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Tentative Itinerary for China October 2008

Tentative Itinerary for China October 2008

Old Jun 6th, 2007, 12:03 PM
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Tentative Itinerary for China October 2008

Someone on another tread asked me my itinerary for my trip to China next October. It's not completed yet but I might as well throw it out for comments:

This list includes estimated number of night, which I hope to do independently with my cousin rather than with a tour company (but would need to contact a travel agency to help with the logistics, booking of hotels, and finding guides for some of the locations):

- Beijing (4 nights)
- Luoyang (2 nights) (or maybe, if possible, as a day trip from Beijing?)
- Xian (2 nights)
- Shanghai (3 nights) with a day trip to Tong Li and Suzhou
- Guilin (3 nights) with a Li river cruise; Day trip to Longsheng
- Hong Kong 3 nights (2.5 days)


I have 23-24 days for this trip (unless the expenses really add up then I’d keep it closer to 19-20 days) and I haven’t figured out the remaining days. I am leaning against taking a Yangtze cruise and would probably prefer more time to other cities/towns. But I would like some relaxing days too. I could add another day in HK for a day trip someplace for one of the days I need to fill.

I still have lots of reading to do, but would appreciate your comments and suggestions.

Also, could you let me know which is the best mode of transporation?

Thanks!

Monica


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Old Jun 6th, 2007, 01:08 PM
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You are fast with putting together the itinerary and I like it, almost a reverse of steve's with more days in BJ and HK. Depending on the prices of 2 one way international flights from your home base, you might want to re-arrange your entry/departure cities and itinerary unless you use points.

Steve's travel agency and many others can help with the logistics of hotels and guides. There's a wonderful night train between Beijing and Xian, and between Xian and Shanghai. I'm not sure of between BJ and Luoyang. There is a nice train between Xian and Luoyang, too far for daytrip from BJ. I'm not keen on the Yangtze cruise, you will be relaxing in Guilin/Yangshuo/LOngsheng, and if you have extra days I suggest see the pandas in Chendu or go to Lijiang.

If you are a shopper, keep in mind you can lug several bags onto trains at no cost, but internal flights in China only allow one checked bag for free.
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Old Jun 6th, 2007, 01:31 PM
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Shanghainese, thanks for your comments. Just reading the postings these last several days and comments on sights, I just kept saying to myself, “I want to go there!”

No, I don’t have points for flying, so you think it’s better to start in HK than BJ?

I read one posting about a 16-hour train ride. I once did an overnight ride and was exhausted the next day because I couldn’t sleep. Everytime the train stopped by Mom and I would peek out the window to see where we were. I guess I could plan a 3-hour nap once I got to the hotel.

I have read Steve’s journal, as well as started to collect names/emails for guides and agencies to help with the bookings.

I’ll read up on Chendu and Lijiang.

I’ll keep in mind about the shopping. I’m not a big shopper but do love my jewelry, which is easy to pack.

Monica
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Old Jun 6th, 2007, 03:49 PM
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I usually recommend people to start in Beijing and end in Hong Kong. Reason is that you really need all your energy to do Beijing. You'll be exhausted after 3 weeks in China, and you really don't want to arrive Beijing that way. Hong Kong, on the other hand, can be "done" leisurely.

Also, since you're going in the fall, you should go from North to South. Or else when you get to Beijing, it'll be pretty cold.

Keep in mind that October 1st is national day holiday. The country is off for the first week. You don't want to travel then. And then October 15-20 and 25-30 is the Canton Fair, where buyers from all around the world goes to Guangzhou. Hotels are expensive throughout the Pearl Delta Region, including Hong Kong.

So, if you're flexible with your dates, arrive Beijing October 8 or after; work your way down to Hong Kong after November 1st.

As for travel, the overnight trains you may want to contemplate are the overnight "Z" trains between the main cities. These are very comfortable, with 2- or 4-berth cabins, and they don't stop enroute so you won't get waken. The route that makes sense most sense are those around 12 hours. Like between Beijing and Shanghai, and between Beijing and Xian.

Trains on other routes are slower and less comfortable. So, fly to/from Guilin.

One exception you may consider is between Shanghai and Hong Kong, if you plan to go directly between those two cities. There is a non-stop "T" train between those every other day that takes about 19 hours. Not going to save you much money and definitely not time, but it's very comfortable, and you get straight to the city arriving in Hong Kong, without having to cross the border with a gazillion people.

You may want to wait until you've taken a few trains in China before deciding whether to do this.

I also suggest adding Yunnan Province to your trip. Go visit Dali, Lijiang and Shangri-La.
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Old Jun 6th, 2007, 03:52 PM
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BTW, if you're going to Xian, then Luoyang should be done right before or after. Lots of trains between the two, and about 5 hours. Don't do it as daytrip from Beijing.
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Old Jun 6th, 2007, 05:32 PM
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rkkwan's advise is spot on as usual imho.

Cut out Luoyang or Guilin and go to Kunming!

While we were in China that's all the locals and travelers we met talked about was Kunming and the beaches of Hainan.

Looks like your in for an exciting time either way you choose. Enjoy!

Aloha!
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Old Jun 7th, 2007, 06:00 AM
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Thanks for your comments. I would prefer to start in Beijing and end in HK because of the weather. My original plans were to leave D.C. on October 8th, arriving the 9th, which would be after the holiday week. But that would mean I would end up arriving in HK about the 29th, which I don't want to arrive while during the Canton Fair. So I can push my dates up starting the 10th or 11th and arriving in HK on the 31st of October.

Thanks for the suggestions of the other places - I'll read up on them.

I need to find a good map of China so I can figure out the right itinerary so that I'm not zig-zagging all over the country.

The train sounds good if it doesn't stop. Are the sleeper cars secure?

Monica
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Old Jun 7th, 2007, 06:14 AM
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The Soft Sleeper has 4 berths in a cabin (with locks). Deluxe Soft Sleepers, available on most "Z" trains and the Beijing/Shanghai-Hong Kong non-stop "T" trains have 2 berths (both lower) in a cabin with locks.

China trains are safe. I have not heard of any theft issues.

[The Beijing-HK and Shanghai-HK trains are not "Z" because they do stop 2-3 times to change crew and locomotives, I believe. But not to let people get on or get off.]
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Old Jun 7th, 2007, 07:17 AM
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Soft sleeper class on Chinese trains is getting very luxurious. For photos, see http://seat61.com/China.htm He shows one soft sleeper compartment with its own TV screens!
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Old Jun 7th, 2007, 10:15 AM
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Okay, been doing a little more reading and checking the calendar so that I don’t travel to China on a holiday:

10 October – depart D.C.
11 Oct – Arrive Beijing
12, 13, 14, 15 – Beijing, great wall, etc.

16 Oct – train to Xian
17 Oct – Terra cotta warriors and whatever Xian has to offer

Here’s where I get stuck:

18 Oct – Travel to Luoyang (bus? Train?)
19 Oct - Luoyang

(Is Luoyang worth an extra day for sightseeing? Must read more on this area!)

20 Oct – Head to Shanghai.

Can I go from Luoyang via train or flight or do I need to get back to Xian for a train/flight? Not sure if I would get to Shanghai on the 20th or 21st.

21 - Shanghai
22 – Shanghai – day trip to Tong Li and Suzhou
23 – Shanghai

23 Oct head to Guilin/Yangshuo

24 Yangshuo – Li river
25 Yangshuo – day trip to Longsheng
26 Yangshuo – Maybe just a day of vegging out and soaking up the views. I found a couple of retreats in Yangshuo that look great so I might want to stay there instead of in Guilin.

27 ?
28 ?
29 ?
30 ? (or move these 4 days to after Shanghai)

31 – Fly to Hong Kong
1, 2 Nov - Hong Kong

3 Nov – Fly home

Seeing the pandas in Chendu would be great…if it’s a unique experience, or head to Lijiang. If so, not sure yet where to fit Chendu on the itinerary.

As always, your suggestions are appreciated.

Monica
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Old Jun 7th, 2007, 11:43 AM
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monica,

here is a copy of a TR I did this spring on which we went to Chengdu and really enjoyed our time with the pandas. If you want to see the pics....email me at the address at the end of the TR and I'll send you the pics.

http://www.fodors.com/forums/threads...7&tid=34981470

Aloha!
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Old Jun 7th, 2007, 12:03 PM
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Would suggest putting Chengdu after Xi'an - there's a night train - the flying to Shanghai, or going on to Kunming for Lijiang. However, I was there at much the same time of year and the weather was cool and wet. If you go, add Leshan (big Buddha) and one of the nearby mountains to the pandas. Also, there's plenty to see in Xi'an besides the warriors - do a search on this board.
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Old Jun 8th, 2007, 06:53 AM
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Thursdaysd,

Just to be clear on your message: Do you mean to suggest I include Leshan if I go to Kunming? I still need to find a detailed map so I can really see where all these places are located. The map I have is very general and doesn’t show the smaller towns/places.

So, I could do the following: Beijing to Xian (via night train), Luoyang, back to Xian (bus? train?) to get to Chengdu (via night train), then fly to Shanghai, then fly to Guilin/Yangshuo, then fly HK?

Thanks for the comment about Xian and that there are more sights to see there.

Thanks everyone!

Monica
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Old Jun 8th, 2007, 07:47 AM
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No, Leshan is near Chengdu. It's on the way between Chengdu and the Emei Mountain. I will not just go to Leshan. Only if it's part of a tour to Emei Mountain. That'd be a 3-day trip from Chengdu.

If you decide to train from Xian to Chengdu, then you should do:

Beijing - Luoyang - Xian - Chengdu. Trains from Beijing to Xian go past Luoyang anyways. You just can't take the non-stop "Z" train to Xian. But there are other overnight trains, or day-trains (~7 hours), or fly.

One of the main sites outside Luoyang is the Shaolin Temple.

You can fly from Chengdu to Guilin to Shanghai to Hong Kong.

Another alternative is to fly into Shanghai from the US. Then fly or overnight train to Beijing. Then go down the west through Luoyang, Xian, Chengdu, Guilin, and then Hong Kong.
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Old Jun 8th, 2007, 10:50 AM
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Monica,

we're planning a trip which is amazingly similar to yours. we're departing Ottawa Oct 8 for Shanghai, doing the same sites as you, leaving Nov. 6, from Hong Kong.
We're not staying in Chengdu - instead we added Huangshan and Jiuzhaigou.
If you want to exchange more detailed info - ottawastonesATgmailDOTcom
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Old Jun 9th, 2007, 04:40 AM
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Hi monica:

I wanted to comment on the Guilin/Yangshuo portion of your itinerary:

the Longji rice terraces are really not to be missed, but will be 3-3.5 hour drive each way from Yangshuo making for a long daytrip

consider arriving in Guilin early afternoon and spending a half-day on local sightseeing and overnight in Guilin. Start off from Guilin to the terraces on day 2 and relocate from Gulin to Yangshuo in the late afternoon when you return.

there are many options for small boat touring of the most scenic stretches of the Li or rafting on the Yulong; bike riding, etc. It is a great area for a wind-down day or two in the midst of a hectic trip to China.

the liu sanjie sound and light show on the river at Yangshuo should also not be missed.

www.yangers.com is a good resource for the area

happy travels!

maytraveller
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Old Jun 9th, 2007, 06:53 AM
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Thanks again for your comments and suggestions. YES, I do want to see the rice terraces, so good idea to stay in Guilin and later move to Yangshuo. I do want to have a few relaxing days and think Yangshuo would be a good place.

Chiefie, I'll email you later. I was originally going to fly out on the 8th, but don't want to hit HK during their festival. Maybe we can see if we can meet up for a GTG!


Monica



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Old Jun 10th, 2007, 03:43 PM
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You might want to try adding the Shanxi province right after your Beijing time. We just got back yesterday from a Beijing/Shanxi trip (full trip report to come in a few days, we are still jet lagged). The Yungang Grottos, Hanging Monestary, Pingyao and the Jin Ci temple are not as visited by American tourists, and seem to me to be as spectacular as any historical site could possibly be. Shanxi is extremely polluted, but you can see 50 foot high Buddhas carved into rock from the year 465 (sort of like Bamiyan used to be), an original Song dynasty temple and bridge and iron statues, the only surviving Qing dynasty walled merchant city, and much more. It took us 4.5 days round trip from and to Beijing by public transport.
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Old Jun 10th, 2007, 07:16 PM
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I was going to suggest substituting the Yungang Grottoes for Luoyang, but Jeffrey beat me to it!

The Hanging Monastery was an amazing experience. At the bottom, they let me rent one of those heavy Red Army coats and, although it was bulky and hard to move around in, I was really glad to have it way up there dangling on the cold mountain - and this was in the summer time!

You can combine the Hanging Monastery with the Yungang Caves. The CITS office in Datong railroad station should be able to arrange a combined tour for you with an English speaking guide. We stayed overnight in the Yungang Hotel, but you can overnight by train to Datong from Beijing, take the tour, then overnight back to Beijing. This is an easier trip than trying to get to Luoyang.

The Yungang Caves predate and then overlap the Luoyang Caves. The only difference is that you can cross the river at Luoyang and get a good look at the huge Vairocana(?) Buddha from across the river.

If your purpose is to visit ancient Buddhist caves, then either Luoyang or Yungang should fit the bill.

BTW, if you DO go to Datong and the Yungang Caves, get the CITS office in Datong to buy the return train ticket for you. The Datong train station is a zoo.

The other comment is that, if you are staying in Beijing until the 15th, you can leave on the night train to Xian on the 15th and not have to allocate an entire day, the 16th, for travel to Xian.

The train to Xian leaves from the Beijing WEST station, not the Main Station. Try and get an upper berth, soft sleeper, 4-berth compartment. I liked the upper berth because it offers more privacy and there's more room to store luggage in the upper rack. Trains are very safe in China, especially the soft berths. Bring toilet paper!

Most of all, travel light!

Have a great trip! You're getting great advice from some of the best Fodorites!
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Old Jun 11th, 2007, 07:40 AM
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Many thanks for your comments! Lots to think about and lots to read.

You mention that the trains are safe. Is the luggage storage lockable? Not sure I would sleep well with other people in the compartment. I'm sure the 2-person compartment is more expensive but maybe worth it for the security/comfort?

I'm a pretty light packer but will pack even lighter with all the moves I'll be making.

Will go through everyone's suggestions while reading my books.

Monica
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