Tag Archives: beijing

How to Cross the Street in Hanoi (and Other Asian Cities)

HANOI
Hanoi is renowned for its busy streets and seemingly unfriendly roads for pedestrians. Lots of visitors have stories about being stuck on one side of the street for minutes, as they’re too timid to cross given the endless stream of motorbikes and cars.

But really, crossing the street in Hanoi is simple: just don’t look. Step into the road and start walking, and the traffic will flow around you. If you look, you’re liable to get scared and hesitate, and that’s much more dangerous than maintaining a steady pace.

There’s one caveat, though, which is buses. While everything else will flow around you, buses are the one thing which will NOT necessarily drive around you. Watch out for buses, lest you end up like Regina George.

I want to make fetch happen…

PENANG
Penang is awesome, but crossing the street in Georgetown can be a bit intimidating. The street lights can be verrrry long (like you’ll be standing there for 2 minutes to wait for the light), which is annoying when it’s 90+ degrees out and the sun is bearing down on you. Even worse, there are busy intersections without crosswalk lights, so you just have to figure out when you need to go yourself.

The main strategy is thus extremely aggressive jaywalking. Cars won’t intentionally hit you if you’re in the road, but it’s not like Hanoi where pedestrians are expected to just walk into the street, so you need to be vigilant about openings and seize them aggressively. I also observed some brave souls just walk out into traffic with their hand out toward the oncoming traffic, but I’m not sure I’m that brave.

BEIJING
Crossing the road in Beijing terrifies me because it’s one of the few places where I felt like cars would actually hit me if I didn’t scurry out of the way quickly enough. In most Asian cities, cars and motorbikes honk at you to let you know that they’re there; in Beijing, cars honk to let you know that you need to get the eff out of the way before they hit you. Even if you think you should have the right of way, you need to watch out for cars.

Granted, I’ve (thankfully) never been hit by a car, but I dread crossing the street in China much more than any other Asian country I’ve been to. Your strategy? Get across as quickly as possible and don’t assume that the cars driving toward you will stop.

FINAL TIP
If you don’t know how to cross the road, just wait until some old person needs to cross and stick to them like glue. No one wants to hit an old person crossing the road.

China 2014: Beijing Downtown Backpacker Hostel

The Beijing Downtown Backpacker Hostel is a funky hostel located smack dab in the middle of Nanluoguxiang aka where all Chinese teenagers seem to hang out and consume sugary beverages. It’s a cool area if you get off the main street, as the hutongs have lots of cool alleyways to explore.

We booked a private room to share, but the only room they had available was a private triple for 300 rmb per night (about $50 USD). It’s a hostel, so it’s not fancy, but there was air conditioning and wifi in the room, which are two keys for me whenever I’m traveling and it’s hot (I’m a wimp when it comes to temperature from growing up in Seattle).

Triple room

Triple room

A little tacky, but it works

A little tacky, but it works

Fun wall art

Fun wall art

The hostel also organizes a lot of tours, including a tour to the Great Wall which we took (and which I will write about tomorrow). Overall, I’d say that the hostel was pretty good–the rooms were clean and comfortable enough for the price. The location, however, is a double-edged sword. It’s in the midst of a lot of things, and it’s not that far distance-wise from the Nanluoguxiang metro station, but when you consider that the street gets mobbed, it can take 15 minutes to walk what should be a 5-minute walk. And, well, when all I want to do is get back to my air-conditioned room after a day of dealing with crowds and sweltering heat in Beijing, the last thing I want to deal with is another crowd, which extends the amount of time I need to spend in said heat. For that reason, I probably wouldn’t stay here again.

Burn, United (Miles), Burn: Business Traveler’s Lounge Beijing (PEK)

Introduction
Planning
United Global First Lounge Washington Dulles (IAD)
Lufthansa Business and Senator Lounge Washington Dulles (IAD)
ANA First Square Class Washington Dulles to Tokyo Narita
ANA Suite and Business Class Lounges Tokyo Narita (NRT)
ANA Business Class Tokyo Narita to Beijing
IBIS Beijing Capital Airport Hotel
Air China First Class Lounge Beijing (PEK)
BGS Premier Business Class Lounge Beijing (PEK)
Business Traveler’s Lounge Beijing (PEK)
Lufthansa A380 First Class Beijing to Frankfurt
Lufthansa First Class Terminal Frankfurt (FRA)
Lufthansa B747-400 First Class Frankfurt to New York JFK
United PS Business Class New York JFK to San Francisco


I wasn’t originally planning on stopping by this “lounge”, but I saw in the Priority Pass mobile app that there was something called the Business Traveler’s Lounge that was just one gate over from my next flight, so I decided to head up.

Entrance to the lounge

Entrance to the lounge near gate E10

I say “lounge” in quotation marks because it’s really just the reception area of a transit hotel. The space is primarily used as an hourly hotel where you can stay if you have a lengthy layover, and it’s clear that they don’t get many Priority Pass visitors because even though they had a sign, the people at the reception desk had a hard time figuring out what to do with me.

Very odd choice of decor

Very odd choice of decor

The lounge area is just a seating area consisting of kitschy, old-fashioned decor and a small food area. As opposed to the open-air, light-filled lounges that I had already visited, this lounge was sad and depressing as there were no windows or natural light.

I was curious about the food and drink options, but besides a large number of packaged snacks, there wasn’t much on offer. While there was a purported menu, most of the hot food trays were empty. I’m not sure if this was just because of the time of day that I was there, or if it was more due to the fact that this lounge area probably doesn’t get much traffic so they don’t stock it regularly.

Supposed food menu

Supposed food menu

Lots of packaged snacks

Lots of packaged snacks

Not much hot food

Not much hot food

The lounge has its own wifi, which is slightly novel as the other lounges relied on the airport’s wifi which requires you to use your passport to get a code if you’re a foreign national. But after sitting for less than 5 minutes and overhearing an irate hotel guest yelling at the reception agents about a non-working TV, I decided to leave and just go to the gate. Overall, not a place I’d recommend going, and I’m not sure why it’s even part of the Priority Pass program.

Burn, United (Miles), Burn: BGS Premier Business Class Lounge Beijing (PEK)

Introduction
Planning
United Global First Lounge Washington Dulles (IAD)
Lufthansa Business and Senator Lounge Washington Dulles (IAD)
ANA First Square Class Washington Dulles to Tokyo Narita
ANA Suite and Business Class Lounges Tokyo Narita (NRT)
ANA Business Class Tokyo Narita to Beijing
IBIS Beijing Capital Airport Hotel
Air China First Class Lounge Beijing (PEK)
BGS Premier Business Class Lounge Beijing (PEK)
Business Traveler’s Lounge Beijing (PEK)
Lufthansa A380 First Class Beijing to Frankfurt
Lufthansa First Class Terminal Frankfurt (FRA)
Lufthansa B747-400 First Class Frankfurt to New York JFK
United PS Business Class New York JFK to San Francisco


The next lounge that I visited in the Beijing airport was the BGS Premier Lounge, which I accessed via Priority Pass. Like the Air China First Class Lounge, the lounge is up some stairs and open to the rest of the terminal, so it feels spacious and bright.

Stairs to the lounge. Not as many airlines use this lounge.

Stairs to the lounge. Not as many airlines use this lounge.

The food options were largely similar to the Air China lounge, with hot food options of items like dim sum, congee, and hot soy milk with Chinese donuts. One extra that this lounge had beyond the Air China lounge was a noodle bar with a dedicated chef, which looked good.

Hot food options

Hot food options

More hot food

More hot food

Dim sum

Dim sum

Noodle bar

Noodle bar

Limited alcohol selection

Limited alcohol selection

Cold drinks

Cold drinks

The lounge itself had plenty of seating, as they crammed a lot of seats in a decently large space. I was there pretty early in the day, so it wasn’t very crowded, but it seemed like even at more crowded times there would still be plenty of places to sit.

Lounge seating

Lounge seating

There was also a small business center, and the lounge advertised showers, but I did not utilize either.

Computers for use

Computers for use

Overall, the lounge was good for a Priority Pass lounge and comparable in many respects to the Air China First Class lounge with the main differences being the addition of a noodle bar and the lack of sleeping rooms.

Burn, United (Miles), Burn: Air China First Class Lounge Beijing (PEK)

Introduction
Planning
United Global First Lounge Washington Dulles (IAD)
Lufthansa Business and Senator Lounge Washington Dulles (IAD)
ANA First Square Class Washington Dulles to Tokyo Narita
ANA Suite and Business Class Lounges Tokyo Narita (NRT)
ANA Business Class Tokyo Narita to Beijing
IBIS Beijing Capital Airport Hotel
Air China First Class Lounge Beijing (PEK)
BGS Premier Business Class Lounge Beijing (PEK)
Business Traveler’s Lounge Beijing (PEK)
Lufthansa A380 First Class Beijing to Frankfurt
Lufthansa First Class Terminal Frankfurt (FRA)
Lufthansa B747-400 First Class Frankfurt to New York JFK
United PS Business Class New York JFK to San Francisco


After going through security and immigration at the Beijing airport, my first stop was the Air China First Class Lounge, which was the lounge the check-in agent told me to go to when I checked in. This lounge is located past all of the duty-free shops after you exit security.

Lots and lots of airlines use this lounge

Lots and lots of airlines use this lounge

Escalators up to the Air China First Class Lounge

Escalators up to the Air China First Class Lounge

Air China First Class Lounge  Entrance

Air China First Class Lounge Entrance (the man was trying to get me to stop taking pictures because he thought I wasn’t a first class passenger)

Since I was there relatively early in the morning, the lounge was pretty empty with fewer than 10 other passengers present, but I’m sure that it fills up more later in the day given that so many airlines use this lounge. The lounge is open to the rest of the airport terminal, so it feels airy and spacious, and it’s quite a large lounge with plenty of seating.

Seating options with tarmac views

Seating options with tarmac views

It's a pretty spacious open-air lounge

It’s a pretty spacious open-air lounge

Movie theater seating

Movie theater seating

The food options were decent, with hot food options for breakfast available while I was there. There were a number of typical Chinese breakfast options like congee, soy milk and Chinese donuts, and dim sum. I sampled some of the dumplings and their version of hash browns, which I thought were fine.

Snack options

Snack options

More snacks

More snacks

Cold foods

Cold foods

Some of the hot food options (a lounge attendant yelled at me for taking pictures so I don't have more pictures of the other hot food options)

Some of the hot food options (a lounge attendant yelled at me for taking pictures so I unfortunately don’t have more pictures of the other hot food options)

One amenity that I took advantage of was the sleeping rooms. There are a fair number of individual sleeping rooms available for use, and though they weren’t fully enclosed (so you’d probably need an eye mask and ear plugs to get any sleep), it’s nice that there are dedicated places to sleep and private spaces if you want to get away from the business of the lounge.

Sleeping room

Sleeping room

Bed in sleeping room

Bed in sleeping room

Overall, I thought it was a good lounge while I was there as it wasn’t crowded, offered good views of the tarmac, had decent food options, and provided an enclosed space to take a nap.

Burn, United (Miles), Burn: IBIS Beijing Capital Airport Hotel

Introduction
Planning
United Global First Lounge Washington Dulles (IAD)
Lufthansa Business and Senator Lounge Washington Dulles (IAD)
ANA First Square Class Washington Dulles to Tokyo Narita
ANA Suite and Business Class Lounges Tokyo Narita (NRT)
ANA Business Class Tokyo Narita to Beijing
IBIS Beijing Capital Airport Hotel
Air China First Class Lounge Beijing (PEK)
BGS Premier Business Class Lounge Beijing (PEK)
Business Traveler’s Lounge Beijing (PEK)
Lufthansa A380 First Class Beijing to Frankfurt
Lufthansa First Class Terminal Frankfurt (FRA)
Lufthansa B747-400 First Class Frankfurt to New York JFK
United PS Business Class New York JFK to San Francisco


Now, the most unglamorous part of my trip.

I had a roughly 14-hour layover in Beijing, and I contemplated taking the time to go into the city but ultimately decided against it since I’d mostly just be there during night hours and have to leave for the airport around 7am or 8am the next morning. So I looked up airport hotels and found the IBIS Beijing Capital Airport Hotel, which was pretty darn cheap (~$30 for the night) and seemed convenient enough.

The hotel offers a free shuttle service from the airport, but the shuttle doesn’t pick up from Terminal 3, which is where most international arrivals/departures take place. So to get to the hotel using this free shuttle, you need to go through immigration, catch the train to the exit/baggage claim of Terminal 3, take the free shuttle bus from Terminal 3 to Terminal 2 (go out of exit #5 and there should be a post that says free shuttle bus between terminals), go to the arrivals floor of Terminal 2 (i.e. go down a level to the first floor), have someone call the IBIS Hotel (a nice woman working for a different hotel desk called for me), exit Terminal 2 (use exit 11) and walk across the street to the parking garage, and wait for the shuttle inside the parking lot. Or maybe it would’ve been easier to just catch a cab (if you’re doing this, make sure you have the hotel name and address written in Chinese!).

While waiting for the shuttle bus, I ended up asking a security guard-looking person if I was waiting at the right place to take the shuttle to the IBIS. And, well, I’ve heard Beijing accents before, but I found this guy to be nearly incomprehensible, which was unfortunate as the shuttle wasn’t going to come for 15 minutes or so and he started asking me questions in Mandarin and I couldn’t really understand him most of the time so I just kinda stared at him blankly and I think he thought I was dumb (well, I understood enough that when some other guy started talking to him, they started talking about me and the other guy asked, “is he Korean?”, and the security guy said something along the lines of, “no, he’s American but just really stupid because even when I talk really slowly to him he doesn’t understand anything”).

Anyway, the shuttle eventually came, and it was a short ride to the hotel. The check-in agent at the hotel was friendly enough and spoke good English and sent me up to my room after making a reservation for the shuttle bus to the airport the next morning.

Lobby of the hotel

Lobby of the hotel

Dingy hallways

Dingy hallways

But decent-enough room

But decent-enough room

This hotel isn’t great, but I’ve stayed in worse places for $30 a night. Although the hallway smelled like smoke and was a bit sad, the room was clean and spartan. Make sure to bring ear plugs if you’re a light sleeper (well, you should always bring ear plugs when you travel…) because you can hear some planes taking off and the walls are thin. The bed was large and a bit hard, but I slept fine for a couple of hours. There’s no wifi in the rooms, though, so if you need wifi, you need to go down to the lobby, but the wifi there is slow.

I’d probably stay there again if I had an overnight layover in Beijing, but you shouldn’t expect much from this hotel.