We travelled to Beijing over spring break (March 22-29) 2012 - a great time of year to visit. I was first attracted to the Holiday Inn due to it's reasonable price. We're a family of five (2 adults, three kids (11, 13 and 14) and squeezing into one room is no longer possible at these ages, so we had to economize. The reviews of Mr. Storm Li seemed too good to believe, but I was convinced to book 2 rooms based on other travelers' glowing recommendations.
I was concerned about the language difference coming from the US and I generally try to pre-arrange as many sight seeing events as possible. Once again, based on the reviews of Sotrom, I decided to wait until we arrived and speak to him directly.
First the hotel facilities: The facilities were impeccable; the lobby always clean and polished, rooms large and clean. We only had 4 days in Beijing, so we opted to have the breakfast buffet each morning for the convenience and to save time. It was pricey at about $20USD per person ($100/day for my family), but Storm Li worked his magic and was able to have the kids eat free. The buffet was a great mix of Chinese and American dishes which appealed to my desire to eat as much local food as possible e and certain of my kids that were reluctant to try the Chinese food.
Hotel Location: I was a bit concerned after reading certain reviews, but taxis are plentiful and cheap and the hotel provides cards so drivers can easily find the way to the hotel on your return trip. We also used the bus and subway systems which were surprisingly user friendly - stops are announced in both Manadarin and English - probably driven by the Olympics and desire to be more appealling to Western visitors. It will take 45 mins to 1 hour to get to the major sites in AM or PM traffic (not too bad), so if this seems long, consider travelling in the off hours. Bottomline: The location was fine, but don't expect to be able to walk to the major sites unless you're OK with a 4-5km stroll.
Tip: Email the hotel before your trip to obtain directions via email in both English and Mandarin. It will help if you need a taxi from the airport.
Mr. Storm Li, the hotel concierge: I can't write enough about how this man made our visit a trip of a lifetime. To start, I emailed Storm before our arrival and he arranged for a minivan to pick us up at the airport. We landed at 11:30PM, so I was concerend about having to take 2 taxis and trying to explain directions to the Holiday Inn to the drivers. Storm arranged a nice sized minivan and the driver knew exactly where to go. Storm even called the driver at 1AM to be sure all was going well. Storm sat with us the first morning of our visit (Saturday at 7AM) to discuss what we wanted to see during our stay. He was not pushy or trying to sell us anything - he just wanted to lend us any assistance we wanted - we could take it or leave it no problem. We scheduled the major site visits for each of the 4 days. Each morning, he presented a detailed itinerary for the next day with a fixed cost for the entire day, usually including lunch and dinner too! I reserched the Great Wall before our trip and wanted to visit a non-touristy part (definitely not Badaling due to the high number of visitors) and also a "Wild Wall" section, that is, the wall that has not been restored.
Storm arranged for us to visit the Mutianyu section, but what made this incredible is that we first went to a local farmer's home for a small meal of freshly roasted chestnuts and tea. The farmer then took one of his horses for the kids to ride (alternately) and we climbed to the backside of the Mutianyu wall on the horse trail. We met several local villagers hiking this trail so they could sell souvenirs and drinks to the visitors on the wall. This section of the Great Wall was fantastic and we climbed for around 2 hours to the various watchtowers - the views were spectacular to say the least. We then drove for about 40 minutes to another farmer's home, this time, she was the village medicine woman, a "protector" of the wall, a masseuse and an incredible cook. After a beautiful and filling meal, she led our family on a 1.5 mile hike to the Wild Wall. We hiked up approx 2,500 feet vertical on a wall that was crumbling, but at least had most of the stones in place. The ascent was steep, challenging and exhausting, but after 2 hours, we hade it to the summit. The view was spectacular and awe-inspiring. We continued on the wall and hiked a different section down; one that was steeper and more deteriorated. I admit that I was nervous and concerend for my kids' safety, but they were cautious and our guide helped protect them. I wanted to climb the Wild Wall to get a sense of the wall from an isolated perspective. We were the only ones that were on the wall and we could see the wall stretching out for miles and miles into the hazy horizon. It took us 3.5 hours to complete the hike, but it is a memory of a lifetime thanks to Storm. Be warned though, you need to be physically fit to make this hike. If you can run 1 mile, you can handle it, but I would not recommend it for kids 7 or younger or if you have trouble climbing stairs (and I mean ALOT of them).
Before we left, I contacted a professional tour company to price a trip to a wild and restored sections of the wall. Without lunch, the price was $600USD for my family of 5. Our adventure coordinated by Storm was less than half that amount and the experience was personally created for my family.
Storm personally assisted us in many ways (rickshaw rides through the Hutong neighborhoods, Peking duck dinner, acrobatic show, dumpling lunch, hotpot soup dinner, and much, much more). When we were running late, he re-arranged the schedule. When the kids fell asleep the first day from jetlag, he cancelled dinner no problem. I cannot thank him enough for his personal attention, care, and kindness. This man is what makes the Holiday Inn THE destination hotel in Beijing, especially for families or those looking for custom-tailored tours. He would not even accept a gratiuity; something difficult for this Westerner to understand. Storm takes great pride in his work and it seems his whole desire is to make your trip a wonderful experience.
- Official Description (provided by the hotel):
- Holiday Inn Central Plaza Beijing, an Award-Winning hotel, is conveniently located in Guanganmen commercial and civic area, adjacent to the new Municipal Government Office Building and is within a stone's throw from Beijing's Financial Street. The hotel is close to tourist and shopping attractions such as Wangfujing, Oriental Plaza and the Forbidden City. It is 10 minutes drive from the West and South Train Station and 45 minutes from the Capital Airport.The hotel has 322 contemporary guest rooms, including suites and two floors of Executive Club rooms, all equipped with wired and wireless broadband internet, speaker telephone and multi-language voice mail. With a 640 square meter, pillar-free ballroom and 8 other function rooms ranging from 35 to 176 square meters, the hotel is an ideal venue for business meetings and social functions alike. All the meeting rooms are equipped with state-of-the-art audio-visual facilities, built-in work station, wireless broadband connection and video conference facilities. The hotel's professional meeting team will ensure every event a success.The hotel also provides other facilities like business center ticketing and tour desk, kiosk, car rental, concierge taxi and limousine service, baby sitting service, karaoke as well as a Mini Golf Club. ... more less
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- Also Known As:
- Holiday Inn Central Plaza Hotel Beijing
- Holiday Inn Beijing
- Beijing Holiday Inn
- Holiday Inn Central Plaza Beijing