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China - anyone been and have tips?

(72 Posts)
jellybeanteaparty Fri 19-Jan-18 13:35:07

Thinking of China in August (Beijing, Xian, Guilin) Using bullet trains x2 and 1 internal flight. Family of 4 with older teens used to travel and a more adventurous itinerary. Love some tips on how long you stayed in places and must do"s etc. Thanks

OP’s posts: |
User255 Fri 19-Jan-18 14:12:16

Just a really quick reply (can reply properly later!). We went in August a couple of years ago with much younger children (youngest was 5). We were partly there for work so that affected our schedule but also had a reasonable amount of holiday. We went to Beijing and around Sichuan. I had wanted to spend time around Guilin and spent ages researching it but couldn't make it work in the end. DH and I had spent a month in China pre-children about 15 years ago and the change was incredible both in positive and negative ways.
One positive was the transport system which was MUCH better than on our earlier trip. We also used internal flights and bullet trains and that all worked really well. We booked the trains on the internet before we went and picked up the tickets from the station when we were there and that all worked really well and it was all very clean and well run.
There were also better hotels both in terms of international brands and a few of the more interesting 'boutique' type hotels.
The negative for me was the pollution and that was so bad that it really puts me off going back. By bad I mean there was a thick fog which made it difficult to see buildings on the other side of the street clearly. I would certainly think about limiting time in major cities for this reason.
People were extremely friendly. My children did find it very difficult as they were asked for photos continuously (maybe 30 times a day?) though they were quite a bit younger than yours and blonde/blue eyed so that may make a difference.
There is an amazing amount to see and we really enjoyed it but it is also a very busy, time consuming and polluted so not always a very relaxing trip!
If we were going back then Chinese friends of ours recommended the SOngstam circuit which I would love to do.

User255 Fri 19-Jan-18 14:13:23

Sorry that wasn't actually very short!

BubblesBuddy Fri 19-Jan-18 20:22:47

It will be very hot then and pollution at its worst. For a first time trip we did Shanghai, 3 nights, Beijing 4 nights and a trip to the Wall at Jinshanling (do not do Badaling as it is ludicrously crowded). Xian 3 nights. Li River 3 nights, Chengdu 3 nights.

Top sights were museums in Shanghai, the Bund, modern business district etc. Beijing has so much but go to the wall and don’t be rushed by tour guides - do things at your own pace. Xian has another mausoleum with tiny figures and the museums there are amazing. Cycle the city walls - 14 km but flat! Li River (Guilin) for relaxation and traditional scenery. We went to the Longji Rice Terraces and stayed at Ping An. You could do more in this area and see minority peoples. We also stayed at Chengdu for pandas! Flew home from Chengdu. You could add on Hong Kong but we had been there before.

These cities are well connected by train or air. Lots of good places to stay. Lots of great food. Just watch prices quoted by guides. Tianamen Square means queuing up to be let in and when you get in it’s a let down.

I strongly suggest you look Lonely Planet for itinerary ideas. It is a great resource and book a trip that meets your needs. There is so much it is mind boggling! Also look at itineraries from specialist companies and most of all don’t rush it! Everywhere we went we could have stayed longer!

jellybeanteaparty Fri 19-Jan-18 22:31:38

Thank you user255 and Bubbles both really helpful comments. Good point regarding pollution and heat so will factor that in and perhaps finish in Li river area. Have looked at common itinerary's including trailfinders and have just ordered the lone planet guide. Teenagers and husband being fair with striking bright blue eyes are used to some extra attention (except in Norway!!!) Thanks again.

OP’s posts: |
ShanghaiDiva Sat 20-Jan-18 01:55:02

I live in China, so ask away! It will be hot then, but it doesn't necessarily mean that pollution will be bad. We have had an aqi of over 400 where I live in the past few weeks and it is bloody freezing!
Xi'an - highlights are Muslim area, big goose pagoda, little goose pagoda, drum tower, bell tower, wall and warriors. You can do all the sights yourself - just hire a car to go out to the Warriors.
Guilin is lovely - scenery is amazing and it's easy to borrow a bike from hotel and cycle through villages. There is also a light show in the evening which is great with the limestone karsts in the background.
Have not been to Beijing for years - wall and forbidden city are the big ticket items and you can also vist Mao - but check in advance as he they send the body to russia every year for some kind of 'maintenance'!

Oooocrikeyitscold Sat 20-Jan-18 02:03:04

I loved it. A very brutish comment but i was suprised at how little English was spoken, eg I was in the intercontinental hotel and they had to get the English speaker waiter etc.

MooseBeTimeForSnow Sat 20-Jan-18 02:50:07

We did Beijing and Shanghai about a year or so before the Okympics. We flew a kite in Tianenmen Square, did the Forbidden City but not the Wall as we only had time to go to Badaling and feedback not positive. We also did a hutong tour which was fascinating. I remember the smog.

I also remember feeling like a tourist attraction. Lots of children introducing themselves and wanting to practise their English. Go to the Chang Li Lu night market in Shanghai for the full wierd things to eat on a stick experience.

And watch out for the squat toilets.

BobbyGentry Sat 20-Jan-18 03:00:14

Posted this on another thread earlier (maybe of use)

How about China? (This is copied, cut & pasted from a route my brother plans to take.)

Volunteer at a panda sanctuary for a week 🐼

Finn Air to Nanjing comes up reasonably well:

Nanjing South G2 10:09 to Beijing North Train 3h 39min 1023km ¥443.5

Beijing West to Xi’an North Train G8 13:20 1216km 4h 35min ¥515.5

Xi’an North to Chengdu East G90 15:01 3h 15min Train 658 km ¥263

Chengdu to Lijiang flight 1h 40min 887km

Lijiang to Dali Train K9688/K9685 09:28 1h 35min 159 km ¥105.5

Dali to Kunming flight 1hrs 330km

Kunming South to Nanjing South Train 07:25 2196km G1380 ¥876.5

Nanjing South to Shanghai Hongqiao Train G5 10:48 295km 1h 15 min ¥134.5

Total time traveling 30hrs
Total distance 6764km


Beijing - Tian’anmen Square, Forbidden City, Temple of Heaven & Mutianyu Great Wall
Pingyao - Mianshan Mountain
Xian - Terracotta Warriors, Ancient Xian City Wall & Muslim Quarter
Chengdu - Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, Jinli Old Street, (Leshan Giant Buddha bullet train)
Shangri-la - Jinli Old Street, Sumtsaling Monastery, Potatso National Park (Tiger Leaping Gorge en route)
Lijiang - Ancient Town, Jade Dragon Snow Mountain, Yufeng Temple, Baisha Mural & Black Dragon Pond Park
Dali - Ancient Town, Three Pagodas, Xizhou Bai's Houses & Erhai Lake Cangshan Mountain.
Shanghai - Yuyuan Garden,
Huangshan - Hangzhou East train station for 3 hours bullet train to Huangshan city, Huizhou
Nanjing - Ming Dynasty
Yangzhou - slender west lake & Five-Pavilion Bridge
Suzhou - Gardens
Hangzhou - west lake, Shaoxing
Guilin - Li River Cruise

To add some Hotels ideas:

Days Inn Forbidden Palace

Bell Tower Hotel

Sim’s Cozy Garden Hostel

Zen Garden Hotel (Wuyi Yard)

Fairyland Hotel Dali Taihe Residence


Shanghai Disneyland

SeaToSki Sat 20-Jan-18 03:15:15

Take pollution face masks from the UK, you cant rely on the ones you get out their. I got Vogmasks from amazon. Also pack snacks, then if the food is a little ‘interesting’ you have back up options. I took lots of dried fruit as the veg was v limited unless you love spice and garlic. We did some days on our own and then used for a few day trips (they will customize a day for you). It was great to have someone who could drive us around and speak mandarin when needed. They were excellent.

LoniceraJaponica Sat 20-Jan-18 15:51:45

OH has worked in China, and would also recommend taking things like breakfast bars etc for snacking on if you find some of the food inedible.

eurochick Sat 20-Jan-18 16:09:37

I agree about the English speaking comment. I was surprised at how little it is spoken - even in the centre of Shanghai (where all of the shop and building signs are in both Chinese characters and the Western alphabet). I went for work and a colleague who had been before recommended having all addresses written in Chinese characters for showing to taxi drivers. Without this we wouldn't even have been able to get back to our hotel.

Spiderpants Sat 20-Jan-18 17:05:56

I am going in 3 weeks so will report back

Timeforanamochango Sat 20-Jan-18 17:18:05

I absolutely hated China (Beijing), I know it’s very British to say but people couldn’t speak any English and this made it really difficult to do anything/get anywhere!
It was so hot and polluted that my chest was tight and I got a cough the first day there.
People drive like idiots, I went in a Tuk Tuk and feared for my life at how badly they all drive. Taxis etc were really cheap but they wait around for a generous tip!
I love Chinese food but found most of the food inedible even at posh hotels, the smell of it also made me gag. (Never had this issue in other places)
People constantly trying to sell you things and once they see you’re british the price doubles.
I’ve never felt as relieved as I did getting on that plane home! But you might love it, my advice is get some masks for the pollution, download a translater app ready to use at all chances, keep your bag close, pack some food/snacks just incase and be prepared for a huge culture shock. I was in a very nice hotel sat on the terrace, watching all these businessmen in suits come past that were incredibly wealthy, following behind an hour later were the workers who would have their clothes torn, no shoes on etc. The wealthy are filthy rich, the poor are poverty and it’s hard to watch.
The Spitting... omg the spitting, that was probably the worse. They were spitting all the time at the ground. I have a thing about spitting so maybe that was just me being weird but I couldn’t take it.
I was in the business district but visited the centre a lot, Great Wall is a must see.

Timeforanamochango Sat 20-Jan-18 17:23:32

Oh and the centre of Beijing there’s the shopping square bit (can’t remember the name) it was full of designers Armani, Vera wang etc. We went and were the only people there all day. Went round the corner to a market and it was heaving... very odd. I didn’t understand it, there’s people anywhere and this beautiful, clean, modern square felt abandoned with not another soul except for all the staff in the shops. Don’t go there, I know it will sound stupid but if anyone’s seen ‘the interview’ and the stuff about NK it gave me those vibes, creeped me out! Odd. Oh, And be prepared to pee standing up grin

jellybeanteaparty Sat 20-Jan-18 18:33:52

Shanghai diva we hadn't considered hiring a car for the day. How is the driving?
Booby good to see another itinerary We have just booked a good deal with Finnair and are looking forward to planning in the rest Thanks all for the comments even the less enthusiastic ones it all helps. We are quite easy going eating however I think I will pack some snacks given the advice here.
Eurochick sound like we need to make flashcards with the essentials in Madarin. Is most signage in both chinease and English characters?
Spiderpants do let me know how your trip goes.

OP’s posts: |
Spiderpants Sat 20-Jan-18 18:49:34

yes i will report back how it goes, am very excited, we are going shanghai, harbin, beijing, xi'an and then back to shanghai over two weeks.

beware visa costs they are £151 per person at a minimum

BubblesBuddy Sat 20-Jan-18 22:38:15

Why back to Shanghai? That’s a shame because there are flights back from HK or Chengdu.

If you stay in a decent hotel the consierge will tell the taxi driver where you want to go and you get the name of the hotel in mandarin for the way back.

Why on earth should everyone speak English? Many tourists do not diy China for a very good reason! Actually 300m Chinese do speak English but you may not come across many. Also who on earth goes to a shopping mall in Beijing when on holiday? Do your homework and go to the important world renown sights. You can easily eat well, cheaply and know what you are eating.

We didn’t find China a massive culture shock but we have been to India. Of course there are cultural differences but you really can find western loos with no difficulty! The Chinese have their own way of doing things and you turn a blind eye to what you don’t like. You won’t change anything and this is a controlled economy. Poverty is no worse than India. In fact not so obvious.

You only scratch the surface when you visit and in many ways you are in a tourist bubble insulated from real life but the sights, culture, sounds, museums and food are amazing despite the odd bit of spitting and dog on the menu.

ShanghaiDiva Sun 21-Jan-18 00:47:04

You need to hire a car and driver - I would not recommend driving in China.
For language issues - download wechat - most Chinese people have it and you can then type in English and then use the translate function. As mentioned take a card from hotel with address in mandarin and you will have no problem getting back. Aldo, I think the lonely planet book has mandarin next to the name of all key attractions so just show this to the taxi driver or ask your hotel to write down the name of everywhere you want to go.
I disagree with bubble buddy - I think China is a massive culture shock and I've lived here for 10 years!
Most loos are squats, but if you are in a city, just walk into any 5* hotel to use the loos - as a westerner nobody will stop you. Fast trains have both types of loo.
Food is very different from the 'fake' Chinese of the west - no sweet and sour chicken with pineapple here! Personally I prefer the cheaper food - dumplings, steamed buns etc as the high end dishes - turtle, sea cucumber - are not to my taste. We have Starbucks, KFC, mcDonalds and lots of western options if you need a western fix and even if you don't they are good for the loos. Public toilets are pretty grim!
Re prices for foreigners in markets - they will charge you more, but negotiate. All stall holders have a calculator for this - they type a number, you type a number! Just walk away if you don't want to pay the price, they may run after you if they are prepared to lower the price.
Muslim market in xi'an is good - loads of dried fruit and nuts and great to wander around.

QOD Sun 21-Jan-18 01:07:36

I’m going in March! Hong Kong then down the coasts ending in Tokyo

ZombieHunter Sun 21-Jan-18 04:46:43

I also live in Shanghai waves to ShanghaiDiva

We were in Xi'an two weeks ago and loved it. Great city and all the sights are do-able in 2-3 days including the terracotta warriors. Loved, loved, loved the Muslim market! Not more time needed there, unless you want to venture out to the mountains (Huashan most famous with plank walk, but also others there).

From Guilin, drive for an hour (with a taxi / driver) to Yangshuo. I can highly recommend the Yangshuo Mountain Retreat. Divine views over the river and perfect location to explore by bikes, venture to the caves and so on. 3-4 days there sufficient.

I would skip Harbin in summer, much better if you were there in winter for the ice festival. Instead, you could consider Zhangjiajie. It's where Avatar was filmed and the mountais are spectacular! You can also go to Tianmen mountain there and walk the glass bridge 4000 ft high if you are brave enough.

Throwing another place in the mix for consideration - Fujian province near Xiamen. Tea plantations everywhere and stunning walks. Learned a lot about tea making and just simply lovely scenery and locals.

While in Shanghai, venture out a day on the train (30 minutes) to Suzhou. It's one of the old water towns and very charming for a day trip.

Not been to Bejing yet, so can't comment, but it's on our list. Also Chengdu for the pandas. There are some fascinating places to explore here!

QOD Sun 21-Jan-18 08:49:28

@zombiehunter I know Facebook and google are blocked in China, does we chat work between China and uk?
Want to be able to stay in touch with dd
Also can you use uk data? Or is there loads of public WiFi (google says yes)
Tips on communication apps appreciated

I’ve read about vpn and that’s too complicated for me 😂

eurochick Sun 21-Jan-18 09:05:56

The lack of google, Facebook and various other things felt odd. It's a daily reminder of the fact that it is a very foreign country!

I'm glad I went. It was interesting, but i wouldn't rush back.

BubblesBuddy Sun 21-Jan-18 11:11:40

I think the average tourist sees the tourist sites with decent loos. We never used a single squat loo so I think they can be avoided. Also the hotels welcome anyone and plan your day with loos in mind!

ZombieHunter Sun 21-Jan-18 11:13:36

@QOD I use Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, YouTube, Google... DAILY! Yes, it's officially blocked, but all you need is a free VPN. SnapVPN is sufficiently reliable, download it before arriving and connect as soon as here. All you need to do is click connect, it's really that easy! I couldn't live without my social networking. Yes, it's slow at times (always best in the mornings), but it works and I'm still in touch with everyone without problems.

WeChat works perfectly between UK and China. For voicecalls turn the VPN off to have stronger network.

Yes, wifi coverage is pretty much everywhere. Hey, it's China! People can't live without their phones ;) It's even on the Metro, so while travelling you can surf and play games. You will know what I mean when you are here... It honestly seems like everyone is constantly playing on their phones.

Also a tip for toilets as discussed above - just find the disabled toilets usually hidden at the back of any public toilets. They are normal and not squat. And before you judge me - I have never in my whole 18 months here seen a person in a wheelchair. They are shunned away. And I know that not all disabilities are visible, but the disabled ones are never in use, so I go rather than break my knees trying to squat.

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