15+ Days in China & Dragon Boat Festival Questions

Discussion in 'Asia' started by dstober, Apr 5, 2018.

  1. dstober

    dstober Gold Member

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    Hello, All!
    My daughter is currently studying in Kunming, Yunnan and I'm going to travel there late May/early June to travel with her for a couple of weeks. Comments on our potential itinerary and suggestions very welcome!
    Kunming: Daughter is pretty familiar with things to do and getting around, so we will do this pretty independently. She also speaks some Mandarin and has been focusing on that in her study abroad program. Stone Forest is one place to visit on my list. Probably 3-4 days.
    Fly to Chengdu: We want to see pandas (Panda Breeding Grounds Reserve seems to be the best option--tour guide or on our own??) and do a food tour (super foodie here). 3 days?
    Overnight high speed train to Guilin: We'll spend our time between Guilin and Yangshou. We want to do a Li River cruise and maybe do the bike and bamboo raft options for getting around the countryside. Other must-sees? 3-4 days.
    Fly from Guilin to Hong Kong or Shenzhen: depending on flight options, we can go to either city. Ultimately, we'd like to end up in HK for the Dragon Boat Festival. We are thinking to go through a tour guide company for this portion since the crowds will be enormous. Any recommendations? We've been recommended to check with Wild China and China Odyssey tour companies.
    Thanks for any input!
     
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  2. Frogfish

    Frogfish New Member

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    Hi Dstoper.

    I've lived in China for 23 years and have traveled all over - to the places you want to go multiple times ! So here's my take :

    Stone Forest : is small, usually very crowded and not that exciting. Allow no more than 1 day maximum (more like 1/2 day) and avoid all the coach stops - read tourist traps - the guides try to herd you into (you're in Kunming anyway so it's not far away and it's a nice city).

    Pandas: Panda Breeding Reserve. Must do, again try to avoid weekends or any Chinese holiday when it will be insanely crowded. Make sure you are going to the reserve in the city of Chengdu and not the one located a couple of hours drive away. Easy to get to. Again you seem to be over calculating the time needed. 2 days is enough. Chengdu is pandas and not much else. Couple of interesting food streets to enjoy in the evening. No guide needed at all. Maps are provided in English as are all info signs in the reserve.

    Guilin is a big city and I wouldn't spend too much time there (1 full day for the city then get out ASAP). You can't avoid the noise and crowds for trip down the river to Yangshuo but it's an iconic trip. Get a boat that stops in the little village of Xingping on the way, not many do but it's a lovely little town. Bring Earplugs (or better still Noise Cancelling Headphones - even if you don't play music when the noise cancelling is switched on it's minimises horrible surrounding noise and chatter, and there's a lot of both in China) because the boats sound their horns non-stop and there are hundreds of boats !
    Have lunch in Xingping if possible. Yangshuo is kind of cool but touristy now, still it's fun and worth the trip. Some really nice trips out of Yangshuo (bikes and rafts) and the show on the river at night is awesome. I'd spend 3-4 days in this area and include a trip to see the Longji Rice Terrace Fields (a full day trip out of Guilin or on the way to Guilin from Yangshuo you can detour there).

    You are in Yunnan (my favourite province in the whole of China !) so take a look at Lijiang (you can fly into either very cheaply from Kunming) and Shangri La (close to each other so a short and cheap bus ride - buses are fine, I use them all over China. Get your destination written down in Chinese though). I flew into Lijiang and out of Shangri La.
    I'm building a website/blog and although it's nowhere near ready my first blog post is almost done at (add the . c o m bit after father): thedragonsfather/tibetan-plateau-part-1-shanghai-to-lijiang/?et_fb=1
    Remember Northern Yunnan is in the Himalayas with mountains up to 7,000m and yet in Southern Yunnan you can see wild elephants in tropical rain forests - it's that diverse. Xixuangbanna and environs are a lovely place to visit. It also has more minority tribes than the rest of China put together.

    Shenzhen is to be avoided. Not the safest city and is mainly just a business hub. Fly direct into HK (I lived there for 3 years). I'd spend at least 3-4 days in HK, 4-5 is better ! Lots to do and see. Still my favourite is the Star Ferry across Victoria Harbour, go during the day and in the evening when everything is lit up - and in both directions (TST, Kowloon to Central and return), for less than a US$1 each way it is not only spectacular but offers some of the best views in HK ! Take the funicular railway to the Peak (there are queues so ask your hotel for the best times to go). Sit at the back going up and front coming down.

    Guides and Tour companies : personally everything can be done at less than half the price they'll charge and in HK especially everything is in English so not difficult to do solo and with the help of the excellent HK Tourist offices found in many places (your hotel can always help you too). In China it's a little more tricky but your hotels can help you book tickets though you may prefer a guide (especially for the Rice Fields), though a lot of backpackers/independent travellers do just fine doing it all DIY I do know a lot of Western tourists prefer to hire them to save on any hassle (check Trip Advisor or Lonely Planet's Thorntree forum etc. for recommendations).

    Enjoy your trip ! Kevin
     
    Last edited: Apr 8, 2018
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  3. iolaire
    Original Member

    iolaire Gold Member

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    @Frogfish great content for a first post. Usually I'm all over criticizing people spamming the forum to promote something, but this post was highly informative and on topic (i.e. so its not Spam) so I'm happily adding the clickable link to your blog: https://thedragonsfather.com/blog/
     
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  4. dstober

    dstober Gold Member

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    Wow, thanks so much, Frogfish! I'm with iolaire, what a great post, especially for a first one! I'll be clicking to your blog too.
    Thanks for the Stone Forest rec, that's pretty much what I'd heard. If my daughter can go with me (I'm arriving before she finishes her program), I'll do that, otherwise, I'll probably hire a private guide to just take me to the good parts. :)

    We decided that we could take the G train Kunming-Chengdu, which wouldn't be much longer than dealing with the airports and potential delays, and is scenic. Then fly Chengdu-Guilin to save some time. Then G train Guilin-Shenzhen and cross into Hong Kong. Does that make sense from your POV?

    Some further questions/comments:
    We'll make sure to do the reserve in the city, thanks, that's a big help! The 2nd day we want to do a particular food tour I saw on TripAdvisor. We both love Sichuan food and getting a tour set up for foodies sounds lovely. If we can, maybe we'll fly to Guilin in the evening so as to maximize our time in the Yangshuo area.


    The earplugs and headphones are for sure in my pack list, but I'm not sure I would have thought to bring them with me on the boat trip, so THANKS!!
    We'll look for a trip that includes Xingping. We want to do a bike/raft out of Yangshuo and the rice terraces. Are you recommending 4-5 days in total for Guilin/Yangshuo? Might have to stick to 4. Or just fly into Guilin and head directly to with Yangshuo or the Longji Rice Terraces. We are more nature and landscape people than city types, although we like to see iconic places in cities. Are there must-sees in your book in Guilin?

    If we can fit a trip to Lijiang or Shangri La, we will. She's going to both during her program, which is why we didn't add it to my trip. But I might reconsider...I'm going to look into the possibilities of less time in Kunming and potentially visiting at least one of these. My daughter spent time last summer in Qingdao, which she enjoyed, but she LOVES Yunnan and is having an insanely wonderful experience so far.

    We won't really spend any time in Shenzhen other than to take the G train from Guilin and then just cross into HK. Do you have other thoughts for that? I'm using points from United using their Excursionist tickets, which gets me 0 points flights in a region. They don't seem to include HK for that. :(

    My daughter has been using AirBnB's with great success in Yunnan. And at several, the host has been a driver and guide if needed. And she's found nice places much cheaper than hotels. Do you have thoughts on this? If my daughter has a decent amount of Mandarin, do you think we could skip guides altogether? Should we consider some hotels in particular places (Chengdu, Yangshuo) where booking tickets might be more important?

    Thank you again for such great info!
     
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