A month in China (jan) - in need of wise counsel
Replies: 15 - Last Post: Feb 18, 2013 5:14 PM Last Post By: camellegs
Dec 14, 2012 9:36 AM
A month in China (jan) - in need of wise counselHello everyone,
Im a university student whose been doing a language program exchange at Peking University for the last Month. it finishes on the 22nd of December, and I'm planning to travel around china till the 23rd of jan (when my visa expires), then hop over to hong kong for a few days before flying out.
Now, I've been incredibly overwhelmed with the size and scale of china and what it has to offer, so I'd love some advice from the many experts on this great forum.
Essentially my rough plan starts with heading north to harbin on the night of the 23rd on a sleeper, get in on the 24th morning, have Christmas there amongst the ice festival (soft opening is apparently the 25th), and head out on the 26th/27th. It's after this things get tricky. I have to be in Hong Kong on the 23rd of Jan when my Chinese visa expires, but until I'm a bit lost.
I've had a rough idea of going down to xi'an for a day for the warriors, then to shangxi for pingyao, anhui for huangshan, Sichuan for food, pandas, and Tibetan monasteries. I'll round It all up with yunnan, and finally finish off in guangdong (province bordering hong kong right?) before crossing into Hong Kong.
This "plan" is extremely rudimentary and I'm Both willing and delighted to adapt this to some wise advice or suggestions, so please feel very free.
Now is this too ambitious? Am I missing some crucial parts of China I really shouldn't?
I was thinking of mainly taking sleepers between places, is this unrealistic as well?
On a side note, I am really keen to see xinjiang for the silk road and gobi desert. Is this worth trekking all the way out to? It would be a pretty big time commitment I would assume. Also, safe for a sole traveler at this time of year?
Any help is greatly appreciated! Many thanks to you all!
Dec 14, 2012 10:00 AM
1My wise counsel is to skip Harbin entirely. If you haven't already seen much of the rest of China, the Harbin Ice Festival just isn't worth the cost and trouble anymore, and a "soft-opening" of the same is even less so. Just completely skip Xinjiang and the Silk Road in January. You've got to get realistic about travel in January--there are some things that just don't work. And a proper trip out there would eat up 2-3 weeks of your time anyway.
The other part of your rough plan is much better. But check out a map as you've got the order of doing things not quite right. And the outlier geographically is Huangshan in Anhui. If you eliminate that and substitute something else, you get a smoother plan. Also remember any mountain in January can be hazardous with snow and ice on the paths. My suggestion would be Beijing-Pingyao-Xi'an. Then a little spur over to Huashan and Luoyang, then Chengdu, perhaps Leshan and Emei Shan (substitute for Huashan). Then to Yunnan (Kunming, Dali, Lijiang, etc.). Then over to Guilin, and finally over to Guangzhou and Hong Kong. I think that's all you can comfortably fit in a month. Roughly a "C" shape. This would save the Shanghai-Hangzhou area, including Huangshan, for the future.
Dec 14, 2012 11:23 AM
2I agree with #1's advice in that I'd skip Harbin--but I'd also skip Chengdu. Head first to Taiyuan/Pingyao then Xi'an; I agree re going next to Luoyang--spend 5-7 days on this whole segment of the itinerary. From Luoyang I'd head east to Nanjing/Shanghai/Hangzhou for about 10 days. Afterwards, I'd travel to Yunnan, Guizhou, and Guangxi for the last two weeks, picking my spots according to time, money, interests, and weather. You need to do some detailed research on places, then map out things according to you interests.
Dec 14, 2012 2:35 PM
3Sheessh, it’s been what? 20 years since I’ve been to China. It was a different place then. (if you think the roads are rough now . . . . )
If I were doing your trip I’d skip skip Harbin. I’d stop at Xian, Louyang etc. on the way to Sichuan and make that my main destination. They’ve got a really big Buddha there that is worth seeing and of course the spicy Sichuan cuisine is world famous. They’ve also got an interesting hydro-engineering (river diverting) project that’s really old and really interesting
I would make Emei Mountain, a Buddhist Holy mountain that takes 2-plus days to climb and descend my focal point. Feed the monkeys, stay at the monasteries, see your shadow at the golden summit.
If I had left-over time I’d look around for a Tibetan Monestary in western Sichuan and then find a local hot spring, using it as a way to kind of say "my stay in China is now over."
Then I’d take a “cruise” down the Chang Jiang and eventually jump off and take a bee-line to Hong Kong, perhaps exploring along the way.
I did a trip a little like that. Emei Shan Liu Nian.
Edited by: LongIslandBob
Dec 14, 2012 5:26 PM
Dec 14, 2012 5:55 PM
yeah, I did it in february (lunar new year) and the the gentle fog that existed at time made them (the three gorges) a little hard to see, but hauntingly beautiful.
Oh well, society must progress.
The rest of the Chang Jiang "viewing by boat" experience had a lot to offer, but I can't really say for sure it was better than viewing by bus or train.
River views and road/train views are a different perspective for sure, in any country.
I dunno. I suspect my information is outdated and big sister's information is more up-to-date
Edited by: LongIslandBob
Dec 14, 2012 7:07 PM
6you've only got four weeks, not enough time to hit highlights all over the
country. and, like, check the weather, dude....it's freakin' cold up north.
why not do a tour across the southern portions.....start with a train to
either chengdu or kunming and start your tour there. you've got the
southern dangly bit of sichuan province, and yunnan, guangxi, hainan,
and guangdong provinces to travel through. there's more than enough
to fill your time as you work your way east to hong kong.
Dec 15, 2012 1:38 PM
7#5 the problem is that you went well before the completion of the Three Gorges Dam, when it could still be a memorable trip. Since completion, the water level has risen so much that there's no longer the height differential between river surface and tops of the surrounding mountains. The drama and grandeur is gone, and what's left is a monotonous boat trip after the first hour or so. Well, for most people anyway. That's why I suggest that if you need to be on the Chang Jiang for some reason these days, make it quick and use the public hydrofoils. But not in a foggy, cold January.
Dec 15, 2012 2:12 PM
Dec 15, 2012 8:33 PM
9First of all, a big thank you to everyone for their help so far. Its really helped me clear up what I'm doing.
Having done some more research, I've drawn up a much more solid plan. Essentially I will still go up to Harbin for the Ice Festival. I know its going to be cold and miserable, but I've heard great things from the locals I'm with, and I'm only going to stay for a day or two. I am also super keen to feed the Siberian Tigers, cant help myself.
From there I would train to Pingyao, stay there a few days and check out the surrounding area. Train to Xi'an for a day for the warriors, then catch a flight to Chengdu. I'd then spent the majority of Jan in Sichuan, Yunnan, and Guangxi before sneaking across to Hong Kong on the 23rd of Jan.
A few things however I am still a little unsure of. First of all... is it worth making a short detour to Dandong (Lianing Province) to check out the North Korean border? It wouldnt be too far out of the way since I am already going to Harbin. I'd only stay for a day, or even a few hours. Anyone who has been there, any advice would be awesome!
Lastly, do you guys think Sichuan, Yunnan, and Guangxi are enough for 3-3.5 weeks? And in your recommendations, what are the things I simply CANNOT miss out on seeing.
Once again, thank you all for your help so far!!
Dec 15, 2012 8:36 PM
10They had hydrofoils 10 years ago when I did the Chongqing Yichang trip, but they are low in the water, the windows might not be that clean, plus you can't go outside on deck, so you don't see much. More for commuting than sightseeing. The Li River between Yangshou & Guilin was far more scenic imho. Most folks are underwhelmed with the Yangzi 3 Gorges trip, although the dam & loch were mildly interesting.
Dec 16, 2012 11:11 AM
11I pretty much agree with #10. The foils definitely are designed for commuters. However, on both port and starboard sides of the hydrofoil front section, there is a small open-air platform (normally for smokers), covered and with railing so you can't fall off, where you can get some fresh air and take photos. I pretty much ignore my inside assigned seat on these, and just alternate myself between platforms, standing and taking photos and chatting to whomever shows up. With the trips between river ports only about 1 to 1.5 hours at a hop, standing around there is not too bad. I have no problem getting good photos and given the scale of the river, you can see whether low or high in the water, and going fast just as much as going slow. But as the hydrofoils are going fast, it is windy! The price is right compared to those !@#$% cruise boats.
In summary, I would backburner the Yangtze over most any other major famous Chinese sight, but if one must do this river, fast/quick/cheap with an overnight stop onshore at a river port depending on distance to be traveled, would be my recommendation.
Dec 17, 2012 5:18 AM
Dec 17, 2012 6:28 AM
13I would not bother with Dandong / North Korea in midwinter. -40c & colder sometimes. Harbin will be more than enough ice & snow. Then again maybe I'm biased because I lived in South Korea for 5 years. -25c in Seoul in January 2011 was cold enough for me. I would get down to the south of China where it's at least tolerable to go outside, & your camera batteries don't stop working because of the extreme cold. Even Nanjing Suzhou Shanghai area was around 2c for months & foggy damp & overcast, when I lived there earlier this year. I headed all the way south to Hainan. Then to Yangshou which was around 4-15c and cool & overcast with rain & drizzle but it's not like that every winter. I've been to Huangshan in January & it's manageable if you go up in the ropeways, (cablecars) & don't spend too long at the summit.
How about getting the bullet train G, D ,or T series from Beijing to Shanghai (Under 5 hours), then a bus to Huangshan, a bus to Yichang, fly to Chongqing, bus to Zigong / Leshan / Emeishan / Chengdu, train to Xian then Pingyao & then backtrack by train to Chengdu > Kunming > Dali > Lijiang > Kunming > Guiyang > Guilin > Yangshuo > Guangzhou & finally HK? I've caught the 'K' train from Kunming to Chengdu & it was comfortable. Chinese New Year is in February so train travel in January 2013 should be relatively easy if you book seats & sleepers a day or 2 ahead. Buses are running all the time but are not as safe or comfortable as the trains imho.
If you do include Harbin then maybe you would need to drop other sections of the suggested itinerary above? Jiejie has given you a good plan.
Some useful websites:
Dec 17, 2012 10:14 AM
Hong KongBook now
(4 star Hotel)
From US$131.49 per night
(4 star Hotel)
From US$61.87 per night
(0 star Hotel)
From US$7.61 per night