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Beijing, Nanjing, Lianyungang

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We are a party of 6 (1 senior, 3 adults, an 18 yo, and 9 yo). This is a homeland visit for our daughter adopted from China. We will be in Beijing at the Doubletree, arriving around noon on July 3 and touring on 4, 5, and 6J uly then departing for Xi'an on the 7th. We plan to arrive in Xi'an and stay at the Hilton and take the bus on our own on the 8th to see the terracotta warriors. Then we fly to Nanjing on the 9th and tour the 10th and stay again at the Hilton. On the 11th we drive to Lianyungang to see my daughter's orphanage and several scenic spots until we depart on the 15th. We have a guide in Nanjing and Lianyungang, but would appreciate feedback on the feasibility and plan for the Beijing and Xi'an part.

We are wondering about sightseeing in Beijing and whether it will be best to arrange for a driver ahead of time. We would like to see the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall. Beyond that, we're not too sure about how much else we should plan to fit into our three full days in Beijing and how best to make arrangements for 6 of us including how to get to and from the airport. This the part with which we need the most help.

We're also unsure about shopping. We've heard that Beijing is very expensive. We didn't go through there 10 years ago on our adoption trip, so we're not sure if there are things we ought to purchase there that we will not find elsewhere. The shopping was good and inexpensive 10 years ago in Nanjing around the Confucius Temple area. We have never been to Lianyungang and wonder what the shopping will be like there, too.

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    What a wonderful thing to do for your daughter!

    I found it easy to get around both Beijing and Xi'an without a driver - but then, I was traveling solo, and that's definitely a different thing. Too, I decided to visit Badaling rather than Mutianyu. (I didn't visit Nanjing of Lianyungang.)

    How expensive shopping will be depends on what your are seeking, where you look for it, and how effectively you bargain. One thing you might consider is how much you are willing to carry around once purchased. (I generally try to defer any shopping I do until as close to my last destination as possible.)

    You might find some helpful information in my very long - but searchable - trip report. Just click on my name to find it. There are sections on Beijing at the start and end and a section on Xi'an near the middle.

    Hope that helps!

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    You should only arrange for a driver ahead of time if you really want to pay much more money than you should. For getting around the city without delay the metro system is sometimes crowded, but rapid and extremely economical. Taxis are also cheap, but the traffic for most of the day is awful, and you'll need two to accommodate your entire party. As your hotel (otherwise a good choice) is rather far from a metro stop you may find yourself using taxis for part of the time anyway.

    There are many other choices of Wall section within reach of Beijing, so don't get stuck on Mutianyu in particular. But if you do want to go there, and given that you're in Beijing on a Saturday, your best choice is a one-day Chinese bus tour, leaving from Xuanwu Men, which is not far from your hotel.

    Here are the details:

    http://beijing.8684.cn/so.php?k=p&q=%C4%BD%CC%EF%D3%F8

    Yes, they're in Chinese, but just print them out and take them with you. There's no more convenient and economical method to get a party of six there and back. ¥95 per adult (¥75 for the adult, student, if they have convincing ID, lower still for the 9-year-old depending on her height) includes non-stop delivery to Mutianyu, the same on the return, and the Wall entrance fee.

    You'll need to be there a little early (about 7.30am is best) as buses start leaving as soon as they are full. You board just at the northeast side of the Xuanwu crossroads (NE exit of Xuanwu Men metro station). The ticket office is there, and there are usually helpers who approach any lost-looking foreigners and sort them out (in English). Just get the concierge (who won't have a clue about any of this) to call the number you've printed out and check the details.

    As for the airport, if you're all fairly limber and don't have too much luggage then the metro is your friend again. I imagine you'd prefer to take taxis (two of them), but in case you do take the metro your best route will be the Airport Express Line to San Yuan Qiao, then Line 10 south to Jiaomen West, and Line 4 north to Caishi Kou, then taxi west. Here's the metro map:

    http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/0/05/Beijing-Subway_en.png

    There's plenty of English signage, so you won't get lost, but that's probably far too much fuss, so instead you follow signs to the taxi rank and join the line, which is usually reasonably well marshalled. You print out two copies of the hotel's address, location and telephone number from its website. You show one to the marshall, who tells the taxi drivers where you're going, and you keep a copy in each taxi in case the driver gets confused. If he's unsure he'll use his cellphone to call the hotel for further directions (no charge to you). Make sure the meter is started as you pull away, not before, pay what's on it when you arrive (no tip or any extras), and ask for a receipt (in case you forget anything). You're going so far into town that the drivers will be happy to take you. The fee will probably be in the ¥160 to ¥180 range per cab, but this depends on the route taken and the time of day.

    You can find full details of the Capital Airport and all its services, in English, here:

    http://en.bcia.com.cn/

    These include details of your third option, which is to take an airport shuttle bus for merely ¥16 per person to the terminal at Xi Dan, from where it's a relatively brief taxi ride to your hotel. Use maps.google.com and look these places up.

    As for shopping, that would take several pages to explain, and rather depends on what you think you're going to be shopping for. Shopping is only expensive in Beijing if you go to the usual tourist haunts and buy antiques (fake), gems (fake), and made-for-tourists souvenirs. For anything else commonly available you'll certainly get better prices in small town China.

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    As for Beijing, you can visit the Confucian Temple and the Forbidden City besides the Great Wall, and the shuttle buses operates every half an hour between Beijing downtown and the airport, do don't worry about it. What's more, you're advised to go shopping on Wangfujing Avenue during your Beijing visit.
    As for Xian, you are recommended to visit the Terracotta Army and the Wild Goose Pagodas.
    Lianyungang is a wonderful place for visiting the Flower & Fruit Mt., where the Chinese TV Series Into the West was filmed, and it's said to be the home of Monkey King.

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    What a lovely trip for your adopted daughter.
    We visited mutianyo and simply asked the hotel to find us a driver and car the evening beforehand. Get an early start and have the driver take you to visit the hutong area in the afternoon. Public transportation in Beijing is very good, but taxis can sometimes be a problem to find unless the hotel hails it for you. The metro system is easy to figure out. Of course you should visit the forbidden city and tianamen square, but for us the highlight in Beijing was a visit to the temple of heaven, which is much more than a temple - it is a lovely park area (massive) with the temple as well as beautiful park grounds where you can watch the Chinese people enjoying daily life. The park is filled with people doing tai chi, exercising, playing cards, maj Jong, etc. Another highlight was the summer palace which is a bit outside the city. We took a taxi there as well. The summer palace should take 1/2 day as well. Take some time (you can do this at night) to stroll along wangfujing street to see the modern shopping and visit the food stalls just off the street where you will see food street where scorpions, starfish, and insects are sold. Truthfully, we didnt see anyone eating there. Enjoy Peking duck one evening and perhaps an acrobatic show.

    While xi'an is famous for the warriors, we enjoyed walking around the Muslim quarter where we enjoyed sampling the delicious food (great noodle soups). A visit to the big goose pagoda is also worthwhile. As your time is limited, I would hire a car to take you to the warriors in the a.m. And then to the big goose pagoda, finishing up at Muslim street where you can have dinner.

    We loved nanjing. There we visited the nanjing massacre museum and the sun yat sen memorial, both well worthwhile to visit. Since your time is limited, again, I would hire a car to remain with you, doing the massacre museum first and leaving time to linger in the park area of the sun yat sen memorial. Again, hotels can help you hire a car for the day.

    I cannot tell you about your daughter's birth village as I have not been there.

    Enjoy the trip. It will be a wonderful experience to share together.

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