five days in China - where to go?

Old Aug 13th, 2007, 07:17 PM
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five days in China - where to go?

My sister and I will be taking a vacation to China in late September. I travel to Beijing fairly regularly, and have seen most of the sights, but she has not. She will spend about four days on her own (while I work) in Beijing. Do you have any recommendations for car service to the Great Wall? Are there any more obscure Beijing sights that you recommend?

We will be in Beijing together for about five days, and then would like to take a five day excursion to either Guilin, Lijang, Xi'an, or anywhere else that comes highly recommended. We are not interested in city life (no Shanghai or Hong Kong), but are open to all possibilities other than that. What would you recommend given the time constraints and the season? Would Urumqi or Tibet be worth the effort? Would an itinerary that included Xi'an and Guilin be possible, or would it be too much of a stretch?
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Old Aug 14th, 2007, 08:06 AM
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I just posted on your (similar) post with a suggestion for outside of Beijing. So I'll use this post to answer some of your questions about Beijing!

For the Great Wall, you can join a trip to hike from Jinshaling to Simatai through one of the hostels, such as Beijing Downtown Youth Hostel, located in a hutong near Houhai. (You don't have to be staying at the hostel to use their tour services; we found the same to be true in Chengdu, where they even handled permits to Tibet.)

Of course, your sister can easily do the main sights like Forbidden City and Temple of Heaven on her own. The audio tours are a bit pricey (by Chinese standards) but worth it IMO. Note that she'll need to put down a 100 RMB deposit for the guide in addition to the price. ...At the Forbidden City, there were three different Chinese-language versions at 10 RMB; other languages were 60 RMB each LOL.

Some "more obscure" sights I would recommend:

I really enjoyed the Tanzhe Temple, located up in the hills to the west of Beijing, about 40 minutes drive from the west end of the 1 subway line at Pingguayuan. It was quite peaceful and a real break from the city.

Similarly, the Beijing Botanical Gardens are a relaxing break from the city, filled with families with little kids and couples having their wedding photos taken on a Sunday afternoon. There's an Autumn Garden that's supposed to be spectacular once the leaves start changing in the fall. You can pay a small fee just to get into the gardens, then pay extra for areas like the conservatory, or get a full ticket (55 RMB) to see everything, including a memorial to a Tang-era writer who lived in the area, and the Wofo Buddha temple, which claims to be the largest reclining bronze Buddha in China... I just found this site with good photos of the gardens:
www.kinabaloo.com/botanical_garden.html

The Beijing Planning Exhibition Hall near Ti'ananmen Square has a fabulous scale mockup of the Forbidden City. Even better, there is an entire room filled with an up-to-date scale model of the city of Beijing. Where the 3D model leaves off, the floor is covered with backlit photos at the same scale. This would be a great place to go towards the beginning of your sister's visit, so she can get a grasp on the immense size of the city! Other exhibits there have a very ... optimistic slant.

Lastly, I would venture to say that a visit to the top of the TV tower is worthwhile... if the air visibility is decent! The ticket (50 or 60 RMB, I don't remember exactly) gives you access to the viewing platform, plus a floor devoted to the Beijing Olympics and another with artifacts and photos of historic China. The viewing platform is great in the evening as the city lights come on, and again helps to understand Beijing's scale - and the amount of new construction! The other two floors are very interesting - not least for their government-oriented perspective. The Olympics floor has a tree hung with ribbons visitors have written good wishes on, and a red scroll you can sign your name to. There's also a gift shop (of course), which if you're interested in Olympics souvenirs was not crowded or pushy like other ones I saw in Beijing. Note that there is one prescribed route through the tower, with the viewing platform first, then the other two floors in the order I described.
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Old Aug 14th, 2007, 10:43 AM
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ggreen: The first rule about Tanzhe Temple is that we don't talk about Tanzhe Temple.

That way, it still has the potential to remain a peaceful place.
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Old Aug 14th, 2007, 10:56 AM
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sisduoinchina:

If you don't want a city experience, then you probably shouldn't be considering Xi'an. Not to say there aren't good experiences to be found there. But after your time of pollution and traffic in Beijing, you'll probably be desperately craving some quiet surroundings and clear air.

A trip to Guilin, which is also a large city, (Yangshuo would probably offer a better experience overall) or Lijiang would offer you and your sister a great contrast to the experience in Beijing.

Urumqi, in itself does not have too much to offer a tourist, though it is a good dropping off point for other sights in Xinjiang. Turpan, a wonderful oasis town, is just a two hour drive from there. Kashgar is just an hour or so flight. Xinjiang really feels like the silk road country, rather than China proper. It is a wonderfully exotic experience if that is what you are looking for. Broadly speaking you'll have a more traditional 'China experience' if you stay Xi'an and east.
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Old Aug 14th, 2007, 12:28 PM
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baaj, I did hesitate before typing that one - must have been my intuition trying to get my attention!

So please disregard that paragraph of my previous post - not a word to say about Tanzhe Temple!

I will say that the drive out there is not for the faint of heart! And it takes quite a while from Beijing center. There are plenty of temples and other scenic spots easier to get to.
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Old Aug 14th, 2007, 04:09 PM
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I agree with baaj about that certain temple! Did you know that the Fragrant Hills Cemetery for government dignitaries to RIP is nearby?

Come on, ggreen, I rode to the hills roundtrip on my 0-speed "forever" bike from my school near Beijing University in my late teens and left my heart there!
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Old Aug 14th, 2007, 05:27 PM
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Thanks so much for the advice - we really, really appreciate it. Your insights are extremely helpful, for both Beijing and other destinations. My travels to China have always been to Beijing for work, with only 2-3 days at a time to see things. I'm looking forward to checking out some of your recommendations (which I will keep to myself!) I've really fallen in love with China, and wish that I had a couple of months to really explore the country.

Thanks also for replying on both posts. After posting the first time, I realized that "China" wasn't in my subject line, and I was worried that people wouldn't reply without country specifics.

After reading replies and doing research, we are deciding between basing out of Kunming or Guilin and visiting local sights/villages/etc. Any comments on one v. the other? Any favorite hotels or restaurants in those cities or must-dos in the surrounding areas?

Finally, I will be in Nanjing and Shanghai earlier in September, with a little extra time in both. Any recommendations on hotels, restaurants or "must see" spots in those cities?
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Old Aug 14th, 2007, 05:33 PM
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I will say that I think I continued to type that one because I remember it coming up on another thread back in July or early August - and I wasn't the one who brought it up! LOL. But no worries, my fingers have been stilled - I want it to stay as it is in my memory!

Shanghainese, I think riding around those hills on a bicycle would be lovely - and very good excerise! What was so death-defying was our good Chinese driver, careening around curves and passing everyone else with confident abandon. ...That was my first experience being driven outside of city congestion plus I was squeezed into a back corner seat of the minivan, so it was particularly terrifying! (However, after a similar trip to Simatai and the trek from Chengdu to Songpan, I am now *fearless*!!)
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Old Aug 15th, 2007, 10:07 AM
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Wow, shanghainese, I'm impressed. That's a long trip from Beida on a bike!
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Old Aug 15th, 2007, 10:42 AM
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sisduo -- Since you are not interested in city life, in Shanghai go visit one of the charming watertowns. There's been much discussion on this board which one(s) to visit, the same for restaurants, please do a search and don't miss the shanghai xiao long bao (burst-in-your-mouth juicy steamed dumplings).

What is your budget for hotels and any special needs (pool, etc.)?
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Old Aug 19th, 2007, 01:39 PM
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How much will plane tickets to either Guilin or Kunming be? I have looked at Air China's webpage and it looks like 1600-2000 RMB. Is that outrageous or normal?

Thanks for the advice about the villages outside of Shanghai. It will be my first trip to Shanghai (I've been to Beijing three other times), so I'm interested in roaming the city a bit. I'll be there on business, so I don't have to stay in a hostel or budget hotel. Any hotel or restaurant recommendations will be appreciated!

Also, would you vote for staging out of Kunming and visiting Lijang or going to Guilin and staging out of there for the rice terraces?

Thanks so much!
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Old Aug 20th, 2007, 10:10 AM
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Full fare SHA-KWL (Guilin) is about 1,300RMB + 130RMB tax each way. But if you book locally, or use a website like elong.net, ctrip.com, zuji.com or yoee.com, you should see some 40-50% off fares. So, maybe 1600RMB roundtrip, or about $210.

Kunming is further away, and one-way is 1,900RMB full fare + 130RMB tax. You may see 50-60% off fare, so about 2,000RMB roundtrip or $260.


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