New China Itinerary
Replies: 9 - Last Post: Sep 21, 2012 3:07 PM Last Post By: Umber
Sep 20, 2012 11:15 AM
New China ItineraryHello,
After contemplating and sketching out different itineraries, I've pretty much decided on holding off on going to Yangshuo and the Rice Terraces on this trip. As much as I would love to see China's countryside, I believe that for me personally, I'll be pushing myself to exhaustion with all of the traveling within China. I realize that many, if not most people would also go to Yangshuo, or many people try to cram too much in but I don't want to make the mistake of getting so tired that I'll be unable to joy this vacation.
I think I prefer a much slower pace of visting sights and exploring neighborhoods. I hope I don't get crucified for spending 2 days in Shanghai city. I love big cities. I love people watching. I love the idea of walking around the French Concession and just exploring. I know what my limitations are as a traveler and what I enjoy doing most.
With that being said, I'd still love feedback on my new proposed China itinerary. In particular, when it comes to Hangzhou. Does that part of the itinerary make sense... from going to Suzhou back to Shanghai and then to Hangzhou? Is there more to do there than just West Lake? It looks beautiful. I was thinking of taking a walk around it or doing a boat ride. I'm doing more research on this place as well to make sure that it's compatible with our interests.
Day 1: Fly into Asia.
Day 2: Arrive in Beijing at night. Walk around at the Square. (Beijing)
Day 3: Beijing, sites to be determined later. (Beijing)
Day 4: Beijing, sites to be determined later. (Beijing)
Day 5: Beijing, sites to be determined later. (Beijing)
Day 6: Excursion: Great Wall of China Tour. (Beijing)
Day 7: Morning flight to Shanghai. Rest of the day exploring Shanghai. (Shanghai)
Day 8 Shanghai, sites to be determined later. (Shanghai)
Day 9: Morning bullet train (45 min) to Suzhou. Rest of the day enjoying Suzhou gardens and other sights. (Suzhou)
Day 10: Morning taxi to Tongli water town (40 min). Rest of the day enjoying Tongli and it's sights. (Suzhou)
Day 11: Morning bullet train (45 min) to Shanghai. From Shanghai, bullet train to Hangzhou (60 min). Hangzhou, sites to be determined later. (Hangzhou)
Day 12: Hangzhou, sites to be determined later. (Hangzhou)
Day 13: Morning flight to Hong Kong. Hong Kong, sites to be determined later. (HK)
Day 14: Hong Kong, sites to be determined. (HK)
Day 15: Excursion: Macau. (Hong Kong)
Day 16: Fly HK to Home
So what do you guys think? Yes, originally we were going to fly into Shanghai but now I think it makes more sense to start at the top and work down instead.
Can anyone recommend other day trips from Shanghai, Beijing, or Hong Kong?
Thank you so much for your help. It's been wonderful to bounce back ideas and read suggestions.
Sep 20, 2012 6:30 PM
1Do not take the high speed train from Tongli to Hangzhou. Instead, try the following:
1) Direct bus from Tongli to Hangzhou (ideal, but might not be too many departures)
2) Direct bus from Wujiang (city in suzhou that Tongli is in) to Hangzhou-- departures every 30mins
3) Direct bus from Suzhou to Hangzhou - depart every 20min
You will spend more time going from Tongli to Suzhou, Suzhou to Suzhou train station, wait for a train to Shanghai, switch trains in Shanghai/wait for a train to Hangzhou. The bus will save time/energy
Sep 20, 2012 7:19 PM
2Hey Umber, I think your new plan is fine. You know yourself and your likes/travel capacity best.
In Beijing, I don't think your Great Wall plan needs to take a full day. A half-day+ is enough. The only exception is if you want to go way out to some of the more wild and remote areas. Be advised though, that it will be quite cool to cold out there, and November is not the easiest time to be exposed for the full day. You should avoid mass market tours that also take you to various factories (forced shopping stops), as you'll spend more time there than at whatever part of the Great Wall (Badaling or Juyongguan) they take you to.
One daytrip you might be interested in is Cuandixia Ancient Town about 2.5 hours west of the city. Easiest to engage a private car for the day. With an early start, it might be possible to also see the two old temples Tanzhe Si and Jietai Si. Jietai is one of the few Liao Dynasty-era buildings left in the Beijing area. Read up on these. In lieu of a tour guide, you might find something at this very reputable and high-quality organization that you can join in:
In November I STRONGLY suggest that you take the bullet train from Beijing to Shanghai. Even in normal times, the overall journey time of bullet vs plane is not much longer. With typical air traffic delays out of Beijing now running at one hour, it's even. November however, is a very foggy month in Beijing, and sometimes flights are delayed for hours or even cancelled. Seriously, plan on taking the bullet train.
I would switch the order of Shanghai and Suzhou, look on a map and you'll see why. Take the bullet train from Beijing to Suzhou, get off and do that and Tongli, THEN do the short rail hop to Shanghai, THEN go to Hangzhou by train, moving essentially in a continuous one-way direction which is more time and cost-efficient than what you have here.
Hangzhou is one of China's more pleasant big cities to live in, and popular with foreign expats for that reason. It doesn't have huge numbers of classic tourist sights but West Lake is nice for a boat ride. The Lake is also a lot of fun to bike around, stopping off at the pagodas and other places on the way. It takes 2 hours not including stopping/sightseeing time. Hangzhou has a public bicycle rental system where you can put a deposit on an electronic swipe card, then use it to "check" bicycles in and out of the racks located all over the city. Very cheap, maybe RMB 5 for a half-day. There are some tea plantations in the outlying areas and that might be a pleasant excursion, just don't let yourself fall for high pressure sales tactics to buy tea.
Sep 20, 2012 7:26 PM
3Day 15 /16. You can catch the ferry direct from Macau to HKIA, so there is no need to go back to Hong Kong first and then go to the airport. Instead spend your final night in Macau.
Sep 20, 2012 7:34 PM
4You guys are awesome!!!! Thank you so so much for all of the info and advice! So yes, I will definitely change the order of the itinerary, take the train instead of fly, and spend our last night in Macau! Now I'm even more excited!! YAY!!
I read that you can only book the high speed trains 7-10 days in advance and that normally you can buy the ticket at the station or your hotel can set up it for you. Is there a website I can use beforehand? I looked in my LP and all I are addresses and numbers which doesn't do me any good from here.
Thanks again everyone!
Sep 21, 2012 5:25 AM
5I think it would be better if you take high speed train from Beijing to Shanghai first, there are service every 10 to 30 min (http://trains.china.org.cn). Only 6 trains from Beijing South to Suzhou with only one D train.
Then do the Shanghai to Suzhou, Suzhou to Hangzhou. No need to go back to Shanghai, the D and G are the high speed train.
You need your Passport to buy the ticket at the station. Buy it the same day, if you miss one just take the next train. Or, if you wanted to make sure, then buy your Suzhou ticket at the Shanghai station before you exit., and buy the Hangzhou ticket when you get to the Suzhou station. But no need do that
There are no train to and from Tongli, only taxi or bus from Suzhou, is a short ride.
Sep 21, 2012 7:33 AM
6If you buy the BJ - Suzhou ticket in advance, should be no problem going to the train station specifically for that train and then you're OK.
Suzhou to Hangzhou is a bit trickier. There are G trains from Suzhou to Hangzhou of course, but often it is faster to take the most immediate train from Suzhou to Shanghai, then take a train from Shanghai to Hangzhou. This is because Shanghai is the typical terminus stops for most G trains from Beijing and Nanjing that go through Suzhou, only some of them go past Shanghai to Hangzhou. So sometimes when I go from Suzhou to Hangzhou, it is faster for me to buy a Suzhou to Shanghai ticket, then a separate Shanghai to Hangzhou one.
But even with Suzhou to Shanghai, because most of the trains originate in Beijing or Nanjing, and not all of them stop at Suzhou, it is tough to get a ticket on the most immediate train-- sometimes you have to catch a later Suzhou to Shanghai train.
Tongli to Suzhou train station directly is probably a 30min taxi, and longer by bus and the bus will not necessarily go directly to the train station. Then you get to Suzhou train station and wait on line to buy a ticket, wait for your train for another 30 minutes to an hour. Then the train takes 1:30 to get from Suzhou to Hangzhou if it is direct. Whereas Tongli is to Hangzhou is a straight north-south line by bus, and you bypass Shanghai, and have less waiting time. Bus is still what I would do
Sep 21, 2012 10:07 AM
7I do not see why #5 and 6 bring up complications, it's not difficult to figure out. You are on a relatively short trip that doesn't have that much flex in the schedule. This means you can and should do some preplanning of your intercity timings and don't leave everything to last minute serendipity. So talk of "not being able to make the next immediate train" is a red herring--it only matters to people who want/need 100% spontaneity.
You are traveling at a fairly non-busy time of year. Bullet trains on this route have a lot of capacity and you're only needing seat tickets, not sleepers. No need to deal with advance ticketing agents. The official online website is not available to you. Window sales are at 10 days in advance. Just get to Beijing and on the first full day there, buy the BJ-Suzhou tickets. At the same time, buy your Suzhou-Shanghai ticket, which you can do in Beijing. Your hotel can get for a surcharge (ask them prior to see what it is). Alternatively, they can direct you to the closest satellite ticketing office so no need to traipse over to the rail station itself. With passports and the train information you want written down and some cash RMB, you should be able to buy yourself. For Shanghai-Hangzhou, just wait until you get to Shanghai and see how you're feeling. That is a very frequent route so getting a ticket for same day or day before is easy, at the time of year you'll be traveling. The Hangzhou-Hong Kong air tickets should be booked in advance. There you go. Any HK-Macau trip can be decided pretty much on the spot/day of/day before once you get down there.
Sep 21, 2012 12:17 PM
8Last year in November my wife took the fast train to/from Bejing>Shanghai 4 times, and bought tickets 1 day before travel, I flew that route twice and was delayed or stuck due to Beijing fog at the airport....and it is masses of people at the airport, and a ton of traffic going to from, so best to fast train IMO, a lot more relaxing.
Sep 21, 2012 3:07 PM
9You all have convinced me to take the high speed train from Beijing into Suzhou. I will book those tickets once we get to BJ. It looks like we will be changing our itinerary once again because my husband wants to add 1 extra day in HK. Since the Great Wall should only take 1/2 day, we are thinking of just leaving earlier from BJ.
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