China 3 week itinerary-too much?

Apr 25th, 2010, 02:13 PM
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Join Date: Dec 2004
Posts: 123
China 3 week itinerary-too much?

its been a while since I posted but a big trip is looming and although I have been perusing postings like crazy, I wondered if anyone can give me feedback on a rough itinerary I put together for a 3 week trip. We definitely want to do it on our own, having always been independent travelers (Europe, Central America)

I realize one should never expect to see it all on a first trip. I suspect I won't be back to China as there are too many places in the world to see and I have medical issues that will eventually cut back and then shut down world travel.

So to get the best of China, with an emphasis on the cultural, geographical and historical highlights, spending longer time in places that merit it and assuming (I hope) easy travel arrangements between places, here is what I have come up with:

Shanghai (World Expo) 3 days (4 nights)
Beijing 5 days
Datong (Yungang Caves) 1 day (this place fascinates me!)
Xian 4 days
Kunming 2 days
Lijang 4 days
Guilin-Yangshuo (Li River tour) 3 days
Shanghai 1 day (to prepare for flight home)
TOTAL ………… 23 days

The trip takes place during National Holiday first week October. I am planning it so that we are in Beijing for most of it as I read that it is best to be in the cities during the holiday. We are definitely going to the World's fair, as this is the reason for going as far as my husband.

I also am exploring the idea of finding the village my ancestors came from, as my great grandfather emigrated to North America in the late 1800s. I am not Chinese in looks or culture (interracial marriages) but is my history! Apparently my ancestors came from Sunwei in Guangdong province. Is it possible to fit this into the itinerary (a day trip to the village?)

Thanks for any input. I will have more questions too as the planning progresses.
LvL is offline  
Apr 25th, 2010, 03:56 PM
Join Date: Mar 2007
Posts: 125
4 days in Xian is too long,2 days is enough,you can have two days in Shanghai or you can have two days to go Sunwei.Guangdong locate south of China,near by Hongkong and it is huge area.depends which city the Sunwei village in.
Violet_1125 is offline  
Apr 25th, 2010, 11:46 PM
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I agree that you only need 2 days in Xian. Have you got to fly in and out of Shanghai, it would be worth looking at flying home from Beijing or vice versa. Alternativly if you are heading to Guangdong look at flying from Guangzhou. We flew back to the UK via Paris from there so may be worth considering. We spent one night there but I found it very interesting, especially Shamian Island, of course it depends on exactly where Sunwei village is in the province.
lzzl is offline  
Apr 26th, 2010, 07:18 PM
Join Date: Mar 2010
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First stop I suggest to go to Beijing first.
5 days in Beijing is enough, Forbidden City, Temple of Heaven, Summer Palace, Lama Temple, Great wall(Mutianyu) must see, I also recommand Beijing Diabolo Museum - very funny.

3 days stay in Xi'an is better, if you like to explore China history, Huashan is a good place in Xi'an.

Then go to Shanghai, escape national holiday, because of these days too many reports and bloger say that too many people go to expo area,too crowd and too many time to wait for checking in.

Datong (Yungang Caves): I love this place

Guilin 4 days is enough, I think you can go to Longji Terraces, October is the best time to go there, worth to go if you are also photo lover.

Tracy_W is offline  
Apr 29th, 2010, 12:37 PM
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Thanks for the feedback!
From the suggestions we changed our itinerary to avoid the National Holiday in October. We plan to fly into Beijing at the end of the first week in October and fly out of Shanghai. I adjusted the number of days in certain places as suggested.

Beijing 5 days (6 nights)
Datong (Yungang caves) 2 days
Xian 3 days
Kunming 2 days
Lijang 4 days
Guilin-Yangshuo 4 days
(Li River Cruise, Sunwei?)

Shanghai (World Expo) 4 days

We will prebook hotels in Beijing and Shanghai (my DH feel better knowing we have a place booked in the big cities) but plan to find accommodations in the other stops when we arrive as I assume the crowds will have disappeared by then.

Thoughts on this itinerary and hotel bookings?
LvL is offline  
May 1st, 2010, 07:50 AM
Join Date: Mar 2010
Posts: 50
Hey There,

looks very similar to our trip in September. Differences include going to Chengdu instead of Xian, no Lijang, and finishing in Hong Kong instead of Shanghai. I was a little worried that we were being too ambitious with the time frame but it helps knowing that someone else thinks it is realistic.
rlk679 is offline  
May 1st, 2010, 11:34 AM
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Hi rlk679

I too think we are pushing the time frame a bit and am not looking forward to having to deal with all the transportation connections. But hey, this is a once-in-a lifetime trip and I think we are covering the best of the country.

I would be interested in trading information as we forge ahead with planning. For example, are you "plane-ing" or training (or bussing) between places? Are you bookng accommodation ahead?

Check out Magster 2005's report if you haven't done so already. It is also very similar to what we are doing.
LvL is offline  
May 2nd, 2010, 08:40 AM
Join Date: Mar 2010
Posts: 50
That sounds great.

The only thing we have booked so far is in Yangshuo but we will book accomodations in Beijing and Hong Kong before we leave. The rest we will do when we get there.

Initial plans are to take the overnight train between Beijing and Datong and then fly between the other destinations (Chengdu, Kunming, Guilin), just to maximize time. It is still up in the air whether we will book our domestic flights before the trip. There seems to be alot of varying opinions on when to book.

Thanks for the link, I also have been following Magster's TR and the more I read the more excited I become for our trip.
rlk679 is offline  
May 2nd, 2010, 11:11 AM
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Yes I too have been a bit undecided as to whether to book in advance. My husband is one who wants to know where he is staying in advance and puts forth a good point when he reminds me that we are on a limited time frame and would be using valuable time searching for good accommodation at each stop.

So I too will book Shanghai and Beijing and am looking at booking some of the other places in advance as it is easy on the web. Yes we would save $$ by bargaining on the spot, especially as we are going at the end of high season (Oct)but perhaps at the expense of time and quality of place. Trip Advisor is a great site to get reviews and web connections. So we will see how this pans out over the next few months.

I am starting a thread to get input on booking a connection from Datong to Xian. There are no direct flights and the train takes 18 hours so I am searching for options. This may of interest to you.

Happy planning!
LvL is offline  
May 3rd, 2010, 09:05 PM
Join Date: Sep 2009
Posts: 48
Speaking as a decade-long American expat in Beijing, I think you're missing some easy opportunities to see more without too much angst. My suggestion:
Beijing--4 full days then overnight train to
Datong--1.5 days (1st day Hanging monastery/Wooden Pagoda loop, 2nd morning Yungang caves. Do it in this order due to timing and distances.) Lunch or right after leave by road (intercity bus or private car) for Taiyuan--it's about 4 hours on good highway. Can also do by train but is slower and most trains this route are non-a/c. Overnight in Taiyuan.
Pingyao--EARLY by 7 am start by private car or public bus out of Taiyuan; 1.5 hours south to Pingyao old walled city. Spend day there then return to Taiyuan for evening flight direct to Xi'an. Overnight Xi'an.
Xi'an: 2 full days is enough, then morning flight to Kunming
Kunming area: 2 days as you planned
Lijiang area: 3 days is enough, add 4th day if you plan to do the Tiger Leaping Gorge Hike OR go to Lugu Lake.
Guilin-Yangshuo area: 3 days, add 4th day if you go to Longsheng Rice Terraces. Don't make mistake of staying in Guilin--best to pass through only. The best part of river scenery is closest to Yangshuo, which best involves scrapping the official overpriced tourist boat cruise, getting to Yangshuo, and hiring one of the little boats or rafts for much cheaper. If river level is very low at that time, small craft may be your only option to see the best stuff.
Shanghai AREA: 5 days or balance of trip. I'd say no more than 3 full days to deal with Expo and Shanghai usual sights. With early starts, you can do daytrips by fast train to several choices depending on interest: Suzhou, Hangzhou, water town such as Tongli or Luzhi, and further afield, Nanjing. Shanghai for 5 days even with Expo is too much.

I normally advocate not doing too much advance booking but given timing of your trip I will change that and say yes you should book. Travel by every Wang and his brother really lasts from about September 26-ish to about October 15, so you won't completely escape crowds no matter what. Usually October 3-6 is a little lull when intercity tickets on all transport is easier to get. Flights are always easier to find tickets even last minute than sleeper trains. I'd book your hotels in Beijing, Shanghai, Xi'an, Kunming, Lijiang, Guilin/Yangshuo. Datong/Taiyuan no worries there as there won't be a lot of locals heading there. I'd also book flights sometime in August--though you may have to settle for standard Chinese domestic price rather than deep discounted price. Go through English language page. They have a toll-free number for US residents in upper right corner with good English speakers. It may make more sense to get your flights booked as a sequence and paid for at once (you'll get domestic prices through them) rather than do it flight by flight on the website yourself.
kvchina is offline  
May 3rd, 2010, 09:08 PM
Join Date: Sep 2009
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Forgot to add: for hotels, be sure to check along with your usual favorite booking sites the following: which is reliable and might have a range of options not found elsewhere. I don't think that in October 2010, you're going to save that much money by bargaining on the spot, and you will definitely lose time and efficiency.
kvchina is offline  
May 7th, 2010, 06:48 PM
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Posts: 123
Thanks kvchina....your suggestions are excellent and make a whole lot of sense! After consideration we have decided to go to Pingyao for the day and take the evening plane to Xian.

We appreciate the wealth of information you passed on, especially the booking links! We're feeling very comfortable now with our itinerary and decision to prebook much of our flights and accommodation. Travel in China seems less overwhelming...

LvL is offline  
May 8th, 2010, 03:20 AM
Join Date: Dec 2005
Posts: 636
I agree with kvchina. You will enjoy Pingyao. If you haven't seen it yet, I just did a trip report that includes much of what you are going to see.
sdtravels is offline  
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