I just returned from a 3 week trip to China, and Beijing was the highlight. We stayed at Beijing Jade International Youth Hostel, and it was great- good rooms and service, bad western food. But it’s very central and lots of cheap chinese food joints just round the corner.
if you stay there, there is a guy called Paul who runs tours on the opposite corner of the road, i can give you his number. He can take you for an awesome day trip to Huanghua and Ming Tombs. I would say Ming Tombs are quite good. Forbidden City is not so great. Someone else mentioned Huanghua as being the best part of the wall to visit- it is for sure, no tourists cramming the place. he’ll bargain if there’s a few of you.
Sanlitun is the bar district to visit, heaps of fun. There’s also a club called Banana that we went to which was crazy- we were the only tourists there, and it has a moving dancefloor (Don’t have any of those where I live in Australia)but I’m not sure where this is. Sanlitun also has a shopping market, 5 levels, aimed at foreigners. The sellers are quite aggressive, but bargain hard and friendly- you can do very well. Keep walking away and laugh at their starting price saying ‘too expensive’ and ‘cheaper’. Learn the chinese phrases if you can, as this always goes down well. Don’t show too much interest in an item, even if you really want it.
If you want any info on shopping, let me know, we found some grat cheap places. Wangfujing is just near, but pretty expensive stores compared to the markets by chinese standards. Also the night markets there are a must for the atmosphere. Plus don’t miss Tian’Men etc.
As for Xi’an, we found it disappointing, and probably the lowlight of the trip, but having said that, it is still probably worth visiting, most people enjoy it. I would recommend the Bell Tower hotel if you’re after a hotel, very central and the airport bus goes directly there, plus tours run from there.
Guilin and Yangshou is a MUST. Start in Guilin, (we stayed at Flowers hostel. It is very nice, food is great and atmosphere, but chinese-style toilets.) spend a day or two and then get the boat down to Yangshou. Instead of returning with the tour, book into a hostel and spend a couple of days there. So beautiful and fun. Cheap. You can easily get another bus back to Guilin to go to the airport or whatever.
Shanghai is a very modern city, and there is not overly a lot in terms of sightseeing, but we enjoyed it. It you want to stay on the Bund on the cheap, Captain Youth Hostel is great. Almost like a hotel, with a nice (but pricey for a hostel) bar on the roof. Probably less atmosphere than most hostels. The bar district in Shanghai is a lot of fun as well. Shanghai mueseum is good. Give Yu Gardens a miss.
Overall, China is amazing. Had the trip of a lifetime. We also visited Guangzhou, which was good as we stayed with a Chinese family, but I’m not sure what it would be like touring alone. I would recommend using tours as little as possible (we only did it in Xi’an, to the wall, and for the boat trip in Guilin). Most of them seem overpriced and rushed and include stops at places you don’t want to go (pricey crap restaurants and jade factories). But i’m a student so was on a budget. I found that cheap restaurants are often as good or better than expensive ones. you pay for the decor of the place.
Rickshaw drivers- Dodgy AS. Be certain the price includes both passengers, they can actually take you right to your destination and don’t let them pull notes out of their pocket to demonstrate the amount as they’ll change it when you get to your stop. take a little calculator. I know it seems tight, but they’re used to fleecing tourists (especially as we were two young 19 year old girls! we had to stand our ground a lot)
Feel free to ask anything. Sorry this was so long. I can talk about China forever. Have an awesome time, and just go with the flow when you’re there. Cheers.
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Please don’t appologize for the length. It is all great quality information that I am sure to use.
How long was the boat trip from Guilin to Yangshou? Do you think the November season will be much of a negative? (Don’t forget November is cold on this hemisphere :) )
Again, thanks for your help. More questions are sure to follow.