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China for 10 days

Hello! I'm looking at going to China for about 10 days in late March, early April. What are some must see attractions that you'd recommend? I don't have a flight booked yet. My friend lives in Dalian, and we originally talked about Hong Kong, but with the recent unrest there, we're not going to book anything specifically to Hong Kong. If things calm down, we may look at taking the train there for a couple days.

I would like to see the Great Wall (likely near Beijing), but other than that, I'm not really sure where to go or what to do!

For context, we are in two females in our mid-30s and moderately active; we're fine with walking upwards of 10-15 miles a day. I'm interested in historic sites, some nature, some city sightseeing as well.


Posted by
4120 posts

We had a three week tour of China that was fantastic. There is so much to see there.

You have 10 days. I would recommend the following:
1) Beijing- Tiananmen Square, The forbidden City, The Great Wall (it is a day trip from Beijing), The Pandas at the Zoo, Ming Toombs and Summer Palace;
2) Xian- The Terra-Cotta Warriors
3) Shanghai-

We did a great four night Yang-zee River cruise and visited Guilin (great half day Li River cruise) and other places in Southern China, including Hong Kong. You don't have time for that.

Some tips:

Don't eat in just any restaurant. Only eat in 4 or 5 star hotel restaurants or certified tourist restaurants. Our tour manager warned us that you must take care what you eat in China. There are cases of fish farms being filled with human sewage. This is not a joke. Also, if you fly, take a small lock so you can lock your suitcase if you fly between cities in China. If you don't lock your suitcase, someone will likely go through it and take what they want.

China is very crowded and the roads are filled with cars. Don't attempt to drive or rent a car. Take the trains or air.

Posted by
338 posts

From Dalian, I recommend you see Shanhaiguan, which is the eastern end of the Great Wall where it meets the sea. It's less touristy than other sections of the wall and quite scenic, as well as on the way to Beijing.

Beijing is a must. Get your hotel to order tickets for you for the Forbidden City (better to have the tickets ahead of time) and plan to spend 2-3 hours there. Other top sights in Beijing:
Summer Palace (my favorite)
Beihei Park
Temple of Heaven
Fragrant Hills (Xiangshan) for hiking on the western outskirts of Beijing

Xian and the Terracotta Warriors are another must-see.

I'm not a big fan of Shanghai. I would suggest Suzhou instead, which is full of historic courtyards and gardens, and will feel totally different from Beijing and Xian.

Plan to have your passport with you all the time. Security checks are distressingly common (yet non-threatening) throughout China now. No need to worry about petty crime since there are surveillance cameras everywhere.

Practice your squats before you go as many public places only have squat toilets (the kind with footprints).

Download Google Translate to your phone. I recently spent a month in China and met less than five people who could speak English.

Posted by
5622 posts

I have been to China three times, transiting through Shanghai and Beijing to different areas of China
. Beijing is filled with so many important historical sites that you may not have enough time to see all you want.
Shanghai is wonderful too, and has always had a much more international feel to it due to the various concessions laid out for foreign countries. Go on The Bund, take a boat ride on the river at night to see the light displays on the modern buildings. Visit the tree lined streets in the French Concession and have a meal there. It was our favorite area to stay in. You have little time for this trip so plan carefully.
Suzhou is a water town, but there are several of them if you have time for a day trip. Consider Hangzhou too.

Posted by
5019 posts

10 days. Consider that China is roughly the size of the USA, equally diverse, but filled with multiple cultures each having complex histories going back thousands of years (don't forget to factor in that getting around can be a lot more challenging than the equivalent travel in the USA).

So, 10 days... Pick one corner and don't try to overdo the amount of moving around you attempt.

Posted by
338 posts

(don't forget to factor in that getting around can be a lot more challenging than the equivalent travel in the USA).

Challenging, yes, but faster. Their trains are much faster than those in the USA.

Posted by
2701 posts

Since you will be north of Beijing (J as in jingle, NOT J as in bonjour!) visiting Dalian, I’d consider Chengde* and its collection of temples.

*with an E not the city Chengdu on the other side of the country

Posted by
5019 posts

Their trains are much faster than those in the USA.

In many cases, yes - especially the new train lines, which are wonders. Though not every part of the country has high speed rail lines yet (though they're building them at an unbelievable speed - like they build everything else). Still, comparing to the US passenger rail system is a pretty low standard for a yardstick. ;) Also worth noting: while there's an extensive domestic air system, more often than you might expect, things go sideways with surprisingly long delays for flights. And if you are unlucky with holiday timing, then the crowds can seem incredible (most notorious is Chinese New Year aka Spring Festival, where it seems half the planet is traveling across China...fortunately you will be well after that so it shouldn't impact your experience).

Posted by
121 posts

I lived in China for 3 months-

The best section of the Great wall (if it isn't closed off due to the virus) is at MuTianYu. Hire a private driver to take you there - don't do the "BUS" (that is dreadfully too long and a waste of time). Most things in Beijing you can get away with not knowing Chinese and getting around.

Forbidden City is a must- see it as early as it opens (if it is open), same with the Temple of Heaven. Any time past 9am and it gets insanely crowded. If you have time I'd go to Hangzhou if you are able or Nanjing.

Nanjing has some of the older palaces and the "purple mountain complex" is full of many great historical sites to see. They have a museum dedicated to those who were massacred in WWII, Ming Dynasty sites, and Sun Yat Sen's memorial (many steps--but a great place to go).

Skip the Beijing zoo (it is sad and gross!), and the Olympic Park (pretty lame just a bunch of buildings). The Llama temple is a tourist trap and not that interesting.

The Old Summer palace is really fun to visit, along with the new one (go early to beat crowds- right when they open).

Beihai Park (located near the forbidden city) is a great place to visit- it takes around 2-3 hours to explore the whole thing by foot.

Don't get lost in the Hutongs. -- really it is a maze.

Posted by
5019 posts

Well someone stirred up this thread from last November...

If I were planning a trip to China in the next few months, right now I'd be thinking about my options to postpone and reschedule, given the virus pandemic currently emerging there (and from all indications I've seen, just in its early stages - no way to know, but the potential is real for this to be a major health challenge worldwide).

Travel bookings to China have dropped significantly in the past weeks, for reasons that are easy to understand. Some US airlines started canceling some flights to China today; I'm sure we will be seeing more soon. We are in the early days of this, and from what I've read and heard, the potential for disruptions are, um, extreme. There's a good chance that a lot of travel to other places beyond China may be disrupted, too. I have a trip to Turkey coming up in March, and I'm starting to wonder if even that may be impacted (beyond just seeing lots of people in airports wearing surgical masks and having temperature scans all over the place). FWIW, I've already seen a few people on the streets of Seattle with surgical masks on in the past few days. No need to panic, but...right now I would not be booking any vacations in China.

Posted by
6118 posts

What is the word from your China resident friend, now that the coronavirus is making the rounds?

With the reports of the number affected seemingly doubling each day, it looks like things will get worse before they get better.

Hope you have flexibility to cancel any reservations you have made.