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By Jeff Stern

Most tourists don’t schedule a China vacation for the dead of winter. But if you can tolerate the weather, I think it’s a great opportunity to travel to Beijing without the crowds and costs that might otherwise be associated with a visit to China’s capital.

Perhaps one of the benefits of travel to Beijing amidst the buildup to the 2008 Olympic Games is the large number of new Beijing hotels. Our hotel had all of the Western-style amenities that we wanted, and we thought it cost significantly less than a typical hotel room in a big U.S. city.

And although the U.S. dollar may be relatively weak versus most currencies, we found that the greenback still went pretty far in Beijing. (Most of our taxi rides only cost a few dollars; a taxi to the airport ran about $15.)

We took a day trip to the Great Wall of China. Badaling (the section of the wall that many Beijing tourists visit) was definitely worth the trip! On the ride there we saw a large, half-completed theme park that ran out of funding a decade ago during construction … it was a bizarre sight to see.

Nanlouguxiang Street (which is more like an alley) has a number of off-the-beaten-path stores (two of the stores specialized in T-shirts with amusing drawings/slogans) and dive bars/restaurants that may appeal to some visitors.

One random thing that I have to mention is that Beijing had some of the best bakeries that I have ever found. In the mall at Wangfujing (Oriental Plaza) we found two bakeries
that had delicious
European-style baked goods. I sampled many of their treats, and they provided a significant percentage of my daily
caloric intake.

Based on our experience, I think Beijing is a great international travel destination. There was plenty to see and do — and eat — and we were able to do it
without breaking the bank. The buildup for the Summer Olympics has resulted in a number of new Beijing hotels. And believe it or not, Beijing is relatively easy
to get to, with non-stop flights from many U.S. cities.

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Jeff Stern works in Marketing at Orbitz and is always on the lookout for
interesting travel destinations (especially if they involve a sporting event).

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