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CHINA travel and trains

First I must apologize as I got a few great responses and could not login to thank you. Thank you for taking the time to answer me and help me sift through so much information.

We are flying into Beijing and spending 3 days. Distance wise, are there places that go well together to make the most of three days. Forbidden Palace, Temple of Heaven, Summer Palace, Lama Temple, Night food market, Great Wall,
Question We wanted to go from Beijing - Datong- Pingyao-Xian and then onto Shanghai where we will go day trips to canal towns and possibly Hangzhou.

I read there is a new bullet train from Beijing to Pingyao in a little under 4 hours. Then I read about Datong and want to go there inbetween but it seems there is not a fast train from Beijing to Datong yet. We are traveling in April, 2016 and I think this line is being added. Is Datong worth the extra trouble getting there? From Pingyao to Xi an there seems to be fast trains again. I think the area I need to figure out really is how to get from Xi an to Shanghai. I guess my options are either an overnight train or a flight. I was going to do day trips from Shanghai.
Thank you for any help. I really wish we could have done Liliang and the Li River but given the distances we need to save that for another time. I wanted to get the feeling of those villages but can't find them near where we are going. Some of you really loved Chengdu but my time constraints won't allow that. I hope to go back another time and visit the South. I wanted to see a wonderful cultural show and ready about some in Liliang and the south. If anyone has any great ideas for cultural shows where we are going, please let us know. Again than you for your earlier responses !!

Thank you in advance.

Posted by
8293 posts

Re Beijing: We were there for several days in the '90s and we took day tours to almost all of the sites you list. Worked out perfectly. We were picked up at and returned to, our hotel. I am certain your hotel could tell you how to join a tour. By the way, surprisingly, one of the best meals we had in China was at the restaurant near the car park at the Great Wall. You would expect such a place to be really sub-par but it was excellent. As they say in China, "go figure" !

Posted by
795 posts

Beijing alone will take up a lot of time. We lived in Beijing when teaching English and there are so many things to see and do and places to eat and shops and people to meet, you could spend years there! Chengdu is really worthwhile too. You will find many cultural things to see and do- attend music and drama events along with the Chinese and hit the museums. Also, visit the universities. They love guests and the students we taught English to enjoyed practicing their language skills on tourists. The Chinese are among the sweetest, most friendly people on the planet and very welcoming though you'll get stared out (imagine me and my reddish hair!). Distances are HUGE in the PRC just as they are in Russia. I love riding the trains. China was one of the first 4 civilizations from tens of thousands of years ago so imagine the historical and cultural heritage they have.

Posted by
9099 posts

Forbidden Palace, Temple of Heaven, Summer Palace, Lama Temple, Night food market are all connected via the metro. Very easy to do on your own without a tour. Great Wall is a day trip out of the city. While there are direct buses to the wall. I would visit via a guided tour.

If you're looking for a good discount hotel check out the Holiday Inn Express in the embassy district.

Posted by
3391 posts

In Pingyao, make sure to make time just to wander the back streets. Once you get off the two main streets that spur off from the center, you can get an amazing taste of China that is from another era. Some of the best photos I've ever taken are from the back streets of Pingyao. The preserved architecture, temples, people,'s something to experience!

Posted by
5835 posts

We did our last China tour the easy way through a Cal Discoveries/China Advocates tour starting in Beijing. The tour used internal flights and chartered coaches. We flew from Beijing to Tunxi (Huangshan City).

After touring Huangshan we bussed to Guangzhou then bussed to Shanghai. Tour ended in Shanghai.

We're signed up for another China tour, same operators. This starts in Shanghai with a internal flight to Guiyang, Guizhou Provence. Ending in Guilin we fly back to Shanghai from Guilin.

The point is air travel inside China allows you to cover large distances in minimal time. Even the Chinese are flying more in place of train travel.

PS. My son had a change in plans a number of years ago and rebooked train travel. They had soft class tickets but could only get an overnight hard class on the changed booking. Three to a bench seat, knee to knee with passengers sitting on suitcases in the aisle. Hard class had padded seats but no one is China is a second class citizen. He had a cultural experience.