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Old Jul 11, 12, 9:44 pm   #1
 
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Great trip to China in October, thanks for the help

Hi,

I've been reading through the China board FAQs, travel thread, etc. and have gotten a lot of valuable advice. Now, I would like to put out my draft itinerary and ask for advice, critiques, etc. We are 2 couples turning 60 who wanted to celebrate our 60th in China as water dragons in the year of the water dragon (we're not Chinese but thought this was as good an excuse to visit China as any )

Oct. 8 - arrive in Beijing around 2 pm for 6 nights at Westin Financial District in 2 bdrm suite. Plan to visit forbidden city, a hutong, the ancient observatory, lamma temple, workers cultural palace, imperial college, summer palace, great wall over those 6 days.
Oct. 14&15 - fly to Xi'an and stay in Sheraton Xi'an to visit terra cotta warriors , city wall, muslim quarter, great mosque, big goose pagoda.
Oct. 16 - return to Beijing to take high speed train to Shanghai for 3 nights at either Le Meridien or Hyatt to see assorted museums and tea houses
Oct. 18 - high speed train to Hangzhou and stay in Hyatt for 2 nights to relax and enjoy the beauty.
Oct. 21 - fly to Guilin and stay for 2 nights in Sheraton to do a Li River tour and visit Dragon's Backbone rice terraces.
Oct. 23 - fly to Hong Kong and stay at IC for 4 nights to enjoy Hong Kong, maybe take a side trip to Macau.
Oct. 27 - return to Canada in evening.

I was not planning on hiring a guide for Beijing, Shanghai or Hong Kong but am wondering about getting one for Guilin. Any thoughts? I'd like to hire a private car to tour the Great Wall but was wondering if we could do 1 car for the 4 of us, all relatively average weight (for Canadian, not Americans ). Any thoughts about what I've included or not included would be greatly appreciated since I have enough time to make either minor or major modifications to my plans. Thank you in advance.
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Last edited by greatwhitenorth; Nov 2, 12 at 1:26 am.. Reason: We returned from the trip so I thought I'd change the title to reflect that
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Old Jul 11, 12, 10:02 pm   #2
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You are zigzagging. You should save Xian after Hangzhou and before Guilin.

Don't get any guide. Most guides are useless at best, taking you to all the shopping places at worst. Just get a driver.

Since you're planning to visit Macau, might as well stay there for a night, even two nights since hotel there is much cheaper. For the cost of a reflgular room at the IC in HK, you can get a room with own swimming pool at the Banyan Tree, for example.

Last edited by rkkwan; Jul 12, 12 at 4:32 am..
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Old Jul 12, 12, 2:00 am   #3
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Originally Posted by rkkwan View Post
You are zigzagging. You should save Xian after Hangzhou and befor Guilin.

Don't get any guide. Most guides are useless at best, taking you to all the shopping places at worst. Just get a driver.

Since you're planning to visit Macau, might as well stay there for night, even two nights since hotel there is much cheaper. For the cost of a reflgular room at the IC in HK, you can get a room with own swimming pool at the Banyan Tree, for example.
Agreed on the zigzagging point -- there's no reason to go to Beijing twice, and every flight in China sucks up at least 4 hours of your time, even if you aren't delayed.

Here is the order I would propose:

Beijing
Shanghai
Xi'an
Guilin
HK/Macao
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Old Jul 12, 12, 8:47 am   #4
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I concur with both of the above as to itinerary order and in general, dispensing with guide. Redraft with days reallocated around and resubmit for next round of commentary. You definitely have enough time to get this improved.

Assume bullet train Beijing-Shanghai and flights for the Hangzhou-Xi'an, Xi'an-Guilin, and Guilin-HK portions. Heed moondog's warning to allow enough time before/after the flight itself. I'm not enthralled by your day planning so far. And staying in Guilin for two nights while planning to do both a Li River cruise to Yangshuo and the Rice Terraces ain't gonna work logistically, not enough time.
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Old Jul 12, 12, 9:01 am   #5
 
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Originally Posted by rkkwan View Post
You are zigzagging. You should save Xian after Hangzhou and before Guilin.
At a minimum, fly from Xi'an to Hangzhou or Shanghai, not back to Beijing just to take HSR--there's no appreciable discount for a R/T ticket. If you want a flavor of HSR, take it from Shanghai to Hangzhou.
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Old Jul 12, 12, 9:04 am   #6
 
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Oct. 14&15 - fly to Xi'an and stay in Sheraton Xi'an to visit terra cotta warriors , city wall, muslim quarter, great mosque, big goose pagoda.
This is ambitious.

I assume you arrive on the 14th. Unless you take a very early flight from Beijing, you will have only part of the 14th to explore Xi'an. You might be able to do the pagoda, or perhaps the wall (a portion), muslim quarter, and mosque. The warriors will consume a good part of the 15th, leaving you the rest of the day to hit whatever you didn't get to the first day (which could be everything if your flight is delayed). If you're okay seeing only the warriors, and whatever else you may have time for you'll be okay, but if you really want to explore those other things you may want to schedule some extra time.
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Old Jul 13, 12, 12:52 am   #7
 
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Thank you for all of the feedback. When I looked at google maps, I realised what you were all talking about and will change my plans so I'll go from Beijing to Shanghai and then to Xi'an, Guilin and Hong Kong.

As suggested by Drewguy, my main motive in going to Xi'an is to see the warriors and the other items are in the "see if time permits" category. I'd certainly like to see them all but I'll be careful to not overdo it.

Jiejie, how many days should I allocate to Guilin to see both the Li River and the rice terraces? Would there be tours to do the rice terraces or would I be looking at a private car in order to see them?
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Old Jul 13, 12, 8:13 am   #8
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Originally Posted by greatwhitenorth View Post
Thank you for all of the feedback. When I looked at google maps, I realised what you were all talking about and will change my plans so I'll go from Beijing to Shanghai and then to Xi'an, Guilin and Hong Kong.

As suggested by Drewguy, my main motive in going to Xi'an is to see the warriors and the other items are in the "see if time permits" category. I'd certainly like to see them all but I'll be careful to not overdo it.

Jiejie, how many days should I allocate to Guilin to see both the Li River and the rice terraces? Would there be tours to do the rice terraces or would I be looking at a private car in order to see them?
1) Xi'an is more than the Warriors. (And I could argue other Xi'an sights are at least as enjoyable, though I do like the soldiers.) If you're going to put the effort into going there, then I'd allot it two full days and overnights. Separate from air travel.

2) You should allocate Zero days to Guilin. What you should do is use Guilin as a transport hub, and as quickly as possible, boogie out of there and spend 3 days at Yangshuo....which is where the REAL scenery is and where you can also take a local boat or bamboo raft to see the best of the Li River. You may safely avoid the Guilin-Yangshuo Li River ultra-expensive and overvalued tourist boat experience....where for a large part of the trip the scenery isn't all that great. Then boogie in the opposite direction (a private car will be pricey but will save you time since you need not fumble with switching transport in Guilin city)--and head up to the other bastion of good scenery which is the Rice Terraces.

The switch of locations will take about a half-day, then have the rest of a day, overnight, another full day, another overnight, then return to Guilin airport to fly on. Of the two major Terrace staging areas/villages, Dazhai is now generally preferred over the larger Ping'an. You can have tours set up, but most people just get transport up there arranged (can be done in Yangshuo once you get there), and make a reservation at a guesthouse in advance. A guesthouse rep can meet your bus/car. Understand that staying at the Rice Terraces is not going to be a luxury exercise, and you don't want to be trekking up hills with lots of luggage. But staying at least one overnight up there will be worthwhile. Once you get to the Terraces, mostly what you'll be doing will be on foot. Your guesthouse can arrange for transport back to the Guilin airport, or can help you get a public minibus/bus to Guilin city, where you can get a taxi to the airport.

Let me give you fair warning for your particular itinerary: if you insist on having a specific hotel selection (Sheraton) dictate your plans for this area, your overall experience will be diminished, as the Sheraton or any Guilin city-based hotel is simply not well-situated for taking advantage of this region's best sights and activities. So, you can choose experiences and maybe going downmarket a bit (though comfortable and clean independent accommodation is definitely available, if you are willing to do your homework)....or stick with the international brand name. For the other places on your itinerary, hotel selection is not so much of an issue since the sights/experiences are pretty much in/near the city.

You may find that at the time you are planning to go, the Rice Terraces will be in process of harvesting and things will be very yellow. Also with the rice high enough, the outlines of the terraces may not be as distinct as during other times of the year and it may look more like yellow mountainside. No way of knowing exactly how this will play out, as each year is a little different depending on how the summer rains go.

Last edited by jiejie; Jul 13, 12 at 8:36 am..
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Old Aug 14, 12, 10:31 pm   #9
 
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Okay, back from our sojourn to Montana for the last month - I try not to plan my next trip while I'm on a trip. I have hotels booked for Beijing, Shanghai, Hangzhou and Hong Kong. I'm trying to use up hotel points, if it makes sense, and can book either the Hilton or the Sheraton in Xi'an. All are reasonable in terms of points required - does anyone have a preference for either one?
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Old Aug 16, 12, 8:33 am   #10
 
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Originally Posted by greatwhitenorth View Post
Okay, back from our sojourn to Montana for the last month - I try not to plan my next trip while I'm on a trip. I have hotels booked for Beijing, Shanghai, Hangzhou and Hong Kong. I'm trying to use up hotel points, if it makes sense, and can book either the Hilton or the Sheraton in Xi'an. All are reasonable in terms of points required - does anyone have a preference for either one?
There's a thread on Xi'an hotels--check that. The Hilton appears to be closer to the center of town, although both require a taxi.
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Old Aug 23, 12, 2:15 pm   #11
 
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Thanks, drewguy, I didn't see that thread before I posted. I've decided to go with the Hilton.

Now, a question about stay sequence. We are staying in Beijing for 6 nights, then heading to Shanghai/Hangzhou for 3/2 nights before flying to Xi'an. I was thinking of going by HS train all the way to Hangzhou from Beijing, thinking that a couple of days there would refresh us before we head back to Shanghai. However, does it make more sense to stay in Shanghai and then head to Hangzhou?

I've checked the air prices and the fare seems to be the same, 450 yuan, but there seems to be more flight options from Shanghai.
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Old Aug 23, 12, 5:25 pm   #12
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Originally Posted by greatwhitenorth View Post
Thanks, drewguy, I didn't see that thread before I posted. I've decided to go with the Hilton.

Now, a question about stay sequence. We are staying in Beijing for 6 nights, then heading to Shanghai/Hangzhou for 3/2 nights before flying to Xi'an. I was thinking of going by HS train all the way to Hangzhou from Beijing, thinking that a couple of days there would refresh us before we head back to Shanghai. However, does it make more sense to stay in Shanghai and then head to Hangzhou?

I've checked the air prices and the fare seems to be the same, 450 yuan, but there seems to be more flight options from Shanghai.
Putting either Shanghai or Hangzhou first is OK, for this itinerary with Xi'an after, there's no ironclad preference. Not sure if a visit to Hangzhou will actually "refresh" you (whatever that means) but it's pleasant enough. If you decide Hangzhou is first, take the G train from Beijing for speed rather than the D.
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Old Aug 23, 12, 7:40 pm   #13
 
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And staying in Guilin for two nights while planning to do both a Li River cruise to Yangshuo and the Rice Terraces ain't gonna work logistically, not enough time.
Here is what we did: arrived late one night into Guilin, stayed at the Sheraton. Arranged for a driver to meet us at 5:30 am to take us to Yangdi, a place on the Li River where we could take a bamboo boat along the prettiest stretch at sunrise. The driver picked us up downriver at Xingping, where we had breakfast and continued to Yangshuo. We had that full day to bike and hike around Yangshuo and enjoy the amazing scenery. We stayed that night near Yangshuo. We arranged at the lodge for a driver to take us the next day to the rice terraces (at Ping An), where we had some hours to hike. The driver waited for us, then took us to the airport for a late flight out. So the timing is not impossible if you do one of the nights in Yangshuo, though obviously there are tradeoffs. We only had a little time, but greatly enjoyed the trip.
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Old Aug 23, 12, 7:50 pm   #14
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Here is what we did: arrived late one night into Guilin, stayed at the Sheraton. Arranged for a driver to meet us at 5:30 am to take us to Yangdi, a place on the Li River where we could take a bamboo boat along the prettiest stretch at sunrise. The driver picked us up downriver at Xingping, where we had breakfast and continued to Yangshuo. We had that full day to bike and hike around Yangshuo and enjoy the amazing scenery. We stayed that night near Yangshuo. We arranged at the lodge for a driver to take us the next day to the rice terraces (at Ping An), where we had some hours to hike. The driver waited for us, then took us to the airport for a late flight out. So the timing is not impossible if you do one of the nights in Yangshuo, though obviously there are tradeoffs. We only had a little time, but greatly enjoyed the trip.
It's certainly workable if he's taking a late flight out, but definitely not ideal. With the time he has, I'd still recommend he just focus on Yangshuo and dispense with the terraces. Actually, what he should do is take a day off of Beijing (unless he must be there for 6 days for business reasons) and put it on this part of the trip, which then makes including a visit to the terraces--even as a daytrip--a better prospect.
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Old Aug 23, 12, 8:09 pm   #15
 
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No, the entire trip is strictly tourism. In order to see the terraces, which are high in my to-do list, I could either take a day from the 6 in Beijing or one from the 5 in Hong Kong - any recommendations?
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