down markets"). There are several other haggle type markets where you can get knockoffs besides the Xiushui Silk Market, such as Panjiayuan market, Hongqiao Pearl market, and even a small one across from Holiday Inn Lido near the airport. Yes, you can buy a duffle bag or even a cheapie $10 rollerbag (again, haggle it down from $50, you should be able to get a large one for $10 or so that hopefully should make it the duration of your flight back to the US (but not much more than that). One word of warning, some of the stuff actually is pretty crappy quality, so you have to know what you are comparing against. I would recommend hitting up your nearest high-end mall and go to the nice stores to get a feel for what some of the nice purses look like. Or you can just go with the older style knockoffs, those are normally the best quality. For example the brown Loius Vuitton bags are much better counterfitted than the multicolored ones, because they are older and I assume the Chinese had more practice on those. Hmmm, let's see what else.

- No, you will not get in trouble for asking for the knockoffs that are hidden from view. Just say "Louis Vuitton?" or "Gucci?" and it will magically appear. Or at the watch counter, say "Rolex?" or "Tag Heuer" and those will magically appear from a briefcase under the counter. With watches, look at them carefully. You can tell if they are bad quality if the labels/names are on crooked. You want it too at least look good enough that you can't tell it's fake by looking at it, so take a few moments to look it over before buying.
- I think your biggest problem will be customs. Rumor has is that you can bring back one pirate type of each item (ie, one purse, one watch, one DVD, etc). But I'm not sure if that's an FT rumor or what. There was a thread going around here awhile back about what is okay to bring back. I normally bring back ~75 DVDs, 5 purses, 5 watches, and a few pairs of jeans, ties, shoes, and sunglasses. FWIW, I try to distribute my knockoffs into my 3 separate checked bags and even some small stuff into my carryon so Customs doesn't open one bag and see all of the above in it. They have checked my bags 2 or 3 out of the 4 or 5 times I've returned from China, but the only thing they ever confiscated was an apple (yeah, the fruit) that I forgot I had in my bag. So who knows.......but I surely wouldn't claim the stuff and pay duty on it, that's just asking for it!!!
- Bring cash (US $s or Chinese yuans). They don't take CCs or checks. They'll give you an exchange rate of 8 yuan : $1, which is standard, you hafta be able to do quick math in your head sometimes, or they all have calculators for you to punch in a number on which is what you want to pay. I normally bring ~USD$100 and ~ 800 yuan with me. I blow through the yuans and then use the $s if I need to. They have ATM's at all the major hotels as well which is nice. Carrying cash with you is not dangerous, just don't be flashing too much around (as with anywhere).
- I doubt the hotel concierges would help you with the info I'm giving you. They will tell you where the Silk Market is, but that's about it would be my guess. I actually tried to ask the lady/attendant in the St. Regis Lounge about the Silk Market about it, but it was a bit difficult communicating what with translations and all that. Much easier just to ask advice here on FT, you will get answered almost exactly what you need to know, that's what's great about FT.
- And finally, a couple tips about buying stuff. I've found some of the best quality and easiest to bring back items are ladies wallets (and they work great to give out to co-workers, wives, etc). You can get a nice small ladies Louis Vuitton (I don't know what it is about that brand, but chicks dig that stuff) wallet for about $3-4 there (they cost ~$300-400 in the USA) and the quality is quite good. Also, sunglasses are cheap over there too and women love those too. In fact, I have orders from the wife to buy like 10 pairs when I go back to China in about 2 weeks. Last time I bought a few pairs (Prada, Dolce & Gabana, and Chanel were the brand names) and they were popular. And they are small, easy to carry back, and they only cost like $3 each also. And finally, be wary of the DVDs they sell over there. The first few times I went I bought a ton to fill up my DVD collection, but the last couple times, I've gotton a lot of duds (ie, they will put in scratched CDs and sell them as DVDs, or they don't work, etc). So I've given up buying DVDs over there. The safest DVDs to buy though are for movies that have been out awhile, NOT new releases. It seems they get a lot of their new releases from some guy who brings a camera into the movie premiere or something like that. Bad quality. The older films that are just copied are the best quality. Anyways, I will try to find and post my Excel file of prices from my last trip to China (Dec. 2005) so you'll have an idea of what you SHOULD be paying.
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