China in 20 days?

Old May 14th, 2002, 03:42 PM
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China in 20 days?

I will be traveling to China on the middle of July. Planning the ittinerary is not easy specially if you only have 20 days to visit the 3rd largest country in the world. We like historic places, architecture buildings, museums, archaeology areas, panoramic sights,etc. Most important we love to get the real flavor of the country's culture. We like to combine independent travel with guided opperated tours(day tours, or 3 day tours trips). We were thinking of staying aprox 3-5 days in the mayor cities (i.e. Beijing, Shanghai, Xi'an and Hong Kong) and taking day tours (private-or group)to the sourounding atractions. We found tickets to fly between all 4 destinations for $650 per person and were planning on maybe booking some hotels in advance. However, weve read that independent traveling in China is not easy. Please give us your thoughts and recomendations for our trip:

(a)HOTELS (i) When traveling we prefer smaller good class hotel with local flavor vs. big chain hotels. Do you think we can find these type of hotels in China or should we stick to the tourist hotel chains? (ii) Should we book the hotels in advace (though special internet rates)or do you think we can get rooms at good rates over there?

(b) should we buy the airplane tickets we found ($650) or can we find similar prices if we buy them over there (this way we can have a more flexible ittinerary)?

(c) Should we try to squeeze in the ittinerary a trip to Yangzi River and Guilin (Yangshou). Any place we should add to the list? and places to avoid?

(d) any recomendation for hotel, restaurant, tour, tour oppperators, or places and regions we should visit is greatly apreciated.

(e) Finaly, do you recommend we forget about the hassel and take a tour. If so, what companies do you recommend, considering that we love to cover as much as posible yet we love to have independent time to explore less touristy spots.
Old May 14th, 2002, 05:23 PM
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Hi,My name is clarence guo,a guide and driver in Xi'an.
Pls send me a e-mail if you want do a special tour to
the warriors,cave dwelling village and a daoist temple with me.

pls visit:

the story about my tour.
pls visit my web site
My E-mail: [email protected].

Thank you

Old May 15th, 2002, 07:30 AM
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I faced the same dilemma when trying to decide how to visit China. We settled on the 22-day trip with ChinaFocus (our first tour). We are going in September. What settled it for me was: 1) price - I wasn't able to beat their packaged price, 2) Itinerary - going to more places than I could get to on my own, 3) fear factor - travelling with someone who needs the comfort of a group tour in China - and I admit it makes me feel more comfortable as well.

We are using China Focus because of the many good reviews I have read about them - but there are several other companies that I have seen some great deals with - such as Smartours.

I understand China Focus has a good balance of tours and free time.
Old May 16th, 2002, 03:48 AM
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Hi Esther.
We just came back from 28 days of travelling in China in march-april 02. We planned our trip and made arrengements by ourself while travelling in this fabulous country. Has more and more people speak english, it is fairly easy, and fun, to travel by your own (but don't forget that while making arrengements on site you loose a little time for travelling around). For your comfort I would recommend looking for upper class hotels that goes for around 50$ to 70$ US a night because the smaller hotels can be very noisy. Yangshuo is worth visiting for 3 days providing that you are travelling by plane between the cities on your itinary. We also went to a place called Lijiang in the Yunnan province. For us it was the nicest city we visited in our entire trip in China. Check it out on the net.
Daniel, Canada
Old May 17th, 2002, 06:35 AM
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Hi Esther,

Do you mind telling me where you bought tickets for $650/pp? Our trip to China w/Laurus didn't make and as we're searching for airfare, we can't find anything cheaper than $1200 (from DFW).

Thanks in advance!
Old May 17th, 2002, 09:26 AM
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Looked at packages offered by China Focus and appears to be a good value. Has anyone else traveled with them?

Through researching travel to China, you may want to add trip down the Yangtze River to your itinerary. Currently they are building a dam & upon completion (next year?) the area known as the Three Gorges will be flooded. Apparently, it's supposed to be a lovely area and this will be your last chance to see it.
Old May 17th, 2002, 09:35 PM
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I dont want to bad mouth all of the Chinese tour companies however in a lot of these situations they will tell you a great price on the phone(email whatever) but they will tell you that you have to pay over there..........long story short once you get there it will be a huge ordeal just to get your tickets and what not because a lot of it is a big ploy to get U.S. dollars.............also have the time they will tell you that you can pay through credit card but when you get there you have to pay cash so be wise as to who you choose as your tour company

as far as sites to see I would go Beijing(great wall, forbidden city, etc.) then Xi'an (terra cottas) Shanghai, Hong Kong, maybe you would even consider the 3 gorges Yangtze Trip that is very nice and beautiful........also my advise is that a lot of these cities are pretty much the same besides the big cities visiting Chengdu will be similar to visiting Chengde which is in a completely different province than Chengdu but they are both the same so i hope this me if you would like i was over there as an english teacher so if you need advise or anything

Old May 17th, 2002, 09:39 PM
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p.s. i dont know if this is true anymore but i think the Chinese Tourism Bureau has a rule stating that foreign travelers must stay in a 3-5 star hotel plus staying in a larger better known hotel will really help as far as easier access to money and other things like that
Old May 17th, 2002, 10:35 PM
Peter N-H
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The advice on Chinese tour companies posted above is sound, as is the observation that large Chinese cities, with a few exceptions, are much the same. Much of the rest should be read with caution.

Chengdu, the sprawling capital of China's most populous province, Sichuan, bears little resemblance to the town of Chengde, northeast of Bejing in Hebei Province.

And there is no rule for accommodation as described. In general a hotel must have a special licence in order to accept foreign guests, but hotels at all levels right down to no stars at all (the star system is anyway meaningless), have that licence, and in some provinces (Yunnan, for instance) all hotels are, at least in theory, open to foreigners. Many new two star hotels are anyway of higher quality than older three or even four star hotels. In some parts of China hotels wait up to three years before their classification is confirmed. Two star hotels do not usually have money exchange facilities on site, but in larger cities they tend to do so, and in smaller ones the Bank of China is rarely far away.

Peter N-H
Old May 20th, 2002, 09:23 AM
Bill A
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Which cities are unique and should be visited on a 20 day trip?
Old May 22nd, 2002, 09:34 PM
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as i repeatedly said in my previous posting i did not know the truth surronding the hotel rule so lay off
Old May 23rd, 2002, 07:06 PM
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Would like to use this travel company?
Anyone have ever used them? Any comments are appreciated!
Old May 24th, 2002, 07:58 AM
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Just looked at the website posted by Mark. Lots of options, lots of info. I would also love to hear about anyone's experience using this company.

Old May 28th, 2002, 07:18 PM
Peter N-H
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I have no particular experience of the Web site mentioned, but it doesn't take much reading to find a few preposterous claims of the kind beloved of the Chinese travel industry.

Steve's warnings about dealing with guides, taxi drivers, and travel agencies remotely from overseas should be heeded.

There is very little truth indeed in the Chinese travel industry, which will tell you anything it pleases you to hear, and anything at all which will separate you from more money. When you are sitting at home looking at your computer screen, about to make your first visit to China, you could not conceivably be in greater ignorance of the realities of China travel, nor in a weaker position for obtaining the best deal.

Very few travel companies indeed are actually licensed to deal directly with foreigners and deal in foreign currency, which is why you pay on arrival. Overseas you are (for now) supposed to deal with the local offices of the official state-run monoliths, most commonly CITS.

At least until next year, foreign companies buy all their travel services in China from CITS and its like, add a margin, and then sell the package to you. Of course, you pay more than buying directly, but on the other hand you don't encounter the hassles mentioned by Steve, and if you are cheated in any way, or if the product is not at advertised, the foreign company will compensate you appropriately. If it doesn't you can bring your local trade law to bear. In China there's very little you can do, and your chance of compensation is extremely small.

In short, it is always a bad idea to book or buy travel services in China over the Internet. Either insure yourself against difficulties by buying them from a tour company in your own country, or go to China and haggle over the counter but the best deal (much cheaper, but much less predictable), where you can try to get a feel for who is trustworthy, and where even the first asking price will be much lower than you see on the Web.

Peter N-H
Old May 28th, 2002, 08:26 PM
Peter N-H
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Bill A's query on unique cities is a difficult one to answer.

The most common short China trip includes Beijing, Xi'an, Shanghai, Guilin, Yangtze or parts thereof, and there are reasons why this is (other than the convenience of the Chinese travel industry).

Beijing has more to see than any other city, and should not be missed.

The Terracotta Warriors at Xi'an make that a very important stop. You can also see the much-rebuilt 'city wall' (actually the palace wall--the city wall was much further out), one of the best museums in all China (the Shaanxi History Museum), and the various rather spendid tombs.

Shanghai at least escapes from the rigid grid imposed on almost all Chinese cities, and gives architectural variety in the warren of the old Chinese quarter [sic], the pompous but impressive Puxi waterfront constructed mainly by the British and French in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and the view China would like to have you take home of its rapid development and modernisation on the Pudong side of the river (but note that many of the buildings are incomplete or unoccupied). I'm not sure I would regard Shanghai as essential to a China visit, but it certainly is unique.

Guilin, scenery or no, I think eminently avoidable and one of the most dishonest cities in China. But the river cruise to the drop-out centre of Yangshuo is pleasant enough, and the scenery more varied and more continuously attractive than that on the Yangtze.

The Yangtze cruise (not a city admittedly) is the most over-hyped journey in the whole country, with its annual 'last chance to see' Farewell to the Three Gorges trips. See you there in 2007 and beyond. In many ways it will be a more pleasant trip by then, but still not recommended for the short-time visitor.

If I had 20 days in China, I might consider Beijing, Pingyao (via Taiyuan), Xi'an, and then for something completely different either Lhasa (direct from Xi'an or via Chengdu), or the Dali/Lijiang area (via Kunming). Nothing hard to reach or too adventurous here. Good rail connection Beijing to Xi'an, good flights between all points, good aircon buses between Kunming, Dali, and Lijiang.

Pingyao is now thoroughly discovered, but its city walls are only slightly tarted up, and its mansions pleasantly dilapidated, and its roads largely unpaved. Accommodation is simple. The countryside around has vast multi-courtyard houses which were formerly the homes of rich merchants, although Shanxi is now relatively poor and backward.

Lhasa is now a shadow of its former self (I hear), but nevertheless the Potala is one of Asia's great sights, and the Tibetans quite another kind of people from the Han Chinese altogether.

The pleasures of Dali and Lijiang are well known, and despite attempts to prettify them beyond their existing prettiness are still well worth visiting for their verdant locations, traditional architecture, and the pleasant manners of the local minorities.

Then there's Chengde (as a side-trip from Beijing), Qufu (Confucian temple/mansion/tombs), various watery villages around Shanghai...

Peter N-H
Old May 28th, 2002, 09:22 PM
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hi again,

peter, although quite critical, is mostly right in a lot of respects. however i know for a fact the Gorges are at least going to be shut down for a year or two if not forever, reason being the Chinese are builing a more efficient energy producing dam somewhere
between Chongqing and Wuhan, thus producing the largest Hydroelectric power facility in the world and also creating a large lake behind it flooding more than 100 towns.

lastly tibet is great ive been there and it is awesome, only one problem it is expensive, tibetan food tastes horrible, and it is quite possible to get Acute Mountain no if your body acclimates well, and also if you are older i would not reccomend Tibet its a hard trip and i have seen people spend their whole trip in their room due to AMS.
Old May 29th, 2002, 05:13 AM
Peter N-H
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Unfortunately it cannot be 'known for a fact' that the Three Gorges are going to be 'shut down', because the effect on the river of the dam project is that it will become more navigable, not less, and to larger vessels than those currently used, whose size was limited to that of the locks in the Gezhou Dam, lower down the Yangtze.

In future years, instead of telling you, as they have every year since about 1997, that this is the last chance to see the Three Gorges, the travel companies will begin to downplay the degree of change, point out that the scenery has been improved (ugly factories and shanty towns having been submerged), and that even at the waters' highest there will still be about two thirds of the pre-dam height of the gorges remaining visible.

The river was tamed long ago first by British engineers who used dynamite to destroy obstacles, and subsequently by Chinese engineers who built the dams, such as the Gezhou, which already exist, and had already caused the waters to slow and to rise from what they were before.

There will be a pause before the ship lifts are completed in the new dam, and possibly the start and finish points for tourist cruises will be moved from Wuhan permanently upstream a little way. But cruises will most certainly continue for the foreseeable future.

Of course, one Chinese professor is predicting that like the Yellow River, the Yangtze will, within a few years, actually run dry for at least part of the year. But that's another story.

Peter N-H
Old May 29th, 2002, 10:30 AM
Bill A
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To Peter N-H

Thanks so much for answering my question. I enjoy all your responses...I learn alot from them.
Anyway, I have been agonizing over an itinerary for some time. I think I had too much information. After having travelled somewhat, although not to China (except HK), I had enough insight to question the Yangtze cruise & Guilin. Most people said to go, but I didn't want to. You've settled it.
I will be settling on Beijing and environs, Xian, Chengdu, Lhasa, and Shanghai and environs. I will look into Pingyao and Taiyuan, but maybe they will be part of a second trip.
I will be going for about 3 weeks, in October. I can't wait.
Thanks again. This is a great site.
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