11 January 2012
We ‘re back home already. The trip back home was very tiring. We barely had sleep on the plane. The four Chinese nationals seated behind us never zipped their big mouths during the 5-hour trip! And the pitch of their voice (especially the two ladies) was very irritating to the ears. Grrrrrrrrr! They smelled bad, too. (Ooooops, I’m not being racial huh! I am referring to the four of them only, not the whole nation.) This is a lesson for me to bring a pair of ear phones next time (and also cotton balls for the nostrils!). You really never know what kind of animal you’d be with on a plane!
Well anyway, I am tired and sleepy obviously, but I can’t help myself from writing you to provide you with the feedbacks about our tour (some of which I already narrated to you via sms).
Our stay in Beijing started with a pre-arranged mandatory tour. As per your advice, our itineraries included the following: Tiananmen Square, The Forbidden City, Wangfujing Shopping Street, Jade & Pearl Factory, Silk Factory and Medical Center . The tour started with a very brief visit to Tiananmen Square. It was very brief that we almost had no time to take pictures. Our tour guide whose name is Ms. Dou Wei (her English name is Christina) was rushing us. We never enjoyed the site. This actuation of her baffled us immediately, but we did not mind at first. Our next stop was Qing Shan Ju Tea House at the East Gate of Temple of Heaven. There we had a Tea Ceremony. The next thing we knew, we were being “harassed” to buy tea. And they were filthy expensive, huh! Vulnerable, we bought a canister of tea which amounted to more than ten thousand in Philippine pesos, a decision which of course did not take long for me to regret! When I asked if we were to enter the Temple of Heaven (as we were already at the gate), she said “I will see.” We never went back there. Our next stop was a jade factory/store. After a guided tour inside, we found ourselves being harassed to buy again pieces of jade jewelry that we neither need nor fancy about. There, I mustered enough courage to inform our guide that we don’t want any tour in any shops, that what we wanted was sight seeing. She sternly said that those shops were part of the program. So I demanded that we be brought back to the hotel, but she quickly gave me a lesson on English language (as if she spoke good English! Her English is a blunder, by the way! ), insisting on the word “mandatory.” But I remember our trip in Singapore where we decided to forgo of the mandatory tour without any objection from our guide there. I surmised that our guide gets a fat cut for every item that we buy in the shops that she brings us to. And she might have thought that we had no idea about it, despite all the Yuan signs written all over her face! This time, her mood swung from jolly to threatening. She even verbally threatened us that if we don’t finish the program, she will cancel our hotel reservation and the transfer from the hotel to the airport! Threatened, we decided to abide with her, like her “slaves” in Beijing! She then brought us to the Jade Museum, with the same M.O. This time, she was more adamant in convincing us to buy items from there. When I politely informed her that we were done there and asked her that we proceed to out next stop, she said that we were required to stay there for at least fifteen minutes and prompted us to go around as we might find items that we might want to buy. A sales clerk there noticed that I look like I was about to cry already. Whispering, I told her about our guide. She shrugged her head and sympathetically said that we were not required to stay and may decide to leave if we want to. She even said that we were not at all required to purchase anything, as the educational purpose of the museum is more paramount than its commercial purpose. This time, it is now very obvious to us that our guide saw us as milking cows, and she was very much disappointed that she is not anymore succeeding in her sinister plan. It was almost 3pm already and we were very hungry. She informed us that the restaurant we were supposed to dine in was closed because it was a Sunday. Oh, really? To our dismay, she brought us at McDonald’s! Yes, you read it right! McDonald’s! Indeed, the free lunch that was part of the package did not even compare to the buffet lunch with European, American, Oriental dishes as choices that we had during our mandatory tour in Bangkok! We then proceeded to the Olympic Stadium. She said that we will be treated to a foot reflexology massage (as if there is nothing like that back home!). She assured us that it was for free. We complied. The next thing we knew, the reflexologist claiming to be a doctor (duh?!) was reading our palm and like a sham fortune teller, made a prognosis of what is wrong in our body system, then offered herbal medicines there already ready for us with unconscionable price tags, again and of course! There again was the catch! We bought nothing, haha! When we went out of the clinic, our guide and driver were nowhere to be found (perhaps trying to claim their cut inside). Very quickly, we found our way to the man-made lake in front of the stadium that had frozen. And that was how we got our first ever step on a snow, sneaking out from our guide! Then, we headed back to the hotel and reported at the reception how our guide treated us. We learned that the hotel had nothing to do with our mandatory tour. The receptionists at the hotel, too, were dismayed by how we were treated. They even confirmed that the guide had no power to cancel our hotel reservation!
What happened to the other places in the itineraries, eg. Forbidden City, Wangfujing? Our guide did not bring us there! She said that if we want, we can schedule another day for those places, for another charge of course! And she was trying very hard to convince us to schedule it the next day! The Yuan signs were again written all over her face!
The next day, the guide repeatedly called the hotel and asked us if we were planning any tour for the day and/or for the next one. We declined her offer to guide us and provide us with the vehicle, of course! We even decided to cancel without reimbursement the pre-paid transfer from the hotel to the airport for our departure against your advice. We were determined and hopeful not to see her Yuan-sign-tattooed-face again, as it was such a relief to be freed from her “slaveholding” in the guise of a “mandatory tour.”
But please do not get me wrong. I do not want you to get the inaccurate impression that our trip to Beijing was all bad. Generally though, it was a pleasant experience. The winter weather, even to the point of being unbearable for us, was a noble experience. Courtyard 7 (the hotel) is very nice. It’s is an ancient structure (more than 400 years old, we were told) with modern amenities. The staff at the reception and restaurant (Mr. Fang and company) were all very helpful and candid, always with a smile and a greeting every time we see each of them. The two playful Siberian Huskies (Yaya and Tyler) in the hotel owned by the hotel’s owner were also lovable. The food and service at the hotel were also commendable, plus its proximity to the sites in Beijing is an advantage. Our driver (Mr. Xu) that Courtyard 7 contacted for us in going to Mutianyu did not talk much, but he was kind. He did not anymore charge us for the overtime.
Thanks also to the dependable assistance of the staff at Courtyard 7, our friends Jo Ann Gamelo Bernabe and Kym Bernabe from SG were able to arrange tours on their own. We went with them and shared experiences we will not forget for life. We saw the amazing acrobatic show at Chowyang Theater. We rode the cable car and climbed the Great Wall (or at least a part of it) at Mutianyu. We strolled and ate exotic foods at Wangfujing. We dined at several restaurants, tried a variety of Chinese dishes and experienced “palate orgasms” several times. We visited the Olympic Stadium, the Water Cube and the Bird’s Nest, the spectacular sites of the 2008 Olympic Games. We even found the time to ice skate (my partner was surprisingly good at it!) at the Bell Tower. Well, there may be some other sites that we failed to visit (Thanks to Ms. Dou Wei), but they sure are reasons for us to come back to Beijing, and the next time, we will be wiser for sure!
Oh, by the way, you may want to orient your clients especially those who are 1st-time tourists to Beijing as regards bargaining when shopping. I myself was a victim of opportunistic vendors in Beijing. They are far worse than our vendors in Divisoria. If you show interest in an item, they will overprice it five to ten times and will even harass you to buy it by blocking your path so you will not be able to leave without purchasing it. It happened to me in Mutianyu. I got pissed off with the two vendors that the only way to get rid of them was to pay for a bed sheet for 200 Yuan initially priced at 580 Yuan. My friend Jo Ann was offered with the same item for 100 Yuan only. I’m sure she could have bought it for a cheaper price had she bargained.(By the way, 1 Yuan is equivalent to more than 7 in PhP.) I was traumatized by the two lady vendors that I locked myself inside the car, depriving myself of the opportunity to look around and buy some more souvenirs. We were also lured into buying tea pots for as high as 80 Yuan a piece. Later that day, we went around shops in Huotong just around and near Courtyard 7. We saw the same tea pots priced at 40 Yuan and still negotiable. Prices there of souvenir items and other necessities and accessories are much lower than in tourist spots, and also, without having to experience harassment from scheming vendors! By cautioning your clients with information like these will make them appreciate more your concern for them and will more likely make them secure your services again in the future.
I hope you can do something so that our bad experiences in Beijing will not be experienced anymore by any of your future clients and the good ones we have had will be improved towards the better to their benefit and enjoyment.
Thank you very much, my BFF, and ‘till our next trip.
I hope to hear from you ASAP regarding the finalization of our trip to Hong Kong in February. Hope to see you soon, too.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Courtyard 7 is the first courtyard hotel in Beijing to adopt the Geothermal heat pump system.A typical quadrangle design, Courtyard 7 consists of three rows of courtyards, which occupies an area of 1800 square meters.In Courtyard 7, there are standard, suite, and side rooms. All rooms are bright and clean, private and quiet, and furnished with modern facilities, including telephone, cable TV, internet, etc.. King size flower-caved beds with all antique wooden furniture, modern and clean bathroom, make people not only enjoy their stay, but also can experience the precious and traditional culture of Beijing Si He Yuan. Courtyard 7 utilizes Geothermal heat pump and Solar energy environmental protection equipments to provide 24 hours heat, air condition, and hot water. ... more less
- Reservation Options:
- TripAdvisor is proud to partner with HostelWorld and Ctrip TA so you can book your Courtyard 7 reservations with confidence. We help millions of travellers each month to find the perfect hotel for both holiday and business trips, always with the best discounts and special offers.
- Also Known As:
- Courtyard 7 Hotel Beijing
- Courtyard Hotel 7