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3 solo weeks in China - Datong to HK - itinerary advice welcomed!

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Hi,
I'll be traveling in China for the first time in September.Flying into Beijing 9/5 and out of Hong Kong 10/5. I'd appreciate any advice, itinerary suggestions from fellow travelers. I'm a single women traveling on a budget, with no Chinese language skills.....so I'm guessing I may need to make some of my transportation and accomodation reservations ahead of time with the help of a friendly hostel staff rather than my usual "play it by ear" type of travel. Thanks for your suggestions!

First 10 days with a friend:
9/5-9/11 - Beijing SNA Tour - Confirmed already -included with international ticket package from groupon.
9/12 - Beijing or side trip? Ideas welcome
9/13 - Train to Datong 6 hours - prebooked hostel - suggestions?
9/14-15 - See Datong - Hanging Temple, Yungang Grottoes, Wooden Pagoda, Can we do this on ur own and figure out local transport, or should we join a group? prebook or join one ar the arrival train station?

Next 3 weeks on my own! As I work my way from Datong to Hong Kong, I'm looking for ideas of great experiences along the way. I'm more interested in exploring smaller, cultural, unique ethnic communities, rather than just going from large city to large city. I'm not in a hurry, I'm open to flying for a few long distances if needed, or taking night trains when that makes sense. I know I'd like to visit Xi'an and Guilin/Yangshou for sure., but I have more time to see another area as well. Here's what I'm thinking of so far. Thanks for your help.

9/16 - Train Datong to Pingyao - 8 hrs? arrive afternoon - stay at hostel Pingyao
9/17 - Explore Pingyao - Again- on my own, or do I need a tour group?
Night train Pingyao - Xi'an - Do I need to take a bus from Pingyao to Taiyuan to get a night train from Taiyuan - Xian? I've heard it's difficult to figure out bus schedules and purchase tickets without language skills.

9/18 - Arrive Xian - hostel prebooked - suggestions?
explore on my own or join a tour group? Start with city center:
Big Wild Goose Pagoda, Muslim quarter, grand mosque, bell tower
9/19 - Xian: full day - Terra Cotta Warriors -
9/20 - Xian full day - slow, enjoy the local feeling

9/21 - Flight to Guilin - stay Giulin one day - hostel prebooked - suggestions?
Is there much to see in Guilin- or should I head to Yangshou right away.
I'm excited about the natural beauty and a slower pace here .
9/22 - Stay in Guiling another day - or River trip to Yangshou! - time to get to some smaller towns!
Yangshou hostel prebooked- suggestions?
9/23 - Yangshou area adventures - suggestions?
9//24 - Yangshou/area
9/25 - Yanghou/area

Ideas....

10/1 - Hong Kong - hostel suggestions?
10/2 - Hong Kong - see the city, and ferry to smaller day trips? suggestions?
10/3 - Hong Kong
10/4 - Hong Kong
10/5 - fly out 8am - Hong Kong back home to Seattle

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