Who's been to China?

Thinking of going to the Peep’s republic for a two-week trip.

Do you think I can ‘do’ Beijing, Shanghai and one other place in two weeks? What would be a good ‘other place(s)’ to try; Nanjing or Xian, for example?

My plan is all pretty vague at the moment. Would be interested to hear recommendations/ horror stories from people who have been there to give me some inspiration/dispiration (heheh, great word I just made up, eh?.)
Thanks :smiley:

It’s do-able. You can do the major sites in Beijing in about 4 days if you push it (Forbidden City, Ming tombs, Great Wall, the sites around Tiananmen, the Summer Palace, and some shopping). I’ve never been to Shanghai, so I couldn’t really comment on that. You could do the sites in Xi’an in a few days, but there are also a lot of cool places to go right outside of Xi’an (like the Terracotta Warriors, old tombs, etc.). If you’re up for some adventure, you might want to go hiking in the Zhongnan Mountains south of Xi’an … there are even some real Buddhist & Taoist hermits there too that you might run into. If you do decide to go to Xi’an, PM me and I’ll let you in on a few really great places to go see. It’s a fun place. :slight_smile:

In the mid-80s I took the train from Beijing to Shanghai (after a few weekends of disco-dancing in my Guess jeans at the Lido Holiday Inn), stopping in Nanjing and Wuxi. The whole experience, going cheapie class, meeting people on the train, getting off to take a few days out in Wuxi, Nanjing, Hangzhou, was great. Two weeks is enough time. The only shitty thing is that the train’s kitchen was always “closed” each time this black guy from Africa in the next bunk over tried to go get something to eat. :imp:

Keep in mind that it can get cold – and I mean cold – in Beijing during the winter. The coldest I’ve ever been was the day I went to the Great Wall (in a van with bald tires on icy roads). Then my friends and I managed to get lost on the way to the railway station for the trip back to Beijing and we found ourselves walking along the tracks through the uninhabited woods, hoping we were going in the right direction. Then the sun started to set, and the temperature fell even lower…

You didn’t mention how you would be travelling between the cities you choose. If you only take the train, that will make your schedule tight; trains on the mainland can be quite slow. Of course, everybody should take a long “hard sleeper” ride at least once; don’t take soft sleeper. You won’t meet as many random people. After you’ve had the train experience, you could make the best of your time by flying. Air tickets aren’t too expensive. The alternative would be to pick a few cities in one region. A couple of years ago, myYou wife and I hit Hangzhou, Nanjing and Suzhou in one trip. We could have done Shanghai, but we were tight on time. We took the train between all of these cities. Hangzhou and Suzhou were quite nice; both cities have a slow, small town atmosphere. Nanjing had its good points, but it is much more polluted.

Whereever you go, you will probably be flying into HK or Macau. I would fly directly on from those cities rather than crossing the border to get a train from Guangzhou. Unless you are a bored foreigner working in any of the Pearl River Delta factory towns (like me) and you need a visit to a decent city (excluding HK/Macau), then there isn’t too much of a reason to hit GZ.

Go to Kunming in Yunnan, or Yang shuo (Near Guilin) Good weather and amazing scenery. Real China.

Shanghai-Beijing-Xian sounds perfect for a two-week trip. You should consider doing one of those legs by train for the views and experience, but fly the other legs!

Ditto! Shanghai- two days max… see what China will be in the future…

Beijing- 4 days is plenty—Forbidden city, great Wall, Mao’s tomb- forget the summer place (too cold and bare now)…

Xian, not been able to go yet, but heard that it is awesome but rather “group touristy”…

Cheapest way is to take the train, but 2 weeks won’t do it, you can fly in China and do all of the above in 2 weeks for sure…

Yangshuo is “real China”? You’ve got to be kidding. Good weather and amazing scenery, yes, but it is through and through a Western backpacker town – and thus one of the very least Chinese places in all of China. Still worth a visit, though.

Dunno when you were in Yangshou, but I was last there 10 years ago and although a bit backpacky then, we came down from Hunan after having spent a month in my husband’s lao jia, and it was a refreshing change. With the cormorants and small rafts on the clear river, it certainly felt like China to me. Also lots of wonderful excursions by bicycle to various caves and climbs to the tops of those fabulous picturesque mountains. I would recommend it to anyone as I’ve got the most beautiful travel photos of all from that area.
If not, Kunming is easy to get to and then onto Dali, or has that become a backpacker’s ghetto too now?

I have been to Beijing, Great Wall, Forbidden City, Summer Palace etc. Great place though I didn’t go during winter. And or course I have Peking duck there (same restaurant as Boris Jelzin if that matters :wink: ). Ask around for the tunnel network under the city, they seem to be somewhat secret - couldn’t find them because nobody knew about it. Supposingly they are there and can only be entered via certain houses or shops. Or it’s just a myth, dunno.

Also been to Kunming, dirty town and best to be avoided I rekon (just use as a gateway to the surroundings). Actually I only used it for overnight stays as we went to DaLi from there, beautiful scenery up in the mountains. Dali is somewhat remote, no international hotels there at the time and I think to remember they only had hot water during certain times of the day. The place is famous for the stone works.
People stare at you while the kids freeze once they see a wai guo ren walking by, but that’s part of the fun. Food might be a bit of a problem, in particular after 8pm.
Loved the place though, there are daytours across Lake Erhai by ship and bus worth taking.
No real horror stories but what takes 30 minutes by plane (Kunming - Dali) takes 8 hours by car. I had to go back to Kunming to catch my scheduled flight to HK but that day was a public holiday, so there wasn’t any domestic flight, hence we rented a car (with driver), driving through deepest Chinese mountain roads. Quite interesting actually. Back at the hotel we dropped into the German brewery right across the hotel for dinner.

If I had two weeks to travel in China, I would follow these two words: Go West.

Sure, try to work in some time in one of the big cities. This, in fact, is probably unavoidable. But my favorite parts of China have been out west in Yunnan, Guizhou, Sichuan, Gansu, Qinghai, and Xinjiang (alhtough, unless you fly, this may be too far west for a two week trip). As Cranky mentioned, it will probably be cold most everywhere (noteable exception Xinshuangbana (Sipsongpana) area of southern Yunnan).

Or, if you are a city person, then perhaps just string together some big cities and their sights. However, I would try to get out West if I could.

Maybe another two-word mantra for the trip: Go slow! (Especially if this trip is during Chinese New Year.)

Have a great trip–and tell us about it when you get back.

Fee, that region is bloody cold and most without proper heat. Go there in the summer instead!
We were in western Szechuan at Tibet border (Kangding, Litang) and froze, in October! Brrrrrrr…

[quote]Fee, that region is bloody cold and most without proper heat. Go there in the summer instead!
We were in western Szechuan at Tibet border (Kangding, Litang) and froze, in October! Brrrrrrr…[/quote]

You are indeed correct, Alien. I traveled to Kanding and Litang in January, and it was certainly a bit chilly. :frowning:

Yeah, and now that I think about it, transportation was rather hard to come by, though we eventually made it down to Zhongdian.

And at 3,000-4000 meters, some areas of Western Sichuan get cold no matter when you go, even in the summer.

So, as Alien suggested, this may be better for the summer, of for when you have more time.

There are downsides to travel in these areas in the winter, namely the cold, lack of heaters, and reduced transportaion. On the up side, fewer people, both locals and foreginers, are traveling at this time in these places. And I do think you get a different look at the areas and the monasterys at this “off time.”

To be honest, one of my dreams would be to spend the month of January or February in Xiahe or in Langmusi or in Qinghai during this time of year. I know that it would be cold, but I think it would be a pretty special time to be in the area, especially for Losar.

So, perhaps consider parts of Western China for travel during the winter, but know that it will be cold. Thanks for helping me to clatify this, Alien. :slight_smile:

Beijing–4-5 days, Shanghai 3 days, Suzhou + Hangzhou 2-3 days. I’d fly to Beijing or Shanghai, and travel the rest by train. The hard sleeper between Shanghai and Beijing is pretty hard to book if its peak travel time and on weekends, you’ll have to do it ASAP. It’s pretty cushy these days (I went several times this year), much nicer than 10 yeas ago. Suzhou and Hanzhou are extremely accessible from Shanghai–day trips, even.

If you are willing to brave the cold, go up to Harbin (by plane) and stay for 2 days. Be sure you squeeze in the snow sculptures and ice sculptures. Try to stay somewhere decent or you’ll be stuck with cold showers. And be sure to wear 3 pairs of pants, long johns, and 2 thick coats. Maybe I’m crazy, but I’ve always thought that there is no such thing as weather that’s too cold–only clothing that’s too cold. Besides, if you are going to go to China in the winter, you might as well go see something that you can only see when it is cold outside, right? Once-in-a-lifetime. That’s what I did for Chinese New Year 2003.

Interesting. You and I were there at about the same time (me: April(?) 1994). The place does indeed look wonderful, and it was certainly a revelation to me that those funny-shaped hills aren’t just some weird convention in Chinese art, like various sages being given huge foreheads.

Someone else mentioned Xiahe, a place I loved. I’ve heard it has an airport now. Back when I went, just about the only way in was a nine-hour bus ride on winding mountain roads. (Life insurance was mandatory for foreign passengers back then. :shock: )

I believe that those areas are exactly NOT the real China. I have never been to that region, but people tell me it is slow-paced, friendly, beautiful, and has the kinds of things that a backpacker would find welcome…things that are not always around in most of the rest of China.

(Skip Shanghai unless you are scouting a possible move from Taiwan. Go to Xian. Very good there. But going now is cold; I know, I’ve been at this time. Freeze the balls off a brass monkey cold.)

I agree with the posters that said to check out Hangzhou. West Lake (Xihu) is really beautiful, and the inspiration for many of China’s greatest poets. Xinjiang is also fascinating, but it’s not “China” per se. However, as an American, I don’t know how safe I’d feel traveling there right now. Scooter mentioned Harbin … unless you like industrial waste dumps, I’d give it a pass. The ice sculpture festival is cool, but it’s got to be the coldest and most desolute place on earth. There is some interesting old Russian architecture there though. If you’re interested in Buddhist sculptures, there’s Dunhuang, Longmen Buddhist caves (in Luoyang), and Bezekelik (in Turfan, Xinjiang). All are breathtaking.