Bad trip to China and Japan

Nov 7th, 2019, 04:10 AM
  #1  
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Bad trip to China and Japan

Just got back from China and Japan combined trip and it was bad. I have traveled many places and this was my worst trip ever. Let me explain. I apologize for any misspellings

1. The good: the hotels, the hotel toilets, the food, got to walk the great wall and see the Forbidden City, sacred way and in Xian the terra cotta warriors. Our various guides were OK but did not relate much history
to us.

2. The bad was that every single sight in China was jammed in mid-October with tourists making even movement impossible in many cases. Could not see much of the Forbidden City because of the crowds.
I mistakenly thought mid Oct and mid week would be better but I was wrong. Tienanmen Square held tens of thousands of people including a 3 hour wait to the Mao Mausoleum (we did not go).
The streets and driving was utter chaos with bikes, 3 wheelers and walkers going in and out and no control whatsoever. Every short trip took one hour because of the traffic. Obviously photography was also
adversely impacted
3 The weather was supposed to be good (we checked it out prior to leaving) but we had cold and torrential rains for a few days. I did not ever wear sunglasses. In Japan we also had cold and some rainy weather.
4. In Japan we toured Kyoto but again massive number of tourist at all the sights. We could not go through the bamboo Forest, the Inari Shrine path or the various temples because of the crowds. The Koyumizo
Temple was covered in plastic wrap and the Imperial Palace was closed when we visited. So two of the most important sights were lost and again no photos. I am an avid photographer by the way.
5.Tokyo, reminded me of New York, a large commercial city devoid of historical sights.
6. After all the issues we had seeing the sights and moving we looked forward to returning home but this final phase of our trip was the worst part and ultimately colors my entire perception of the trip.

This last part needs space so let me begin. On Friday we had a 5:30 PM flight from Narita (Tokyo) We left or hotel at 1 PM for the 1 hour trip in a limo which we thought best for the 4 of us ($100 cost). There was an accident on the only main road to Narita that closed down the entire roadway. Our 1 hour trip became a 7 hour nightmare on a one lane road with dozens of traffic lights and hundreds of buses and trucks. We
arrived at our terminal and had missed or flight. We also had no food, water or toilets on our trip (I have a prostate issue and you cannot imagine what happened to me).

We arrived at 8 PM and I spent two hours on my cell phone trying to get a new flight with prices for a one way trip quoted as much as $6000 per person. Eventually our original carrier got me tickets for 5:30 PM the next day for a cost of $2000 total. By that time all food operations at the terminal had closed and we spent 24 hours with no food. Because of the traffic, thousands of others also had no flights and we had to sleep in the terminal on the floor overnight. The next day we finally got food but had to spend the entire day in the terminal with nothing to do but wander around with or carriage plied high with our belongings sort of like homeless people. By the way all hotels in the are were full.

I do not men to dissuade anyone from visiting China or Japan just letting you know my own experiences there.

Good travels to you all and be safe

We eventually got home safely but the entire experience was not what I expected
5.I found Shanghai to be only another big city with little of interest to me (I am a history buff)
4.
davidjac is offline  
Nov 7th, 2019, 06:24 AM
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So sorry you had a bad trip.

There are numerous warnings on this forum about using tour guides in China, you are much better off with a good guide book.

There are a lot of Chinese people, and they can now afford to travel. Right after National Day might not be the best time to visit, but it is a big country with a lot of other places to see. (I just read a piece in the NYT about the horrendous crowds trying to take selfies with the Mona Lisa, so it is not just China and Japan. Now might be a good time to investigate sights that are not on all the top ten lists.) If you are a "history buff" you might find Taiwan more interesting than mainland China, since it did not suffer the Cultural Revolution.

WRT flights, that was obviously a terrible ordeal. However, I'm not sure why you would take a taxi from Tokyo to Narita when there is a perfectly good train that is not subject to traffic jams. Could you not have had the taxi turn round and take you to a station?
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Nov 7th, 2019, 07:13 AM
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Sorry about your disappointing experience.
We were in Beijing and Xi'an Sept. 2018 and things were not too crowded at all and the weather was fine. You just never are certain about the weather. Looks like you ran into a bad spell of it.

You were there during the 70th Anniversary of the Chinese Republic so maybe that's why it was so crowded.

Looks like you had some bad luck in Japan too.

As for your comments about Tokyo did you research it first? It is a big modern city like NYC but its know for that.

What a nightmare coming back.

Better luck next time. You are due I think.
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Nov 7th, 2019, 07:41 AM
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As for your comments about Tokyo did you research it first? It is a big modern city like NYC but its know for that.
Yes, I didn't care much for Tokyo either, aside from the Asakusa area where I was staying, but I found a lot of other places in Japan that I enjoyed very much. I also slept in Narita itself my last night in Japan on my last trip instead of Tokyo. I was very close to the airport and found that the town had a lovely park around its castle.
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Nov 7th, 2019, 11:38 AM
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I am truly sorry to hear of your bad experiences and thank you for your courage and generosity in sharing the story with us.

Like thursdaysd I have been reading of huge crowds in various famous landmarks and we now try to go only to places not on the top ten list, because the top ten thousand people seem to be going to such places not just daily, but hourly. (I know, I know, I am part of the problem, but the fact remains, there are some sites now that have become truly too crowded.) I don't know if this was the case for you in China or if it was a holiday period.

Re the Narita jam - If there should be a next time consider flying with an airline (eg ANA instead of JAL) as ANA at least when we went used Haneda, an airport that is much closer to downtown Tokyo and also has good train connections. Thank you though for the real-world account of rebooking a missed flight. I can see it made for a boring and uncomfortable airport sojourn but it sounds like a bit of boredom saved you $4000, so there is that at least.

Also, while I agree Tokyo is very large and very busy, the key for us to enjoying Japan is that they are not just about temples, they are also a technological powerhouse. The Mirakai museum of science and innovation was fabulous, as was the Toyota Museum of Industry in Nagoya. Travel guides seem to think only the arts and churches/temples are of interest.
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Nov 7th, 2019, 02:16 PM
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We used a limo because it was to cost only $25 per person for the four of us. Also, we had a lot of bags (my wife and friend do not travel light.) Finally, we had more than enough time.

Ultimately the driver charged us $700 for the total trip of 7 hours. I do not like tours but again my wife and the others insisted upon it.

Thanks for the encouraging words. We are going to India next and then the Balkans in Europe aftre tat.

David
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Nov 7th, 2019, 03:19 PM
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Originally Posted by davidjac View Post
We used a limo because it was to cost only $25 per person for the four of us. Also, we had a lot of bags (my wife and friend do not travel light.) Finally, we had more than enough time.

Ultimately the driver charged us $700 for the total trip of 7 hours. I do not like tours but again my wife and the others insisted upon it.

Thanks for the encouraging words. We are going to India next and then the Balkans in Europe aftre tat.

David
Thank for getting back.
I suppose if you travel enough you will run into a nightmare scenario with missed connections, lost baggage, etc. It happens to most of us. Let hope your bad luck is out of the way.
As you probably know India in the summer is brutally hot. Delhi today was 88F. May and June can see temps well over 100, even 115 so just be aware. December into early February is much better weather wise.
We have been to India 7 times as my wife is from there and our 8th trip is upcoming. I do recommend going to a travel clinic before hand as sanitation there is substandard. We are doing just that.
I do know a very good tour guide there whom I've used before so if you need a recommendation I can provide that.
All the best.
Larry

Last edited by jacketwatch; Nov 7th, 2019 at 03:23 PM.
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Nov 7th, 2019, 05:56 PM
  #8  
kja
 
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I, too, am sorry that you had such a bad experience. I would venture to suggest, however -- and I do so with respect -- that you would benefit enormously from doing more research prior to your trips. Just a few examples -- a bit of research would have shown you that guides in China rarely know history (they aren't provided with that information as part of their education because much historical information is off-limits); Tokyo is a big, modern city -- but has a few small traditional segments that survived WWII; site closures in Japan are almost always widely disclosed in advance; etc.

Best wishes for your future travel.
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Nov 7th, 2019, 08:33 PM
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So sorry your trip was a bad experience. I hope you can remember in your mind some positive highlights, and the fact that the four of you were together.

I agree with the sentiments expressed above. No tours in China, and maybe purchase trip insurance next time. Also, I don't think much of Tokyo as a tourist destination.

Also, there is something to be said for going off the beaten path. There are parts of Japan and China where there are not too many tourists. Hopefully you can return again to some places less traveled.

Enjoy India. I have been twice, and I find it enchanting. Consider eating at "Pure Veg" restaurants so that you don't get sick. Indian vegetarian restaurants have some great dishes.
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Nov 7th, 2019, 08:37 PM
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The flight debacle sounds awful, and it is a shame that Chinese tourists are ruining the popular sites elsewhere in Asia and all around the world.

As for Tokyo, the city isn't really so much about "the sites." There are lots of unique experiences in Tokyo to be had -- a baseball game at the Toyko Dome, a green tea ceremony, watching kids play video games in the arcades, the fish auctions, etc. Tokyo is more about the people, the culture, the food, etc. As a photog, there were plenty of places that would have been fun for you to shoot.
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Nov 8th, 2019, 01:23 AM
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Originally Posted by LAX_Esq View Post
The flight debacle sounds awful, and it is a shame that Chinese tourists are ruining the popular sites elsewhere in Asia and all around the world.

As for Tokyo, the city isn't really so much about "the sites." There are lots of unique experiences in Tokyo to be had -- a baseball game at the Toyko Dome, a green tea ceremony, watching kids play video games in the arcades, the fish auctions, etc. Tokyo is more about the people, the culture, the food, etc. As a photog, there were plenty of places that would have been fun for you to shoot.
We saw a baseball game at venerable Jingu stadium in Tokyo which was built in the 1920’s. It was an intercity rivalry between the Yomimuri Giants whose home field is the Tokyo Dome and the Yakult Swallows. It was an amazing experience. If you like baseball you would love it.
http://www.jingu-stadium.com/english/



Last edited by jacketwatch; Nov 8th, 2019 at 02:12 AM.
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Nov 8th, 2019, 02:14 AM
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This is their cheer. Lift an umbrella.
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Nov 8th, 2019, 09:21 AM
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Originally Posted by LAX_Esq View Post
. . . it is a shame that Chinese tourists are ruining the popular sites elsewhere in Asia and all around the world.
Kind of an all-purpose statement for whomever we'd like to blame for our own poor planning, isn't it?
As in "a shame that (fill in the blank) _______ tourists are ruining the popular sites elsewhere in Asia and all around the world."
MmePerdu is online now  
Nov 8th, 2019, 09:21 AM
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By the way, I did have trip insurance but it does not cover missing a flight because of an accident in the roadway.
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Nov 8th, 2019, 11:26 AM
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Really? That stinks, I'm so sorry.
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Nov 8th, 2019, 05:04 PM
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Sorry to hear of your bad luck during this trip, especially that last day at Narita which sounds horrendous. But I agree with the sentiment that if you travel regularly, eventually stuff happens beyond ones control like bad weather and accidents.

We were in NYC once and received a message on Monday just before midnight that our flight to Paris scheduled for Wednesday was cancelled due to a strike. We had to fly out early Tuesday afternoon. It was a scramble working with the airline for seats since the flight was full, changing our itinerary, canceling and booking new hotel dates as well as planned activities and dinner reservations with family. If I hadn’t checked my messages just before turning in, we probably wouldn’t have seen it until a few hours before flight time and been stuck.

To make matters worse we went through the very same thing on our return a week later, though this time we were aware and ready. Still it was stressful, disruptive to our plans and no fun.
curiousgeo is online now  
Nov 8th, 2019, 05:48 PM
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Looks like you had a really harsh spell of bad luck on your trip - I am very sorry for that. The weather in Japan in October is normally quite good - though the climate may be changing and the hurricane season is becoming longer and more destructive. If it makes you feel better, I went to Japan in the summer, and out of 5 weeks or so I could count the number of clear days on one hand - virtually every other day was rain or about to rain. And that's not unusual.
Though to say Tokyo is "a large commercial city devoid of historical sights" is far from accurate. It is the capital and modern heart of the country, but it has a history going back over 400 years. There are a dozen beautiful traditional gardens, the highest concentration of them in all Japan, owing to its history. The Edo-Tokyo Museum and Tokyo National Museum are very good, and there are scores of other museums, both for ancient as well as more contemporary items. The Sensoji Temple and Meiji Shrine get a lot of tourists, but both are still worth visiting. There is a lot more as well - but it is up to you to do your research and plan to go to places that interest you. Your post reads like you just went to Tokyo and pretty much tried to wing it.

For Kyoto especially, you are right in that there is a flood of tourists. They have more than quadrupled in the last 7 years in Japan, and over 30 million people going to Japan this year. For next year with the Olympics Japan is aiming for 40 million people. And the Fushimi Inari Shrine is one of the most popular icons of the city, as well as the Sagano Bamboo Grove. The key for those places is to go to them in the off peak times - they are open 24/7, so the early morning or evening has a lot fewer people. I myself see some of the lesser known gems of the city - and those places have a lot fewer people as well. Yet many are no less beautiful. As for the Chinese ruining it, that's what a lot of Japanese say, since a much larger percentage of the increasing tourists are from China.




Plus they tend to do a lot more of what Japanese (and many other foreign tourists) don't, like talk loudly, yell at each other to come over, walk right in front of you when you're shooting, throw cigarette butts out of hotel windows, etc. That is more the norm in China, with its huge population; in fact it may be almost impossible to avoid stepping on someone's toes somehow. Most people in Japan are not really any problem. But if 2% of each nation's tourists are making most of the problems, and the biggest share of the tourist increase is from your country, it tends to look like your nation has a much bigger number of troublemakers and focus more attention against you. So I am not picking on anybody. From the Japanese perspective though, they are throwing a lot of their attention one way.

‘Pollution by tourism’: How Japan fell out of love with visitors from China and beyond

At any rate, I hope you can see Japan again in the future. It won't be as bad next time, surely. And travel by train usually has a lot fewer problems.
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Nov 8th, 2019, 06:22 PM
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Adastra makes some good points and I agree with her that Tokyo is a vibrant, fascinating city, especially if you delve beneath the top 10-20 popular tourist sites.

My wife and I were in Kyoto last November and experienced the massive crowds at Arashiyama, Gion and the Nishiki Market. But as Adastra mentions, we also sought out some of the less known sites and enjoyed the beauty and serenity there, so it’s still possible to enjoy Kyoto.

One thing that struck us was a conversation we had one evening at a small obanzai restaurant (home style Kyoto cooking) down one the alleys branching out from Pontocho. The staff spoke no English and the menu was entirely in Japanese, but I speak a bit and the Mrs. is near fluent so we were comfortable being the only foreigners. We sat at the counter talking with the second generation owner and his son who was the head chef.

We mentioned the large crowds we encountered and the owner said something to my wife. I later asked what he said and she said it was more a sentiment than anything. His feelings was the sheer numbers of tourists are destroying what makes Kyoto special. Sadly as a visitor who came in the 60’s through the 90’s I had to agree with his viewpoint as a Kyoto native.
curiousgeo is online now  
Nov 8th, 2019, 08:35 PM
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kja
 
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Originally Posted by LAX_Esq View Post
it is a shame that Chinese tourists are ruining the popular sites elsewhere in Asia and all around the world.
I've found tourists of all sorts of nationalities mobbing popular sites in all sorts of countries. IME, some of the worst are Westerners day tripping from cruises -- but that certainly doesn't mean that all tourists who travel by cruise are rude, any more than all Chinese -- or all X -- are. And I've certainly run into many Chinese tourists who are just as appalled by their countrymen (both inside and outside of China itself) as many U.S. citizens were during the worst days of "the rude American," etc. I don't know how LAX_Esq intended the statement to come across, but I certainly hope it was not the racial slur that it could seem to be.

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Nov 9th, 2019, 09:51 PM
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There can hardly be any comparison between tourists from say, Europe, and Chinese tourists in Asia. China is much closer to all of Asia, so much cheaper transport for the chinese. And with many chinese reaching into the middle class of wealth their travel plans and abilities are extended, so more travel. And many of these travelers have never been outside of the middle kingdom and have no idea the rest of the world does not urinate on the street, children only, of course. And many have never before flown in an airplane so do not know that opening the door for fresh air is not advised. And many chinese have never experienced an 'all-you-can-eat' buffet featuring shrimp and pork ribs so when they find one in a foreign land their natural tendency is very contrary to common western and asian custom.
And of course no one in their right mind can compare the NUMBERS of chinese tourists to any other country or region. Busload after busload unloaded at one highway stop totally overwhelms the native environment, resulting in deep resentment of the chinese arrogance of 5000 years of history.
Just ask around if those busloads of chinese tourists are welcome in your town, on a scale of 1-10.
On an individual basis the chinese people are kind, honest, hardworking, generally. They are also highly repressed and herd-controlled by their government and so, like teen-agers at summer camp, tend to go wild in new places.
Just my spin of course after years in china and SE Asia.
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