China - Sadly, a bit underwhelming

Old Jan 20th, 2013, 08:25 PM
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June...I only responded once way back in your report...but I caught up today and I see you've completed a most engaging, varied, clear and descriptive report. I thank you for that. Back to your theme..as I said, I had to go in by tour in 1984, the only legal way to do it...but we ditched the tour everyday to see and do things on our own, language notwithstanding...and for a month we did a good chunk of China's real estate..also HK and Macao, If I had to do either 1984 or 2007 over again, I would choose the earlier visit, There was something so more authentic with that even with rat-infested hotels (yes!)...Mao blue jackets and bicycles everywhere

I've scanned many of my pre-digital pix from the 1984 visit...and I have all of the digital pix in a Picasa album too. I think I may have shared those with you. By the way, I got a big kick out of the luge in Mutianyu. I also saw the sign about "elderly folks" and did not think it meant me(!) so I paid no further attention. I was almost 80 at the time and lived to tell about it. (see the pix I had sent you before you went on your trip).

Anyway, you've done a great service to Fodorites who are contemplating a trip to China....we loved doing it on our own as you did....but one more time I would take the 1984 trip over it.

I may be in FL on one of my book tours later this year as my publishers are located in FL, near Boca. Will let you know..maybe a mini GTG. I have an old army buddy in Coral Gables.

Thank you, June. Such a fascinating composition (more than just a report).
Stu Tower
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Old Jan 21st, 2013, 06:30 AM
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Stu - thank you for your kind comments. I take it as a great compliment coming from an accomplished writer like you. I have been meaning to finish this report but have been getting ready for a trip to Israel in April. I really do want to finish it and do a wrap up of my impressions now that I've had more time to reflect. And I cannot believe that you were almost 80 at mutianyo! Please let me know when you will be down here. Barefoot may be in Florida as well.

Barefoot - turkey was fabulous. Are you traveling independently or with a group? We rented a car and had a blast. The ancient ruins are amazing and many times we had them practically to ourselves. I don't recall if I wrote a trip report for turkey. Feel free to email me if you have questions and ill try to answer what I can.
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Old Jan 21st, 2013, 07:48 AM
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Barefoot Contessa....didn't know you alreay went on your China trip..and a report, too. Equal time for you and June... I must read it. When do you leave for Turkey? Happy Travels...
stu
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Old Jan 21st, 2013, 08:00 AM
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Nov 2 - Day 26 – Saturday

Being our last day in Shanghai, it was our intent to take a bus to one of the water towns outside of the city, however, after taking a train to the bus station, ending up at the wrong bus station, then finding a bus to take us to the second bus station and learning that it was most inconvenient to take the bus to the water town (no one could tell us when the bus even returned), we scrapped that plan. Being a bit frustrated and having wasted all morning, we headed to the French Concession area where we wandered for a bit, visiting both Sun Yat-Sen’s and Zhou en lai’s homes, both interesting for a short visit. I would suggest that anyone intending to visit the water towns, make arrangements ahead of time and go with a tour or a driver.

On our final evening we returned to the Yu Yuan Gardens area where we found the streets lit up by lanterns and quite lovely. It is always interesting to see places by daylight and at night time as the atmosphere can change greatly. We were pleased to have returned to this area on our last evening. We returned to our rooms after dinner and got ready for our return flight to the USA.

Nov 4 – Day 27 – Sunday

(I just noted that my dates were wrong – two dates listed as Oct 27th) Our flight on Nov 4th left from Shanghai to Seoul, Korea at 2 pm. After a leisurely breakfast and morning, we headed to the airport to depart for home. When we originally got our frequent flyer tickets, we were amazed at our great luck as the connections were so good. I believe we arrived in Seoul around 5:00 PM and had a 7:00 flight out to the states. It was only after hanging up with the Delta agent that we realized our flight left at 7:00 AM and we would have the entire evening in the airport. Having been to the Seoul airport on several occasions, we knew what to expect. This is a lovely airport with great facilities. We pre-booked a room at the airport hotel, dropped off our bags and wandered for several hours. It had been our intention to eat at a nice restaurant, but were surprised to learn that there was only cafeteria style restaurants rather than any we could dine at and relax for several hours. We decided instead to pay the fee to use the Korean Airlines lounge with their comfortable seating, free wi-fi and food. While the food was not gourmet, it was adequate and we had a place to stay for several hours before heading to our hotel room. Our flight on Korean Airlines did not disappoint us and as I’ve reported before, this airline is superior to any American airline we have flown on. The service, the leg room, food, and entertainment were all very good, even in economy class.

SUMMARY:

As we look back at our pictures and reflect on our trip several months later, we have fond memories of our travels through the limited areas of China that we visited. I would like to clarify at this point my initial comments about being UNDERWHELMED by China. I was definitely disappointed by the fact that China was not as foreign as it had been in the past years, but that did not detract from our enjoyment of the trip. We have a great appreciation for the accomplishments of the Chinese people, their strength, their hard work and their ability to overcome the great struggles that they have had to endure over the years. While their political situation has changed greatly in the past years and their freedoms have increased, it was evident to us that the Chinese do not enjoy all the freedoms of the Western world, however, the political situation continues to change as does the Westernization of China. One can hope that China will see the importance of preserving its own culture and history, rather than destroying it all to replicate the western cities.

I would add that traveling on ones own is quite easy and doable if one prepares properly in advance. The Chinese people we encountered were helpful and friendly, the smoking, spitting and pushing much less than we had anticipated. Surprisingly, the pollution, although awful, did not affect my husband’s asthma. This is a tremendous problem that the Chinese government will need to tackle and we have seen recent articles about the dangers of the air quality in China.

Returning from China, I had no desire to make a second trip, however, after reading many responses here regarding other parts of China, perhaps we will return one day and travel to the Southwestern regions that may still reflect more of old China. I hope that I did not offend anyone when I said that I was underwhelmed by China, but I wanted to paint an accurate picture on how we felt during our travels there, given our own circumstances and with the understanding that we had traveled to other Asian countries before this. Certainly our own perspectives are different than those of others and I have heard many say that their trips, even recent ones to China, have been the trip of a life-time.
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Old Jan 21st, 2013, 08:46 AM
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dgunbug, after China, I wanted something easy to celebrate our 30th so we're first taking a cruise from Venice, to Croatia, Montenegro, Corful, etc. and ending up in Istanbul. From there, we're flying to Cappadocia for three nights and will get a local guide to drive us around...then flying to either stay at Kas or Kalkan....if you have any thoughts on which town is best as a base, I'd love to hear from you. Again, we don't plan to rent a car (well, maybe for a day) and then finish up in Istanbul....so just about 12 nights in Turkey.

stu, so nice to hear from you again! We're leaving in early May for the cruise so will get to Turkey on the 18th.
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Old Jan 21st, 2013, 09:10 AM
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barefoot - we stayed in Goreme, in a lovely cave hotel and thought the city of Goreme to be a good choice for us. I'm afraid I have no notes and do not recall the hotel name, but I don't think you can go wrong wherever you stay as it is easy to drive between the various towns of Cappadocia. We didn't go to Kas or Kalkan so I can't help you there. Happy 30th!
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Old Jan 21st, 2013, 02:41 PM
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If you plan to return to China and go to the southwest areas to experience the old China, I'd suggest doing it sooner than later because it is getting harder and harder to find.
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Old Jan 21st, 2013, 02:59 PM
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june, i still understand your first words completely... while i loved our time in xian and shanghai, it really did not hold a candle to siem reap, bangkok, georgetown, luang prabang, london, paris or umbria and tuscany.

china has many modern day problems, not the least of which is the pollution and looming car traffic issues. if they continue to modernize these too can be fixed, but destroying all but the most important monuments and sanitizing everything emasculates a once great culture.
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Old Jan 22nd, 2013, 04:10 AM
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Thank you so much for your trip report. I have really enjoyed reading it as we will be traveling to china in a few months. Rather than discouraging me from going I think it has helped to make my expectations more reasonable-even my favorite continent, Europe, has places that I'm glad I've seen but won't make a point of hurrying back to. Doesn't mean I didn't enjoy my time, but honestly not every trip is a "once in a lifetime" experience! I appreciate all the details and the time you put into this. Thanks again!
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Old Jan 23rd, 2013, 04:30 AM
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Atltravelr - thanks for your kind comments. Please report back to us after your return from china. Enjoy your trip.

Bob - are you cruising from Florida? We haven't gotten our flights yet, but perhaps we can meet up after your cruise if we are back.
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Old Jan 23rd, 2013, 07:18 AM
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yes, we are but its one way east from FL. we fly home directly from nice to jfk to bos...
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Old Apr 2nd, 2013, 02:43 AM
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Thanks guys that was so helpful. A friend also agreed that China looks so modern.
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Old May 2nd, 2013, 04:22 PM
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Great trip report! Thank you dgunbug for writing it up and explaining your views and reasons. I'm visiting China for the first time this August, and your comments have been very helpful.
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Old May 2nd, 2013, 06:18 PM
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Thanks freedr - nice to see that this report is still being read.
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Old May 15th, 2013, 10:11 PM
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you are welcomed to visit Shandong province next time. We have mount Taishan, confucius family mansion
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Old May 16th, 2013, 03:47 AM
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Not sure what people mean when they say the china of old
Head west to Guizhou Hunan Northern Sichuan etc and you will see some of the old particularly in the minority areas but they are disappearing for sure
I visited china in 85 and 87 days of FEC and black market money etc, pre internet but the first edition of the lonely planet china edition was out impossible to travel without it
Have been visiting china for the last 7 years and have always travelled independently
It is the only way to truly meet the chinese people whether it be on the bus or train
Xingping has a street left which will give you an idea of Yangshou back in the early eighties
Chengdu has remnants of the same era found some in Kunming but probably gone by now
It is still a fabulously vibrant place to visit and i alway discover new places to visit on my ext trip
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Old May 16th, 2013, 03:56 AM
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It is still a fabulousy vibrant place to visit and i always discover, on my current trip, places to visit on my next trip
Have fabulous taxi experiences that are 99.9 %excellent same for train and bus station ticket sellers
Every day is an adventure

Do not hesitate, go, and open minds open hearts

Cheers
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Old Jul 27th, 2013, 03:21 PM
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I think (hopefully, correctly) during the last part of your trip that you buy your train tickets right at the station a day or so before... what about the sleeper train, did you buy the same way or did you buy them in advance? If so, through which agency? Thanks for the trip report, very informative.
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Old Jul 27th, 2013, 08:04 PM
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We purchased our sleeper trains in advance at [email protected]. We made arrangements with them several weeks in advance as we knew that tickets become available only 10-12 days in advance and can only be purchased with a Chinese credit card. We had to provide back up times for the train if they could not get the sleeper train we wanted. As it turned out, we could not get a 4 person berth on one leg of the journey and were horrified to see the accommodations when we were stuck with the hard sleepers. It all turned out fine though and we loved our train travel. It's a great opportunity to interact with Chinese travelers.
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Old Jul 28th, 2013, 05:04 AM
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And you are correct - other trains were purchased last minute.
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