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China In Early June
Old 04-03-2011, 12:52 PM   #1
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China In Early June


I will be visiting China in early June for 12 days. I have never been to Asia before. I will leave from New Jersey and start in Beijing. Then go by sleeper car train to Xi'an. Another sleeper car train to Suzhou. Then a bullet train to Shanghai.

Can you recommend what to try and see or do while there. Do you have any particular travel tips for me- like things to remember to bring. Is it better to obtain Chinese currency here in the US or wait until I am there? How do you deal with the jet lag? Are there certain types of food I should seek out or avoid while there? The tour that I am going through recommends that we travel lightly, so I am trying to keep that in mind.

Thank you for your advice.

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Old 04-04-2011, 04:02 AM   #2
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June can be pretty hot as it is summer. I visited these places in summer and winter and the experiences in both are different. Can't say which is better - both bring different experiences. Beijing and Shanghai are quite modern cities but it is advisable to bring all types of medicine you are used to. It is better to bring some chinese currency and change some there if you feel that you need more. You can also change money in the airport or hotels or even the banks but given that you are on the go, you may not want to waste time. For me, I always bring currency enough to cover expenses like food, shopping, transport and entry fees to areas of interest - denominations available outside of China are usually RMB50 and RMB100. I will only use credit cards in international hotels and just pay cash in local restaurants and shopping areas. You mention you are going on a tour, so I guess most expenses are prepaid.

In Beijing, must see include The Great Wall (I went twice - once to Badaling entrance and another to MuTianYu entrance - the views are quite different), Forbidden City (can take up half a day), Summer Palace (another half a day), Tianamen Square, etc Not sure what kind of food you like but Beijing duck (roasted and skin of the duck is crispy) and dumplings (a staple food in Beijing, sometimes served with soup and sometimes pan fried) are must try.

In Shanghai, take a stroll along the Bund, can take the cruise on the Huangpu river and visit YuYuan Garden. Take a look at the link on some of the food I've eaten. Like most of them. Shanghai also offers a good selection of spicy food. Really spicy - so if you can't take spicy food, then eat in small doses only.
40 Shanghai foods we can

If you don't have a strong stomach, avoid the street food and just stick with hotel food or restaurant food. If you get tired of chinese food, there's quite plenty of western food in Beijing and Shanghai and Starbucks is usually easy to find.

For Suzhou, I guess you'll be headed to the watertown called ZhouZhang - the locals liken it to little Venice. You don't get gondolas - just local boats. I kind of like it - very quaint. There's also the Suzhou Gardens but I did not find it very impressive - maybe I am just jaded.

Unfortunately, I've not been to Xian - intended to go before but there was a sand storm then.

Enjoy your trip!

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Old 04-04-2011, 04:17 AM   #3
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bring toilet paper and hand sanitizer- you would be surprised at how many public bathrooms have neither.

Don't touch street animals like dogs. I went on a tour and on the tour before us someone ended up getting rabies shots.

don't eat street foods.

We saw a fabulous acrobat show but I can't remember the town. My favorites were not the tourist sights but the parks and gardens which were beautiful but full of people doing exercise and socializing. Some of the areas we walked through made us gag from the smells, and the food we saw on the ground and in open stalls were a little horrifying. We were driven around to all sorts of tourist sights and gardens, including a tea plantation. Lots of fun. We also rode on the bullet train.

I did the unsafe thing and took a sleeping pill on the plane, when we got to China I was one of the only ones who was well rested. Avoid alcohol and caffiene a few days before you go helps with jet lag.

Be prepared for lots of people all the time. You will be approached to buy stuff but saying no and holding up your hand will deter sellers.

forgot to mention some of the people on my tour went to Xi'an and hey said the pollution when they went was so bad they had to cover their faces with cloths. There were fires going on in that area so it may not be like that all the time.
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Old 04-04-2011, 05:46 AM   #4
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A few points

1) when you change money in China, make sure you keep the receipt or you won't be able to change it back
2) pedestrians DO NOT have the right of way in China, vehicles do, and if you do not heed that rule, chances are great that you will be hit
3) the note above about TP and sanitizer does not apply everywhere, but it does in many places
4) you are more likely to have clean food and water at larger, well known international hotels. Montezuma's revenge is very much a possibility at the smaller hotels and eateries outside of the big cities
5) close your mouth when you shower, drink bottled water
6) if you go out at night by yourself for a walk you will be propositioned...every 10 yards
7) if you go for a walk at all it is better to stay with your group. If you go alone, it would be best not to talk to people you do not know. i know that sounds bad, as you are going to China presumably because you want to see, learn, and experience. But my experience dictates caution in approaching or being approached by someone who seems to just want to practice his/her English.

The above notwithstanding, I have made a lot of very good friends in China over the years. They have been very kind, generous, and accommodating.

Have a good time!

Find Joy in the Journey...
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Old 04-04-2011, 05:49 AM   #5
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We have been there some years ago in July. We loved it.
It was very hot and humid.
Everybody on our tour had diarrhea for one day- without any apparent reason. Those who insisted on western food had it, those who consumed street food got it, too.
Make sure to bring some pills that can put an end to it quickly.

As to the jet lag: When I travel I change my time to local schedule directly when I go on the plane, refuse each meal that does not fit somehow to my new schedule and stay awake as long as my new schedule tells me it is daytime. Works for me.
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Old 04-04-2011, 09:00 PM   #6
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Just a few more elaborations on what others have raised:-

1. The suggestion from the thread to take toilet paper and tissue paper is a good one. Presuming you are staying in good hotels, just take the toilet paper and tissue paper from the hotel. I usually don't use those provided in public toilets or tissue paper from restaurants unless they are very reputable. I also take some wet wipes which have menthol smell just in case the toilets smell - and the public toilets do smell.

2. As regards the water, in smaller towns the water can have a funny taste and smell. To be on the safe side, some people use bottled water to brush their teeth but the water should be safe in international hotels.

3. Some hotels have pools and sauna. I will only use them if they are international hotels. Before you soak in a bathtub, take a look at how clean it is. I'll only take longbaths in international hotels.

4. As regards the bullet train, don't be surprised if you find someone at your seat. Just tell them to vacate your seat as those may have bought "standing" tickets. I had that experience and also experienced people putting luggage at my seat despite luggage space being provided.
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Old 04-05-2011, 05:51 AM   #7
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We took the overnight from Bejing to Xian as well. On exiting the train station in Xian we found a hotel across the square. We used that base for two days and public buses to get around. Day 1 we visited the Terocotta Army. We combined that days outing with a stop on the return leg to Banpo Village Museum (you pass by it anyway). If you have 2 days we ventured to the Great Buddah Temple about 2-3 hours bus ride each way.
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Old 05-08-2011, 09:42 PM   #8
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My wife and I just returned from the "grand tour" of China and found it most worthwhile. The travel tips given above are valid, particularly about pedestrians having no right of way (traffic is insane!).

Couple of other things to be alert to: pickpockets are said to be a problem in many crowded venues; t-shirt sizes are well below US. So, if you wear an XL here, buy a 2XL in China ... etc. Guilin and Xi'an were my favorite sites but nothing is more impressive than the Forbidden City (although the Great Wall comes close) in Beijing. For our trip in April, there was no pollution in Beijing (beautiful, crisp blue skies) but tons of it in Shanghai and Chongqing. Prices are less than in the US but no great bargain.
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Old 05-09-2011, 08:19 AM   #9
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Independent suggestion to us and my sister (who took an earlier trip and used a different travel agency in another city) were to take $$$ in the form of travelers checks and not use ATM machines..........which was kind of a surprise to me.......supposedly ATMs can swallow debit cards/instructions in Chinese.
Had no trouble exchanging money in the hotels......supposedly the exchange rate is govt. regulated so the same anywhere......unless you deal w/ some on-the-street characters. If your tour includes transport from airport to hotel, then you don't need cash ahead of time.

In addition to the TP suggestion others have given, you might want to be mentally (and perhaps physically) prepared for this:
How to Use a Squat Toilet - wikiHow
In the big cities and faciliities to impress (airport/Expo/big hotels & restaurants), there should be no need but at smaller businesses, perhaps.

Consider taking some Cipro's cheap $4-5 for a small number at Target-----and learn when to use it.

Traveling that direction is the "easy" way for jet lag. You just want to wake up early (real early) in the AM so unless you want to stay up late partying, it's not such a big deal.......just go to bed early . When you return to US is the hard part..........I find esp. if you return at night, taking something that makes you drowsy (I use dramamine---classic formula) helps a lot.

If someone nearby in the airplane is coughing/sneezing, ask to be reseated.....far away. A number in our tour got sick ........thought at first due to the food.......but it kept spreading so that theory kind of got scuttled.

Have fun!

we didn't have any problems but the tour guides warned us of possible pickpockets esp in the crowded areas........their code word was "sticky rice" stick close together, both so you could hear their commentary and not get lost and not become easy pickings for the pickpockets............kind of how baitfish who stray from the school get picked off by predators more easily.
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Old 06-13-2011, 04:54 AM   #10
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I just wanted to thank everyone for their great advice. I just got back from the trip to Beijing, Xi'an, Suzhou and Shanghai yesterday. I will have a great memory of China. The people, the food and the culture were all great.

Some of the places I will remember most- The Great Wall, The Forbidden City, The Summer Palace, The Temple of Heaven (all in Beijing), the Terracotta Warriors (in Xi'an), all the gardens in Suzhou, the Bund, the Shanghai Museum, the Peace Hotel and the Aquarium (all in Shaghai).

I rode on the fastest train in the the world, the Maglev, to get to the Pudong International Airport in Shanghai. That was fun too!

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