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China: dazed and confused plus my travel agent has his own ideas

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I am also planning a trip to China this autumn, and am looking at group v non-group, itinerary ideas and travelling solo. All these have been discussed before, so thanks for that!

Having lived in Asia for a while, and loved Laos, N Thailand and N Vietnam. I adore Japan and its scnery and history plus its modernity. I am aware that some of the scenery may be reminiscent of these destinations I have seen before. I dont mind, but am keen to see some different things too. Tibet seems to close down after early October 9I plan to go at the end).
I have basically narrowed it down to:

shanghai; my travel agent said he didnt like the city much, so recommended just one night.
Id like to explore some more. esp the museum. Is 3 days too much? If Im arriving jetlagged then it ought to be a nice place to get my bearings, perhaps?

Huangzhou: I have heard about this and am keen to see the Westlake and have a wander.
Suzhou is also on my list.
Again the travel agent recommended staying in Suzhou - I had thought the other way round - ie Huangzhou for 2 nights/1.5 days. Is Suzhou more relaxing?

he also suggested Huangshan: is that worth it? he also suggested LiJan (?) and Gulin and Yangstze cruise. I am not sure about these activities. I have heard of Yuangzhou, so dont mind that. Id also not mind seeing a panda (might be cute!) and some historic towns.
he also suggested the rice fields - but as someone said in a separate post, the fields will be empty in late October, post harvest.

It seems all the tour groups go to Xian and Cehngu for pandas and warriors.
What about Pingyao?
The agentt suggested I fly there from Huang shan. I had hoped to take that high speed train from Shanghai (despite the crash last year). But Id like to see north of Beijing too esp the Great Wall beyond the beijing outskirts.

Ibasically I am confused!!! the agent has his own preferences, but I am equally not so sure of what I need or want so get more confused!
I like small groups for part of a trip, but not the whole hog. 15 days in a tour of 1 or max 2 nights per town is too much (esp as my job is sooo demanding and I will need a slower pace).

Ive seen some agents do tailor made itineraries, but I equally feel a bit sad going on a private tour alone (and paying double for it, eg 1800 dollars for 6 days).

any ideas? what do I want or need to see?


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