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Similarities & differences between China and Vietnam

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We visited Vietnam several years ago on our own (hiring custom tours when necessary). Now we are contemplating visiting China on our own (possible areas Bejing, Yunnan, Guangxi, water villages around Shanghai). Once again we'd do a mix of DIY and private custom tours. We are not thinking to do the standard biggies tourist itinerary of Beijing, Xian, Hong Kong etc. but want to do some more low key rural visiting with some biking and walking through villages.

How would you compare and contrast the two countries? I believe when we were in Vietnam we heard that China was more advanced and has a higher standard of living. Is this true? Is China as crowded with people (residents, not tourists) as Vietnam was? How do costs compare? Is the traffic as scary in China as in Vietnam? Thanks.

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