|ChinaPage 2 of 2 (1, 2)|
|OP and others, |
I lived in China for a year, from '03-'04. I *highly* recommend buying the Lonely Plant Guide to China. We tended to call it "The Book of Knowledge." It had everything in it from places to stay to sites to see, everything. It had advice on how to get tix and day-to-day living tips and its written for the Laowai traveler who speaks no Mandarin.
For train travel, try for soft-sleeper if you can afford it. You won't be a jammed in. Failing that, buy the hard sleeper tickets and ask for the middle bunk (of 3). The top one is close to the ceiling and the bottom one (on either side) is the seat for everyone in your 6-person compartment!
As for biking from city to city, I would recommend against it unless you have a *really* good road atlas of China. Plus, Chinese roads can be quite dangerous; trucks and farm equipment barreling down the roads at high speed. And I can't say I saw a bike on a train while I was there, so I'm not sure where they put them (or if they didn't allow them for some reason). I know that I wasn't allowed to bring my bike into my apartment building; I had to lock it up outside. Most hotels/hostels will be the same. Which reminds me; bring two really good bike locks. Bike theft is really high in China, particularly if you have a good mountain-bike.
On places to go, I really like Dali and Lijiang in the South West (just east of Tibet). It was really nice and not too touristy. Do be aware that a lot of the 'pre-planned' tours will take you out for the day and you'll spend 2 hours at the cultural site and 6 driving from over-priced jade shop to over-priced jade shop. The tour operators and drivers get a cut of any sales. You're a *lot* better off going by yourself or having a taxi take you where you want to go. Heck, we hired a driver at the hotel to take us to the Simatai section of the Great Wall for the day and all it cost us was about US$80 for three of us.
Hope you enjoy your trip!
Posted: 10/26/2008 8:47:15 AM
|i did few trips with "soft sleeper". it was nice and clean, but i would rather take "hard sleeper" to mingle with locals, even i am chinese.|
true biking/driving in china by yourself is not recommended. if ever you have seen how the people there bike/drive, you would know what i mean. worse, no one would get arrested for such reckless behaviors...
one or two great locks won't help that much. i would just buy a crappy looking but well functioned bike. if you lost that one, then get another one.
hostels in china are, in general, are nice and clean. the price from around $5.00 to $10.00 per bed/per night.
Posted: 10/30/2008 3:43:37 PM
|I have a fabulous chinese train story!|
Posted: 11/1/2008 9:35:23 AM
|Hobbes Nova, I just checked some pictures of Li Jiang and Dali, it's beautiful ! I'm not surprised about the tour bringing you to shops and stores, it's typical in tourist areas. I had to suffer the same situation in Egypt, despite the fact I took a taxi to reach on my own all the most important pyramid sites in a day, the driver brought me anyway to a "papyrus institute". How annoying it was, especially after I told him first thing in the morning not to make me waste my time there. GRRRRR !|
IP freak, 5 to 10 $ a night in an hostel is a good price. Were these dormitory type rooms or individual occupation?
Anybody has other good places to recommend to visit in China ? It's inspiring.
Posted: 11/1/2008 4:00:50 PM
That's why I suggested hiring a car. Heck, you might be able to get a regular taxi driver to take the day, particularly if it's on a weekend and he's not getting a lot of fares.
Other places I liked were Yangshuo and the Li River cruise. Unfortunately, Yangshuo got really touristy the last time I was there. Used to be a hidden backpacker mecca. Now, not so much. way too many touts. I could also recommend Kashgar (Kashi in Mandarin), tho you'd have to fly out there. Old Silk road trading post that got turned into a city. Recommend the animal market for an interesting slice of real life out there. Did I mention Xi'an before? Terra Cotta warriors and the Tang Dynasty Museum. Most excellent. I could spend a week there. :)
Posted: 11/1/2008 10:52:12 PM
|Re Hobbes post. Even though both the Li River and Yangshuo have become very touristy, they are still very picturesque. If you go there, also go to the “Dragon Back Mountain” rice terraces a couple of hours from Guilin. It’s spectacular scenery and some of the villagers offer accommodations in their large 3 storey wooden homes: animals on ground floor, people in the middle, storage on top.|
Posted: 11/2/2008 6:55:15 AM
|Thanks Hobbes and Thinking, I'm googling these names now and it's great to finally put some names on those famous places, especially Yangshuo and the rice terraces of the Guilin area.|
Posted: 11/2/2008 6:17:26 PM
|Thinking is absolutely correct. That area is just gorgeous. However, from my perspective, having been in China for a while by the time I went there, I was just a little tired of being treated like a walking wallet. Some of those folks just wouldn't take "No" for an answer. Doubly-so when they find out you speak Mandarin. Just be prepared is all I'm saying. :)|
Posted: 11/2/2008 6:37:38 PM
|lol thats why I still hope to go with a Chinese. China just look like Egypt to me. Same attitude which destroy the fun of traveling. Do you still think it worth the effort to go solo ? I know that photography wise it will, but when I went to Egypt, at the end I thought maybe it would have been the only country I ever been that would have worth going with a group and relax by keeping a low profile, using the other travelers as chaff and flares against the touristic sharks |
After all, I was in a crowd all the time, and I assume China will be the same. ;-(
Posted: 11/3/2008 2:51:29 PM
|The thing you're going to run into, tho, is that most (OK, nearly every single person) who comes up to you and speaks English will be trying to sell you something. So if you go solo, you'll be relying on those people to help you find things or go places. Not the best situation to be in. Not that it's dangerous, don't think that. They will be very polite, but very persistent. |
I don't want to wave you off going solo, 'cause it can be done. It's just hard. I had a classmate who went from Beijing to the Shaolin Temple all by himself and he spoke pitiful Mandarin. But he did everything from buy his own train tix to taking the bus from the train station to the temple. And after he got there, and met the monks, *they* put him up in the home of a nearby family. But that's *not* the norm.
If you're going to try to solo it, the Lonely Planet guidebook to China is indispensable. Use it to plan your trip. Just be flexible on the number of days and don't pre-buy tickets; you'll never know when you're going to catch General Cao's Revenge and you *don't* want to be getting on the train the next morning when *that* happens.
Posted: 11/3/2008 3:24:32 PM
|lol, it's OK, I know what to (unfortunately) expect now. I was kidding about going in a group, I think I prefer to suffer (still) Have you ever been to Egypt ? I wonder if it could be worse. I doubt. Amazing how many perfume or whatever sellers there invited me for tea in their shop located a few streets away just because they had a cousin living in my hometown... |
Posted: 11/4/2008 12:16:53 AM
|Manatenish, if you survived the merchants near the tourist sites in Egypt (or India) you won’t have a problem in China. I traveled on my own for a month in 2004, and apart from being invited to many “student artists’ exhibits” didn’t feel like I was approached by a lot of touts. |
But yes, every “Day” tour will take you to at least one factory selling wares. However, that can be interesting too. I found out how many pearls in a shell (don’t remember now, but if you make the closest guess, they give you a free one), saw cloisonné vases being made (in a very primitive factory), silk being unspun from the cocoons, and silk duvets being made. So you find out not only how things are made, but also see working and factory conditions.
Posted: 11/4/2008 6:40:02 AM
|Good to hear TAIIV ! The touts better walk fast with me |
Posted: 1/23/2009 6:47:50 AM
|LP sometimes is out of date information on it,I mean the book.Once I was in Shanghai,I met a girl with LP of Shanghai,but some information in it is not correct,some bars are closed or moved to new places.|
It is better to ask local people in Forum not so rely on the books.The book only delivers the general information,but eps. the stores are updated so quickly,because China has been changing so quickly.Each year has different and new part.
Posted: 1/23/2009 2:05:29 PM
|That problem exist with all tourist guides, including Lonely Planet, and indeed this is probably more true in a rapidly changing country like China. |
The not so funny part is when you're not sure if the person from the place is not working on commission and you don't know if he/she just lie to you about the place you're looking for by saying it no longer exist just because he/she wants to bring you somewhere else.
Posted: 1/24/2009 12:09:28 AM
|I am currently living in Shenyang, Liaoning, China. If you are in the area, I would suggest Dandong as it is right on the North Korean border and it also a less tourist frequented part of the Great Wall. My personal favorite is Qianshan National Park and the Jade Buddha Temple. Both are close to Anshan, Liaoning (which is about an hour outside of Shenyang). Qianshan has some incredible mountains which houses many Buddhist monasteries. During the Spring, Summer and Fall, many Chinese go there for vacation, but there are not a lot of Westerns who vacation there. During those times, sky cabs take visitors up to many of the summits. If you go in the non-tourist season (like I did) you will have to hike up the mountains, but you will have the place almost to yourself. You could easily spend several days running around Qianshan.|
As far as guidebooks, look at the most recent date published. I bought Rough Guide for China because it was more current than LP, when I visited the Ukraine, I bought a Brandt guide for the same reason. Generally, the most recent ones are the best ones.
Also, you could check couchsurfing.com to find couches or rooms that people will let you sleep in for free. I have used it a few times and have met some lifelong friends from the experience. Just something to consider.
Posted: 2/21/2009 10:09:53 PM
|Would recommend 2 - 3 places - Yellow Mountains - just beautiful - great for hiking but there are cable cars too on some mountains - near Nanjing. Bamboo forests like in crouching tiger hidden dragon movie. |
Love Guilin - the boat ride to Young... yes it is VERY touristy though - was very disappointed - there is a place to stay out of town a bit on the river - a retreat - run by australians - great. Town full of bars - depends what you like - had my camera stolen there so may have clouded my perception. Qingao a surprising place to see on the coast, north of Shanghai - great eating places, german architecture and old homes to view, near a national park with famous temple - 1,000 year old trees. And of course Nanjing - old capital - Ming Dynasty Tomb - fantastic sculptures.
Have been here 3 years, only have basic chinese, get by on role play!! Good luck
Posted: 2/23/2009 10:42:46 PM
|Hi, I went to Bejing, Xian and Shanghai a couple of yrs ago. I found that alot of people spoke english. Most hotels had someone who spoke english and in Bejing at an open market I met a vendor who was a graduate from one of the 8 schools where she recieved a cert she was very happy to have the chance to practice. I found the people to be very helpful/thoughtful. The subway speaks in chinese and english. Train stations have a window for english. Alot of westerners were having a difficult time; where as I had no problem. I basically only knew how to say "hello" and "thankyou" when ever I could I would write in english have it written in chinese and then try to write it phonically. Many restaurants have the menu's with color pictures. Outdoor food vendors weren't that bad. I couldn't get enough of the crab apples on sticks covered with sugar. Most hotels work with tour co. for day trips. Bejing has wonderful parks you can do some great walking tours. Rent bikes for a ride the the old Houtong. Shanghai offers some wonderful views. Pearl tower is good late afternoon to evening. Boat ride up the Yangzee river to the red china sea. Old shanghai is colorful and the closede street walkway where all the shops is amazing everycorner seems to have a Mickey D's. I felt safe and was always aware of my surroundings. Have fun.|
Posted: 5/3/2009 5:35:19 AM
I see you're pretty knowledgeable about travelling in south western China. I'm currently working in China, have no Mandarin, but really enjoy travelling with a friend. My friend, from Canada, will join me here in China and we will venture off alone. Maybe Three Gorges Dam, Yellow or Yangtze River (not sure yet), onto Guangxi and maybe Anhui before heading up to Xian and Beijing. We'll have about 6 weeks to do this and are really looking forward to it.
We will be two women travelling alone and have done quite a bite of travelling so are not put off by the persistance of locals. And yes, we have a copy of the Lonely Planet.
Have done lots of travelling in Xinjiang (where I work) and Chengdu, eg, trains, sleeping buses, etc.
Are there any out of the way places that you'd recommend we check out. We are far more into scenery than cities.
Thanks. Hope you get back to me.
Posted: 5/8/2009 11:05:10 PM
|About recommending the good places to travel around in China, I assume that would be decided by what kind of landscapes do u prefer. I have been to Lijiang,Dali in Yunnan province and Lijiang river area in Guangxi province.I like the landscapes in Yunnan province more.Qiqing Tibetan autonomous prefecture is also a nice place in Yunnan,now its name is changed to Shangri-La Tibetan autonomous prefecture.It's a gateway for travelers into Tibet, the autonomous prefecture is as close as you can get to experiencing Tibet without actually being there.There r Ganden Sumtseling(song zan li) Monastery, Tiger Leaping Gorge, Pudacuo National Park, Napa Lake, Xiagei Hot Springs and Haba Village near by. Ganden Sumtseling Monastery is also called " The little Potala Palace". Since there r lots of foreigners have been to Yunnan provinces,so it's a bit easier for u to get travel informations online,and also can get some informations from some websites,like Ctrip,Wikipedia,travelchinaguide and so on. I would like to travel around Yunnan again. I would like to go through the Tiger leaping gorge as a backpacker one day.|
Posted: 5/13/2009 9:00:43 PM
|I did a trip back in 07 it was great some of the places/activities I'd recommend are...|
If you're planning to go to Shanghai I highly recommend checking out Hangzhou it's about an hour by bus from Shanghai and simply beautiful. There are a bunch of historic markets and it was once the capital of the South during the Song(?) dynasty during the 12th century. You can take a tour of the West lake (at the centre of the city) on power boats that have a distinctly old Chinese design to themselves.
Beijing is nice but dry and hot a couple of the people in the hostel I stayed in decided to check out the great wall. There's a number of locations to choose from but quite a few have been repaved and are close to the city. We chose Simatai as a location the ride is about an hour and half to get there (it was further then some of the other locations) but the lack of tourists crushing the wall and it's aged appearance (it wasn't undergoing the 'restorations' at the time we went) really made the trip special.
Shanghai is a shopping mecca but so much of it has been repurposed I found it kind of bland. People are nice there and the expat community is pretty solid if you're looking for locals to help show you around.