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Yunnan: Dali, Lijiang & Shangri-la; how many days?

Yunnan: Dali, Lijiang & Shangri-la; how many days?

Feb 21st, 2012, 04:27 AM
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MmePerdu, thanks for clarifying. I got another email today showing the extent of China's pollution seen by satellite. When I have a specific travel question, I'll ask them.

BTW, I've just "discovered" a different tour operator to get a private journey quote from....China Highlights. While I've been going back and forth about doing this on my own (especially after reading Peter NH's previous posts about why you shouldn't use one), I will sleep better at night if I can trust all the logistics to local knowledge and assistance. There are extensive positive reviews of this company on TA.
barefootbeach is offline  
Feb 21st, 2012, 05:15 AM
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I've come around to the idea that a well chosen tour operator can be useful for a first trip to a new culture when you don't speak the language and don't have a long time to stay and figure it all out. It can be the practical compromise.

The main complaints from disappointed tour takers seem to be group size, quality of the food and many stops for shopping "opportunities". Knowledgeable travelers in China also say that the history presented is largely invented so you might want to look for your information from outside sources if that's important to you.

Regarding shopping at stops along the way, not sure how this can be avoided since apparently the kickbacks from merchants are a sizable portion of the guides' income. It may be inevitable. But do make a big point of asking and insist that you don't make these stops and maybe they'll be reduced to a minimum. And I'd guess that group size could be related to food quality as it's easier to feed a large group at a buffet. So if your group is very small then that may make a difference.

But all this is hearsay as I've only traveled independently in Yunnan, my only China experience, where I spent a month. I have to tell you that the places you plan to visit are on a well-trodden tourist path and I see no reason why you'd have to put up with the down side of a tour where you plan to go. I suggest you investigate every detail offered and ask for changes of items that aren't your first choice if this is, in fact, a custom tour. Often I think the recommendations people make of tour companies come from those who have never traveled any other way so don't know what fun it can be to have the option of spontaneity and possibly a much better all around experience. I think one can pay a huge price for the convenience of a tour, even the relative good ones.
MmePerdu is online now  
Feb 21st, 2012, 10:33 AM
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Thanks MmePerdu,
The China Highlights site addresses the shopping issue and claims no forced shopping visits. Since our itinerary is being developed for just my husband and I, we have flexibility and the final word in what we want to do....and I do want to do "some" quality shopping. They also claim you don't eat at dumbed down tourist haunts but at local, authentic places. We're also on our own at dinner, which I think is a good thing. A lot of their good press on TA does come from independent travel people who say this is the first tour they've taken.

But given all that, I'm still coming up with what I'd pay to book this all independently. If there's a big difference, I'll go it alone and risk the inconveniences. I can arrange transfers from all the hotels I'm staying at and I've already tracked down a lot of good independent local guides. I guess I'm most concerned about last minute flight problems and getting them resolved, standing in long lines to get admission tickets, boarding passes, etc., knowing where to go biking or hiking without getting lost, help in deciphering menus, and lastly, but hopefully will not be an issue, what if there's a disaster (like an earthquake) and no one is aware where we are or how to get us out.
barefootbeach is offline  
Feb 21st, 2012, 02:20 PM
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Let me see if I can address any of the concerns.

1. Last minute flights. In China it's much more the norm to buy tickets what we'd consider last minute. We bought some, for instance, from a travel agent in Dali. That's not a big issue.

2. Admission tickets to what? Yunnan isn't Beijing. I never saw a line for anything.

3. Getting lost. People are very helpful. Have your hotel write your address on a piece of paper, or anywhere else you might want to go for that matter, and show it to someone. You won't be lost for long.

4. Menus. When a menu isn't in English it's a good thing. That means you aren't in a tourist joint or at least the tourists are probably Chinese. If there's no one to translate they'll take you into the kitchen where you can point at what you'd like. Or point at dishes other people are getting. Much more interesting than knowing what you'll get.

5. Earthquakes. Don't worry about things you can't do anything about.
MmePerdu is online now  
Feb 21st, 2012, 02:28 PM
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barefoot - you are a seasoned traveler. No need for all your concern. Do your research and you will enjoy. Often what we remember most and enjoy reflecting on are the crazy experiences most unexpected.
dgunbug is offline  
Feb 21st, 2012, 03:47 PM
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If you hire a local guide he/she can help out with all of your concerns. Our guides got us tickets for the cable car(Jade Dragon), Impression show, arrange the car from one town to another and accompanied us on the ride. Very nice to have a local guide who can speak English as your personal assistant!
Hanuman is offline  
Feb 21st, 2012, 04:16 PM
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You guys are killing me! Price willing, I'm going to go with a tour operator just to prove that you can have a great experience! Or, I'll be eating my words. The jury's not out yet.
barefootbeach is offline  
Feb 21st, 2012, 04:42 PM
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For 7 or 8 days it makes perfect sense to have facilitators. It's not much time and to not have to figure out the logistics would be good, assuming your helpers are helping you do what you really want to do and not what they want you to do or what everyone else does. If you get my drift. It's easy and cost effective (more profit) for them if you don't deviate from preplanned itineraries. So if you can avoid this and other pitfalls then I think it makes good sense.

One of my best days was the only day I hired a lovely English speaking guide to drive us down to the market near the Burma border. He took us to visit a woman in a village nearby and to lunch at a country restaurant where we were the only lunchers and I had the best meal of my life. I hope your trip is as successful as that day was for me.
MmePerdu is online now  
Aug 27th, 2012, 10:41 AM
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How was your trip to Lijiang? I'm heading to Lijiang and Dali area in mid September and would love any tips and experiences you can share about hiring local guides v. trying to explore on your own.

TravelJoyously is offline  
Sep 2nd, 2012, 07:30 PM
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You'll have to tell me first! We're not going until late October! In Lijiang, we'll be under the wing of China Highlights.

In the Dali area, we're staying at the Linden Centre, which is acclaimed for being a boutique hotel that offers an authentic cultural experience. All the activities are offered by them. They're located in a renovated three courtyard home in the village of Xizhou....near Dali. They've gotten great press...you should check them out.

Have a great trip!
barefootbeach is offline  
Sep 11th, 2012, 05:32 PM
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Went to Kunming, Dali and Lijiang this past December. It was great - we used Asiatravel.com for all arrangements and booking us a car plus English speaking guide.

Dali is good for perhaps 2 days - highlight was boating on the Er Hai Lake - fisherman use cormorants to catch fish - an amazing spectacle. Dali did not have much to offer. Walk around a bit in the old town, grab dinner and people watch!

For Lijiang, strongly recommend the Crowne Plaza - lovely hotel with a great view from their foyer and an 'empty' heated pool for what it's worth. We actually bought swimming costumes and used the pool - great fun! The hotel is walking distance to the old town which we explored on our own. We went to the Jade Mountain and found it well organized. We did the tiger- leaping- gorge trek - not the whole thing what with our then 6.5 year old in tow - stayed overnight at the Naxi Village Guesthouse - basic but charming. You can also have a horse carry your bags for the walk. It was a different experience altogether, and far from the madding crowd. Be prepared for loooong drives to anywhere but roads are generally good and people helpful.

From Kunming we did the Shi Lin stone forest and Jiu Xiang underground caves. We did not go to Shangrila. - really much further out. I would have liked to visit Yuang Yuan to see the terraced rice fields but again the distance was a deterrent.

All in all, it was a pretty memorable trip, the highlight being the overnight trek at the Tiger Leaping Gorge.

Oh, and we flew in and out of Hongkong to Kunming and back.
tongsa is offline  
Sep 11th, 2012, 05:44 PM
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Sorry, forgot to answer your question - a full day and a half is enough for Dali unless you are going walking up the mountains. For Lijiang if you are going to do the trek and enoy the environs, four to five days should be more than enough. I would suggest you finish the the trek and stay one more night at Lijiang to recoup and enjoy the trappings of luxury! Connections from Kunming to Hong Kong are once a day, as I recall you will end up spending time there.

P.s. do try the Dali beer. And be prepared for the loos!
tongsa is offline  
Sep 11th, 2012, 05:45 PM
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thanks for the update! I'm looking forward to the Crowne Plaza and walking around Lijiang. Impressive you id the Tiger Leaping Gorge trek...we'll probably just get a walk in (especially because I just trashed me knee!) I'll see Dali for a short visit but will skip the cormorants.
barefootbeach is offline  
Sep 11th, 2012, 10:16 PM
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Lijiang Crowne Plaza is an awesome hotel. The best one we stayed in China, and we stayed in many good ones. I would recommend the Blue Papaya restaurant, which is a 15 minute walk from the hotel. The Jade Mountain will be chilly, so dress accordingly.
Sandeep_Menon is offline  
Sep 12th, 2012, 09:16 AM
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Don't forget to see the show "Impressions of Lijiang" by hundreds of local performers on a huge outdoor theatre up in the mountains. You can rent long parkas and oxygen bottles to go up to the top of the mountains via gondolas, view is amazing. There are many other sights within an hour or more from Lijiang, take your time and don't rush.
Shanghainese is offline  
Apr 21st, 2015, 07:15 AM
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@ MmePerdu Do you have any suggestions for the Yunnan area? I didn't see a trip report on your profile. Guidebooks that I've read gloss over the area quickly but have found a couple interesting blog posts.
flyingbaran is offline  
Apr 21st, 2015, 07:41 AM
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Flyingbaran, this is an awfully old thread. Consider starting a new one with any specific questions you may have (orange button at top left). Exactly what sort of suggestions are you're looking for?

The newest guide seems to be a Rough Guide to SW China. There are others, older, for Yunnan alone. But any guidebook needs to be supplemented with recent information, especially for China.
MmePerdu is online now  
Apr 23rd, 2015, 08:03 AM
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Thanks for the guidebook suggestion. I found a recent copy at the library to read over.

I heard about Tiger Leaping gorge and Yunnan area via google searches and a tour group itinerary. I think it will be a good contrast to other parts of my trip (Beijing, the usual stuff) where I could slow down and take in more scenic sites via hiking or renting a bike. From what I gathered it seems these "quaint" villages have been built up for tourism but still great to visit. I just don't have much information other than a couple places (Lijiang, Dali, Shaxi, Kunming). It's not that I expect to find undiscovered places to visit, I just want to know what's available.

Like this blog I found mentions salt towns and this thousand lion mountain: http://www.gokunming.com/en/blog/ite..._lion_mountain Hopefully it won't take 10 hours to get there.

Sorry about the lengthy reply. I will be posting a new topic once I have more of an itinerary together.
flyingbaran is offline  
Apr 23rd, 2015, 08:27 AM
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I stayed in Kunming, Dali, Lijiang and Jinghong in the south on the Mekong River, all with excursions by taxi into the surrounding countryside. Our day trip outside Jinghong was especially interesting, to a large hill tribe market near the Burma border. From Jinghong, or downriver a bit, there are boats you can take to northern Thailand.

I didn't hike the trail above Tiger Leaping Gorge but my companion did. He's an experienced hiker and backpacker (Everest Base Camp, Kilimanjaro, Grand Canyon, etc.) and he described it as a good one. If you're fit and have the stamina, it might be fun, depending on weather. I don't believe the trail is suitable for bicycles but you might look into it to confirm.

Dali is in a flat area with a lake nearby and farming villages around. I think it would be most suitable for leisurely bike rides.
MmePerdu is online now  
Apr 23rd, 2015, 12:42 PM
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I found the area south of Kunming much less touristed that the north, although admittedly that was ten years ago and I believe there are a lot more Chinese traveling these days.

See: http://wilhelmswords.com/rtw2004/index.html -Kunming: Circling South
thursdaysd is offline  

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