fine-tuning 2-week China itinerary

Nov 24th, 2007, 03:37 AM
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Join Date: Mar 2005
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fine-tuning 2-week China itinerary

I'm fine-tuning our 2-week China itinerary for 21 Mar-06 April, and could use some advice. Mostly b/c I already know I want to spend at least a month so am trying to see a sampling of China, not be too rushed, and not have too many regrets about sights not seen on this trip. Here goes:

Fri - depart for Beijing
Sat - Beijing: arrive around noon, visit Tiananmen Sq.
Sun - Beijing: Antique Market, Summer Palace
Mon - Beijing: Forbidden City, Temple of Heaven
Tues - Day trip to Great Wall at Mutianyu
Wed - Beijing: explore hutongs, depart on night train to Xi'An
Thurs - Xi'An - arrive Xi'An and visit Terracotta Warriors and museum
Fri - Xi'An
Sat - Fly from Xi'An to Guilin. Explore Guilin and stay there overnight.
Sun - Day trip to rice terraces, then drive to Yangshuo (Li River Retreat)
Mon - Yangshuo
Tues - Yangshuo and surrounding area (Fuli, Xingping)
Wed - Yangshuo and surrounding area
Thurs - Fly Guilin to HK
Fri - HK
Sat - HK
Sun - return flight

I still have so many questions...too few days in Beijing? Does the plan for Guilin/Longsheng/Yangshuo make sense? (it was recommended by Fodorites to cut down on the travel time, but it means adding another hotel, and I usually like to minimize the number of different places we stay). And HK- yes or no? To be honest, although I'm sure it has plenty to see, what I've read just doesn't appeal that much to me, but then most of what I read focused on high-end hotels and shopping. But it seems like the most logical city from which to catch a return flight. I've regretfully cut Lijiang from the trip b/c I just don't see how we can do that too (will just have to come back to China again!), and although I have mixed feelings about Xi'An, I think we'd regret it if we didn't go there. Thoughts? Suggestions? I'm at that mid-point in planning where I continually second-guess myself. Thanks for your help!
copilot is offline  
Nov 24th, 2007, 05:15 AM
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Definitely keep in time for Xi'an that allows you to do more than visit the warriors. Be sure to visit the Big Goose Pagoda, the Great Mosque and the Temple to the Eight Great Immortals, and eat in the Muslim quarter. But also, just wander - get off the big new roads with the concrete and glass buildings and walk the back streets with their older buildings echoing with the clack of mahjong tiles.

The scenery around Guiling is beautiful, just like an old Chinese painting, but Yangshou is likely to be full of Western tourists (backpackers). Around Lijiang the mountains are magnificent and the culture different, but Lijiang is likely to be full of Chinese tourists. A really hard choice, but if you know you'll go back your current itinerary is fine. Enjoy China!
thursdaysd is offline  
Nov 24th, 2007, 06:27 AM
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What are your interests then? From what you're planning to do in Beijing, you seem to be interested in the main historical sites and buildings. Then I don't see why you need to hesitate about Xian, which has much longer history than Beijing.

As for flying out, your choices are basically Shanghai and Hong Kong. Hong Kong is more than high end hotels and shopping, and I think it's a more interesting city than Shanghai. It has a beautiful harbor, it has islands that you can explore, there are lots of trails you can hike on the hills both side of the harbor.
rkkwan is offline  
Nov 24th, 2007, 08:49 AM
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I assume you are making a long flight from the States. Therefore I would suggest that you do the Hutong area that first day. Is is something that is not that tiring and would allow you to get back to your hotel to rest up fairly early in the day. Then I would combine the Forbidden City with Tianenman Square. Tiananaman is right at the front door to the Forbidden City so there is no reason not to do it at the same time. We entered the Forbidden City from the rear and worked our way to the front and wound up on the Square. That whole day was exceptionally fascinating. Your trip to the Wall could also be combined with other tours or stops. We never left our hotel early as we don't like to rush, but even with several hours at the Wall we still had time for a great lunch that our guide, Konglin, took us to and for more touring that afternoon. We chose to not go to X'ian just because we didn't want to pack and unpack for a one night stay (many posters suggested a full day and a half was all that was needed), and we did not hit the other areas where you are going. I'm sure those are great places, and we somewhat regret not going to Xian but our trip to Shanghai was one of our high points. We were amlazed at the business aspect of the City and the recent growth which is so evident in Pudong (which is a new section of Shanghai that is only about 20 years old, but resembles a large American City already.) We spent three nights there and were very happy with that selection as we were with the three nights in Hong Kong (though with more advance planning we probably could have had two nights there with three full days). rkkwan is right that HK is really more about great hotels and shopping, but not just high end shopping. And because HK is so important in the world economy today, I would not miss it. But personally we found Shanghai to be even more interesting and I would have regretted not staying there also.
LarryRGV is offline  
Nov 24th, 2007, 10:28 AM
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If you like antiques, don't miss Hollywood Road on Hong Kong Island.

BLao is offline  
Nov 24th, 2007, 10:47 AM
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i would vote to skip xi'an, if your main reason to go there is the warriors.
we enjoyed 2 days in Jiuzhaigou much better than xi'an... but we like nature, and after beijing we we were "cultured out".
similarly we enjoyed 2 days in chengdu better than xi'an.
that said, i know that most readers will disagree with me... it's a personal thing.
chiefie is offline  
Nov 25th, 2007, 07:51 AM
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You are doing my 2004 itinerary in reverse. We chose Yangshuo.

I'd skip Guilin (just a big city) and stay in Yangshuo. We stayed at the Paradise Hotel in Yangshuo. 1

We hired a local guide for a day of biking thru the countryside in Yangshuo. Her name is Xu Yu Rong or "Gloria". Her cell phone number is (0086)13878379768. She's very friendly and will plan anything you want to do - also speaks near perfect English if that's important to you.

We biked to Moon Hill and went thru the cave there. The cave tour ends with a dip in the mud bath if you're so inclined. Went to the Big Banyon tree and she took us to a "farmer's restaurant" for lunch. We bought her lunch and the admission to these places was not included in her price. Cost for her guidance for the day was so nominal I don't even remember the price. 100Y? Have her stop at the grocery and get water before you set out.

See the Liu Sanjie river show
She or a hotel can arrange these tickets.

We skipped Guilin because it looked like just another big city on the way in. The mini-bus ride to Yangshuo was harrowing to say the least, so we had the hotel (Paradise) arrange a cab back to Guilin airport- nominal again, maybe $20USD, I figured my life was worth that much! You could also visit the beautiful terraced rice fields in Longsheng near there.

Also it is much cheaper to fly Guilin to Shenzhen then take the Turbojet over to HK.
Fly to Shenzhen. You might have to stay over here because of the late hour I think (check e-long for flight times - it worked out with no stop-over for us going the reverse direction)) before taking the TurboJet over to Hong Kong the next day. Prices shown are Hong Kong dollars.
There is a free shuttle from the Shenzhen airport to the boat terminal. Hope this info isn't too late for you.

Feel free to e-mail me at [email protected]- I have all the info on a Word Doc. and will send it to you.

tinlizzy2 is offline  
Nov 25th, 2007, 07:58 AM
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Sorry- some of those links seem to be dead now. You can Google any of it though.
tinlizzy2 is offline  
Nov 25th, 2007, 12:27 PM
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Re: Xian or no Xian, I decided to forego it, and do not regret my decision at all. There are so many places to visit in China, you can't regret what you don't see, instead just hopefully enjoy what you do see For me, I felt like I had already seen enough of the warriors from all the photos I've seen, and I didn't need to be there in person. Of course, throughout my life I have seen trillions of pictures of the Great Wall, and I wouldn't have missed that in person for the world!
Nutella is offline  
Nov 25th, 2007, 07:29 PM
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Lijiang does look more inviting then Xi'an. Xi'an is horribly polluted and the Terra Cotta Warriors were somewhat of a let down for me because they are located so far down in the pit it was hard to see. I had to use my camera to zoom in for a good look. But Xi'an culture was diverse (the Muslim Quarter) and the Tang Dynasty Dinner Show was the best thing we saw in China, second the acrobats in Beijing. So I liked Xi'an after all was said and done.

Fly from Beijing to Xi'an late- the price was exactly the same as the overnight train. Eat the extra night stay in Xi'an, visit Muslim Quarter in evening and start early the next day to the Warriors, walk around city centre in afternoon, dinner show in evening, overnight then get out before you have permanent lung damage.

We stayed at the Bell Tower (nice, with balconies for view of bell tower) because of it's convenient location, next to the bell towers and across the street from the Muslim Quarter and the cement "park(inglot)" where eveyone hangs out, flies kites and socializes in the evening. (CITS bus outside baggage claim $3, no reservation, this is not a dangerous mini-bus to Melody Hotel, half-block from Bell Tower)

All day travel on Fri - Xi'an to Guilin to Yangshuo- if you are in Yangshuo by Saturday you can bike ride all day or wander then see the Liu Sanjie River show. Sun- Tues day trips

Leave Yangshuo Weds for Guilin, overnight fly to Shenzhen, Turbojet to HK or Guilin- Shenzhen over, fast boat to HK. Look at flight times.

Or spend an extra day in HK if you fly Guilin-HK.

Go to Tai-o fishing village. HK and Kowloon are also fantastic! Don't skip. You will be all mainland China'd out and will enjoy this very much!

I agree with Larry - I'd bet money if you went to Tiananmen Square first day you will go into Forbidden City also. Li Qun's Roast Duck Restaurant is famous and in a hutong- need a reservation- nearly impossible to find. Print picture of sign if you go and have locals lead you there. You'll see future dinners waddling around outside

tinlizzy2 is offline  
Nov 25th, 2007, 08:46 PM
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I agree that trying to "see" China in 2 weeks is really not possible, so pick places that interest you the most now and save the rest for another trip. (Imagine trying to "see" the US in two weeks....). Also, much of the PRC is still going to be cool to cold in late March and will be a bit on the rainy side in places like Guilin, bear that in mind. Not sure what you will find in the way of rice terraces in March, they may be more brown and muddy than green. (I don't know how many rice crops they turn in a year there, but it's not tropical like Bali or the Philipinnes where you can get 3-4 a year and will have fields at different stages next door to each other.) This may mitigate in favour of a place like Lijiang where the resorted old town can be seen in all weather conditions and the snow covered mountains are beautiful too. Hard to say.

Tiananmen Square is of course right in front of the Forbidden City and you can combine the two if you wanted to free up your first day for something else or have an extra morning somewhere. It may be that you want to see the square on your first day as a rather low-key day of not doing much, that is fine too. Try to see Mao's mausoleum as well that day which is also in the square. Also the flag-lowering ceremony at sunset (sunrise is good too, in many ways better as there are fewer crowds). For sunset times go to

I live in Hong Kong so I know that it is much more than hotels and high-end shopping. However, with 2 weeks only you can determine whether it fits into your itinerary. March is not great weather-wise, but towards the end of April is a little better, we tend towards dampness, cool temps and fog in March, but will probably have the warmest temps of any place on your itinerary. Lots of active temples here, from small street side shrines to large ones, which of course you won't find in the PRC, and April is just the start of the season of celebrating Tin Hau, the goddess of the sea and fishermen, so you will probably find festivals going on here in various places. Also April 4 is the Ching Ming festival here, which is a public holiday. This is one of the two "grave sweeping" festivals in the year, and is a time when families visit graves and make offerings to ancestors. It can be an interesting time to go to a local cemetery (there is the large multi-faith one in Happy Valley and a lovely Buddhist one up on the hill above Sok Ku Wan in Lamma which is part of a magnificent, if challenging walk, from Sok Ku Wan up and over Sok Ku Wan mountain.)
Cicerone is offline  
Nov 25th, 2007, 08:56 PM
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"Lots of active temples here, from small street side shrines to large ones, which of course you won't find in the PRC" Not sure what you meant by this, cicerone. No street shrines? Or no active temples? I've certainly seen active temples in China - mobbed with people, with huge clouds of incense and big racks of dripping red candles over the National Day holiday, but also with smaller crowds at other times.
thursdaysd is offline  
Nov 25th, 2007, 09:03 PM
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Glad to hear you have seen it, that has not really been my experience in the PRC versus living here in Hong Kong. There are just hundreds of temples here in Hong Kong, not to mention the small street ones and the ones outsdide shop doors. I have not had this experience in the PRC,as active temples seem very thin on the ground to me. Ancient ones that are no longer used, like the Temple of Heaven, are around, but not so many active ones like you can find here in Hong Kong. Many, many temples in the PRCwere destroyed on the cultural revolution and even before that, religious practices were discouraged by the government. I would be curious to know where you saw the huge crowds of people.
Cicerone is offline  
Nov 25th, 2007, 09:23 PM
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Interesting topic developed in this thread.

On small temples and street shrines, I agree that there aren't many at all. Not like it is in Hong Kong, Macau or even Taiwan. The Cultural Revolution definitely played a huge part in detroying those.

And we are talking about temples of various dieties.

There are certainly lots and lots of well-preserved Buddhist monasteries; and many of the ones in or near the major cities are attracting huge amount of worshipers these days. But I don't think those are the ones Cicerone is talking about.
rkkwan is offline  
Nov 25th, 2007, 09:52 PM
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Yes, sorry to hijack the OP's thread, but this came up in a Thanksgiving dinner discussion when talking about religious freedom, and when people talk about seeing "traditional" China. I always say to come to Hong Kong, because it is the place that has not had its traditions suppressed like in the PRC. I agree that the government is becoming somewhat more lenient these days, and that there are growing visitors to temples in the PRC, but do feel that the opportunity to see day to day worship is much less than here in Hong Kong, not to mention festivals to particular gods.
Cicerone is offline  
Nov 25th, 2007, 09:59 PM
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The really big crowds were over National Day in Lingyin Si in Hangzhou and on Putuoshan, and in one of the Taoist temples in Beijing. But I've seen worshipers, as opposed to sightseers, at other times too, although more women than men. I do agree that there aren't temples on every street corner, but they do exist.
thursdaysd is offline  
Nov 25th, 2007, 10:13 PM
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The PRC government have no problem with people worshiping at most "mainland" Buddhist monasteries, as the modern day Chinese Buddhist institutions post zero threat to the rule of the rule of the Communist Party. Those Buddhist leaders simply do and say whatever Beijing wants.

The situation is very different when it comes to Tibetian Buddhism, where many leaders openly or secretly still has ties with the exiled Dalai Lama "regime". Or when it comes to Catholicism, where there's now a Beijing-sanctioned church, and an underground one sanctioned by the Vatican. Or when it comes to Falong Gong, of course.

But back to the "mainland" Buddhism. It's now basically a major money grabbing institution. When my parents visited a large monastery in Shanghai a couple of years ago (maybe Longhua Temple), they saw lots of young people worshiping there, and the monks have a price list of how much they charge for blessing your cars - Mercedes-Benz for one price, Audis for another, and so on.

Or say you go to Lingyin Monastery outside Hangzhou, one of the largest and most important in the country. Tourists and worshipers line the paths leading up there, and to get to the main hall, you actually have to pay three times!

Or go to Putuoshan Island off the Zhejiang coast. Three major monasteries are apparently not quite enough to satisfy all the worshipers, so they're literally removing huge part of a hillside to build a brand new, humongous one.
rkkwan is offline  
Nov 26th, 2007, 04:43 AM
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For those not going to Xian, at least look at the photos from Chris:

His amazing Xian pictures are here:
rkkwan is offline  
Nov 26th, 2007, 05:07 AM
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Wow, rkkwan, sorry to hear about the plans for Putuoshan. I thought it was wonderful the way it was, even with the crowds.

Mainland temples would feel less crowded if the Chinese followed the habit of other Buddhists (maybe only Theravada Buddhists?) and went round the temples clockwise. There were traffic jams behind the Buddhas at Lingyin Si with people going round both ways and meeting at the back. There were also signs trying to convince people that more wasn't necessarily better when it came to burning incense, but they didn't seem to have any effect!
thursdaysd is offline  
Nov 27th, 2007, 01:52 PM
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wow. I was just back from a 2 week China trip last month and your itinerary looked 80% like mine. I inserted JiuZhaiGou+HuangLong between Xian and Guilin. Good itinerary!!

4.5 days in Beijing is not too few to hit the main sights. FYI, I used 2 mornings (9+ hours) to sight-see about 75% of Forbidden City. Beijing is very crowded with big Chinese tour groups. Try to be first to arrive at major sights to beat the traffic.

Not that 3 days in YangShuo is too long. But the itinerary seems unbalanced if you are only spending 0.5 day in Guilin and 4.5 days in Beijing. For some people, 2 days are very sufficient. Others can spend a week there wandering around. It depends on what type of travelers you are. LongJi rice terraces seems to be a must-see and is better day-tripped from YS, not Guilin. And, Liu Sanjie show is awesome. Get the RMB200+ seats. No need to go for the VIPs.

I recommend you to stick with Xian. It may be underwhelming to some, but that is a matter of setting expectations. Terracotta warriors is only 5% of what is buried underneath. The reason only 5% is dug up is because today's technologies is not quite there yet to 1) prevent them from oxidizing and lose their color (yes, they all have colors originally) rapidly in weeks and 2) prevent an environmental hazard because the rest of the grave is filled with mercury. It has such historical value and the conditioning is detoriating by the day, and to me that means I need to see them while they are still there without any cage/glass in between. Also in Xian there is an exhibition center of ancient remains dated back to New Stone Age. Quite fascinating.

Somebody else suggested Chengdu. It is worth a day of your itinerary. You can visit that big budda and the Panda center (cute). It is on the way between Xian and Guilin and connected by direct flights, so your itinerary can stay intact.

Yet somebody else suggested JiuZhaiGou. imo it is the most beautiful place I have seen in person. I went in the best possible timing though. Guilin/YS is best to visit during spring, so I probably will recommend you to stick with your existing itinerary.

Hong Kong is the logical choice for flight-transfer (I did the same). You already have a full itinerary, so I will not recommend spending much time there. Howerver, it is vastly different from the rest of China, aka, modern and very fast-paced.
Euro2004 is offline  

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