Wednesday, May 4, 2011

China Itinerary

Travel dates: Last two weeks of September

Here is our itinerary for our travel in China:

Day 1:
  • Arrived in Beijing from San Francisco. Flew to Guilin.
  • Hired a taxi and a guide for the rest of the day
  • Checked out Reed Flute caves and Elephant Trunk Hill while cruising down the Li River
  • Saw the brightly lit Sun and Moon Pagodas

Day 2:
  • Visited the Solitary Peak Park. You can get a nice view of Guilin once you climb the never-ending stairs to the top of the peak.
  • The Li River Cruise tour we had booked picked us up from our hotel along with stopping at other hotels for pick ups.
  • Glided down river Li on a bamboo raft, watching the huge limestone karsts slip by
  • Flew from Guilin to Xi'an

Day 3:
  • Took a taxi to the Terracotta Warriors. Surprisingly I wasn't that impressed by this terracotta army that was buried to protect the Qing emperor in his after life.
  • We were supposed to take the train to Longmen Caves. However it was the Mid Autumn (Moon) Festival that day and there were throngs of people lined up, trying to make their way home to their families. We soon scrapped the idea of taking the train and instead walked around Xi'an.
  • Checked out the Drum and Bell Towers as well as the Great Mosque of Xi'an within the Muslim Quarters
  • Wanted to check out the wall around the city of Xi'an and even ride a bike over it, but access to the wall was closed due to Moon Festival celebrations

Day 4:
  • Visited the Big Goose Pagoda
  • Took the 16-hour overnight train from Xi'an to Datong

Day 5:
  • Arrived in Datong at 5am. Waited for the CITS office to open at 7am and set out on our private taxi tour to the Hanging Monastery and Yungang Grottoes.
  • Had an amazing hot pot lunch at Yungang Grottoes before climbing on a bus to Beijing

Day 6:
  • Group tour to Ming Tombs and Mutiyanyu section of the Great Wall of China (the Badaling section is closest to Beijing, but is also equally touristy. I would have ideally liked to have gone to the Simatai section, which is not as restored as Mutiyanyu or Badaling, but it's more remote and takes a long time to get there)

Day 7:
  • Took the subway to the Summer Palace
  • Visited the Temple of Heaven
  • Checked out Tiananmen Square and took the subway to the Olympics Park to see the Bird's Nest and Cube

Day 8:
  • Did a walking tour of hutongs of old Beijing
  • Had a good time bargaining at the Silk Market
  • My dinner was at the amazing Pure Lotus - a completely vegetarian restaurant with an amazing ambience! While my husband had the traditional peking duck dinner with some of his friends and seemed to enjoy that as well.

Day 9:
  • Toured the vast expanses of Forbidden City
  • Visited Jingshan Park across from the Forbidden City
  • Saw the Lama Temple
  • Did some more shopping at the Silk Street market
  • Flew to Shanghai

A few other places in Beijing that we didn't get to see but wanted to:
  • Wangfujing Dajie - premier shopping street that comes alive after dark, as well as the night market with all sorts of critters you can eat (closes at 9pm)
  • Lao She Teahouse - West of the palatial KFC on Qianmen Xidajie; Nightly (7:30m) variety show of Chinese performance arts
  • Qianhai waterfront - Nice area to dine outside
  • Beihai Park - First set up by Mongols
  • Cow Street Mosque - 18 Niu Jie, Xuanwu. Metro Stop: Xuanwu Men, then take taxi. Avoid on Fridays

Day 10:
  • Visited the Jade Buddha temple
  • Made our way to Shanghai's Old Town to see the neatly manicured Yunyang Gardens and the Zig Zag bridge leading up to the Huxingting Teahouse
  • Had lunch at the Nan Xiang Steamed Bun Restaurant
  • Checked out parts of the World Expo 2010 at night since we needed to stand in line at 9am to get tickets to enter some of the more popular countries' pavilions like China, Saudi Arabia, etc.

Day 11:
  • Did a walking tour of Shanghai's French Concession, People's Square and other tourist spots as suggested by National Geographic Traveler book

Day 12:
  • Day trip to the UNESCO World Heritage city of Suzhou where we say the old pagoda at Tiger Hill, Master-of-Nets Garden and the many canals of the city
  • Back in Shanghai, walked along The Bund and did some shopping
In Shanghai, we weren't able to cross the river to get onto the other side of The Bund to visit all the sky scrapers, including the Oriental Pearl Tower. Perhaps next time!

Day 13:
  • Took the Maglev (Magnetic Levitation) train to the airport to fly back to San Francisco from Shanghai

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