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At the very beginning stages of planning a trip to Shanghai and Beijing

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Jan 26th, 2015, 03:35 PM
  #1
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At the very beginning stages of planning a trip to Shanghai and Beijing

My husband is going to a conference in Shanghai in early June. My 8 year-old daughter and I are going to come along. Our plan is to spend some time in Shanghai and then take the train to Beijing and then fly out of Beijing.

We are trying to figure out how much time to spend in total and in each place. We probably have about 2 weeks (give or take a few days). Would 5 days in Shanghai (understanding DH has to spend 2 of them in a conference), and 7 days in Beijing be enough to hit the key stuff? I have a childhood friend and my daughter has a classmate from last year living in Shanghai who we can spend a little time with.

I am a little worried about dealing with pollution (and generally being overwhelmed). I am wondering if maybe planning a few day excursion into the countryside somewhere might be a good idea. Any thoughts/recommendations would be greatly appreciated.

Anyone else travel with a school age kid to China have advice on things to do/see?

Thanks!
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Jan 26th, 2015, 07:07 PM
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kja
 
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It depends on what you want to see and experience, but I think 7 days is reasonable for a visit to Beijing. Do give some serious consideration to the pollution levels, though. Here's a thread with some relevant information:
http://www.fodors.com/community/asia...y-forecast.cfm

I haven't been to Shanghai yet, but even there, you might want to pay attention to pollution: See the post by temppeternh on Jan 24, 15 at 9:59pm on this thread:
http://www.fodors.com/community/asia...s-in-april.cfm

Hope that helps!
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Jan 27th, 2015, 07:31 AM
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We were with 9, 13 and 15 year olds in Beijing, Shanghai and Xi'an in 2008, the year of the Olympics. We spent 10 days in Beijing but much of that time was spent attending events. This is obviously a personal opinion but I think seven days is enough.

Everyone travels differently so none of the following may apply to you. The best thing we did was stay in a hutong in a small B&B type place. That made for several interesting walks a day. The second best thing we did was take public transportation everywhere. What we saw between sites was just as interesting as the sites themselves.

The 8 year old (boy) enjoyed Xi'an the most. The Terracotta Warriors (not my favourite but everyone else's), the Bell Tower and a great cycle on ancient bikes on top of the city wall were all fun. You might want to consider a train ride to Xi'an and then fly home from there. A long shot I know.
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Jan 27th, 2015, 07:38 AM
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Oh yes, another wholehearted vote for using public transportation and staying in a hutong --- easy and fascinating!
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Jan 27th, 2015, 11:34 AM
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I read that post on transportation, so I am stepping into that debate in any way! But I appreciate all the information. I know I really need to sit down and go through the books.
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Jan 28th, 2015, 02:25 AM
  #6
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No need to step into the fray, eastave, but congrats on doing your homework!

Let us know how we can help as you proceed with your planning.
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Feb 3rd, 2015, 09:39 PM
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Get out of the cities! There are amazing things to see in the countryside, and Chinese cities can be oppressive. I would hate to think of going all that way to spend twelve days like that.
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Feb 6th, 2015, 01:05 PM
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a day at the Mutianyu portion of the wall could be a rewarding thing to do. The 8-year old will love the chairlifts and possibly the "toboggan" ride back down the hill. It's truly in the countryside, going and coming. Getting the hotel to provide a car with driver might be the best answer to doing this segment.

I can recommend Konglin who has apeared on these posts many times. He was very reasonable and accomodating. I'll try to find his contact information. If I recall, EKSCRUNCHY used him also. For a real treat, get him or any other driver to stop for lunch in the nearest town for The Family Reunion Restaurant.

You can visit the Sacred Way (and The Ming Tombs if you wish), en route to or from Mutianyu. Daughter would enjoy the Sacred Way with its enormous animal statuary.(Photo Ops..actually the entire day will be one big photo op!)
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Feb 6th, 2015, 04:46 PM
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> I can recommend Konglin who has apeared on these posts many times. He was very reasonable and accomodating.

So reasonable and accommodating that he and his sidekick have spammed this site many times, and prices quoted have been far more than you need to pay.

So perhaps let's not support spammers and instead look elsewhere. Organising your own taxi to Mutianyu is anyway straightforward and cheaper (further details on request).

Or consider this: Between March 15 and October 15 you can catch bus 867旅游专线 from the Dong Zhi Men Wai bus stop just northeast of metro Dong Zhi Men, at 7am and 8.30am and returning at 2pm and 4pm, for just ¥16 each way. Not as quick, but you'll be with ordinary Chinese people having a day out, and paying a fraction of the cost. Mutianyu and Dong Zhi Men are the termini, so no chance of getting lost in either direction. Pack a picnic from a local bakery (they're everywhere) and enjoy it on the Wall.

I'd strongly second suggestions that you spend more time in the countryside. Failing that, there are several rural day trips from Beijing: Look into Cuandixia, which is straightforward to reach, and the Eastern or Western Qing Tombs (both a great deal more extensive and interesting than the Ming). Again, more details on request.
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Feb 7th, 2015, 02:47 AM
  #10
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I am VERY glad that I took public transportation to the Great Wall and MANY other sites in China. Some of my most memorable moments came from sharing those rides with Chinese people, whether they were locals or tourists. We couldn't always talk with one another, but we could interact and communicate after a fashion. Some were very patient and persistent in working with me and my phrase book, although that generally only worked if they could read pidgin, since that's how my pocket dictionary was ordered. Other times, we were limited to nonverbal communication, and I am always pleasantly surprised to find how much can be communicated without words or with only a very few of them! Too, there were many moments that I treasured just for the glimpse into others' lives -- watching parents with their children or adults with their aged parents or young people flirting ... including some moments when I noticed that others were discreetly watching me. (I'm sure some were as curious about me as I was about them!)

The costs of public transportation were low; the memories I gained were priceless.
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Feb 7th, 2015, 10:02 AM
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Sorry stu, but for once I completely disagree with you. Peter provides very useful info for people who are willing to travel independently in China. As kja says, taking public transport in China puts you in contact with Chinese people who are not making a living from tourists (and in my experience will go way out of their way to be helpful), something many posters here claim to want.
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Feb 8th, 2015, 07:54 AM
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Thank you all for the thoughts. I understand why taking public transit would be rewarding. I also understand that even though we travel a lot, this trip is a bit overwhelming, and having private transport options is a plus. So, any recommendations are appreciated.

Is it worthwhile to stay out by the wall for a night? If so, any suggestions?

I have been toying with the idea of flying to Guilin from Shanghia and then on to Beijing. We will have about 13 days total, so it seems like we have some time to see a third spot. Any suggestions on what to do in that area? I gather taking the boat ride down river from Guilin is not a good idea. We would be happy to just base ourselves for a few days in an area we could explore on foot, or by bike. The pictures are amazing.
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Feb 8th, 2015, 08:45 AM
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Guilin is very touristy. If you are up for something not on the foreigner circuit (although popular with locals) Putuoshan island is not far from Shanghai. Then there are Hangzhou, Suzhou and the water towns.
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Feb 8th, 2015, 09:21 AM
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The main recommendation would be not to book any car and driver based on recommendations here or through any English-language foreigner-targeting site until money really is no object at all, and paying double of triple what you need to pay not a problem.

As for reaching Mutianyu (although others might well argue there are better choices), a bit of firm bargaining will get you a taxi there and back for as little as ¥400. Simply have your hotel reception write down your needs in Chinese: destination, point of departure, departure time, date, what time you’d like to get back. Start showing this to taxi drivers one or two days before you want to travel, and those who are interested will give you a price (using paper, calculator, or mobile phone screen). Counter-offer, engage pleasantly, walk away to get his lowest price, try two or three, and hold out for as close to ¥400 as you can.

Many find this fun. You may think just getting on a bus is actually easier.

At the other end of the scale you could consider Beijing Hikers. Here you’re in the world of expat pricing, at more like ¥400 per person than per vehicle, sharing a minibus with Beijing residents. But you’ll be taken more often than not to a section of Wall sans vendors, sans entrance ticket, and indeed often sans anyone else at all, and likely in an atmospheric state of decay than rebuilt for tourists (as Mutianyu). Lunch in a farmhouse is often included. Most of the guides know what they’re talking about and avoid retailing the usual 5000-years-of-history nonsense, and are really very accommodating. On one trip I took we came across someone hunting for rabbits with a large catapult that doubled as a pocket knife and had a compass in it. On the way back we deviated via a few markets to see if we could buy one as a souvenir. www.beijinghikers.com

The only question would be what walking your offspring is up for—grades of difficulty vary, but many walks are intended for the relatively indolent, and English is spoken and email answered, so you can enquire. Don’t ask anyone you may meet on the tour how much anything else should cost—they really don’t have a clue.

There is accommodation by the Wall at every popular site, but it tends to be fairly simple, and unless you intend to go out on the entirely unlit Wall in the middle of the night (possible at some locations) not worth the effort. The exception would be the Commune by the Great Wall. www.communebythegreatwall.com/en This was being run very efficiently by Kempinski when I stayed but I understand it’s now under Chinese management, which may not be the same. However, having an entire villa to yourself in the middle of nowhere is something, and the site has its own mini section of Great Wall, although the nearest officially open part, Shui Guan, isn’t of much interest .Juyong Guan and Ba Da Ling are not far away.

I’d second thursdaysd’s recommendation to avoid Guilin/Yangshuo. There’s plenty of beauty in rural China without the tourist volumes and shenanigans that come with that location. Don’t forget that picking a third spot to visit loses you two days spent travelling to and from it.
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Feb 8th, 2015, 09:35 AM
  #15
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I found getting from Beijing to Ba Da Ling by bus extremely easy.
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Feb 10th, 2015, 10:07 PM
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Post and reviews both excellent.. I love you fodors. Very very helpful.
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Feb 13th, 2015, 06:31 PM
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The Great Wall Forum has the most thorough info on the subject:

greatwallforum.com

I visited the Simatai section of the Great Wall, but that section was closed in 2010 and might still be is closed. A freind in Beijing arranged for a car and driver to take us there before going to the airport - it was about a 4 hour trip.

If I didn't go to Simatai, I would have gone to Jinlanshing. Both areas being slightly more remote from Beijing. There were very few visitors when I was there and had most of it to ourselves. Though oddly enough we met a family from my home town!
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