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Itinerary Help with China Trip with 14- and 10-year-old

Itinerary Help with China Trip with 14- and 10-year-old

Jun 8th, 2013, 09:00 PM
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Join Date: Dec 2005
Posts: 150
Itinerary Help with China Trip with 14- and 10-year-old

Greetings! I am in the *very* early stages of planning a trip to China for our family of four, which includes boys who will be 14 and 10 by the time we go next March. My husband has spent a lot of time in Beijing, and I've been there briefly, but we're eager to venture further afield. Our boys are not really amusement park kids - they love animals, and they're sometimes mini-foodies when we travel.

We will definitely start off in Beijing, and our boys want to see the terra cotta warriors in Xian and pandas in Chegdu, but that's as far as I've gotten because I'm overwhelmed. So here are some initial questions as I try to pull together a 2-ish-week trip:
- What are your don't-miss-'em recommendations, either for cities or activities?
- Do you have a favorite restaurant, park, show, etc. that older kids are likely to love?
- How long do you think we should take in Xian (just a day trip from Beijing? an overnight stay? two nights?)?
- How long in Chegdu, and what else do you think the boys would be interested in seeing, other than the pandas? (I've heard it's an absolutely lovely area, but loveliness is often wasted on them.)
- Would you go to Tibet, or is it just too far to travel for the limited amount of time we have?

I'm sure to have many, many more questions as plans become more concrete, but I'd appreciate any advice you can offer on this stuff for now.
miamatusow is offline  
Jun 8th, 2013, 09:09 PM
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 25,150
With two weeks you really don't have time for more than Beijing, Xi'an, Chengdu and just maybe Shanghai. I can't imagine doing Xi'an as a day trip - I suppose it's logistically possible, especially using a night train one way, but there is plenty more to see in Xi'an than just the warriors. Around Chengdu there is the Buddha at Leshan, and a couple of sacred mountains. If you go to Shanghai there are the water towns nearby.

You are aware that pollution has gotten much worse, right? Bad enough that expats are starting to leave Beijing? Are you sure you're comfortable taking your kids?
thursdaysd is offline  
Jun 8th, 2013, 09:34 PM
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We know that we don't have a heckuva lot of time, and the pollution, while not good, can't kill us in just two weeks. I have asthma, and even I was fine in Beijing, so I think it'll be okay.
miamatusow is offline  
Jun 8th, 2013, 10:22 PM
Join Date: Oct 2003
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Don't do a daytrip from Beijing to Xian, why would you return to BJ? The night train would be nice for the boys to experience. 2 weeks is a tight schedule, you'll have to condense your time in BJ, Xian and Chengdu and save a couple of days for Shanghai which can be attractive to your kids.
Shanghainese is offline  
Jun 9th, 2013, 12:14 AM
Join Date: Jul 2011
Posts: 427
Try to fly in Beijing and fly out of Shanghai so that you ca ave time and money.
Xi'AN is best done over 2 days, one night.
For parks, go to the Temple of Heaven in the morning, before 10am is best for the people watching. also any big park in the evening is entertaining.
Lots of food opportunities if your kids are a little adventurous (without eating anything strange).
As you say, pollution will not kill you over 2 weeks. Yes some expats are leaving but that is what expats are, temporary residents. It is always this way and always new ones are coming although the jobs opportunities are not as good as they once were if you are not fluent in mandarin. Other than teaching english, one cannot fly in and expect to find a job there. Maybe that was doable 20 years ago, even 10 years ago.
JPDeM is offline  
Jun 9th, 2013, 06:11 AM
Join Date: Feb 2006
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Pollution will not kill you in two weeks, but it could certainly make you miserable, especially if you are going in March rather than the summer. I don't know when you were there last, but it has deteriorated enough since my last visit that I am having doubts about making a fourth trip. Before you dismiss the warning out of hand you might want to read this (I would not consider the Economist an alarmist source):


Of course expats come and go, but it is one thing to leave as part of a normal rotation, and another to make a deliberate decision to leave early for health reasons.


While the situation in Beijing is getting the press coverage, and air pollution there is exacerbated by its location, I am sure the situation isn't good in other big cities. At least stock up on your asthma meds!
thursdaysd is offline  
Jun 9th, 2013, 06:46 PM
Join Date: Feb 2004
Posts: 23,074
Forget Tibet. Not worth the expense and trouble bringing kids there, even if you have more time.
rkkwan is offline  
Jun 11th, 2013, 06:05 PM
Join Date: Jun 2013
Posts: 31
I went with my teen son to Suzhou--the ancient gardens are amazing and fun to run around in. There are night events with music in the gardens, and a lovely I.M. Pei designed museum. Suzhou is a short train trip from Shanghai and there is a great luxury hotel there next to one of the gardens. As mentioned above, the water towns near Shanghai are interesting as well. In Xian, there is an unexcavated tomb you can climb for a hike and a view--it is supposedly poisoned with mercury booby-traps by a former emperor. And make sure you go to the famous dumpling restaurant next to the drum tower in Xian.
SLICMama is offline  
Jun 11th, 2013, 09:02 PM
Join Date: Oct 2010
Posts: 394
Having just spent almost all of March and part of April in Beijing, a city I've visited for extended periods most years since 1986, and in which I've had several periods of residence, I can affirm that I've previously experienced nothing like the pollution I encountered this year. It's no good sitting back as just saying it will be all right because you want it to be.

The AQI, which WHO recommends limiting to around 25, was frequently in the 200s and sometimes in the 300s. My lungs were often sore even sitting indoors wearing a N95 filter mask. On other days winds blew the murk away and provided blue skies, but for the majority of the time pollution levels were extraordinarily high.

You can get the facts about pm2.5s, ozone, and AQI by visiting twitter.com/beijingair. If you have asthma, you should be getting qualified medical advice from someone familiar with your condition, presenting him or her with the real figures. I, for one, would not take my children to Beijing in March, even with firmly fitted N95 masks for them, let alone without.

Those who live and Beijing and have no choice but to stay exhibit confirmation bias (Look! Blue skies today! It's not so bad here) and try to look on the bright side. But there is every reason to believe the pollution will be worse next year, and not better. Friends who have frequently found themselves taking their children to hospital this year are leaving as soon as the school year is over. And Beijing is far from having the worst air pollution in China.

Having said that, should the atmosphere magically clear up, in Beijing the China Railway Museum--a vast shed full of enormous steam engines--works for most small boys (of any age). The Da Shanzi 798 Art District has enough startling and entertaining public art of the kind children will want to be photographed next to as to be worth half a day even for those with no interest in culture at all. The electronics markets in Chaoyang Men Wai Dajie, with an infinite array of hand-held games and the latest gadget of every kind may appeal.

Beijing is also excellent for model kits, often available for dramatically less than in the West. Try Tianyi Market, for instance. And the panda enclosure at Beijing Zoo will give you a decent view of pandas without having to go all the way to Sichuan. Beijing also has an excellent aviation museum (two, actually, although the smaller of them is only just emerging from renovation).

The market at Shi Li He will also provide wildlife galore, especially song birds and mynahs, mutant goldfish, crickets, and so on. If the boys are not familiar with high-speed rail to French or Japanese standards then travelling by train between Beijing and Shanghai will give them a taste of 300kph on land.

That's just randomly, in haste, off the top of my head. More details available of any of these that sounds particularly interesting.
temppeternh is offline  
Jun 13th, 2013, 01:56 PM
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Join Date: Dec 2005
Posts: 150
I certainly appreciate your concern for my health and the health of my children. My pulmonologist does not believe that two weeks will be a problem, so the "qualified medical advice" is covered.

Thanks for the suggestions regarding Xian, the market at Shi Li He and the 798 arts district. I've heard that the Beijing Zoo can be pretty depressing due to poor living conditions for the animals - did you not find it so?

Thank you!
miamatusow is offline  
Jun 17th, 2013, 07:21 AM
Join Date: Oct 2010
Posts: 394
> I've heard that the Beijing Zoo can be pretty depressing due to poor living conditions for the animals - did you not find it so?

Live animal exhibits are in general best avoided in China (Beijing's Milu Deer Park would be an exception) not only for the living conditions but for the behaviour of the visitors towards the animals. This includes those in Sichuan.

However, the panda enclosure in Beijing is a modern facility with its own separate ticket, providing clear views of the beasts, and close to the main entrance of the zoo. It's easy to visit without seeing any other part of the site if you don't wish to do so.
temppeternh is offline  
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