I went to China with my mum for two weeks visiting 6 different cities(!)
Our crazy itinerary looked like this:
Beijing – Xi’an – Jiuzhaigou – Chengdu – Hangzhou – Shanghai
Let me start off with saying that China is HUGE! Do not let the world map fool you – it is incorrect! Check flight times between places for a more accurate idea of distance.
We flew to Beijing with Finnair, then used CTRIP app to book flights between Beijing – Xian – Jiuzhaigou airport. We took a bus between Jiuzhaigou and Chengdu WHICH WAS LONG and I don’t recommend it really (took 9 hours!). We then flew from Chengdu to Hangzhou. We took a bullet train to Shanghai from there before catching our final flight to Beijing. China is massive! Security takes ages and you aren’t allowed to keep any portable chargers in your checked in luggage. These things cause delays as they won’t see it until its been scanned. They will also not be able to explain what it is they are looking for so in conclusion – be there on time to avoid these issues.
In Beijing we stayed at Jade Garden Hotel – location was amazing but rooms themselves were not fantastic. In Xian we stayed in Bell Tower Xian, my favourite hotel of the whole trip! Highly recommended if you go to Xian! In Jiuzhaigou, the options were limited and I think we stayed in Yuting Boutique Hotel which was OK but no one spoke English so it was a bit of a nightmare in that sense. The room itself wasn’t bad but it was freezing and we struggled with thermostat. We lived 5 mins from the park entrance but no one could tell us that. I’d recommend a bigger hotel chain especially since they may be able to offer transfer from airport – we got a random taxi with two other local Chinese and to be honest, the driver decided to change the price half way there and we wouldn’t have been able to deal with it but the locals we shared taxi with had to translate. In Chengdu we stayed in Panda apartments where Tony showed us around, he was the best host ever. In Hangzhou we stayed in Huachen international, great hotel in great location. Highly recommended! In Shanghai we stayed in Campanile Bund hotel, which provided excellent service.
- My favourite city Xi’an! It is young, awake and bustling. Almost all the food is halal and they have a several hundred year history of Muslims living there. More people spoke English than in Beijing and the city itself didn’t sleep until late night in contrast to Beijing. There also lots of things to do! We ran out of time.
- The great wall of China was amazing to climb, however, I would not recommend you do it with a tour (see below for more details)
- Jiuzhaigou is a natural park like no other. It’s absolutely beautiful but very difficult to access. It is out of the way from most other cities and currently you either fly there (airport is on top of mountains and still a good 1-2 hours away from the park) or you get a bus/drive, which can take up to 7 hours to/from Chengdu which is the route most Chinese people take.
- Rice tea! Me and my mum got hooked on this Rice tea that they serve in Jiuzhaigou.
- The authentic Tibetan villages within Jiuzhaigou national park! If you are unable to get to Tibet, this is a good shout.
- Travelling with my mum! I enjoyed spending time with her and we alway crack jokes. She my homie for life Alhamdulillah.
- A lot of places served halal food! I kept a Chinese sign for halal food on my phone and showed the restaurant owners. It was really useful
- The Tang Dynasty show! This performance show takes place outside the city walls of Xi’an. Worth every penny and every second! Highly recommend!
– Communication barrier. Almost no on spoke English! As this trip was a last minute thing, I hadn’t had a chance to learn any useful phrases either.
– Censorship! All things Google are banned in China, which means I couldn’t use Google maps for anything (and Google is my most trusted asset when travelling!). Most social media websites are blocked too such as snapchat, instagram and Facebook. It was nice to switch off for a bit, no doubt, but Google maps was a bummer.
– Normally I like spontaneity, but for this trip I really wish I had planned it better. As mentioned before, it was a last minute decision and we literally got our visas a day before travelling. I was working back to back shifts and unfortunately hadn’t read up enough on the logistics around travelling to China. I didn’t find many blogs giving advice about it but I wish someone had mentioned it.
– Shanghai scams. As with any big city, there are scammers trying to take advantage. In Shanghai in particular, they would take you on an uneccessarily long route, pretend they don’t know where you are going then charge you 15 times the rate. And they do this using the meter. So be aware of the distance you are travelling. In regards to tuktuks, make sure you clearly agree on the price before getting in and always attempt to give them exact change. We got into a situation where they snatched our 100 Yuan Bill and refused to give it back (we managed in the end but it was extremely awkward).
– The crowds surrounding Hangzhou and Terracotta army. Be aware, China is extremely populous and Chinese people like to do sightseeing! However in Hangzhou and by the Terracotta army outside of Xi’an, it was just on a different level and impossible to actually enjoy the places themselves amongst all the pushing and shoving.
– Terracotta army. This is supposedly one of the must do things when visiting China, but quite frankly I found it underwhelming. There is only one building where the soldiers are visible but they are too far away. It is a typical tourist trap and I’m personally not a big fan of those.
– No toilet paper or soap in toilets. You’d think I’m joking but I’m fully serious. Very few toilet had necessary amenities so buy your own! And don’t forget the sanitizer.
This was just a quick taste of my personal highlights of China. I’ll try and make a blog post about each city a bit later on. Onwards and forwards! /Sanam