A family of 5 in China...how easy ?

May 14th, 2004, 02:03 AM
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A family of 5 in China...how easy ?

We have the unfortunate number of 5 in our family, 2 adults, 1 x 15 year old and 2 thirteen year olds. Could any of you wise heads give advice for the very preliminary stages of a 3 week tour of China, to cover the major sites and at leat three nights in Hong Kong. Over to you......
PS experienced long distance travellers but not in Asia.
Marko is offline  
May 14th, 2004, 06:12 AM
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There are too many things to see in China. Three weeks are short. Here is my pick.
Beijing is a must(4 Nights)
Hong Kong is a must for you(3 Nights)
That's a week already
Shanghai (2 Nights)
Xian (2 Nights)
Guilin (2 Nights)
Yangtze River Cruise (Three Gorges)(7 Nights)
espn123 is offline  
May 14th, 2004, 06:24 AM
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My wife and I took a trip to China in March last year. We stayed in Beijing, Xi'an and Hong Kong and had a pretty good time (apart from the SARS problems). I have posted a trip report with pictures from our trip on my personal homepage gardkarlsen.com Maybe you can get some idea from this. Get in touch if you have questions or comments

Stavanger, Norway
gard is offline  
May 14th, 2004, 08:02 AM
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Despite the request for a view of 'major sites' I hate to see the same tired old list of carefully managed, overpriced, and often heavily over-hyped tourism experiences suggested.

To be sure, Beijing is essential, the Terracotta Warriors in Xi'an are one of China's most remarkable sites, but Shanghai, although different from Beijing, is only of modest entertainment. The Yangzi River trip is four or five days in an entirely ersatz pseudo-Western environment which has nothing to do with China, and whose scenic pleasures are limited and easily bettered elsewhere. Guilin has never had a break from tourism, even during the PRC's most xenophobic periods, and it shows in the provision of every scam ever invented, including one of the last remaining cases of official overpricing for tourists on the Li River cruise to Yangshuo. The scenery here is more impressive; but so is the provision of that well-known Chinese dish, pizza.

Most of China is still down on the farm. The overwhelming majority of people still live in the countryside. Travelling independently around the destinations listed above simply puts you on the most trafficked tour group trail, and presents a narrow, carefully managed view of the country. The majority of it remains unexplored by foreign visitors, and is full of surprises. But there's also a long list of destinations which are easy enough to reach, well supplied with comfortable accommodation, full of interest, and much less visited by foreigners.

Try looking up the following routes in your guide book, none of which are particularly adventurous, but which will give you much greater variety:

Beijing-(side trip to Chengde)-Datong (Hanging Monastery, Buddhist caves)-Wutai Shan (five monastery-studded peaks, avoid weekends)-Pingyao (walled town full of ancient mansions, some also hotels)-Xi'an-Kunming (ordinary, but laid-back)-Dali (small stone town in beautiful moutain setting)-Lijiang (ditto)-HK

Beijing-Xi'an-Jiayuguan (rebuilt fort at end of Ming-era Great Wall)-Dunhuang (largest and best-preserved cave-temple complex)-Xi'an and on...

HK-by ship to Xiamen (laid-back island of old European houses and bustling warren of port area)-Wuyi Shan (a bit touristy like Guilin but only Chinese tourists--bamboo rafts down river through pretty scenery)-Shanghai (but take side trips to water towns)-Qufu (Confucius temple and family mansion--third largest complex of ancient architecture in China)-Beijing-Xi'an

Peter N-H
PeterN_H is offline  
May 14th, 2004, 06:32 PM
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I strongly concur with Peter N-H. There are definitely a few "must do's" in China, but beyond that it may well be counterproductive to construct an itinerary primarily composed of alleged "major sites." These are only "major" because the nascent Chinese tourism industry has so designated them. What this means in practice is that you can expect at virtually every "major site" to encounter the same crowds of (predominantly Chinese) bus groups being led by (loud) mega-phoned tour leaders (with obligatory flag held aloft) rushing their troops through the forced march of the day. Occasional days of this are okay. But as a daily occurence it can send you around the bend.

Fortunately, most of the country is not (yet) set up as a series of potted tourist experiences. Even minor detours off the (still narrow) "beaten path" can be most rewarding. By all means, visit the "greatest hits." They are genuinely great. But in three weeks you still have time to stray a bit. Research the alternatives and consider your own tastes and interests. There are no "right" and "wrong" itineraries. Just what is best for you.

Have a great trip!!

heraclitus is offline  
May 15th, 2004, 11:08 AM
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My family of five travelled, on separate vacations, to Hong Kong and Beijing. In both instances, we used Pacific Delight Tours for air and hotel.

We took most of their included side trips as well, which we enjoyed for the most part. If you take such tours, remember that there is no obligation to buy anything in the shops or from vendors that you tour through.

Our hotel choices were limited to the few that permitted a room for three occupants, which was the kids' room. Fortunately, the hotels worked well for us. That room will be crowded due to the roll away bed that will take up most of the floor space not already taken by the existing beds.

Our kids, ages 11, 14, and 16 in Hong Kong, really liked the different chinese restaurants and clothes shopping. In Stanley Market they got to bargain for clothes, while in western style shopping centers in Hong Kong central area, got a taste of very modern, trendy, more expensive clothing.

The Peak Tram that goes to Victoria Peak, the Cafe Deco, a restaurant on the Peak; the Star Ferry at night; the double decker bus to Stanley; and the tram on Hong Kong island are all neat ways to travel and see the many beautiful sights of Hong Kong. You must try dim sum and at least one or two of the most expensive and exclusive restaurants if you can afford to. The food and service will be extraordinary and something long remembered.

Our opinion of Beijing was quite different. A side trip to the Great Wall is a must. The Imperial Palace was somewhat of a disappointment, but also considered a must. Tienman Square may be more interesting to adults than to kids because of the images of what occurred there years ago. Near Tienman Square is the famous Peking Duck restaurant, which our kids enjoyed very much.

Take a lot of pictures, especially around Hong Kong harbor and the Great Wall. They will bring back many memories.

I envy you having a three week time period to visit China. You may not get to see everything, but I suspect you will see most of what you and your children would like to see. For the kids, though, you may enjoy Hong Kong more. At least mine did.

Hope that you have a great vacation.
retmd is offline  
May 15th, 2004, 11:13 PM
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Thank you for your excellent advices!
I will start researching some of the off the track places that you have all mentioned. If you think of others please post them.
Marko is offline  
May 16th, 2004, 07:32 AM
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Marko - First, I don't know why you think 5 is an unfortunate number. Accomodations shouldn't be a problem as most hotels should be able to give you a cot to sleep three. The only "issue" will be if you decide to take sleeper trains around China. A "soft-sleeper" (i.e. 1st class) cabin sleeps four, so one of you will have to share the room with 3 strangers. At most cities, you can hire minivans to drive you around, so 5 people is not a problem to go places.

As far as the itinerary, I think espn123 give you some "must sees", though the Yangtze Cruise can be done in 3 nights downstream from Chongqing to Yichang or 4 nights upstream. 7 nights will bring you down to Wuhan, but there's little to see between Yichang and Wuhan, which is downstream from the 3 Gorges.

With 3 weeks total, you can arrange time to travel part of the Silk Road from Lanzhou to Dunhuang, and perhaps even to Urumqi in the northwest. Or hike/visit one of the famous mountains in China - Huangshan near Hangzhou, Emei in Sichuan, or Wutai and Wuyi that Peter mentioned. Some of them involve quite a bit of hiking.

And not far from Shanghai are Suzhou, Wuxi and Hangzhou - all major cities, but famous for various lakes and gardens. As well as some smaller "water towns" in that area which is becoming popular.
rkkwan is offline  
May 16th, 2004, 04:39 PM
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Do I gather that trains are the preferable method of internal travel opposed to airplanes ?
Marko is offline  
May 16th, 2004, 06:27 PM
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Air travel is ur best option, especially long-haul travel and u are travelling with children. Train is good enough for short-distance travel.
(less than 4 hrs travel time)
espn123 is offline  
May 17th, 2004, 02:58 AM
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When I was 13 or 15, I love travelling by train. Well, even today, I do. I think your kids will like it too. Just make sure you go 1st class - "soft sleeper" for overnight, or "soft seat" for day train. Also check to make sure that train is AC'ed, if you're in the summer.

The soft-sleeper is especially great. Decent accomodation with 4 in a cabin, with doors. The attendants will tell you when the dining car is available, and most long distance trains have REAL dining car with real food served on real plates. No, it's not luxurious, but it's fun and food is good (unless your kids only eat pizza and hamburger).

From Hong Kong to Shanghai and Hong Kong to Beijing, there are even better "deluxe soft sleepers" that have two people in a cabin and no upper berths. However, it's going to cost more about the same as flying.
rkkwan is offline  
May 18th, 2004, 12:45 AM
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Any thoughts on Including Lhasa ?
Marko is offline  

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