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Old Mar 2, 12, 6:21 pm   #1
 
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need advice on my china trip

Hi and thanks for helping,

We are planning a trip for the summer that includes Korea and China. It will be a family vacation and one of the few times we get to spend with our parents.

We will first spend 8 days in Korea, then head over to China for about 8 days. We really want to see Beijing and either a cruise on Yangtze River or Guiling. My wife really prefers to the scenic places rather than the historic places. Yangtze or Guiling?

So far, I have seen most tours stay in Beijing for 3 days, includes most of the important sites (Forbidden city/great wall). What would you guys suggest? I have seen many suggestions for independent travel, I would consider hiring a private tour at the location instead of all inclusive travel tour.

FYI. June 11th-19th. My parents are fluent in Chinese and have been to China many times. Im not fluent, but can get by.

I am planning on purchasing my own one way flight from ICN to either Beijing or Shanghai. Which one would be better? Fly into Shanghai and take the river tour upstream and then fly into Beijing? Or fly into Beijing and then to the other location?

Any suggestions/comments would be appreciated.
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Old Mar 2, 12, 8:16 pm   #2
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Originally Posted by peeyurr View Post
Hi and thanks for helping,

We are planning a trip for the summer that includes Korea and China. It will be a family vacation and one of the few times we get to spend with our parents.

We will first spend 8 days in Korea, then head over to China for about 8 days. We really want to see Beijing and either a cruise on Yangtze River or Guiling. My wife really prefers to the scenic places rather than the historic places. Yangtze or Guiling?

So far, I have seen most tours stay in Beijing for 3 days, includes most of the important sites (Forbidden city/great wall). What would you guys suggest? I have seen many suggestions for independent travel, I would consider hiring a private tour at the location instead of all inclusive travel tour.

FYI. June 11th-19th. My parents are fluent in Chinese and have been to China many times. Im not fluent, but can get by.

I am planning on purchasing my own one way flight from ICN to either Beijing or Shanghai. Which one would be better? Fly into Shanghai and take the river tour upstream and then fly into Beijing? Or fly into Beijing and then to the other location?

Any suggestions/comments would be appreciated.
Buy tickets to PEK and from SHA or vv; the order doesn't matter. As far as suggestions are concerned, you should do some more research, and then get back to us (there are scores of inquiries like yours in this forum, alone).
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Old Mar 2, 12, 8:38 pm   #3
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Drop the Yangtze Cruise idea like a hot potato, immediately. Overpriced and eats up a lot of time that rapidly becomes repetitive and boring. Most of the cruise takes place on the Chongqing-Yichang segment anyway, not the lower Yangtze between Shanghai and Wuhan.

Guilin (Yangshuo area) is a possibility, but you need to be aware that the time frame for your trip (late spring/summer) may come with rain in that region. Sometimes a LOT of rain. Wouldn't be my choice for month of June.

Suggest for scenic part you consider alternative of Jiuzhaigou/Huanglong in upper Sichuan province which can now be accessed by air rather than the long bus trip. Where have your parents already been or not been?
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Old Mar 12, 12, 3:46 pm   #4
 
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Thanks for the advice jiejie.

heres the possible schedule that I have in mind. My wife and I really want to see guilin.

China, Beijing - June 11th - 8:10am departure, arrive 9:10am Beijing, China (PEK) $187 - China Southern
China, Beijing - June 11th-15th Tour of Beijing (4 full days - 11,12,13,14)
Hotel - roughly 100 dollars per night or less - Capital Hotel

China, Guilin - June 15th - depart Beijing 7:20am, arrive 10:25am, Guilin, China (KWL) - $200 - Air China
China, Guilin - June 15, 16, 17 - Tour of Guilin (2 full days - 15,16)
Hotel - roughly 30 dollars a night - Guilin HongKong Hotel

China, Shanghai - June 17th - depart Guilin 11:55am,arrive 2:05pm, Shanghai, China (PVG) - $200 - Shanghai Airlines
China, Shanghai - June 17,18,19 Tour of Shanghai (2 full days - 17,18)
China, Shanghai - June 19th - departs Shanghai
Hotel - roughly 80 dollars per night or less - Grand Mercure Zhongya

Flight to China Cost per couple- 2x187= $374

Estimated Total cost for 2 people without tours at the moment for China portion: $400+$200x2+$60+$200x2+$160 = $1420 includes flights within

Tours in China - Just an estimate, I think we have cheaper ones in mind.
Beijing - http://www.chinatraintickets.net/bei...ay-trip-6.html - 360 per person for group of 4, both includes hotel - visit - Temple of Heaven, Great Wall, Bird Nest Olympics, Forbidden City, Old Beijing, Summer Palace

Guilin - http://guilin.lotour.com/ - probably about 40 dollars a day at most
- http://www.chinatraintickets.net/gui...ay-trip-1.html - $130 per person for group 4, - 4 hour cruise on Li River/Yangshuo
- http://www.chinatraintickets.net/gui...ay-trip-2.html - $85 per person for group 4- Elephant Trunk Hill, Flute Cave

Rough Total of tours in China (Beijing/Guilin) - $360+$215=$575 per person

Estimated Total - $374+$1020+$575x2 (beijing hotel included here)= $2524

Im considering to use the Friends and family rate for IHC hotels or the Radisson Hotels in China.

Any comments on my schedule? This will be after 8 days in Korea.
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Old Mar 12, 12, 5:58 pm   #5
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1) With only 8 days and 3 places (Beijing, Guilin, Shanghai), you've got one place too many but if you are determined, you'll have to speed-visit.

2) It's ridiculous to fly to Guilin just to see that city. That's not where the good stuff is. Reed Flute and especially Elephant Trunk Cave are time wasters and overpriced--you can safely skip them. The Li River Cruise is not the way I would play this--I would personally bus or car to Yangshuo (1 hour-ish) and do the boating/rafting there, also would stay there not in Guilin. There are some decent small hotels and lodges there which are lovely and serviceable if you don't need 5* amenities. All activities for Yangshuo can be booked locally and on the spot once there, at much more competitive prices. No need to deal in advance. If you want to ride a boat/raft through the karst scenery, just walk to the river and bargain with one of the ladies with their rafts, usually $10-15 per person for 2-3 hours' ride.

3) Minimize Shanghai. I would fly out of Guilin on the EVENING of the 17th which gives you one full day in Shanghai-the 18th. That's enough to hit the highlights. Skip tours of Shanghai, you don't need a tour to walk on the Bund, walk the French Concession, maybe see Yuyuan Gardens. I presume you can walk? Take a taxi? Take the subway?

4) My pricing:
--Internal flights PEK-KWL and KWL-PVG: $200 + 200 = $400 each. Might be able to get them a little bit cheaper booking online on ctrip once May rolls around, but not much cheaper. KWL is expensive to fly in/out of.
--Local transport like taxis, airport shuttles, etc, Guilin-Yangshuo etc.: $125 each (less if you use subway in BJ and Shanghai).
--Hotel: BJ ($100/night x 4) + Yangshuo ($70/night x 2) + Shanghai ($120/night x 2) = $780/2 people = $390 each. If you have points or access to good rates, Shanghai and Beijing are good places to use them. You can find cheaper hotels than this and I could certainly be comfortable on $80 per night.
--Food: $40/day each x 8 days = $320. Excluding imported wine/alcohol.
--Entry fees: $100 each for all 3 places and things you are likely to see. Might be less.
--Other sightseeing activities, esp in Yangshuo such as boating, night show, etc.: $75 each
Total per person done without the guided tours you don't need: $1400 at most. Excludes cost of to/from Korea and souvenirs. And this is far from "rock bottom" like the backpackers can do. My own personal style which is "simple but clean and comfortable" could do this route easily for $1100 max, and that mainly because of the inability to get deep discount airfares on these routes. But you have no alternatives to air travel with this short time frame.

My personal opinion is that for only 2 meaningful days in the Guilin area and the cost of getting in and out of there (high airfares), it is not a good value for money. You really need twice the amount of time to make it truly worthwhile. You might consider using Shanghai only as a connection point to your international onward, and just cutting it out entirely and putting the extra time in the Guilin area. Particularly if at some point in life, you're likely to be swinging back through Shanghai anyway (and sooner or later, everybody does).

Last edited by jiejie; Mar 12, 12 at 6:11 pm.
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Old Mar 12, 12, 9:43 pm   #6
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jiejie View Post
Comments:
1) With only 8 days and 3 places (Beijing, Guilin, Shanghai), you've got one place too many but if you are determined, you'll have to speed-visit.

2) It's ridiculous to fly to Guilin just to see that city. That's not where the good stuff is. Reed Flute and especially Elephant Trunk Cave are time wasters and overpriced--you can safely skip them. The Li River Cruise is not the way I would play this--I would personally bus or car to Yangshuo (1 hour-ish) and do the boating/rafting there, also would stay there not in Guilin. There are some decent small hotels and lodges there which are lovely and serviceable if you don't need 5* amenities. All activities for Yangshuo can be booked locally and on the spot once there, at much more competitive prices. No need to deal in advance. If you want to ride a boat/raft through the karst scenery, just walk to the river and bargain with one of the ladies with their rafts, usually $10-15 per person for 2-3 hours' ride.

3) Minimize Shanghai. I would fly out of Guilin on the EVENING of the 17th which gives you one full day in Shanghai-the 18th. That's enough to hit the highlights. Skip tours of Shanghai, you don't need a tour to walk on the Bund, walk the French Concession, maybe see Yuyuan Gardens. I presume you can walk? Take a taxi? Take the subway?

4) My pricing:
--Internal flights PEK-KWL and KWL-PVG: $200 + 200 = $400 each. Might be able to get them a little bit cheaper booking online on ctrip once May rolls around, but not much cheaper. KWL is expensive to fly in/out of.
--Local transport like taxis, airport shuttles, etc, Guilin-Yangshuo etc.: $125 each (less if you use subway in BJ and Shanghai).
--Hotel: BJ ($100/night x 4) + Yangshuo ($70/night x 2) + Shanghai ($120/night x 2) = $780/2 people = $390 each. If you have points or access to good rates, Shanghai and Beijing are good places to use them. You can find cheaper hotels than this and I could certainly be comfortable on $80 per night.
--Food: $40/day each x 8 days = $320. Excluding imported wine/alcohol.
--Entry fees: $100 each for all 3 places and things you are likely to see. Might be less.
--Other sightseeing activities, esp in Yangshuo such as boating, night show, etc.: $75 each
Total per person done without the guided tours you don't need: $1400 at most. Excludes cost of to/from Korea and souvenirs. And this is far from "rock bottom" like the backpackers can do. My own personal style which is "simple but clean and comfortable" could do this route easily for $1100 max, and that mainly because of the inability to get deep discount airfares on these routes. But you have no alternatives to air travel with this short time frame.

My personal opinion is that for only 2 meaningful days in the Guilin area and the cost of getting in and out of there (high airfares), it is not a good value for money. You really need twice the amount of time to make it truly worthwhile. You might consider using Shanghai only as a connection point to your international onward, and just cutting it out entirely and putting the extra time in the Guilin area. Particularly if at some point in life, you're likely to be swinging back through Shanghai anyway (and sooner or later, everybody does).
Thank you so much for your suggestions as we might do 12 to 15 days.

You say a guide /car are not nesc. I am sure 90% of visitors do not speak Mandarin etc. Isn't that a problem While doing it your way, which is very appealing.

REQUEST TO OP. PLEASE POST YOUR FINAL EXPERINCES WITH NAMES AND NUMBERS OF PEOPLE AND PLACES.
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Old Mar 12, 12, 10:40 pm   #7
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Originally Posted by HMPS View Post
Thank you so much for your suggestions as we might do 12 to 15 days.

You say a guide /car are not nesc. I am sure 90% of visitors do not speak Mandarin etc. Isn't that a problem While doing it your way, which is very appealing.

REQUEST TO OP. PLEASE POST YOUR FINAL EXPERINCES WITH NAMES AND NUMBERS OF PEOPLE AND PLACES.
Where did you pluck that 90% figure from? (I'd be inclined to say the opposite.) In any event, China is a ridiculously easy place to navigate without speaking the language. Once you arrive, you'll surely be surprised by how nicely things fall into place.
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Old Mar 12, 12, 11:44 pm   #8
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Originally Posted by moondog View Post
Where did you pluck that 90% figure from? (I'd be inclined to say the opposite.) In any event, China is a ridiculously easy place to navigate without speaking the language. Once you arrive, you'll surely be surprised by how nicely things fall into place.
90% of visitors would speak mandarin...less than 5% foreign non-chinese tourists would speak mandarin and less than .05 % foreign non-chinese tourist would speak any dialect except cantonese.
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Old Mar 13, 12, 6:15 am   #9
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Originally Posted by HMPS View Post
Thank you so much for your suggestions as we might do 12 to 15 days.

You say a guide /car are not nesc. I am sure 90% of visitors do not speak Mandarin etc. Isn't that a problem While doing it your way, which is very appealing.
REQUEST TO OP. PLEASE POST YOUR FINAL EXPERINCES WITH NAMES AND NUMBERS OF PEOPLE AND PLACES.
For these places which are well ON the beaten path, being a first-time China visitor and speaking zero Mandarin won't be a problem. With 12-15 days, you can add a stop or two and possibly some cheaper train travel.

On guide: not necessary for Beijing, Guilin/Yangshuo area, or Shanghai. My expectation is that any traveler will do at least some basic homework on the destinations, however.
On car: there are two useful places on this itinerary for a private car with driver, not guide. My suggested budget includes these items.
(a) To the Great Wall. Shared between a couple (or two couples, I can't tell the plan), the $80-100 expense would be worth the time savings. Maybe plan an itinerary to use the car the full day and do GW Mutianyu then drop at another sight like Summer Palace or Lama Temple.
(b) Transfer to/from Guilin Airport. Not the cheapest way (public shuttle to Guilin City then public bus to Yangshuo) but the most effective on a short China trip. Taxis all the way to Yangshuo will either refuse or are sharks--avoid. A private transfer, arranged by Yangshuo hotel, is best way to go, about $50 (hour-ish drive) each way. Similar from Longsheng Rice Terraces--which is recommended if they decide to toss time from Shanghai to Guilin area.

Other airport transfers and all local transport can be done in taxis or by subway in Beijing and Shanghai for some journeys. Subway in particular is very easy since signage is in both Chinese and English (pinyin), as are announcements on trains for stops, etc. Even the Village Idiot could navigate these city systems. For taxis, hotel can write down in characters names of the places you need to go, and you can grab a hotel business card so you can show a taxi driver and always find your way back. Yangshuo is small enough to walk, maybe bike if you can ride, or if you want a jaunt in a vehicle, get a local right there. Every other storefront is a local tour agent offering all kinds of stuff and it's all pretty much the same thing---and cheaper than booking through a Guilin or other city agent.

Jiejie Tip: When in China, if possible, purchase services directly from the source/provider and minimize the middlemen. There are relatively few travel situations where you are forced to deal through middlemen without alternative (Tibet being one of those).

Decent guidebook and a map, maybe some internet printouts from advance research to take along. For the non-Mandarin speakers, a small phrasebook that has Chinese characters next to the English is OK to take as a security blanket if you wish.

Last edited by jiejie; Mar 13, 12 at 6:23 am.
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Old Mar 13, 12, 10:43 pm   #10
 
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thanks so much for all your time typing up these feedback/comments...i really appreciate it...

yeah, i realize that guilin is an expensive side trip, but im hoping its well worth it for us. We probably wont be heading back to china for a while after this, so we figured we might as well see it rather than Xian. My dad has friends/colleagues in both Beijing/Guilin, so he said he'll put together the transportation. I plan to use the special rates for holiday Inns in Beijing/Shanghai as I see them for about 70-80 dollars per night.

Definitely thanks for the heads up on the elephant trunk and the flute cave. My dad has seen the night show on the Li River and he recommended that we all go see that. I'll ask my dad about the Yangshuo boat ride instead of nearby Guilin. Maybe even check out the rice fields.

As for Shanghai, we probably only have the 17th to be there as we will be leaving around 5pm on the 18th for US. We'll need to eat dinner with my uncle that lives there, so I'll probably have to stick with the timetable mentioned before. My parents also told me theres not much to see in Shanghai, so we'll probably just walk around for 1 day and spend some time with family.

Thanks again! I'll definitely write a review and post some pictures after the trip. Thankfully my parents are fluent in chinese and I can barely get by. We are looking forward to eating great chinese food and just spending some time with the family in China.

Would you suggest to wait on the plane tickets until May? Right now on Ctrip, theres a 30% discount on both legs of my flight within china.
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Old Mar 19, 12, 2:18 am   #11
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If I may, I would add the Summer Palace to the list of places to see in Beijing if you have the time.
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Old Mar 19, 12, 4:31 am   #12
 
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If I may, I would add the Summer Palace to the list of places to see in Beijing if you have the time.
Yes, I second that! And it's really easy to get to now that the subway runs all the way there. (Some guidebooks tell you that you have to take a taxi after the subway, but that info is out-of-date.)
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