Leaving for China this week - help!

Old Dec 21st, 2003, 10:15 PM
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Leaving for China this week - help!

Thanks again to Peter and the other kind folks who replied to my message a few weeks ago. We are leaving for Beijing this week, and had planned to end our trip in Hong Kong for a few days. Due to a problem with our return flight, we are not going to be able to fly to Hong Kong after all. This means that we have 3-4 more days on the mainland, and only 2 days until we leave to figure out how to spend it. Help!

We now have 8-9 days total (26 Dec - 3 Jan) to spend in Beijing and anywhere else we can reasonably plan a trip to in this last-minute crunch. We'd love input on whether that should be Xian or Shanghai, or somewhere else altogether. What would be most fascinating (and still comfortable in this winter weather)? Thanks so much for helping us to make the most of our trip in the eleventh hour!
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Old Dec 22nd, 2003, 05:23 AM
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You can always stay in Beijing and never run out of things to do. A great city. Don't miss the dirt market, only open on weekends. It is like visiting a folk museum -- except it is all for sale.

We took the overnight train from Beijing to Shanghai. Quite an experience! We got a sleeper berth for our family of four. Woke up the next morning in a different world. The contrast between the two cities is fascinating.

Haven't been to Xian, but I'd bet it is quite a sight.
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Old Dec 22nd, 2003, 06:33 AM
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JGMC - thanks so much for the reply. Would love to know more about the train -- did you have your own sleeper car (private), was it a very unique experience (as opposed to train travel in other parts of the world)?
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Old Dec 22nd, 2003, 06:54 AM
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Yes, we had our own sleeper compartment. There were not many Westerners on the train -- it was quite an experience! The hotel made the reservation for us. The train was very clean. Tea was waiting for us; a large container of hot water and toilets were down the hall. Meals were served in the berth. I honestly can't remember if we paid extra for the dinner or not, but, even if we did, it was very cheap.

Getting to the train was another experience. The taxi could not take us right up to the train and we had TONS of luggage. People were eager to help us, though, and put our suitcases (and us) on a motorized cart and brought us to the train. I must add that my husband speaks Mandarin, so I was confident that we could straighten out most situations.

You leave at night and arrive in Shanghai in the morning. There were no shortage of taxis at the station, but you would want to have your destination written out in Chinese.

Of course, there are many flights, but we opted for the adventure. Just be sure you get the "soft" seats and a private compartment. Some people sit up all night; some passengers sleep on what looked like planks in a dormitory set-up. That much uniqueness I was not willing to go for!
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Old Dec 22nd, 2003, 09:37 AM
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Staying in Beijing for 8-9 days in middle of the dead winter seems a bit too much. But your choice is really very limited because China is big and from point A to B takes time. And you don't have much time.

I'd opt for Xian rather than Shanghai. Shanghai is a bit warmer but is not too much more than a mordern city. There are some nearby great sceneries but still, it is the winter time. Xian is at least an important archaelogical site.

There are direct trains from Beijing to Xian with similar facilities as from Beijing to Shanghai, if you want to experience it.
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Old Dec 22nd, 2003, 01:19 PM
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I visited China in December 2001, visiting Beijing, Xian and Shanghai, and I'd rank the cities in that order as far as interest. Beijing is by far the most interesting of the three, and could easily occupy you for the full length of your stay, but understanding your desire to travel elsewhere, I would recommend Xian over Shanghai. The most obvious site in Xian are the Terracotta Warriors, and after that, the number two site, in my opinion, would be way down the list, but its a manageable city with an interesting market. Shanghai is very modern, and the Bund is interesting, and the Shangai Museum is OK for an hour or so. It can be very cold in Beijing and Xian during December, so Shanghai may be preferable only because its more comfortable to walk around. I don't think internal flights are that expensive and you could do a triangular trip like I did and visit all three cities.
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Old Dec 24th, 2003, 06:04 AM
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We visited Beijing and Xi'an and enjoyed that. Our flight was already arranged but I know some people at the hotel booked a flight after they got there through CITS. Xi'an has the terra cotta warriors and way better shopping (for everything) in our opinion, than Biejing. There are some pretty facinating markets to wander through. You could also consider renting a cab and doing some day trips out of Beijing on your own if you decide to spend the whole time there. Lonely Planet Beijing is helpful. And don't forget to check if your hotel has a pool/massage/sauna area. Massages are cheaper than here and quite an experience!
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