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Beijing - ? - Hong Kong. Where should we go in between?

Beijing - ? - Hong Kong. Where should we go in between?

Old Jan 8th, 2016, 09:50 AM
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Beijing - ? - Hong Kong. Where should we go in between?

We have booked flights into Beijing and out of Hong Kong. We want to spend about 3 nights in between to explore another part of China--we're thinking the countryside, to see a different side of what Beijing and Hong Kong have to offer. We were originally thinking of going to Guilin/Yangshuo but are not so sure anymore. Some people seem to think Guilin/Yangshuo is too touristy.

Any suggestions for a great stop between Beijing and Hong Kong for three nights? We are gong in late April. Would love to see beautiful landscapes and authentic cultural experiences. Would prefer someplace that is moderately easy to get to from Beijing and to travel to Hong Kong from.

Thank you!
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Old Jan 8th, 2016, 11:05 AM
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The city of Guilin is one of my favorite cities in China, not touristy. The Yangshuo area is touristy in the town and on the Li River, but much less so along the Yulong River, just a couple of miles from Yangshuo. If you like villages and walks in the countryside through the beautiful karst mountains, if you choose to stay out of town, easy to get to by taxi, you won't be disappointed. Fly to Guilin, have your accommodation arrange a pick-up direct to your hotel.

My blogs from the area:
http://www.travelgumbo.com/blog/potd-liriver
http://www.travelgumbo.com/blog/pod-fulitabac
http://www.travelgumbo.com/blog/gall...province-china
http://www.travelgumbo.com/blog/jiux...-guangxi-china
http://www.travelgumbo.com/blog/gall...southern-china
http://www.travelgumbo.com/blog/gallery-haystacks
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Old Jan 9th, 2016, 01:28 AM
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I have travelled a lot in China - the most recent was in October and I would say that Guilin is the nicest and most interesting area, also the least touristy. Having said that though I loved the super fast train from Beijing to Shanghai and I just think that Shanghai is a great city with many smaller towns around it ( except Hangzhou where I stayed for 5 nights on the last trip and was mega disappointed in the lake there) which are water villages and interesting in themselves.
Of course you could also go to Xian and see the Terracotta Warriors or if you are not from a cold climate there is Harbin with all those fantastic ice carvings but check to see when they are finished with.
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Old Jan 9th, 2016, 03:02 AM
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So far I am most impressed with Zhangjiajie scenic wise. I have also been to Guilin, Huangshan, Jiuzhaigou, Lijiang area, Xian, Xinjiang etc.
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Old Jan 9th, 2016, 10:16 AM
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> Some people seem to think Guilin/Yangshuo is too touristy.

It's one of the most heavily touristed cities in the whole of China. Even during the Cultural Revolution it was still receiving tour groups from Hong Kong. It's also home to the widest range of tourist scams in China.

Yangshuo, meanwhile, is merely a simulacrum of the quiet water-side village it used to be, with much building of brand-new 'old' buildings, a McDonald's, KFC, etc. It's about as Chinese as a pizza, and if you want pizza there are plenty of over-priced cafés desperate to sell you something at least called that. Pestering guides (entirely unnecessary) will disturb your enjoyment of it.

In short, 'some people' are right.

There are plenty of rural experiences within reach of Beijing, of course. But for something a little different, why not fly to Xiamen, take a bus to Quanzhou, and take trips into the countryside from there.
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Old Jan 9th, 2016, 10:30 AM
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Peter is correct up to a point (I saw almost no western tourists in Guilin). I was, however, thinking of your short timeframe and ease of getting somewhere beautiful and less crowded than Yangshuo proper. I've spent time in and around Xiamen and loved it. However, having considerably less in the way of services for English speakers, I think having pre-arranged transport to & from the airport directly to your accommodation would make more sense than a time-consuming public transport plan with, likely, no one to ask if you need help.

I stick by my original suggestion. This would be a lovely place for you to stay:

http://www.yangshuosecretgarden.com

I had lunch there twice on my walks and checked the place out. It's more than I care to pay but maybe within your budget.
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Old Jan 9th, 2016, 10:55 AM
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> would make more sense than a time-consuming public transport plan

A bit of petitio principii here.

There are direct buses from Xiamen Airport (which is also Quanzhou's airport) to Quanzhou. Quanzhou, like everywhere else, has taxis. City buses go directly to a number of rural sights, include two Song Dynasty bridges, and a waterside walled city. Quanzhou itself is very walkable, and has a number of temples and monuments that are well worth a view. There's nothing difficult about this at all.

And if Xiamen is also wanted then again, there are airport buses into town, right to the compact older part of this former treaty port. There are plenty of taxis. The main sight is a walkable car-free island reached by a brief ferry ride from the city centre.

Difficulty is entirely in the eye of the beholder, and no greater in Quanzhou than in Yangshuo, and indeed lacking some of that destination's difficulties in terms of pestering and overcharging because it is not over-touristed, and vastly more authentic.
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Old Jan 9th, 2016, 11:21 AM
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Peter is certainly an "expert" on China. But, in my experience, lacking in empathy for travelers to places in China where English is largely not spoken by those who might help if only they knew what you wanted. Xiamen is one of those places, lots of Chinese tourists, far fewer western. What he says in his last post is true as far as it goes, but does not address what I found to be the most difficult part of travel around Xiamen. Not a problem if you have plenty of time, but possibly very much a problem with little time to compensate, as in having only 3 days. Better to go where there are more people and consequently more English speakers.

Venturing outside Yangshuo is a way around the congestion that makes Yangshuo town undesirable. I've given details above. I can also post blogs on my time in Xiamen, if it's of interest.
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Old Jan 9th, 2016, 06:07 PM
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> But, in my experience, lacking in empathy for travelers to places in China

Perhaps you could avoid further fallacy by not attacking the man, and instead just dealing with the arguments. Your opinion of other posters would not be interesting to others even if it were well-informed, nor is it remotely relevant to the topic of discussion.

The OP is afraid that Guilin/Yangshuo is too touristy, and s/he is entirely correct to be so afraid. Indeed, few places in China are more touristy, with all the ills that brings.

The desire is for somewhere rural with 'authentic cultural experiences', and, by very definition, that means somewhere with less in the way of tour guides, pizza menus, or English spoken. But this matters little to anyone with a bit of gumption, and is preferred by those who want to see a more 'authentic' China.

Quanzhou is easy by overall Chinese standards. It isn't truly rural, but it's a smaller city with a bit of character, and with easy access to assorted country spots, while also well-served by plane and train, making connections from Hong Kong and Beijing easy, as requested. It's not on the most beaten track, but it's not unused to visitors, as any quick search around the Internet, and even this forum, will demonstrate.

Navigating Xiamen (not that that destination was originally suggested) is not difficult, and nor is Quanzhou. There is typically at least one English speaker at the reception of every hotel (convenient, but hardly necessary either), and these places are well covered in guidebooks and in on-line discussions. Bi-lingual maps are widely available at airports, railway stations, any newspaper stand, and hotels, in addition to those in guide books and available on-line. Information is hardly scant. Getting around is merely a matter of following a map, or getting in a taxi and showing the characters for the destination to the driver, just like Guilin or anywhere else (but with far less chance of being ripped off than in Guilin).

Quanzhou is neither more nor less difficult than Beijing, in fact. In some ways it's much easier due to less traffic, more taxis, and shorter distances. Indeed, if digestible Quanzhou can't be managed there won't be much chance of managing Beijing.

"I found Xiamen difficult," is not evidence that everyone, or indeed anyone else will do so, any more than it's evidence that others won't find the whole of China impossible, even Guilin. The city is commonly visited by independent travellers without two words of Mandarin to rub together, and who seem to manage perfectly well, so it clearly is doable. It features in every major guide book--even the slender Fodor's China gives it several pages, so hardly obscure. There are plenty of newspaper articles about independent travel there, endless on-line comment, and plenty of accounts even on these pages, as well as of Quanzhou.

Quanzhou would be the better choice as it's far smaller than rather sizeable Xiamen, and getting into the countryside is easier, although independent travellers do use Xiamen as a base to reach Fujian's tulou (earth houses). Quanzhou is too small to feature in Fodor's China guide, but it is in several other major series. It's reached by direct bus from Xiamen airport (which is partway between the two cities). Its attractions include several charming and active temples of both Buddhist and daoist persuasion, and traces of its status as a major trading port with Arabs in the Mongol Yuan dynasty, including the remains of a fine mosque, and several Islamic graves. There's a fine Song dynasty statue of a beetle-browed Laozi on a hillside, and a marvellous 1.1km-long 11th-century bridge.

Easy rural sidetrips include Chongwu, about 50km away by direct bus through countryside famed in China for both its stonemasons and the beauty of its women. The town's original walls still stand, which is rare for China, and a walk may be completed around the top of them looking down on a warren of streets in the enclosure, and down at the seashore on one side.

There are people who find the very idea of visiting anywhere in China at all without a fully escorted tour impossible to conceive, and yet we know perfectly well that independent travel is possible, including by people who travel without any Mandarin at all, as many thousands do every year.

Assuming that everyone else is timid is clearly wrong, especially when the request has been for an authentic rural destination to start with. Answering the question is the point.
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Old Jan 9th, 2016, 06:48 PM
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Naiden, I hope you got my drift and understand the distinctions I made, despite Peter's dismissal of them. Good luck with your trip. I'm sure you'll have fun, wherever you go.
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Old Jan 9th, 2016, 07:37 PM
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FWIW, when I planned my trip to China, many people told me how very difficult it would be, how important it would be for me to make sure I relied on English-speaking guides, that I would only possibly be able to manage if I used routes on the usual Western tourist route, etc.

I am SO very glad that temppeternh (welcome back!), and a few other Fodorites (notably, but not exclusively, thursdaysd) convinced me to go on my own! Yes, I had some challenging moments, but none were insurmountable, and all made for some interesting stories.

In contrast, MmePerdue recommends, "Better to go where there are more people and consequently more English speakers." I'm unspeakably glad that no one gave me that advice when I planned my time in China! I don't know if I would have gone if I had been faced with such discouraging words. And I am so VERY glad that I did go, solo, to China. (I didn't go to the areas discussed in this thread, but you might nonetheless find some helpful info in my trip report -- you can find it by clicking on my name.)

Only YOU, naiden, can decide the range of experiences within which you will be comfortable. You've been given a great opportunity to hear two voices with opposing views, and so to take the best from each.

BTW, re: transportation -- some of the most memorable moments of my time in China came when I took longer or less efficient buses or trains from place to place, because those transits let me observe local people in ways that I would never have seen on more rapid transit (which would probably have been beyond their means). I love to see a bit of local life when I travel, and while hired cars or taxis can be efficient, they certainly don't afford those same priceless opportunities to observe others across the aisle or table.
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Old Jan 9th, 2016, 07:50 PM
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Oh, and FWIW, I went to some places where English was NOT generally spoken, and I did so with just a VERY few words of Mandarin (basically, the bare civilities), and I was impressed with how helpful people were. Again, you'll find some examples in my trip report.

Hope this info helps!
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Old Jan 9th, 2016, 08:04 PM
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"I went to some places where English was NOT generally spoken,.."

As have I kja. I was on a long trip, wandering and fine, including where NO English was spoken and things ground to a halt from time to time as a result. They make good stories. My advice was not general, but for a visit of 3 days and struggles, even small ones, loom larger. Gracious.
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Old Jan 9th, 2016, 08:38 PM
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Then why, MmePerdu, do you so often make traveling off-the-beaten road in China sound SO very hard, as though NO one in his/her right mind should even consider it, let alone consider using local transportation to do so? It is, IME, not that difficult -- and, I believe, it is getting only easier with smartphones and other digital devices. But perhaps I have misunderstood your arguments against the use of public transportation in China....

As I see it, with only a few days, the OP will soon be able to recover from whatever stresses s/he experiences. And if s/he is prepared for a few stressful moments.. well, again, its the OP's call.

I'm glad you enjoyed your time in China, MmePerdu. I think it would serve you well to acknowledge that others, even those who venture outside China's major tourist centers, might also be able to enjoy themselves for a few days -- just as you did! JMO.
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Old Jan 9th, 2016, 08:50 PM
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That sounded as though it was meant to be the last word. I surrender.
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Old Jan 9th, 2016, 08:52 PM
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Nice to see Peter posting again. The description of Xiamen and Quanzhou makes me want to visit. Fortunately I visited Guilin/Yangshou back in 1997, and although the area was certainly already "discovered" things seem to have only gone downhill since, and I would not want to go back.

Not only do I not speak Mandarin, I will never speak Mandarin because I am virtually tone deaf, but I traveled successfully in China on my own, including in areas off the usual western tourist trail. What I needed was a good phrase book, with characters rather than pinyin, and a guidebook with characters for place names. And a willingness to do what it took to make myself understood, to write down numbers, to copy out names, to go into the kitchen and point. I found that people who did speak some English would go well out their way to help.

While the OPs only have three days, I don't see that as a reason to stick to areas with more western tourists. Either they are willing to give it a go, or they aren't. Sounds like they are, and it is doing them a disservice to discourage them.
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Old Jan 9th, 2016, 09:03 PM
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MmePerdu wrote: "That sounded as though it was meant to be the last word. I surrender."

It was NOT meant to be the last word. If it was, I would not have attempted to engage you in a discussion of some topics about which we seem to disagree.

So feel free to admit defeat, MmePerdu, but do NOT blame abandoning your positions on ME. I invited your responses to some questions that I think are important to travelers on this board (e.g., "why, MmePerdu, do you so often make traveling off-the-beaten road in China sound SO very hard" and "perhaps I have misunderstood your arguments against the use of public transportation in China").

But if you aren't willing or able to answer these questions, then maybe you SHOULD "surrender."
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Old Jan 9th, 2016, 09:07 PM
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P.S. I don't like the use of the word "surrender" here -- I did not think I was in a battle with MmePerdu, or any one else -- I just thought I was participating in a travel-related discussion....
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Old Jan 10th, 2016, 08:04 AM
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We can only use our own experiences here in relation to what is asked. I did that and I have no problem with differing opinion but, having given an opinion, I think it's enough. I'm not abandoning my point of view, just don't know what else to say about it. Carry on, they should have as much information as possible.
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Old Jan 10th, 2016, 05:50 PM
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Get the hell out of the cities! Rural China has so much glory to it, even for just three days.

Here is a website that lists 'national parks' in China:

http://www.nationalparkofchina.com/chinanp.html

You could go north to Chengde, just a bit south to Mt Cangyan and Yesanpo, west to northern Mt Heng, the Hanging Monastery, and the Yungang Grottoes. How about Putoushan, the island sanctuary - not far from Shanghai? There are so many possibilities.

How you travel is a function of where you want to go and how much time you have to get there. Let that tell you if you need a guide or not.
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