Beijing (Peking), the capital city of China since the Yuan (Mongol) dynasty is always been said to have the best Fengshui (Feng Shui) as a capital. The evidence is that each dynasty lasted about three hundred years except the Yuan dynasty has shorter time in exchange for larger territory. I will let you decided if it is true. On the other hand, it is true that Beijing (Peking) is full of example of well designed Fengshui (Feng Shui) houses, gardens and tombs.

The time to fly to Beijing (airport code PEK) from the US is about 13 hours. If you fly from Canada, the trip will be slightly shorter because the plane flies all the way up to the North pole and towards south to Beijing. If you are willing to fly economy class, almost all major air line discount their round trip tickets to close or below $1000.  If you are lucky, the plane can be quite empty and you can be as comfortable as first class. The food is excellent as far as plane-food goes. There is also nice drinks served. If you are a tea drinker, make sure you bring one or two tea bags for your flight. The tea on the flight never taste quite right. One advantage of the long flight is you will get enough (at least close to enough) frequent flier miles for a round trip to Europe according to most of the frequent flier programs. Please be careful about joining the frequent flier club BEFORE you take the trip. One of my friend did not get her mileage with certain American airlines because they said she was not a member when she was flying. 

Beijing international airport has quite good service and the custom is very fast if you have nothing to declare. No need to bring large amount of cash with you. All Major stores and hotels takes Visa/master card/American express and other major charge cards. If you need cash, there are ATMs at the airport and we find the exchange rates are very good. There is no different lines for Chinese and foreigners at boarder control. It is also faster than most major international airport I have been to in Europe.  There are hotel shuttle for major hotels and also plenty of taxi like all airports.

Stay in Beijing (Peking) is relatively easy. You can find almost all major hotels chain there. Most of the hotels can be reserved online or by phone from the US and Canada. If you plan on stay in Beijing (Peking) for more than one day, you should stay down town. The price is around $100/night for most major chains. On weekend, even fancy hotels becomes quite affordable, around $130/night. If you do your research before you get there, you should be able to find hotels at $80/night. Please be careful since some hotel has more than one locations in Beijing. Make sure you tell them you want the one by the airport or the one downtown. All the hotels we stayed are better than their American counterparts. When you make your hotel reservation, ask them if they credit airline frequently flier programs and if they have local tour guides. For our German readers, there are major Hotel has German TV channel and German restaurant.

English is definitely enough for you to get around in Beijing (Peking). Major department stores are within the walking distance from down town Hotels and there is subway to major tourist traps. If you want to hire a taxi, the price/km is on the window. It usually cost less than $15 to anywhere you want. No need to tip taxi drivers unless you have very heavy luggage. Driving around by yourself is not recommended. Beijing (Peking) has very strict traffic laws and some temporary one-way street and detour whenever there is a big event. Worse yet, it seems there is always some event in town! The constructions for the 2008 Olympic does not help the traffic easier. 
While you are in Beijing, do not forget to buy some Art or pearl. Remember to buy pearl at the reliable "quality insured" department stores. Some of them will refund or service your pearl for free even after one full year. The department stores closes early at night. After that, it is the street market. If you are adventurous and good at flea market shopping, you can run into some really good bargains here. Some of the vendors speak a little English. They will try to rip you off of course, but you can still get a lot better price than the department stores. Besides, some souvenir from the flea market always smells better than a T-shirt from some cafe. One of my Chinese friend told me the real good food are in the 'fly restaurant'. What is a 'fly restaurant'? The place is so dirty that you can find flies! I have never try one of those but I find street food are quite interesting. For less than 50 cents, you will really have a good experience of 'real' local food.

beijingIf you are seriously planning a trip to Beijing, do not forget to bring Lonely planet: Beijing 

Paper back

By Robert Storey

Published 1998, 3rd edition, $11.96