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Author nfmungard
Partaker
#106 | Posted: 20 Oct 2019 05:09 
Doing my prep for China in January. As you may guess from my other posts ;)

Thursday, 16.01.2020 - Air/Shanghai
Arrival at Pudong at 7:05 from Auckland (overnight). Bus to Suzhou from Pudong Airport takes 2.5h. and runs at 9 a.m. Evening train back to Suzhou.
Question: I hope half a day (13-18h) is enough to appreciate Suzhou. And wondering if it makes sense to get to my hotel in Shanghai first, but a bit worried about the time lost in the process.

Friday, 17. January 2020 - Shanghai/Xi'an
Flight to Xi'an. 6:55. Visit inner city sites/or mausoleum.

Saturday, 18. January 2020 - Xi'an
Day trip Ping Yao. Not sure why, but I really want to see the town.
Train: 2.5h plus at least 1h getting to/from station.

Sunday, 19. January 2020 - Xi'an
Day trip to Luoyang
Train: 1.5h. I would like to combine the Shaolin and the Grottoes. There is a public transport option (grottoes in the morning, shaolin in the afternoon, then 20H train back to xi'an). I think the easiest option would be to get a driver via a travel agency.

Monday, 20. January 2020 - Xi'an/Hangzhou
Morning visit of city/mausoleum. Late afternoon flight to Hangzhou.

Tuesday, 21. January 2020 - Hangzhou / Huangshan
Visit to Liangzhu archaeological area in the morning. Visit of the Westlake in the afternoon. Train to Huangshan in the evening.

Question 1: Are there any opening hours involved in Liangzhu? Information here is rather short. Looking at the map the core zone seems fairly large, but the museum is not part of it.

Question 2: The train station in Huangshan is rather outside of town (China) and the two sites are to the North anyhow. Does it make sense at all to stay in town?

Wednesday, 22. January 2020 Huangshan
Visit to 1 village (morning) and the scenic area (afternoon).
Question 1: Which village is better? And which village is best combined with Huangshan NP?
Question 2: How are public transport options? Or should I get a driver?

Thursday, 23. January 2020 - Huangshan/Shanghai
Heading back to Shanghai in the morning. Will do some local site seeing/shopping. Next day flight home.

Friday, 24. January 2020 Shanghai -> Home 10:20

Would appreciate feedback (Joel, Shandos, Zoe, Zos?)

Author Zoe
Partaker
#107 | Posted: 20 Oct 2019 06:40 | Edited by: Zoe 
Suzhou doesn't take long. The gardens feel like a repeat after a while so you are probably doing just 3-4 is enough. My friend in Suzhou looked at me funny when I said "I want to visit them all" and now I know why. So drop off your bag if it's big because it will make getting around ao much easier. Suzhou has an excellent subway and getting to each garden is easy.

Pingyao has excellent snacks. Once you've been to Lijiang these old towns are nothing anymore but it's still very impressive.

Day trips from Luoyang do both places properly so don't worry about it. The grottos don't take long. I don't quite remember the place I stayed, Longmen Youth Hostel? They offered the trip at a good price including lunch. You don't need a private driver. Maybe consider a late train to Luoyang the night before?

Huangshan half day? That's...crazy. So yes the town you arrive in (Tunxi) is not at the mountain and takes 45min(?) via minivans or taxis. Your hotel can arrange it. Still though, there are taxis, a shuttle, ticket counters, another shuttle, cabel car, I really don't see this as feasible. If you only go up via cable car, look around, go back down, then it doesn't take long to BE on the mountain. I believe there is a bus to Hongcun from Huangshan town.

Author nfmungard
Partaker
#108 | Posted: 20 Oct 2019 07:45 
Zoe:
Huangshan half day? That's...crazy.

Crazy is my middle name :) But seriously, plan would be to tick hongcun early (at 9.a.m.) and then spend the rest of the day (probably 12-18h) at Huangshan before returning.

Author Zos
Partaker
#109 | Posted: 20 Oct 2019 09:23 
nfmungard

Thursday, 16.01.2020 - Air/Shanghai
Arrival at Pudong at 7:05 from Auckland (overnight). Bus to Suzhou from Pudong Airport takes 2.5h. and runs at 9 a.m. Evening train back to Suzhou.
Question: I hope half a day (13-18h) is enough to appreciate Suzhou. And wondering if it makes sense to get to my hotel in Shanghai first, but a bit worried about the time lost in the process.

[Zos] I would assume your hotel is near the airport since you have a fight early morning the next days. If you need to wait for the bus for 1-2 hours, then you have time to drop your luggage. If not, you can carry them to Suzhou. Suzhou bus station should have left luggage service. Yeah, I agree with Zoe you Suzhou Gardens can be done in 6 hours, maybe 3 or 4 plus Shantangjie area. You ca use Didi to hop from one garden or another to save some time.

Friday, 17. January 2020 - Shanghai/Xi'an
Flight to Xi'an. 6:55. Visit inner city sites/or mausoleum.

[Zos] Planes in China are notoriously delayed. After arriving in Xian you might only have time to visit the mausoleum during the day. And do bike around Xian City wall at night.

Saturday, 18. January 2020 - Xi'an
Day trip Ping Yao. Not sure why, but I really want to see the town.
Train: 2.5h plus at least 1h getting to/from station.

Sunday, 19. January 2020 - Xi'an
Day trip to Luoyang
Train: 1.5h. I would like to combine the Shaolin and the Grottoes. There is a public transport option (grottoes in the morning, shaolin in the afternoon, then 20H train back to xi'an). I think the easiest option would be to get a driver via a travel agency.

[Zos] They are doable in a day. I remember I did them in a day too but I stayed in Dengfeng for 2 more night. I took Didi from Luoyang to Dengfeng. It was 150 RMB if I remembered correctly. I have the contact of my Driver based in Dengfeng, he drive me back to Zhengzhou for 200 RMB. When I visited there was some jam close to Dengfeng. The drive from Luoyang to Dengfeng took more than 2 hours.

Monday, 20. January 2020 - Xi'an/Hangzhou
Morning visit of city/mausoleum. Late afternoon flight to Hangzhou.

Tuesday, 21. January 2020 - Hangzhou / Huangshan
Visit to Liangzhu archaeological area in the morning. Visit of the Westlake in the afternoon. Train to Huangshan in the evening.

Question 1: Are there any opening hours involved in Liangzhu? Information here is rather short. Looking at the map the core zone seems fairly large, but the museum is not part of it.
[Zos] Museum is not in core zone. Core zone has limit of 5k visitors a day. Usually most sites in China closes at 1700 in winter.

Question 2: The train station in Huangshan is rather outside of town (China) and the two sites are to the North anyhow. Does it make sense at all to stay in town?

[Zos] I would suggest for you to stay overnight in Hongcun. It is really pretty at night and in early morning before the crowd.

Wednesday, 22. January 2020 Huangshan
Visit to 1 village (morning) and the scenic area (afternoon).
Question 1: Which village is better? And which village is best combined with Huangshan NP?
Question 2: How are public transport options? Or should I get a driver?

[Zos] Homgcun is better than Xidi. If you stay overnight in Hongcun, you can have plenty of time for Huangshan. No need for a driver. There are buses from Hongcun to the cable car area of the mountain. You can stay overnight in the mountain or somewhere near the cable car area to drop your luggage.

Thursday, 23. January 2020 - Huangshan/Shanghai
Heading back to Shanghai in the morning. Will do some local site seeing/shopping. Next day flight home.

Friday, 24. January 2020 Shanghai -> Home 10:20

[Zos] Jan 24 is the start of Chinese New Year Holiday. Most people take a week off before CNY. Train tickets might sell early or some sites might be crowded. You might see long lines at immigration in Shanghai too on 24th.

Author nfmungard
Partaker
#110 | Posted: 20 Oct 2019 12:21 
Zos:
I would assume your hotel is near the airport since you have a fight early morning the next days. If you need to wait for the bus for 1-2 hours, then you have time to drop your luggage. If not, you can carry them to Suzhou.

Guess I will opt for the bus. Hotel is in central Shanghai, as I wanted to have the same hotel at the beginning and end of the trip so I can store most of my luggage with them for a week. Will have to pay for a cab in the morning anyhow.

Zos:
Planes in China are notoriously delayed. After arriving in Xian you might only have time to visit the mausoleum during the day. And do bike around Xian City wall at night.

I have two 3/4 days for Xi'an and environment (arrival, departure). So will manage accordingly and delay should not be an issue.

Zos:
They are doable in a day. I remember I did them in a day too but I stayed in Dengfeng for 2 more night. I took Didi from Luoyang to Dengfeng. It was 150 RMB if I remembered correctly. I have the contact of my Driver based in Dengfeng, he drive me back to Zhengzhou for 200 RMB. When I visited there was some jam close to Dengfeng. The drive from Luoyang to Dengfeng took more than 2 hours.

What is a Didi? Chinese Uber? And that would require me to get internet. I recall that getting a SIM was really hard as a foreigner in China. Not sure
if that changed.

Zos:
Core zone has limit of 5k visitors a day.

Where can you reserve? And the core zone according to official map is huge. Are you referring to a specific component (of the 4)?

Zos:
I would suggest for you to stay overnight in Hongcun. It is really pretty at night and in early morning before the crowd.

Sounds like a good plan. No hurry in the morning always nice.

Zos:
Jan 24 is the start of Chinese New Year Holiday. Most people take a week off before CNY. Train tickets might sell early or some sites might be crowded. You might see long lines at immigration in Shanghai too on 24th.

Duly noted. Not too worried about my flight out of town (leaving at 10:30h, so will get up and go to the airport at 8:00h and that should be fine). Train tickets are due when the sales open. I remember from last year that popular connections sell out :/

Author Zoe
Partaker
#111 | Posted: 21 Oct 2019 01:18 
nfmungard:
Crazy is my middle name :) But seriously, plan would be to tick hongcun early (at 9.a.m.) and then spend the rest of the day (probably 12-18h) at Huangshan before returning.

Yeah I should have guessed by planning all this for January!! Well, Mr. Crazy, it's doable, just watch out for the closing times in winter. I'm thinking there isn't much hiking and the trails are closed due to snow and ice so you are limited to a windy freezing photo-op at the peak(s) anyway.

West Lake is probably also grey and ugly during that time? Don't forget a 1 kuai note to picture together with the actual lake if you are into that.

Wouldn't go biking on the Xi'an Walls during cold winter nights, if even available. It's still nice to see the illuminated gates and walk around on them a bit.

Don't know about Pudong but there is usually a SIM card for foreigner shop at the airport, probably a ripoff though, but i don't know if the normal Telecom shops issue to people on a tourist visa. Usually you go to an actual shop (China Mobile) and they will do it all including topups, but they tend not to speak English at all. The days of buying a card at the corner shop are long gone due to abuse by scammers.

Author nfmungard
Partaker
#112 | Posted: 21 Oct 2019 04:56 
Zoe:
Yeah I should have guessed by planning all this for January!! Well, Mr. Crazy, it's doable, just watch out for the closing times in winter. I'm thinking there isn't much hiking and the trails are closed due to snow and ice so you are limited to a windy freezing photo-op at the peak(s) anyway.

I actually enjoy visiting in off season. So no worries. As long as it's open I will be fine. And winter photos can be quite nice.

Author joelonroad
Partaker
#113 | Posted: 21 Oct 2019 08:44 
Yeah, DiDi is Chinese Uber (they basically just bought Uber's business in China a few years back). It's apparently super handy though we never used it ourselves.

At Liangzhu the museum is outside the core zone as noted, and located about 5km away. Check this Google Map: https://goo.gl/maps/j8uDAAwhP6fD9GJ39

We used a public bus to go between them though you could easily do a cab to save time. The staff would be able to help, but it's a moderately busy area so there should be some around. I doubt you'd have issues accessing the core zone, we didn't get there until 3pm or something and it was fine. My biggest issue with the site was the endless "FIVE THOUSAND YEARS OF CHINESE HISTORY" propaganda line on repeat, but that's a separate discussion.

And yes, definitely just do a single garden in Suzhou. We did two and that was more than enough; I'd recommend the Humble Administrator's Garden as the most interesting.

Author Khuft
Partaker
#114 | Posted: 21 Oct 2019 17:10 | Edited by: Khuft 
That is an ambitious plan! You're packing into one week what I needed several trips to China to tackle! :-)

A few things to keep in mind: train stations in China function differently to those in other countries. You first need to buy your ticket at a counter (normally outside the main hall of the train station; only with the ticket will you be allowed inside. The main hall itself is usually gargantuan. In Shanghai Hongqiao train station (i.e. not Pudong train station; the other one), the ticket booths are on two opposite sides of the station - and only one of them serves foreigners (at least a few years ago). Also make sure you depart from the right Shanghai Airport.... there's one in Hongqiao as well.

nfmungard:
Thursday, 16.01.2020 - Air/Shanghai
Arrival at Pudong at 7:05 from Auckland (overnight). Bus to Suzhou from Pudong Airport takes 2.5h. and runs at 9 a.m. Evening train back to Suzhou.
Question: I hope half a day (13-18h) is enough to appreciate Suzhou. And wondering if it makes sense to get to my hotel in Shanghai first, but a bit worried about the time lost in the process.

Did you check the possibilities to take the train in the morning as well? Shanghai-Suzhou should be super fast. The bus will probably mean spending 1,5 hours looking at the suburbs of Shanghai.

To your other question: it's doable to just spend half a day in Suzhou - though indeed you will miss out on things. Suzhou is a bit like Kyoto - in general, a modern Chinese city, interspersed with gardens and the odd temple, as well as the two picturesque canal areas. I would agree with others that doing too many gardens at once will result in "garden fatigue" - I did most of them over several trips, but only 2 or 3 each time. The Humble Administrator Garden is the most well-known and very picturesque; not too far away is Pingjiang Road (part of the Grand Canal) - if you fancy a second garden, I'd recommend the Lion Grove Garden, as it is distinctive enough with its rockery. Alternatively, you can combine the Lingering Garden in the W of central Suzhou with the Shantang Road (also part of Grand Canal).
[NB: While there, you should try Squirrel Fish - my all-time favourite Suzhou dish. No squirrels are involved in the preparation]

Author Khuft
Partaker
#115 | Posted: 21 Oct 2019 17:16 
nfmungard:
Friday, 17. January 2020 - Shanghai/Xi'an
Flight to Xi'an. 6:55. Visit inner city sites/or mausoleum.

Actually, I think you can probably combine these (at least partially). If you take a driver, ask him to drop you off on the way back at the Great Wild Goose pagoda. If you go for an organised tour, make sure it doesn't cover areas of lesser interest to you - we ended up combining the Mausoleum with the Huaqing Pool - basically a spa for the Tang emperor and his concubine... the historic spa covers 5% or so of the site, while the rest is more like a theme park to the emperor and his concubine.
While in Xi'an, I would recommend the Xi'an Mosque - which feels more like a traditional Chinese temple than a mosque. The areas around it have lots of food stalls, and it's quite close to the Xi'an Drum and Bell towers.

Author Khuft
Partaker
#116 | Posted: 21 Oct 2019 17:36 
nfmungard:
Sunday, 19. January 2020 - Xi'an
Day trip to Luoyang
Train: 1.5h. I would like to combine the Shaolin and the Grottoes. There is a public transport option (grottoes in the morning, shaolin in the afternoon, then 20H train back to xi'an). I think the easiest option would be to get a driver via a travel agency.

It's absolutely feasible to combine it! We did it this spring - actually just asked a taxi driver if he'd be willing to take us to Shaolin after Longmen (admittedly this was made easier by the fact that my wife is Chinese). Also: just add the White Horse Temple (Bai Ma Si) while you're there, it's basically on the way, and is a potential Silk Road extension. If you do venture into Luoyang itself, the museum has some pretty impressive stuff.

Author Khuft
Partaker
#117 | Posted: 21 Oct 2019 17:45 
nfmungard:
Question 1: Which village is better? And which village is best combined with Huangshan NP?

I don't think it makes a lot of difference - both villages are pretty close to each other. Difficult to say which one is better - the mansions in Hongcun are more impressive (and the moon lake is nice), but the paifang (gate) in Xidi is quite outstanding (and Xidi in general had a more intimate feel). I guess if you get a driver you could do both quickly - they are villages after all... Can't judge on whether it's actually feasible to combine them with Huangshan... the roads in this area are small and winding.

Author scleaver
Partaker
#118 | Posted: 23 Oct 2019 20:25 
Nan - We stayed near the Huangshan North high speed station, rather than heading into town, see such we arrived and departed there. Note that there's not much around other than a handful of hotels on the other side of the train tracks, plus the sparkling new bus station. (And a KFC at the station.)

The only issue we found is that the buses to Huangshan Mountain didn't start until around 8:30 or 9, while they started earlier back in the centre of town. However, our hotel owner drove a number of us to the Mountain (well, the shuttle bus station) at 6:30 in the morning. He also spoke great English and helped plan our itinerary. If you're interested - "Huangshan North Station Huiting Boutique Hostel". (We booked through Trip.com as it was cheaper, but I'm pretty sure it's also on Booking.com.) The owner is Alex. He was a gem and helped get my ATM card back after it was swallowed by a machine that morning.

With the villages, one consideration if you're taking the buses is that it's 1hr from Huangshan North to Xidi, but 90 minutes to Hongcun. The same bus goes to both. We only went to Hongcun so can't compare. Lack of early morning buses might also be an issue to the villages, looking at this site (https://www.chinadiscovery.com/huangshan-tours/transportation/huangshan-north-to-hongcun-village.html, can't remember if this matches what was displayed at the bus station). Maybe spend the night in Hongcun? This site also mentions buses from Hongcun to the town at the base of the mountain.

Author nfmungard
Partaker
#119 | Posted: 26 Oct 2019 04:11 
Zos:
[Zos] They are doable in a day. I remember I did them in a day too but I stayed in Dengfeng for 2 more night. I took Didi from Luoyang to Dengfeng. It was 150 RMB if I remembered correctly. I have the contact of my Driver based in Dengfeng, he drive me back to Zhengzhou for 200 RMB. When I visited there was some jam close to Dengfeng. The drive from Luoyang to Dengfeng took more than 2 hours.

Khuft:
It's absolutely feasible to combine it! We did it this spring - actually just asked a taxi driver if he'd be willing to take us to Shaolin after Longmen (admittedly this was made easier by the fact that my wife is Chinese). Also: just add the White Horse Temple (Bai Ma Si) while you're there, it's basically on the way, and is a potential Silk Road extension. If you do venture into Luoyang itself, the museum has some pretty impressive stuff.

Sounds like arranging a driver from Luoyang train station is the best option. Money is always manageable ;) How much do you think is a driver for a day?

Khuft:
You first need to buy your ticket at a counter (normally outside the main hall of the train station; only with the ticket will you be allowed inside.

I buy all with trip.com before. No point otherwise. Especially with Chinese New Year approaching.

Khuft:
Did you check the possibilities to take the train in the morning as well? Shanghai-Suzhou should be super fast. The bus will probably mean spending 1,5 hours looking at the suburbs of Shanghai.

Issue is I land in the morning and will be tired, so just hopping on a 2.5h bus ride and getting some rest sounds pretty good. Better than spending my energy getting in and out of Shanghai.

scleaver:
Nan - We stayed near the Huangshan North high speed station, rather than heading into town, see such we arrived and departed there. Note that there's not much around other than a handful of hotels on the other side of the train tracks, plus the sparkling new bus station. (And a KFC at the station.)

Okay, what I figured. Will contact your referenced hotel. I prefer to have a home base next to long distance train station. Will check with the proprietor. Probably doing one village first, then mountains, then back in the afternoon and dinner at KFC.

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