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Beijing to Hong Kong in three weeks

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I'm planning to visit China in July this year, and would really like to see Beijing, Shanghai, Xi'an and Hong Kong. I'm just wondering is this too much to do in three weeks, or if it is possible, will I just be rushing about. I've researched train services from another website and see I could arrive in Beijing, travel to Xi'an over night, proceed on to Shanghai and then if I was lacking time, get a fast train to Hong Kong, but is there anywhere else I should stop of along the way?

Any suggestions would be very welcome.

Many thanks,


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    Three weeks is plenty of time for 4 cities. Many people do the same in a week or 10 days.

    With that much time, you can train or you can fly. Beijing to Xian is a good trip for overnight train. Xian to Shanghai better to just fly. There is no direct high-speed rail between Shanghai and Hong Kong. If you're tight on time, fly; or there's a 23-hour direct train between the two cities every other day.

    You can spend 5-6 days in Beijing, about 3 in Xian, 2-3 in Shanghai and 3-4 in Hong Kong. Plenty of cities close to Shanghai worth visiting and staying. Suzhou and various watertowns west of Shanghai, and Hangzhou south of Shanghai.

    From Beijing, Chengde to the northeast is a good place for overnight trip, which you can also combine with the further (and a bit less visited parts) of the Great Wall.

    This way, you'll have 4 clusters. Beijing for 6-7 total, then Xian for 2-3, Shanghai and cities close by for another 4-5, with the remaining days in HK.

    Alternately, you can add a more scenic place like Guilin/Yangshuo. That way you'll can do Beijing 4-5, Xian 2-3, Shanghai 3-4, Guilin/Yangshuo 2-3, remaining in HK.

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    > is there anywhere else I should stop of along the way?

    It depends on what you want to see and experience! China is a HUGE place with an incredible diversity of regions. There was so much that I wanted to see in and around Beijing and Xi'an that I never made it further south, and I was in China for 4 weeks. (To see my VERY long trip report, click on my name.)


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    kja - it is your report that makes me rethink our own original plan of doing a similar trip to M_Sweeny. We will likely have about 3 1/2 weeks and are considering dropping Hong Kong and Guillin to do more of the towns that you included. Are there any towns between Beijing and Xi'an that you went to that you would say skip?

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    Oh my, dgunbug, that’s a difficult question! It depends so much on what you want to see and experience. I can’t say I would have dropped anything--I made decisions about what I wanted to see and I have no regrets about my choices. What I can do is share my current high-level impressions. (I firmly suspect I’ll wake up in the middle of the night with the awful feeling that I have misrepresented one or more places. I’m going to do my best to refrain from ad infinitum clarifications. )

    Tai Shan was (for me) really about the experience more than anything else. It was in some ways among the most scenic places I saw, with views and flowering plants and diverse temples – but it was really about seeing all the people who made climbing it a goal. And if I correctly recall a reference to knee troubles, Tai Shan might be a skip – some of the stairs are very steep, and I don’t think I would have found it as rewarding if I had visited only the top of the mountain. (I took a bus and cable car to the top and then walked down. And the top isn't completely flat.) If you do go to Tai Shan, don’t miss Dai Miao!

    Qufu stands out in my memory for its cemetery – the Kong Lin (forest). I saw other tombs in China, but nothing else like this quiet tree-covered area with its array of different grave markers spanning centuries. I don’t think I would have enjoyed it nearly so much if I had taken the “cart” rather than walking, but it’s basically flat, so walking might not be a problem. I was glad to see the Kong Mansion – but I saw other courtyard houses, and I was glad to see the Kong Temple – but I saw lots of other temples. I will say, though, that I learned a lot about courtyard houses and Confucian temples by visiting these two places early in my journey.

    Luoyang – I think the main reason to visit Luoyang is to see the Longmen Grottoes. I had never seen Buddhist cave art, so I found visiting these caves fascinating, and I when I later saw the Yungang Grottoes outside of Datong, I appreciated the differences between the sites. If I could see only one of these sets of caves, I would probably choose the ones outside Datong – but I’m glad I didn’t have to choose!

    Pingyao – In retrospect, my feelings about Pingyao are probably more mixed than my feelings about most of the other places I visited in China. It was fascinating, but so geared to tourists that it sometimes felt a bit too much. But even as I say that, I am thinking about some of the lovely things I saw there, things that I didn’t see anywhere else and am very glad I saw. And it is a great place to experience a stay in a courtyard house with kang beds.

    Taiyuan is not a tourist destination – it is a major city and regional capital that just happened to be convenient for my purposes. I am very glad I stopped there, in part because Jin Ci is a truly lovely temple.

    Wutai Shan is a place apart. With the least air and noise pollution of any of the places I visited in China, I can’t say it was spectacular scenery – not like the Alps or Rockies – but it was scenic in its own rather stark way. It has a well-established (and for China, not inexpensive) tourist infrastructure, but relatively few Westerners visit – as I recall, I saw a French-speaking couple and a young German man, but no other Westerners, and it was the place where I was most glad to have learned a few Chinese words and phrases.

    Datong was, in contrast, the most polluted place I visited, but it is the heart of an area that includes some wonderful sites – the Yungang Caves, Muta (Wooden Pagoda), and Hanging Temple. And the town itself has several sites worth visiting.

    Chengde is also a bit weird, as it’s history makes it a bit of a theme park, with it’s “rustic” palace made of exquisitely crafted and very rare materials and its temples designed to make traveling dignitaries feel at home (even if some of the temple buildings were/are fake). Still, I found it beautiful and fascinating.

    I trust that it’s clear that I chose to visit a relatively small (but nonetheless huge!) region of China with some depth (even if I remained, nonetheless, rather near the surface) in the firm belief that I will return at least once or twice to visit other parts of China.

    I’ll be happy to try to elaborate further if you think it would be helpful, especially if you ask more specific questions.

    M_Sweeney – I hope you don’t mind that dgunbug and I are using your thread to communicate!

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    Dgunbug: I am going to China, for my third visit, in February and I would not drop Guillin because it is so very interesting I think in its geography. A trip down the Li River is a must. When I was there we took the train from Guillin to Shanghai - a city which I like very much and which has a great deal of history. There is a market there which sells mainly material and you can get the most beautiful material made up into lovely clothes i.e. cashmere jackets and dresses or anything that takes your fancy. If you have a special item of clothing I suggest you take it with you and get them to copy it in whatever material you may want.
    The trains in China and fantastic and you can set your watch to them. If you take an overnight train make sure that you get a soft sleeper and also ask for the lower soft sleeper unless you are agile. We were very lucky to be asked by a chinese English teacher if he could sit with us therefore we had our very own guide. The W.C. is not the best so hand anticeptic is necessary on most of the trains with the exception of some of the very fast ones which have terrific toilets. However the trip to and from Shanghai was excellant.
    In February we are flying into Beijing and hope to train it to Xian and from Xian we will get to Hong Kong via some route we have not yet travelled. If you are thinking about Train travel in China then I suggest that you google Chinese Train Travel and click on the link to " the man in seat 60 " or something like that. That site will tell you what facilities each train has, which are the best ones, where to get tickets and how much etc. Its a great site.
    Happy planning!!!!

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    Sorry for my delay in thanking you all for your comments/suggestions. I have been doing a little extra research, and on another forum, some contributors seem dead against visiting HK. I still think I'll visit it however, and definitely will visit places nearby Shanghai.

    My planned itinrary is now as follows:
    1-3 Beijing
    3-4 Chengde
    4-5 Beijing
    5-9 Xi'an
    10-13 Shanghai
    13-15 Hangzhou
    15-16 Suzhou
    16-17 Shanghai
    17-21 Hong Kong

    It'll be intense, but hopefully should go ok!?!

    Any further comments would be great!

    Thank you again!

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