China: Where to go, what to take, what to do
China may not be yours, but it was certainly my cup of green tea!
Four weeks in China was an eye-opening experience. If you really want to see China without language barriers, a Wendy Wu tour is highly recommended. (check out the photos in our gallery)
It is not only cost-effective, you see and experience first-hand a large section of China, including out-of-the-way places, without the worry of missing trains, planes or buses, or trying to decide where to go, what to eat, and what to do.
The Grand Tour of China 26-day tour starts in Beijing > overnight train to Xian, flight to Wuhan > bus to Yichang > 4-night Yangtze River Cruise to Chongqing > bus to Chengdu > flight to Kunming > flight to Dali > flight to Guilin > detour to Yangshuo for 2 nights > flight to Hangzhou> Suzhou and finally stopping in Shanghai.
Each destination had its highlights but there are some things you need to know before going.
Arrive a few days early: Arrive in Beijing a few days before the tour commences and stay a few days later after it ends in Shanghai: knowing what I now know, I would have spent a couple of days in both cities before and after the tour. Between you and me, I love markets and there wasn’t enough time for me to bargain on prices. In Beijing, I found some absolute treasures but I had to leave them there because the bus was ready to depart. Find out from your tour company which markets you’ll be visiting so that you don’t double up. The same can be said of Shanghai. What an amazing city! It certainly warrants staying longer in Shanghai after your tour has finished.
For the bargain shopper like me, check these links to get an overview of what’s available. Having been to both cities these links are pretty spot on with their recommendations.
During your tour, your guide stays with you from start to finish, and additional tour guides join you when in different locations. Did you know that there are different dialects and languages spoken throughout China? Tour guides are a must!
Be ready: there’s nothing worse than sitting in the bus waiting for your fellow travellers. Show them the courtesy that should be afforded to them. Be there on time, every time.
Pack an umbrella: this serves two purposes 1. To protect you from potential rain 2. Provide privacy when going to the loo (some are open and quite confronting on some parts of the bus trips).
Pack a pashmina: 1. To give you warmth during a flight 2. Provide privacy when going to an open loo.
Pack spare loo paper: tuck some spare loo paper into your handbag or pockets wherever you go. Some of the regional locations didn’t provide loo paper. Remember, in some places you must not place the used loo paper in the toilet as there’s no septic system. A basket is provided.
Bottle of antiseptic gel: not allowed on flights. These gels contain alcohol, albeit a small amount, and cannot be taken on the flight. Pack some easy-to-use hand-wipes instead.
Coffee lovers: On your trip around China you’ll be offered green tea and Chinese beer. Wine is expensive. The beer is light and palatable (I became a fan). Pack some sachets of coffee so that when you’re back in your hotel room at night, or first thing in the morning, you can whip up a hot cup. Nescafe Coffee Sachets such as Caramel Latte are pretty good.
Original vs Copy: remember China is the land of copy-copy. If you’re wanting to buy a small replica such as a Terracotta Warrior, pay a little extra and purchase it in Xian while you’re on tour. The clay is a different quality to cheaper versions. Rely on your guide to give you the right advice and guidance. We bought a horse and five soldiers. They were shipped back to our home address while we continued onto the next leg of our tour. They arrived safe and sound.
Fancy Labels: While we’re on the subject ‘copy-copy’: you’ll come across lots of high-end labels such as polo shirts, belts etc. which of course are copies. Remember you get what you pay for. The cut is different. The fabric is different. They make great gifts, such as polo shirts, but don’t be disappointed if they don’t fit – always err on the side of caution and buy a size bigger.
Loose change: always have loose change in your pocket to purchase the odd memento that takes your fancy. Word of warning: keep a note of currency exchange rates so that you don’t pay too much. When travelling, I keep a piece of paper in my pocket that gives me an approximate breakdown of the exchange rate. For example: $1 AUD = 5 Chinese Yan. I see something I like for 45 Yan then I know it’s about $8.50 AUD. You can then decide on whether you think it’s a good purchase or not.
Happy Tummy: Do NOT drink the water; even if it’s boiled. Pay for bottled water. Make sure the lid is secure and hasn’t been opened before and refilled. Having travelled to Asian countries, this is done and it can land you in ‘tummy’ trouble…spending time in your hotel room with gastro is not the way you want to spend your holiday. There are tablets on the market that you can buy and take prior to and during your holiday to help ward off potential bugs. Consult with your doctor first.
Also check this link: http://www.traveldoctor.com.au/
Fresh Greens vs Boiled Vegs: unless you have a strong constitution, suggest you stay away from fresh salads etc. and keep to cooked food, specially vegetables.
Tipping: At the end of our tour we passed the hat around and gave our tour guide (she stayed with us all the way, from Beijing to Shanghai) a tip. She deserved every dollar. She was absolutely fantastic!