China! The most populous country in the world. Beijing (formerly romanised as Peking), is the capital of the People's Republic of China, a megacity, with a population estimated at 21 million, or about 4 times the population of Singapore.
We did a short trip (4 nights) to Beijing, covering Mutianty Great Wall, Ming Tombs, Tiananmen Square, Forbidden City amongst others. In this and the next few blog posts, I will detail our trip. Meanwhile, the number one takeaway for me was nicely summarized in this quotation on a cup:
Genesis of Trip
Our trip to Beijing came about almost by accident. My wife and I were deliberating upon a short holiday (without the kids) and our initial search only focussed on vacation spots in South East Asia. Then, my wife spotted this compelling offer by Singapore Airlines which made us sit up and book almost immediately! I recall the offer was over the Christmas period 2016.
Return Flight on SQ at $394 per pax
Return flight on Singapore Airlines (outbound SQ806 and returning on SQ801) at a very attractive $394. For a 6 hour flight, this sounded like a very good deal on a full service Singapore flag carrier!
Well, after settling the flight, we researched hotels. Since it was just the two of us, let's look for something nice. The good thing with Beijing is that they have many 5-star hotels by all the major chains (presumably built for the 2008 Olympics and then continue to be used because Beijing is after all the capital of China). The revamped Marriott app (which I downloaded on my iPhone) is very good for searching. After searching the various properties (Marriot group has many properties in Beijing too), we settled on the Renaissance Beijing Capital Hotel:
We found that the room rates for this hotel, which was located in the CBD area, to be slightly below the other equivalent Marriott properties. Tripadvisor reviews were all rather glowing, especially the 24F Club Executive Lounge. So we took the plunge and decided to go with a studio suite because they had a 'Suite Dreams' package and the deal applied to us as you had to stay 2 consecutive nights and the rates for the suite over the weekend was lower than weekdays. Overall, for a 4 nights stay, we paid less than 5,500RMB (SGD$1,120) for our stay (including taxes), and including the late check-out.
Here We Go - Departure Day
Thank God we could take leave and make suitable arrangements for in-laws to look after our kids when we were away. Very grateful and blessed to have wonderful family support, without which my wife and I would not be able to take this trip.
Our SQ flight departs from Terminal 3. We took a Grab Car from our place to the Airport. Nice and easy. Check-in was very quick and we parked ourselves at the Krisflyer Gold Lounge (thanks to my Star Alliance Gold status) to chill and get some food before our flight. This was my first time in the Krisflyer Gold lounge. While definitely not as upscale as the SilverKris Lounge, it was pretty much adequate for me. The food selection wasn't very wide, but decent enough. You will see in the video that I had enough to eat (including Pork Buns), and they even did a very nice made-to-order salad.
Made to Order Salad
Doesn't this look healthy? It was. Just plain Garden Salad with some dressing. I liked it.
The live Orchid display in the lounge was a nice touch. Very Singaporean. The lounge wasn't crowded when we were there. Plenty of seats. We were early, so we had our lunch in the lounge, then went out for a walk around Terminal 3, before returning to the lounge again to get some coffee and snacks, and then we boarded the plane.
Singapore Airlines SQ 806 to Beijing (9V-SWR)
SQ has 21 weekly departures to Beijing, 3-flights daily. By the time we got to the boarding gate, it was time to board. The aircraft today was an older Boeing 777-312(ER) with a rather long rear portion? Serial number 9V-SWR.
Boarding was quick and the flight was at most 2/3 full. Despite the lighter passenger load, the overhead compartments were completely full! Wow. Reason was that this profile of passengers (mainly PRC Chinese) loved to shop, and they also loved to stuff everything into the overhead compartment including their smaller backpacks and handbags. As a result, the cabin crew had a bit of difficulty re-arranging overhead cabin baggage. I can't imagine, if the flight were full, we would have an even bigger challenge.
Fight review video of SQ 806, Singapore to Beijing
Service and food were good. I had my usual Singapore sling for the post-take off drink, followed by the Asian-choice for the meal (dinner was served). It was steamed rice with two large pork balls. Ice-cream was served as a dessert, which provided for a sweet ending.
Speaking of Pork balls, here was what the main course looked like, with my disposable chopsticks stuck in. Of course, they provided fork and spoon too, in case you did not like to eat with chopsticks.
After dinner was cleared, there was almost 4 hours of the flight more to go. So it was time for a nap (call it evening nap?). We were scheduled to land in Beijing at 2300hrs local time. There was no time zone change between Singapore and Beijing. The IFE map display alternated between English and Mandarin. Snapshot of the Mandarin version, with all the Chinese cities listed. Beijing 北京 (PEK) was our destination.
Landing was smooth and we cleared immigration and customs relatively quickly. I noticed that they x-rayed every bag as we left the Customs Control, but fortunately that didn't slow down the lines too much. The taxi queue was rather long, but it moved. Finally, we got onboard a metered taxi and were on our way to our hotel. It was past midnight, but traffic was still very heavy, and even jammed at places . We took an hour, maybe more, to get to our hotel. Distance was about 30km, and the cost (by meter) was 110RMB. We gave the lady driver a 10RMB tip, and she was very pleased. This was the route we took:
Hotel Check In
At the wee hours of the morning, the hotel reception was empty, and we could check in very quickly. The receptionist told us that they had received my message that we were here to celebrate my wife's birthday. The Exec Lounge had prepared something special in our room - surprise!
Rose Petal Display on the bed.
A closer look - this was going to be an awesome stay!
What was this? A birthday cake made up of towels, rose petals and red ribbons. Wow. So sweet.
Time to Sleep
It was late (or very early to be exact). By the time we washed up and slept, it was past 2am. We had a hectic day tomorrow so it was time to sleep. Here is a video review I made of the studio suite. Check it out and continue to my next page on Day 2 of our holiday! .
Continue to Page 2, we visit Mutianyu Great Wall and the Ming Tombs.
Thanks for reading.