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jacketwatch Jan 13th, 2014 01:56 PM

Where in China for 1st time.
We are considering going to China for the 1st time and the only must see in the Great Wall so where do you suggest we begin? Beijing has a NS from ORD so can you see the GW from Beijing and how are the sights in and around there?
Thanks, Larry. :)

thursdaysd Jan 13th, 2014 02:27 PM

There is enough to see in and around Beijing, including the GW, to keep you occupied for weeks not days. You can find the top tourist sights listed in any guidebook, if you want more tailored advice you need to tell us your interests.

Before planning a China trip read the reports here on pollution, particularly air quality, but also food and water.

jacketwatch Jan 13th, 2014 03:23 PM

After my wife got sick in India what we consume is very important.
We will have about two weeks so we need some time home to bet over jet lag b4 returning to work.
I would get a guide book for sure and it does seem there will be enough to do.
Would you recommend any other cities?
Thanks! Larry. :)

thursdaysd Jan 13th, 2014 04:23 PM

As I said, it depends on your interests. Most first timers go to Xi'an for the warriors, although there are several other worthwhile things to do there. Shoppers and fans of modern architecture like Shanghai, I prefer nearby Hangzhou and Suzhou. I also enjoyed Chengdu, most people go for the pandas, but again there are other things to see/do. The scenery around Guilin and Lijiang is good but both are pretty touristy.

jacketwatch Jan 13th, 2014 04:26 PM

Looks like I need a guide book first.
Thanks! :)

kja Jan 13th, 2014 07:05 PM

Yes, a good guide book or two will prove invaluable. I found Frommer's especially helpful, as it had extensive information on local foods (including English descriptions and Chinese characters for specific dishes). Check before you buy to make sure that is still included and if not, look for an older edition that has it. :-)

Several of us, including thursdaysd and myself and a number of others, have posted trip reports, and our trips covered different parts of China. You might find some of those reports helpful.

thursdaysd has given good advice about checking the reports on pollution, which is a growing problem and worth giving serious consideration.

JPDeM Jan 13th, 2014 08:20 PM

Hard to give a suggested itinerary unless you tell us how long.
Problem with pollution is that it is like weather, it changes every day. The pollution level yesterday has nothing to do with what you will encounter on your trip. Could be better , could be worse. So don't let that distract you.

harrybridges Jan 13th, 2014 11:09 PM

I think you can travel in the center of city first, then go outside for some travel

uhoh_busted Jan 14th, 2014 02:37 PM

I think you could easily spend a week in Beijing. As for other places, we really enjoyed Xi'an. The warriors' complex is amazing. But the city itself was also quite interesting, with a popular night market, and a pedestrian section around a large art school (details escape my memory a the moment.) I loved seeing all the brushes and art supplies, and visiting the small galleries. There is also a huge theater, with a fantastic dancing, singing, folk-orchestra performance along with about a 14-course dumpling dinner. Very touristy, but still simply splendid. We did a tour from the US. Something we really had never done before (!) and to be honest, there was very little we could find to complain about (well, maybe some of the scheduled "economic exchange opportunity" stops, but they were even very entertaining.) The company was China Spree. BUT, Xi'an was one place I could see myself returning to "on our own." Shanghai was also a highlight for us, but that was because we had an expat friend there, who met us on our "free day" to give us a wonderful, personal tour/experience. You could probably visit the three big cities and do your own bookings.

I totally did not expect the openness to answer questions about ANYTHING of the local guides in all of our stops. Our trip was in the May before the Olympics.

jacketwatch Jan 14th, 2014 03:00 PM

Awesome replies guys. I appreciate it! :)

thursdaysd Jan 14th, 2014 03:38 PM

I would urge you to travel independently in China. That way you will miss the shopping "opportunities", and you can provide your own commentary, instead of litening to a guide who has been trained by the government.

It is not difficult, especially in the east coast cities. Even in the west, I managed fine with a combination of guide books (with Chinese characters for place names), a good phrase book, and the occasional very helpful English-speaking local.

jacketwatch Jan 14th, 2014 04:51 PM

Good advice. Thank you. :)

filmwill Jan 14th, 2014 07:27 PM

"Before planning a China trip read the reports here on pollution, particularly air quality, but also food and water."

I might add an additional consideration to be wary of: the people. Not to sound like a sourpuss, but seriously: our time in China was definitely interesting but I've never experienced such rudeness and indifference in my life. Perhaps a result of spending so much time in Southeast Asia where warmness and kindness seems to be de riguer. If you enjoy getting elbow-checked by old grannies at the airport and having to dodge spitballs from locals on the streets, you're in a for a grand old time! ;)

That said, the food IS fantastic. Definitely a far cry from what normally thinks of when they think Chinese food. Really just some amazing dishes that will change your definition of Chinese cuisine.

In the 7 or 8 places we visited there a few years ago, nothing stood out quite like natural beauty of Lijiang (yes, touristy...but not if you stay at a decent hotel outside of town the scenery of the lower Himalaya is breathtaking) and the Southeast Asian-ish beauty of the karsts on the Li River near Yangshuo is also definitely memorable.

City-wise, Beijing was far more interesting to me than Shanghai (sort of the difference between San Francisco and Los Angeles--culture and history in one, none in the other)

My experience was with guides in China and I never got the impression they were trained by the government. In fact, the disconcerting part was that we often talked politics (the forbidden T's: Tibet, Taiwan and t) with our guides but many of them told us they could "talk in the car, but not outside the car." For me, it was not very relaxing to feel like you were in a police state on vacation--where you couldn't feel comfortable to ask about what you were seeing and what you were doing (outside the protection of a car) with the people who live there.

filmwill Jan 14th, 2014 07:28 PM

Sorry that part of my post cut off. The 3 T's are Tibet, Taiwan and Tiananmen

kja Jan 14th, 2014 07:38 PM

"I've never experienced such rudeness and indifference in my life"

I encountered extraordinary kindness and generosity from countless individuals in China.

filmwill Jan 14th, 2014 08:08 PM

That's the beauty of a travel forum: we don't always agree.

thursdaysd Jan 14th, 2014 09:01 PM

I, too, found extraordinary kindness. However, it was when I was in less touristed places - which, was, of course, where I most needed it.

DMBTraveler Jan 14th, 2014 09:20 PM

Forget the guidebooks... Just go and enjoy Beijing. So much to see and do and it is easy to get around on the metro to all the sights you might want to see in the city.

Easy to do day trip to Great Wall.. but prepare for heavy traffic on the way back into city.

Wish it was not such a hassle visa wise.. or I would visit China as often as I could.

Despite language and cultural differences all my trips to China have been enjoyable ones. I think you'll have a great time!

harrybridges Jan 14th, 2014 10:07 PM

there are many foreign tours in beijing, many people enter china at beijing, you can find some guys to tour together

sakya Jan 14th, 2014 11:29 PM

Have always (99.9 %) found the chinese to be honest , extremely helpful and friendly and a smile will go a long way.


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