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Old 05-21-2013, 01:25 PM
 
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So this is sort of an open ended discussion(hopefully)--but I'm possibly considering a trip to China this fall after I visit Japan(probably around September-October). Never really been to China except a brief stop in Hong Kong. China is such an immense country though, that I'm fairly indecisive about where to go...

I was going to just make a thread about Beijing vs. Shanghai vs. Hong Kong as the best places for a vacation, but I figured that even exploring those cities and surrounding regions for a week might seem limiting, since there's other areas like Yunnan or Guilin or Chengdu that might be places worth visiting. Though we're not going to try to see too much in a week, maybe using one city as a base and then travelling to another area or town for a side trip.

We like places that feel fairly authentic and not built for or just to cater to tourists. We're well travelled and fairly adventurous so we like trying weird local and regional food, checking out food markets, or exploring urban areas and nightlife... We like a mix basically, though we're not impressed by overly touristy sites often--though historical locations and temples are interesting to us. Easily accessible nature or hiking is a plus, though we're planning on a any long excursions into the mountains on this trip.

As far as weather we're specifically interested in how the weather is in early to mid fall. I'm from the Pac NW so a little rain doesn't scare me--though I don't want to go somewhere where we are in the wrong season for local forms of extreme weather(monsoons in South China for example). Heat doesn't scare me though.

So given what we're looking for--what suggestions for China--either one of the major cities and surrounding areas or another region--would you recommend?
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Old 05-21-2013, 04:17 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Deezus View Post
So this is sort of an open ended discussion(hopefully)--but I'm possibly considering a trip to China this fall after I visit Japan(probably around September-October). Never really been to China except a brief stop in Hong Kong. China is such an immense country though, that I'm fairly indecisive about where to go...

I was going to just make a thread about Beijing vs. Shanghai vs. Hong Kong as the best places for a vacation, but I figured that even exploring those cities and surrounding regions for a week might seem limiting, since there's other areas like Yunnan or Guilin or Chengdu that might be places worth visiting. Though we're not going to try to see too much in a week, maybe using one city as a base and then travelling to another area or town for a side trip.

We like places that feel fairly authentic and not built for or just to cater to tourists. We're well travelled and fairly adventurous so we like trying weird local and regional food, checking out food markets, or exploring urban areas and nightlife... We like a mix basically, though we're not impressed by overly touristy sites often--though historical locations and temples are interesting to us. Easily accessible nature or hiking is a plus, though we're planning on a any long excursions into the mountains on this trip.

As far as weather we're specifically interested in how the weather is in early to mid fall. I'm from the Pac NW so a little rain doesn't scare me--though I don't want to go somewhere where we are in the wrong season for local forms of extreme weather(monsoons in South China for example). Heat doesn't scare me though.

So given what we're looking for--what suggestions for China--either one of the major cities and surrounding areas or another region--would you recommend?
If it is your first trip to China, I would suggest Beijing+Shanghai. They have all the famous things you want to see and are convenient for foreigners.

October is the best season for most places in China. There could be a lot of rain in west China (such as Chengdu) but it is generally sunny in the east at that time. Hong Kong can still be hot in October, but not extremely so.
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Old 05-21-2013, 06:24 PM
 
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I too agree that the Beijing and Shanghai are the best places for first visitors in China. Another place that you might want to consider is Xi'an (with its famous Muslim Quarter) and the nearby Terra Cotta Warriors site.
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Old 05-22-2013, 12:17 AM
 
Location: rain city
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There really is almost nothing of interest in Beijing, if you've been to Houston you've seen Beijing. Outside of the Forbidden Palace, Beijing has practically no traditional Chinese architecture or neighborhoods left. And because it is a desert the landscape is bare and dusty. Please use your travel money to go to a more interesting destination. (and let's not even talk about the choking smog).



This kind of high rise development is Beijing and it extends out forever, all the same.




And whatever small area isn't covered with stainless steel skyscrapers looks like this,






Really, there is no reason to ever go to Beijing. Haven't been to Shanghai but I've heard it's better and at least plants grow there.
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Old 05-22-2013, 12:52 AM
 
Location: The western periphery of Terra Australis
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Don't listen to the above poster. Beijing has PLENTY to see. From the famous cultural/historic sights, exotic night-markets, just observing daily life in China, seeing an acrobatic show or Peking opera, trying some authentic cuisine, seeing the 'new' Beijing with it's glitzy towers, neon and nightlife. If you only have one week, I would choose either Shanghai or Beijing. With Shanghai you can take trips to Suzhou and Hangzhou: beautiful historic cities. The weather should be generally amiable at that time of year in either place.
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Old 05-22-2013, 01:01 AM
 
Location: Texas
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Shanghai is a nice global city.

But if you are adventurous enough, Sichuan province is wonderful.
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Old 05-22-2013, 10:09 AM
 
Location: Bike to Surf!
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My spouse and I spent about 40-50 days wandering around China in 2009, so that is where my advice is coming from:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Deezus View Post
I was going to just make a thread about Beijing vs. Shanghai vs. Hong Kong as the best places for a vacation, but I figured that even exploring those cities and surrounding regions for a week might seem limiting, since there's other areas like Yunnan or Guilin or Chengdu that might be places worth visiting. Though we're not going to try to see too much in a week, maybe using one city as a base and then travelling to another area or town for a side trip.
Basically:
Beijing - Has everything and can easily fill your entire week by itself. You will see Chinese city life at its best and worst. The smog is incredible, and is practically a tourist attraction by itself. The highlights of the city are: The Olympic Complex (rusting, abandoned), the summer palace and lake (not as touristy as you think, also not so beautiful, but interesting), the forbidden city (Mao on the outside, Starbucks on the inside if that tells you anything. Worth seeing, certainly), the Hutongs if there are any left (really not that interesting, just a quiet town-like atmosphere), and endless skyscrapers and inhuman-scale architecture. Too-wide boulevards choked with cars, 2-3 mile hikes from arbitrarily-placed subway stations, and plenty of overpriced western-style shopping, bars, and clubs. Take a day trip out to (any section of the) Great Wall, but do it via public bus. You might luck out and miss the tourist horde, like we did. Even though it's not the real thing (rebuilt), it's still impressive. Beijing is the world capital of scammers and touts. To give you an idea, there are people in fake uniforms with fake credentials on lanyards openly walking around the airport, shepherding tourists onto incredibly overpriced private taxis and busses. If you don't speak Chinese, or aren't particularly canny, you might not even know you're being taken for a ride. Most of these scams are not dangerous and won't cost you more than a $20 or so extra. Like New Yorkers, people in Beijing think the world revolves around them.

Shanghai - Less sights to see than Beijing, but less smog, nicer people. The metro system works well. Highlights include; the shopping-bag tower observation deck (if it's not too smoggy)--AVOID the nearby jungle-gym-looking tower where all the english signs point, and keep heading for the taller handbag. The pink tinkertoy TV tower and surrounding George-Jetson cartoonish buildings across the river from the Bund. The Bund is worth a walk, but not that exciting. The maglev train out to Pudong airport is worth riding just for the thrill of going 424 kph in a ground vehicle, and it conveniently connects to the metro. There were still some local markets hiding from the bulldozers of "progress" in 2009, don't know about today. Big parts of the old town were flattened to make way for the world Expo in 2010. There's some central malls and shopping areas that are worth looking at, especially if you want a fake watch from some shady guy on the street--kidding, don't follow them! From Shanghai, you can take a day/overnight trip to HuangShan (famous mountain).

Yunnan - You mean the whole province? Kunming is a big concrete nothing. Avoid except for transit. Lijang, Dali, and Shangri-La (Deqen) are Chinese tourist traps. They can be fun, but be prepared for super-1950's-kitsch. The scenery is pretty, though. We were there when they tore the last wall down of the 500-year-old Shangri-La monastary to rebuild a prettier, shinier version for tourists.

Guilin - If you like Karsts, this is a worthwhile destination. I don't think it would fill a full week. The Dragon's Backbone is amazing and worth a day trip or maybe even an overnight. It was already touristy in 2009, but the rice terraces are a trap fully worth touristing.

Chengdu - This is another big nothing, a little better than Kunming. Smoggy as any city. If you like getting your ears cleaned at a public tea house near a brown pond, I guess it could be fun. The city itself might be worth 2 days. The real attraction here would be Juzjaigo (PronouncedL: "Joe Jai Go"). I do not know how to spell that place in Pinyin, but it is worth seeing! It is a canyon filled with shallow waterfalls and beautiful streams and ponds. It is a huge tourist attraction in China, and ridiculously expensive, but it is still worth seeing. Pretty darn spectacular. It's several hours bus ride north of Chengdu.

Chongqing - This is a very nice town with few tourists and therefore few touts. It's like a super-sized Bern. Still smoggy, though. You can take a Hydrofoil 2-3 hours down the Yangtse river through the remains of the Three Gorges to the dam. They don't look like much of anything now that the dam has flooded them. Beware that few (no foreign) tourists take the hydrofoil, so expect some rough conditions if you're not used to travelling like the locals, backpacker-style. The dam, itself, is just a big wall.

Hong Kong - This is my favorite "Chinese" city because it's not very Chinese. There's a lot of stuff to do, lots of sights to see. It is a little touristy and VERY westernized, but not kitschy like the rest of the mainland. Highlights are the peak tram, the city escalators, the harbor skyline and light show, and the many hiking trails around the city. HK is not very scammy, just sort expensive with somewhat cold people. You can save a "ton" of money by riding the local bus from the airport into town, rather than taking the train or a cab--like most tourists do.

Quote:
We like places that feel fairly authentic and not built for or just to cater to tourists.
Good luck with that. The local chinese tourist industry is full-fledged wall-to-wall touristy kitsch complete with 7 hours of selling you cancer-curing herbal remedies for every 15 minutes of actual "tourism" (Defined as a bus which shuttles you to a photo op, then lets you off to take pictures, buy stuff, and leave). If you want authentic, throw a dart at a map of China and go there. Don't go to any internationally-known place.

Quote:
We're well travelled and fairly adventurous so we like trying weird local and regional food, checking out food markets, or exploring urban areas and nightlife... We like a mix basically,
Ok, do you want to experience REAL China? Avoid the Mainland and to to Taiwan instead. Taipei has everything you are looking for and can easily be done in a week. Taiwan/Taipei deserves it's own discussion, so I won't go into all the details here. I'll just give an example.

In the morning you can ride the MRT from your hotel to the Sun Yat-Sen memorial and see hundreds of Taiwanese practicing everything from break-dancing to Tai-Chi (if you get there early enough). Then you can ride to the top of the Taipei 101, ascending 101 stories in 30 seconds, take in a glorious city view. Grab a (not too overpriced) a snack at the cafe on the 98th floor. Then take the MRT to (one of the) the wholesale (or "young people" or "teachers" or etc.) market[s] and wander through the narrow alleways filled with more shops than you can imagine. Then ride the MRT to the MaoKong Gondola, which takes you up into the mountains ringing the city. Have locally-grown tea and a late lunch up there in the misty hills. Gondola back down to the city to walk the Shilin (or Danshui, or Shi-Da, or etc.) night market, snacking on an awesome variety of street food, and stopping for some famous milk shaved ice (like nothing you've ever tasted!). When you're tired of the night market, move on to nightlife clubs, bars, or late-night cafe's. If you stay out late enough, the breakfast shops start opening and you can experience an inexpensive Chinese breakfast anywhere you care to duck in.

And that's just one day in one city! There's TONS more to do. A week would give you enough time to do a pretty good job of touring Taipei. You could squeeze in a (I recommend train) trip to the gorgeous cliffs and beaches of the East coast and the peaceful rift valley (2-3 hours away). Or you could take the High Speed Rail down to Khaosung. Or if you're really adventurous, you could head all the way down to the beach party town of Kenting at the southern tip of the island (6-ish hours by car/bus, maybe shorter on the HSR with a car/bus at the end.) Authentic Chinese culture is preserved in a (mostly) non-kitschy way in Taiwan. The food ranges from familiar to ultra-bizarre (almost always excellent, though), and the people are friendly. Polluted days are fairly rare (Taiwan is becoming very environmentally-conscious) and there are pretty much NO touts or scams.

Quote:
though we're not impressed by overly touristy sites often--though historical locations and temples are interesting to us. Easily accessible nature or hiking is a plus, though we're planning on a any long excursions into the mountains on this trip.
Any well-known temple in China is a tourist trap, because they were essentially emptied out during the Cultural Revolution. Think fake monks pushing lucky charms on you. Maybe an entry fee. There are many active temples in Taiwan. Foreigners are welcome to come in and take pictures or observe the ones in Taipei. There are some impressive monastaries in the mountains, but I do not know about going inside.

In China, Hiking Juizgaigo, HuangShan or the (short) Tiger Leaping Gorge hike (the one at the end of the bus ride, not the 3-day trek through the gorge) are good. Also worthwhile to wander all over the Dragon's Backbone if you are in the area.

In Taiwan you can climb Snow Mountain, hike around the many mountain and hill parks in and on the outskirts of Taipei. Near Gold Mountain in the north there is a hiking trail over a very scenic mountain I've always wanted to walk, but never had the time.

Quote:
As far as weather we're specifically interested in how the weather is in early to mid fall. I'm from the Pac NW so a little rain doesn't scare me--though I don't want to go somewhere where we are in the wrong season for local forms of extreme weather(monsoons in South China for example). Heat doesn't scare me though.
That is Typhoon season. You may get a LOT of rain. It may still be hot and muggy with afternoon thunderstorms near the coast (HK, Taipei, Shanghai) I don't know about the inland cities. Typhoons I've been through in HK and Taiwan generally last about 1-2 days. If it's a direct hit the transit systems may shut down for a half-day to a full day. As long as you stay in the city during the storm you will be perfectly safe. Don't go into the hills, or near the coastal cliffs though, where floods and mudslides are a serious threat during the storm.

If Taipei has a downside, it is that it is a very rainy city. It can basically pour down rain for a full week, or a month. The city is designed to handle it and everybody goes about their normal business (night markets, etc.) but it can be miserable to walk around in all day.

Quote:
So given what we're looking for--what suggestions for China--either one of the major cities and surrounding areas or another region--would you recommend?
Taiwan. Hands down.
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Old 05-22-2013, 11:11 AM
 
Location: Bella Vista, Ark
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I am a little partial because I have only been to Hong Kong and Taiwan, but we love Hong Kong and there is plenty to do to keep you busy for a week. We did 6 days once and 7 the other. We did the city sights, the land between, shopping, of course (not as good as years ago) and Macaw, for starters. It is a wonderful mixture of Asian culture as well as western culture.

Nita
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Old 05-22-2013, 11:25 AM
 
Location: Washington State
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Beijing easily is the first choice with the Forbidden City, Great Wall, Summer Palace, and others. Shanghai has nothing of historical or tourist must sees as it's a new Chinese city. It is intersting just to see the development and some of the architecture though. Hong Kong would probably be 3rd on my list of these 3.

I agree with a previous comment that Xi'an is nice due to the Terr Cotta Warrior museum and it also seems more authentically "Chinese" than Beijing and Shanghai.
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Old 05-22-2013, 11:30 AM
 
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My experience is only with Shanghai and the surrounding area, where I have been several times - but it makes a good vacation and you can include the surrounding area like Suzhou (highly recommended). Very user friendly public transportation as well, easy to get around on your own even for a westerner. It can get hot and humid in the summer but I think October should be temperate. If you have enough time, say a couple weeks, you can do both Bejing and Shanghai as they are connected by high speed trains. Xi'an is a bit off the track but still doable maybe in a grand loop. For only a week, I would make it only one city - like Shanghai and the aforementioned lake towns like Suzhou which are very pretty and historically significant.

Be aware that you need a visa.

I would also advise posting this into the Asia world forum in citydata, as you will get more informed opinions (sadly, this particular forum has turned into "how do I drive to Cleveland from New Jersey" type threads).

Last edited by Dd714; 05-22-2013 at 11:40 AM..
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