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China Trip Report

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Jan 18th, 2016, 09:31 AM
  #1
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China Trip Report

January 2016 - 4 Nights in Shanghai, 3 in Hangzhou and 2 in Nanjing.

Second trip to China - first was to Beijing, Yangshou and Hong Kong.

What I saw - Shanghai: The Bund, Jingan Temple, YuYuan Gardens, Shanghai Urban Planning Museum, Jewish Refugee Museum, Shanghai History Museum, Huangpu River Cruise, Shanghai Acrobat Show
Hangzhou: West Lake, Lifeng Pagoda, Grand Canal, Grand Canal Museum, China Museum of Knives, Swords and Scissors ("knives are not only tools we use every day, but also shape our thoughts and feelings) and China Umbrella Museum
Nanjing: Sun Yat Sen Mausoleum, Nanjing Massacre Memorial Museum, Imperial Examinations Museum

What I liked:
*The Shanghai skyline at night. During the day it's covered in fog and haze. At night it's amazing, on both sides of the river
*Huangpu River boat cruise - The best and most peaceful way to see the city.
*Shanghai History Museum - Surprisingly interesting; some locals were actually stepping over the ropes into the exhibits to pose for pictures
*YuYuan Garden - Nice early in the AM, before everyone else gets there
*Shanghai Acrobat show - Really amazing to watch
* Zhujiajiao - Nice water town, despite the huge crowds
*Sun Yat Sen Mausoleum - Inside it is no big deal, but the site of it at the top of 300 + steps is well worth the visit.
*Nanjing Massacre Memorial - But go when it first opens, as it gets really crowded very quickly.
*Costs - The exchange rate is good, but prices for food, metro, trains, taxis, uber and most other things are quite cheap to begin with.
* Lack of hassle - aside from a woman at the left-luggage desk at Shanghai Railway Station who wanted 80 yuan to store my bag for one hour, everyone was helpful and completely honest

What I didn't like:
*Hangzhou - This was the part I was most looking forward to and the part that was most disappointing. There are some willow trees and a pagoda here and there, but the lake is surrounded by Starbucks, there is construction everywhere and you are never far from the main road with all the traffic and the noise. Not what I expected. The people are nice though.
* The crowds everywhere - despite this being off-season.
* Weather - Cloudy almost every day and when the sun does appear, there is still a thick haze.
* Lack of English - of all the places I've travelled, this was the most difficult to communicate. Street signs, metro maps and museums descriptions are all in English, but hardly anyone I encountered spoke any English and away from the main tourist sites, few restaurants have English menus, even in the malls. Most people were very polite and patient however.
*Smoking and spitting. Perhaps its a tie between spitting and honking horns for which can be considered the official sound of China.

In the end, my previous trip to China was more enjoyable than this one. Perhaps I should have chosen a different time of the year, different sites or a different country.
trebex is offline  
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Jan 30th, 2017, 11:35 AM
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Join Date: Mar 2003
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trebex, thanks for your trip summary. We will be in Shanghai in mid-March at the end of an Asian cruise. Couple of questions for you:

The river cruise - what company did you use? Our friends found one that costs $80 per person. Seems a bit steep for a 2 hour ride on the river. I thought maybe there is a better option that does not necessarily involve a tour guide. How helpful is it to have a tour guide?

Hangzhou - interested in your comments. These same friends plan to go there for a day. After reading your post, not sure I want to do that. Maybe we should go to Zhujiajiao instead.

How did you enjoy the Urban Planning museum?

Really looking forward to the smoking and spitting

Any casual restaurants you would recommend?
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Jan 30th, 2017, 12:26 PM
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Thanks for the report. Sorry to hear about Hangzhou - very different (although very crowded - National Day) when I was there in 2004. Did you go to Lingyin Si?

megdean - you might consider Suzhou instead of Hangzhou, I loved the gardens there.

WRT language a good phrase book and a good guidebook with characters are more than worth their weight!
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Jan 31st, 2017, 07:19 AM
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thursdaysd, we will definitely consider Suzhou. I am big into gardens. Thx.
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Feb 1st, 2017, 07:26 AM
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I can understand your point about Hangzhou. I am not a big fan either. As a Canadian who lives next to a big lake, I have not been impressed by any city lake in China whether it is Kunming lake in Beijing or West lake in Hangzhou. A lake surrounded by concrete sidewalks is not my definition of nature although I can see the attractions for Chinese who live in cities.
If you wish to enjoy the gardens in Suzhou, you need to choose your time of the year. Also understand that the concept of gardens is not the same as in Europe.
Thanks for the trip report.
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Feb 1st, 2017, 07:56 AM
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CanadaChinaTraveller, good point about time of year consideration for the gardens. We will be there in March, so probably not much in the way of flowers. But water, rocks, hardscape and non-deciduous trees may be enough.
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Feb 1st, 2017, 08:20 AM
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Correct and the gardens are more about these things in any case.
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Feb 1st, 2017, 10:01 AM
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We spent a night in Hangzhou and were so glad we did. The water show on west lake was outstanding and well worth the trip there. We enjoyed our walk around the lake which took the greater part of a day. While we encountered problems with communication in hangzhou and a terrible problem getting a taxi after the west lake evening show, we enjoyed interacting with people around the lake and remember at one particular spot, meeting men who meet to practice their English skills. I would definitely recommend going there for a day and staying over at a hotel on the lake or close by the show location.
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Feb 4th, 2017, 09:43 PM
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Seems to me that this was an all-city trip, as where your first trip included the spectacular scenery of Yangshuo plus Hong Kong is majestic, and Beijing has monumental sites to visit.

Chinese cities can be oppressive after a while.
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