Help! In China and need itinerary help!
Replies: 37 - Last Post: Oct 3, 2012 5:12 PM Last Post By: jiejie
Sep 21, 2012 6:13 PM
15"but it sounds like the big take-away message is that we would likely have better luck in the South..."
No, not really. The big take away message is that you need to get out of the cities into the countryside. This is easier to do in the South and Southwest. Your timing will, unfortunately, make it much more difficult to avoid the crowds.
Just as a related aside, the national government recently announced a suspension of tolls on all major highways during Golden Week (next week.) Tolls are usually relatively high. You can imagine the effect this will have on city dwellers with cars who would like to get out and breathe fresh air for a few days.
Sep 21, 2012 6:21 PM
16Xian, then Sichuan (maybe try Langzhong), then into Yunnan, means you are heading in the right direction for Laos and SE Asia.
Taiwan is a great place, and arguably a better place to experience Chinese culture, but not really in the right direction for you? guess you could head to Xiamen and then catch the ferry there. On the way to Xiamen you can stop in Yongding and stay in a toulou. Before that you could stay in and around Yangshuo for a few days. For me, the best parts of China are the countryside. Get out of the cities as fast as you can.
From Taiwan, you can fly to SE Asia.
Sep 21, 2012 6:27 PM
17Nice well thought out response from you OP, it sounds like you know your limitations and are willing to go forward with an open mind ...
If it is scenery and Karsts you're after, head straight for Yangshuo, then hop a flight or a train from Guilin to Kunming and explore Yunnan for awhile. Or the other way around, Sichuan, Yunnan, then Yangshuo. Since you're not opposed to taking a few flights you can really go anywhere within reason. Train tickets will be hard to get for travel dates starting from about Sept 29th onward but flights are still available. Yangshuo is beautiful, it sits right on the bank of the Li river and there are karts lining the banks on either side, just like something out of postcard China. Lijiang in Yunnan is really beautiful too, despite all the tourists. The area is one of my favorites in all of China.
Another thing -- Yangshuo and Yunnan have strong tourist infrastructure in place and lots of it is aimed at foreigners. Yangshuo in particular, although it gets a decent amount of Chinese tourists, is very popular with foreigners (the majority of the Chinese tourists stick to Guilin, and maybe do a day trip to Yangshuo but don't generally stay there). You'll find places with English language menus, you'll find hostels and hotels with other travelers and English speaking desk workers. It will be much "easier" unless you really go pretty far off the beaten path, and it sounds like off the beaten path is necessarily what you're looking for this trip.
I really hope you enjoy the rest of your trip OP! I don't think the entire country just isn't for you, it is huge and there's lots of variety. You just have to find the place that suits your style. Good luck!
Edited by: thelocaldialect
Sep 21, 2012 6:36 PM
18I think it's VERY unlikely that you will be able to "hop on a sleeper train" in Xi'an. Xi'an is a notoriously difficult place to get sleeper tickets out of at any time of the year. Now, coming up to a big holiday, I'd rate your chances of waltzing into Xi'an station and buying sleepers as slightly lower than the chances Accrington Stanley has of winning the FA Cup this year.
Sep 21, 2012 6:47 PM
19Boy are you in for a surprise when you get to Latin America's capitals and major cities...
Beijing may be crowded and congested (19 million people) but al least they are safe, well kept and organized, you will want armed guards in Honduras...haha
But, having lived in China for 7 months, both Shanghai and Beijing, I did tire of travel in China unlike any place I had ever been, just about everywhere is a effort, and the pay off is so so, overrun and crawling with tourist (mostly Chinese). Its was weird, China does have its charms, but getting to them, around them and thru them, leaves much to be desired.
Sep 21, 2012 6:51 PM
20@ bai3feng1: Yes, you're right - it's not necessarily that the South will be far different from the North, but may make it easier for us to try different things like getting out of the cities, which apparently are dragging us down for the time being.
@ drumbrake: Since we have a double-entry visa, we figured we could head to maybe Fuzhou and take the ferry/ferries to Taiwan and then head back the same way and/or fly into somewhere like Chengdu on our return (we were thinking of saving Southern China for our 2nd pass through, but I guess we're changing things up now! But maybe we'll like it so much that we'll come back for seconds!). Of course, if we hightail it to Taiwan even after making it to the South, we are then well posed to just fly to other places in SEA. We're keeping things open-ended so that we can do what we feel will make us happiest rather than sticking to a hard schedule.
@ thelocaldialect: Thank you for your encouraging words and the info on Yangshuo and Yunnan. We know that we have only scratched the surface of China and really we may just need to give it time so we can adjust. And it is so diverse that just because one part doesn't do it for us, that doesn't mean we should throw in the towel right away. We are learn something new every day and we are oddly grateful that we got to see something so vastly different from what we are used to, but we do want to have more moments like at the grottoes and less of the sprawl and grit. I will keep everyone posted on what we do and how the rest of our time here fares.
@ manchurianexile: Would it be possible to get a sleeper ticket for Xi'an here in Pingyao? We would be looking to head out of Xi'an on the 25th or 26th, so still a few days prior to Golden Week kicks off. If we can buy in advance, we certainly will, but my understanding is that the rail stations are not connected and so it is hard to buy tickets for trains originating from a place where you currently are not (meaning the earliest we could buy our tickets out of Xi'an would be when we arrive there (by bus) from Pingyao tomorrow).
@ SoloHobo: No plans to see Latin America on this trip (nor Africa, other than maybe Morocco or Egypt) as neither of us speak Spanish and we feel like that's something we'd like to be able to do before embarking on that part of the world. It's a trip for another time, and hopefully after spending some time working through Asia and its ups and downs, we'll be better equipped for it!
Sep 21, 2012 6:54 PM
21Yes. Be prepared to fly out of Xian. It is a big central hub and besides being a huge tourist destination, it is a place where lots of travelers who couldn't get direct tickets wherever they were going choose as a transfer stop.
Plane tickets are not really that expensive though. I put in a random date, Sept. 26th, Xi'an to Kunming and found flights on ctrip for 580rmb. Xi'an to Chengdu is even cheaper, 500rmb for the 26th and if you went on the 25th, that drops to 410rmb. Then you add on an extra hundred or so for airport tax and such, but still, not really that much more expensive than a sleeper.
If you're not married to the idea of overland travel I'd forget trains from Sept 28th, 29th until at least Oct. 8th or so when the holiday is over and things have calmed down. And outside of those dates you may find that flying is not much savings over the train anyhow.
Sep 21, 2012 7:06 PM
22I've been trying to get train tickets to Chengdu (From Beijing) for the best part of a week (Travel dates 28th, 29th, 30th, 1st). I speak fairly good Chinese. No luck! Train tickets go on general sale 10 days in advance (12 days on the net - Don't get me started about this rort).
In theory you can buy tickets in Pingyao. In practice, forget it.
Sep 21, 2012 7:07 PM
23You can try to buy sleeper tickets out of Xi'an in Pingyao (or Beijing or wherever). The ticketing system is linked, but sometimes in China what's possible in theory is not possible in practice. If you've got even some limited Chinese ability you can check ticket availability nationwide at www.12306.cn.
Myself, I wouldn't rush over to Taiwan; among all the places in SE Asia, it's got the least for the tourist, apart from the Palace Museum in Taipei.
As for food, I was actually suggesting that you treat yourself by heading to some higher-end places. You can eat well at both cheap places and more expensive ones, but you've got better odds of a memorable meal when you splurge a bit.
As for street food, I avoid it but many don't. Hygiene and such are problems in China, and more expensive places are less likely to cut corners.
As for Yangshuo, note well the comments above about its orientation to the foreign tourist. You may like this, but if you don't, Yangshuo's not for you.
Sep 21, 2012 7:23 PM
Sep 21, 2012 7:48 PM
Sep 21, 2012 8:37 PM
26Thank you for your thoughtful response above. I have a better understanding and appreciation of where you are coming. Listen to the advice of the others: get yourself to the countryside and really skip Xi'an, especially since you are not interested in the Warriors! Xi'an will be maddening. If you are staying with friends in India than that does make things so much easier. Go to India but realize that it is even more congested, dangerous, and crazier than China. I'd also warn you about eating any street food in India. Stick to bottled water, stay away from anything that has dairy, and only eat at trusted restaurants. This should probably hold true for any part of Asia. I had food poisoning 3x in one month and it was hell. I hope you post frequently about your experiences (good and bad) on this forum. Good luck with your travels!
Sep 21, 2012 11:22 PM
27Ok, we have secured bus tickets to Xi'an for tomorrow morning - apparently the bus originates in Taiyuan, but the place where we bought our tickets said they would get a driver to take us to the Pingyao highway where the bus will pick us up at around 9:30 am. Fingers crossed this worked! (I will also note that when we spoke to the one English-speaker at our hotel, she first said that we could get a bus to Xi'an tomorrow, then quickly recanted and said there was no bus operating tomorrow. We wound up walking down the street and popping into one of the youth hostels with a travel desk and asking there and they sorted everything out for us. I think we will try to stay in more hostels while in China as their staff really seems better equipped for dealing with foreigners (as we are trying to stay at budget accommodations).)
We also walked to the train station here in Pingyao to see whether there was any chance of getting sleeper tickets from Xi'an to Chengdu. Alas, there was only 1 sleeper bed available on the evening of the 24th (all sold out for 25th and 26th), so we decided to go ahead and book plane tickets from Xi'an to Guilin for the morning of Sept 25. Bought them through Ctrip for 1277RMB total, which I suppose is not too bad a price. Excited to see what Guanxi province has in store for us, and we will see if seeing a bit of green and getting out of these big cities helps!
We also grabbed lunch from a strip of market stalls outside of Pingyao's old city walls - got 2 bowls of noodles + 4 bottles of water for only 15RMB. Definitely the cheapest food we've had in China and far tastier than the food sold inside the walls. I think we just have to try to shake off this past week (hard to believe we've only been in China for one week, but I suppose that might explain why we're still adjusting!) and not automatically fearing that everything will make us sick and/or be some kind of a scam. We'll definitely keep our eyes peeled for reputable restaurants - we really enjoy trying local foods and were excited for the food in China, but so far have found it difficult to find the city-wide specialties (outside of obvious tourist restaurants). We will keep trying though, and every day we learn a little more!
Sep 22, 2012 12:28 AM
Sep 22, 2012 2:09 AM
29Thanks for the suggestion! We arrive in Guilin around 9:30 in the morning, so I'll look into heading to surrounding environs. We definitely want to hit Yangshuo, but I am sure it will be swarmed during Golden Week (LP says specifically not to go then). Are Longsheng, Xingping and Ping'an worth visiting.
And would you say that Guilin is not worth spending any time at? It looks like it has a few nice attractions, so would seeing them during the day we land, spending the night and then heading off for elsewhere be fair?
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