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Where to Stop for a Short Visit on My Way to China?

Where to Stop for a Short Visit on My Way to China?

Old Mar 26th, 2012, 08:48 AM
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Where to Stop for a Short Visit on My Way to China?

Hello Everyone!

I will be traveling to China in October (spending one week in Beijing and one week Shanghai) and this will be my first time in Asia. A lot of my time will be taken up by work while I am there, so I will most likely leave for my trip a week early so that I can make the most of it. I was considering making a short visit (3-5 Days) on my way to China. I am considering Tokyo, Hong Kong, Taipei, Bangalore or Singapore. I am definitely open to other suggestions on where to go.

Thank you in advance for your help.
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Old Mar 26th, 2012, 10:50 AM
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Taiwan would be an interesting introduction to China - less pollution and more authentic history. The scenery is good too if you get out of Taipei. Click on my name for my East Asia TR.

I would drop Bangalore from the list - if you're going to India it deserves a longer stay, and Bangalore is a high tech enclave, not really representative.
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Old Mar 26th, 2012, 12:10 PM
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Thanks thursdaysd. I read through your tread. A lot of good information on Taiwan. Do you know what the weather is like there in October? How far outside of Taipei are the scenic areas that you mentioned? What is the best way to travel to them?

Thanks again for the info!
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Old Mar 26th, 2012, 02:21 PM
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If you will have a single-entry Chinese visa for this trip and won't necessarily be going back to China soon, it would be very worthwhile to think about whether you wish to visit any other cities/places in the PRC besides Beijing and Shanghai on this trip.

Another idea: you might want to spend more time in your first destination Chinese city (Beijing?). If it were my trip, and it is not, I would likely go to Beijing early and spend time exploring it before my work commitments began. It is such a big city and there is so much to see. Some of us like to more more slowly and savor while others move at a brisker clip. I don't know your preference.

If you won't necessarily be going back to Asia soon, you should follow your heart to any Asian destination that excites your imagination and works in terms of flight routes, of course.

I love Hong Kong and think that it is always a good choice. It was my first Asian city (before Beijing) and it provided a wonderful introduction. Taiwan would also be fine. To answer your question about weather, I was there last October and the weather was fine (with just some light rain).

I totally agree with thursday about leaving Bangalore aside for now.

You would certainly enjoy Tokyo or Sinagapore -- both are wonderful cities that are easy to navigate -- but the question is whether you would like to focus more intently on Chinese culture or mix it up more. Also, depending upon where you are traveling from, Singapore might be far afield unless you have a compelling reason for going there.

Lots of choice here and your personal preferences matter.
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Old Mar 26th, 2012, 02:45 PM
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For historical weather info see weatherunderground.com. I was there during and after a typhoon, so not the best person to ask.

There are several day trips from Taipei - see the Lonely Planet guidebook for details. I think the Taroko Gorge is just doable as a day trip from Taipei, but an overnight would be better. You can take the train. Further south you'd definitely need more than a day trip.
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Old Mar 26th, 2012, 08:11 PM
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Like Marya, I wonder if you've considered adding time to your stay in China, whether in Beijing of Shanghai or in between. If most of your time will be taken up with business, adding time to one of these 2 cities makes sense, especially with Beijing - there is SO much to see there! Or you could visit Xi'an, or...

The good news is that you have many wonderful options.
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Old Mar 26th, 2012, 08:34 PM
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where are you coming from, that might influence our suggestions
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Old Mar 27th, 2012, 05:22 AM
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Thank you everyone for the responses so far!

I will be traveling from the East Coast of the U.S. The flight to Asia will take at least 24 hours (accounting for transfers and layovers) so I was hoping to experience as much as possible while I am there because I don’t know if I’ll be going back any time in the near future. I was originally considering just extending a layover for a couple days in one of the connecting cities (Tokyo, Taipei, Singapore, etc…) and then I was thinking about spending more time in one of the cities. I have never been to Asia, or anywhere near it. I have been to Europe many times, and I am looking for an experience very different from the U.S. or Europe. I am interested in experiencing traditional Asian culture and history and seeing some of the beautiful places.

I will be in Beijing the first week and Shanghai the second. I will have most evenings and a couple of the weekend days free, but the days will be taken up by business. I have considered arriving in Beijing early. If I get there a week or so early, where would you recommend going? I could travel to other areas in China, where do you recommend?

I am definitely open to open to arriving in China early, or making a stop at another country before getting to China. Please let me know your thoughts and suggestions. I plan to book the flights within the next couple days before the rates increase.

Thanks again for your suggestions; I appreciate it.
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Old Mar 27th, 2012, 06:00 AM
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There is no one Asian culture. For traditional culture I would recommend Japan or Taiwan, but they are very different. You could easily spend all your extra time in Beijing, but be aware that the Cultural Revolution destroyed a great deal, and that pollution on mainland China is bad.
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Old Mar 27th, 2012, 06:05 AM
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You refer to "one of the connecting cities (Tokyo, Taipei, Singapore, etc...)" Are you looking at specific flight route options that would make them connecting cities for your purposes or are you constrained in your choice of airline or flight route?

Note: If by "eastern United States" you mean you are traveling from the Boston-NY-DC corridor, there are well-priced direct flights to Beijing from NY/Newark and DC. Maybe your home city is south of that area in which case I wouldn't be familiar with typical flight routes.

You said that you are ready to book flights in the next couple of days so I am wondering if there are particular attractive options based on price and schedule or if this is all wide open?
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Old Mar 27th, 2012, 06:39 AM
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Thursdaysd – If I visit Japan, would you recommend Tokyo or flying into another Japanese city? Where in Japan would you recommend for the best traditional and cultural (non-touristy) experience? I would also like to get out of the major city for a more relaxed/scenic area.
Is the pollution bad in Hong Kong as well, and is there also a lack of traditional culture there?

Marya -I was hoping to stay with a single airline to get as many frequent flyer miles as possible, but this may be difficult if I’m visiting multiple countries and is not that critical. I am pretty open to different routes. I was trying to book the flights soon because fuel prices are increasing here in the U.S., and some of the airlines are starting to raise their prices as a result.

Thanks again!
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Old Mar 27th, 2012, 08:18 AM
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any stop over in asia would prove to be interesting...

i am from boston and the primary routes and stop overs that i have taken leave me in #1 narita, japan; #2 singapore; #3 beijing.

it really depends on the airline... currently my gfavorite is korean air, so a stop in seoul might prove interesting..

i much prefer SE Asia however with a stop in singapore, or bangkok... hong kong is another very easy dtop over...

it all depends on your airline
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Old Mar 27th, 2012, 09:00 AM
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It isn't really possible to advise you well without knowing your interests better than we do from these brief postings. What will make you happy may be different from what some of us thinks makes good sense for this trip. Let's just call this brainstorming options for this trip based on the very little we know about you and the significantly more that we know about travel to Asia from the US.

Two things up front.

You have lots of experience in traveling to Europe from the eastern US. You need to know that this will be a significantly more tiring trip and time zone adjustment though. That affects the quality of your time on the ground in the first few days. People vary in how well they handle jet-lag but there will be some noticeable impact even if you are young.

Second, the scale of things in Beijing and Shanghai is unlike anything you have previously experienced. It takes time to get around to see and do what you want to see and do, especially now that traffic is such a problem. More time than you are likely imagining.

Now, where to go.

Parenthetically, might you consider the option of traveling for pleasure at the end rather than the beginning of the trip? You will be completely attuned to the time zone and you will have a little cultural competence after the two weeks of business. Just a thought.

If you really (really?) don't think that you are going to go back to Asia anytime soon, then follow your heart and book yourself to whatever first (or last) Asian destination sets your imagination on fire. You will spend a lot more time in the air this way, but it is an unparalleled pleasure to travel to places that genuinely excite you. Just use the business trip to China as a good excuse to go where you want to go.

If it's novelty and an introduction to "Asian" culture that you seek but you have no defined interest in any place in particular, then I would suggest an itinerary that favors more cultural coherence and depth. Assuming the model of first week free, 2nd week Beijing, 3rd week Shanghai (rather than changing the free week to the end of the trip), two options come immediately to my mind. Others here may have different suggestions.

Option 1 is to go straight to Beijing and really use that week to ease into being in China and going around to see as much as you can. One of those days, you would leave the city to visit the Great Wall.

A week vanishes in Beijing. Sights like the Forbidden City, Summer Palace, and Temple of Heaven take hours to visit. Whether you like it or not -- I am very fond of the city after many visits although I know opinions vary -- at the end of two weeks, you would start to have a feel for the capital city of the world's rising power, China. Not a bad investment.

Note: I have been in Beijing in October when the days have been beautiful and I have been there in October when the pollution was so bad that I felt as though I were on the set of a post-apocalypse film. The weather/pollution will affect your enjoyment but I don't know how to predict what it will be like when you are there next October.

Option 2: Go to Hong Kong first. It is a thrilling city and a good first Asian city for westerners who speak English. Cicerone, who lives in HK and posts here, is an unparalleled source of first-rate guidance on how to approach HK. You could research her postings and come up with a plan. I cannot imagine not liking Hong Kong.

There are plenty of flights to HK from the eastern US and plenty of flights from HK to Beijing (direct flight 3+ hours/cheaper 2-leg flights are 6-7+ hours). You would lose extra time to travel this way, but you would gain some feel for the "one country two systems" phenomenon.

Another option given that you will have a Chinese visa for this trip is to go elsewhere in the PRC. My sense is that wouldn't be the best choice for you for this trip -- particularly since those yet-unspecified Chinese destinations would be visited first -- but others may disagree.

Just some ways to think about it.
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Old Mar 27th, 2012, 09:25 AM
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marya_ makes an excellent point about jetlag. I too have been to Europe more times than I can count and can force myself through jetlag there easily, but I was seriously knocked on my butt in China. I am talking like 3-4 days of feeling like a zombie jetlag and not being able to sleep at night until just before the alarm went off for the next day. I finally got sleeping drugs from a doctor on the tour I was on and that got me over it. So no matter where you spend your first handful of days, know that they will probably be a blur.

That said, I also agree though that going to Beijing early may be a good idea. First, it'll allow you to see sights in and around Beijing on days other than weekends when they might be overly crowded (thinking specifically of the Wall here) but also to maybe take a hutong tour or do day trips out of the city that would not maybe make the cut if you were just touring on nights and weekends.
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Old Mar 27th, 2012, 09:48 AM
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For a first time to Asia, Hong Kong is a nice transition with English spoken everywhere.
Arriving in Beijing a few days early is another plan. The jet lag will linger for up to five days so I find it difficult to take in major sites in that condition. Last fall we were in Beiijing for the second time and took long walks, ate some fabulous meals until we were ready to tackle more sightseeing.
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Old Mar 27th, 2012, 10:19 AM
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Unfortunately, doing an extra Asian excursion after my business trip is not an option for me because I have to get back because for some obligations at home.
We will have an organized visit to The Great Wall, and maybe The Forbidden City while we are there.
Great point about the jet lag; I wasn’t thinking about that. I would probably get some sleeping medicine to help me sleep on the plane and adjust once I get there. Hopefully this would reduce the time I need to adjust.
Personally, I also like to see some of the less-touristy areas. I love going into traditional areas where few tourists are, and immersing myself into the culture so that I can get an accurate impression of what it is really like.
Hong Kong or spending extra time in Beijing would definitely be really good options, but I’m also intrigued by Japan. I wouldn’t want to stay in Tokyo the whole time though. I’d like to get out to some of the other less metropolitan areas if possible, but I don’t know anything about Japan.

I appreciate the great continued responses
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Old Mar 27th, 2012, 11:26 AM
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To reply to your question about Japan, I would look at flying into Kyoto rather than Tokyo. I would recommend visiting Kanazawa (doubt you can fly there direct) and spending some time in the mountains inland from Kanazawa. Click on my name for my East Asian TR including Japan.

I can't join the chorus suggesting Hong Kong. Like Singapore it's basically a very crowded island (HK is more expansive than Singapore), and a great place for shopping and eating, but I think you would find Japan more rewarding.
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Old Mar 27th, 2012, 11:41 AM
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Taking over the counter Melatonin for the first 3 nights after a flight which crosses many time zones has always helped reduce my jet lag. After my 32 hour flight to Myanmar, I was ready to roll the day after my arrival, with no apparent jet lag. I've used Melatonin on 5 trips to Asia, and it has always worked for me.
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Old Mar 27th, 2012, 12:35 PM
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Sidebar:
I typically agree with thursdaysd's assessments, but that verdict on Hong Kong has me flabbergasted. Wow. I am neither a shopper nor am I nearly as sophisticated about food as many here, but, HK is for me exceptionally rich in "culture and history and...beautiful places" -- what the OP said he is seeking. It also would enrich his subsequent visit to the PRC to have a Hong Kong experience. OK. Disagreement is refreshing and instructive to the OP and to all of us.

Main post:
VeeDubb, you know your own heart and it sounds as though it is leading you straight to Japan. Your personal interest and excitement are the best motivators in planning your trip. Go for it! As an aside, after the bruising experience Japan suffered a year ago with the Fukushima Daiichi accident, tourism fell off in a punishing way so I think that it is a good thing to contribute to Japanese tourism's rebounding. (That is how I felt when I was there last October.)

Why don't you get a good guidebook or two and see what attracts you most? Also read the postings here from some of the extremely knowledgeable folks who know Japan so well. In one week that includes recovery time from jet-lag, you will need to choose carefully.

Since you are eager to get off the tourist path as much as is possible, and since that is challenging given such a short stay, maybe you can explore through your university alumni network or other groups for ways to connect up with someone/people currently in Japan. Spending a day or so with someone could be satisfying.

The first time we visited Japan, we spent 5 days in Tokyo and then took the Skinkansen to Kyoto for 5 nights. Tokyo was invigorating, we loved the train travel, and we absolutely fell hard for Kyoto.

You have time to do some background reading before October as well. It is dated (published in 1991), but I recently read something that you might like: Bruce Feiler's LEARNING TO BOW. It is the story of a young American man who graduated from college and went to teach English in Sano, Tochigi prefecture, at a time when he was possibly the only westerner in the community. It is a young man's book, but it recounts lots of cultural discoveries in an easy-to-read format.

Coincidentally, a few days ago, I started a thread asking for recommended books to read on Japan in preparation for spending this summer there. You might find it interesting:
http://www.fodors.com/community/asia...bout-japan.cfm

Let us know how you are doing.
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Old Mar 27th, 2012, 07:31 PM
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We faced this situation going to the Beijing Olympics in 2008 from eastern Canada. We stopped in Tokyo, Kyoto and then took a high speed ferry to Busan, South Korea. We (five of us) would go back to Japan in a second.

At the time airfares from Japan to Beijing were very expensive. I haven't checked since.
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