China Trip Report

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Oct 24th, 2010, 01:24 PM
  #1
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China Trip Report

9 Days in China - 5 Nights in Beijing, 3 in Yangshuo and one in Hong Kong

Flight: Korean Air via Seoul to Beijing, returning from Hong Kong - about US $900. Internal flights on Air China and China Southern. Korean Air is quite good. Lots of legroom, which you don't get on US or European airlines. Decent food, lots of movie choices, but most not too exciting, and friendly crew. If you have a long connection, you can and should spend a few hours in Incheon. The domestic flights were ok, food was fair.

Hotels: Hutong Culture Inn in Beijing - $35 per night - in the Dongcheng area. Generally good, nice quiet neighborhood, clean room, plenty of hot water, 10 minute walk to the Andingmen subway. Breakfast was extra and was awful. Staff is polite but not terribly helpful. They had two computers, one of which stopped working and on the other my email was hacked and sent spam messages to everyone I've ever emailed in my life. Cabs won't know where it is, so print the map from their website, and will drop you off at the entrance to the Hutong where you'll have to walk. Or request an airport pickup from the hotel.

Rosewood Hotel in Yangshuo - $40 per night. Very nice room with wood paneling, good bathroom, refrigerator, balcony, good air conditioning, free internet and discount breakfast at the Moon Cafe which is excellent. Staff speak good English. It is noisy outside until around 11:00 but this is about as quiet as you will get in Yangshuo.

Stayed with a friend in HK.

Weather: With all the horror stories about Beijing weather and pollution, it was absolutely beautiful. Sunny, clear skies and clean air. It is also surprisingly clean, green and leafy. Yangshou was a mix of sun and clouds and a bit sticky during the day. Hong Kong - brown, cloudy air, but not too hot.

Guidebook:

LP China is pretty good. Could have more hotel and restaurant options. And might have some hiking / biking maps and subway maps, which are included in their smaller City Guides.

Beijing Highlights:

1. Beijing Hikers. Recommended by LP. An English speaking hiking group. Went on a great hike to Big Black Mountain, where the leaves were just beginning to change color, then along a stream to Zhuangdaokou for a good lunch at a family run restaurant with a view of the Great Wall. Then climbed up the wall which we had entirely to ourselves. An excellent alternative to the touristy wall areas.
2. Summer Palace. Very crowded, but the site is large enough that the crowd is spread out. Don't remember the exact name of it, but the tower / pagoda across the lake from the bridge is worth the walk and the climb.
3. Olympic Stadium at night, although there's not much to do there after you take a few pictures.
4. Beijing Police Museum. Certainly off the beaten track and something a bit unique.
5. The Nanluoguo Xiang pedestrian mall has a good mix of locals and foreigners with many restaurant, bar and coffee choices. Just a few minutes walk from the Hutong Culture Inn.
6. The Oriental Plaza mall at Wanfujing. Yes it's a mall, but when you have trouble finding restaurants with English menus, head there. Everything from fast food to upscale Chinese places. Try to the Daixidai food court where you buy a debit card to use at any of the food places. It looks intimidating, but it's not.

Yangshuo Highlights:

1. Hike from Yangdi to Xingping. Note that the hike starts on the opposite side of the river from where the boat lets you off, so you need to hire a bamboo boat. Then walk a bit before crossing back. The trail is almost impossible to follow, but as long as you stay close to the river you won't get lost. I got a late start and couldn't possibly reach Xingping before dark so I walked for three hours and then took a boat. Also, allow some time to walk around Xingping which seems nice.
2. Walking the Yulong River. Took a bus toward Baisha and got off near the Dragon Bridge. It's a beautiful sight, watching the bamboo boats drift by, the green fields along the river and the karsts in all directions. Walked along the bike trail back to Yangshuo. Again, a long walk with a trail that's impossible to follow through farming villages and rice paddies, past wading water buffalo and friendly peasants who will point you in the right direction. Once you get back to the main road, its a long walk so a bus is a good idea. I managed to hitch a ride on a tractor for part of the way.
3. Moon Peak is a good morning or afternoon trip for a nice view of the town.
4. Massages. Had a "pressing" massage which means being twisted around in all different directions for an hour. And try the Chinese Medicine "Hospital" where you get your own room, TV and tea and a masseuse who may speak some English. US $10 per hour is the norm.

Hong Kong

1. Had only one afternoon there, but The Hong Kong History Museum is definitely worth a visit and there is a good chocolate shop nearby.
2. Dim Sum - Don't remember the name of the place but it is right next to Wan Chai MTR stop.

Less Exciting:

1. The Forbidden City - Many may disagree, but I didn't see the big deal.
2. The tourist crowds - I was sure to go after Golden Week, but everything is Beijing was teeming with (mostly) Chinese tourists. Makes it hard to appreciate places like The Temple of Heaven when you are sharing it with a few thousand people
3. Unexpected closures - The Temple of Heaven was closed on my first day there for something related to the Asian Games. Reopened at 2PM the following day and by 2:30 was already packed. The police museum is open Tuesday-Sunday but was closed Tuesday and Weds. for reasons specified only in Chinese. The Underground City, which I arrived at after walking past it a few times, was closed, perhaps for good. Or perhaps it was never there to begin with,
4. The Yangshuo Light Show. There are some good scenes at the beginning, then it fizzles out. If you can get cheap tickets, perhaps it is worth a visit. I don't think it is worth $40.

Some advice:

1. Don't take cabs waiting outside tourist spots. These are the ones that rip off tourists. I first arrived at the Dongzhenmen Station and one wanted 105 yuan to my hotel - a few km's away and another agreed to use the meter which magically ran up to 55. The real price should be 10-12. Otherwise, most drivers are completely honest.
2. Definitely bring a guidebook with streets and places written in Chinese. Don't expect anyone to speak English or to understand you when you attempt to speak Chinese.
3. Try to visit Yangshou during the week, since it is absolutely packed with Chinese tourists on the weekend.
trebex is offline  
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Oct 24th, 2010, 05:54 PM
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Join Date: Aug 2003
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trebex:
What were the dates of your trip? I'm planning a trip for next October and am trying to avoid National Day crowds. Were you in China at all during the National Day holiday?
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Oct 25th, 2010, 06:55 AM
  #3
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I was there October 10th to 20th. National Day is October 1st and the Golden Week ends by the 10th. Some of the crowds may have been left over from Golden Week, but from what I understand, many of the popular sites are busy year round, although perhaps quieter in the winter.
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Oct 26th, 2010, 07:26 PM
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Join Date: Mar 2007
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Weather wise you were VERY lucky. In general October is the best time to visit Beijing but you were also lucky on top of that to have sunny and clear skys. I have spent many Octobers in Beijing (as well as other parts of the year) -- you can check out a few images from July 2006 for example at by blog http://site.chinafinds.com/travel/?s=polution

This past week the skys were again pretty heavy -- visibility poor unitl there was a short rain on Sunday (october 24th) which cleaned up the air somewhat and Monday and Tuesday were clear and sunny....

Oh, well, I would not go to Beijing for the weather anyway but for the sites
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Nov 1st, 2010, 09:26 AM
  #5
 
Join Date: Oct 2010
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china is a nice place to visit. Hope you will enjoy there.
Plan the arrangement there before you reach.
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