travelinginchina w o pics revised 2 22 08

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Information about travelinginchina w o pics revised 2 22 08

Published on March 26, 2008

Author: abdullah


Traveling in China:  Traveling in China Where to Go and What to See Presented by Danielle Rinke and Stephen Kushner, C12’s Topics for Discussion:  Topics for Discussion Traveling Cheap Safety & Tips Trip Suggestions Galore Traveling Cheap:  Traveling Cheap A budget is defined by YOU, the individual (i.e. what luxuries can you live without) Private hotel room/bathroom Food Alcohol Souvenirs Transportation Travel Itinerary Chinese Hotels:  Chinese Hotels Don’t be afraid to stay at local hotels - sometimes they’re cheaper than Hostels Do you need a private bathroom? Bring a small wash cloth, ask for a water basin, and kaishui Are you okay with a squat toilet? Do you need a private room? Often times at Chinese hotels you will end up by yourself in a dormitory style room Always ask to see the room before paying Sometimes a triple is cheaper than a double Bargain for rooms. The prices listed are always more expensive NOTE: If a PCV lives in the area, give them an email or call, even if you don’t know them well. Most likely, they’ll be happy to host you and help save you a little money Hostel Hotel Websites:  Hostel Hotel Websites Tip: Search for the hotel on the internet to find a phone number. Do your reservation by phone and save yourself online and cancellation fees Food:  Food How important is that western meal to you? A cup of Starbucks? Prioritize what western food you really crave and must have. Deny yourself! You’re in China for only two years, then you can gorge back home in America Limit how many Chinese dish restaurants you go to - they add up Eat simple to-go meals - dumplings, noodles, local street vendors, etc A local grocery can be your best friend for small snacks and fruit Pack your own food and avoid tourist restaurant venues when seeing sites Alcohol:  Alcohol How much is enough? Limit your intake Can you settle with a Chinese beer or do you want a western cocktail? Get a better drink first, then go cheaper as you drink - you won’t taste the difference Drink with the locals. It’s fun and they usually insist on paying (don’t feel guilty)! Souvenirs:  Souvenirs You may despise doing this, but bargain! Locals like it when you bargain Don’t buy the first thing you see or from the first vendor Think…do I really want or need this? Be cutthroat about prices - “low-ball them”. You won’t offend the seller and it will quickly give you an idea of a final price Have patience! If you lose this, you’ll pay a lot more If you’re staying for a couple days, walk away and come back another time Transportation:  Transportation Be flexible! Traveling gets to be expensive. Think about all your options. Consider time and methods Around town, do you really need a taxi? Or could you take the bus or walk? Look at how much travel time you have. This will determine what kind of transportation you may take If no immediate hard sleeper tickets are available, will you consider other alternatives? Some places can only be reached by bus, especially remote areas Can you handle bumpy roads or a sleeper bus? Some places can’t be reached by train or plane Transportation Websites:  Transportation Websites Train: Plane: Using:  Using: If you have a debit card or credit card, you can order an e-ticket online without having to go to a travel agency This is great for those who don’t live in major metropolitan areas and can’t get access to paper tickets Very small international transaction fee Print out the reservation number just in case Show your passport at the airport check-in is what Chinese tourist agencies use and set prices by Search on a daily basis. Sometimes you can get the cheapest price prior to 15 days before flying. However, 15 days is typically the magic number for the cheapest price, along with what day you choose to leave during the week You may not get a confirmation email or phone call, so check your credit/debit card account online to see if the transaction went through. The in-country phone number provided on the website also works well and the telephone receptionists speak good English Travel Itinerary:  Travel Itinerary Use common sense, plan your trip accordingly Plan a route that flows, not one that discombobulated Don’t backtrack if you can avoid it Travel by region Stick to your schedule when possible Evaluate how many days you are willing to use traveling versus time saved by spending a little more money Sometimes flying is more, but you save days and hassle, while only paying a little bit more Be flexible! Sometimes you find you may want to stay at a place longer, can’t see a location, or want to add a new side stop to your itinerary. Don’t worry, just let the office know if you make a major change TIP: If obscure, less traveled locations are your thing, check out the Lonely Planet website Thorn-tree posts or this site as a starting point for ideas: Safety:  Safety Keep all PC numbers on-hand, all the time, along with PCV friend numbers Keep your passport handy Let others know, besides the PC Office, where and when you’ll be gone (i.e. family, friends, & school) Travel with a buddy Money Don’t put all your money in one place Don’t use a wallet. Thieves can see it in your pocket Keep big bills in one pocket, smaller ones in another (when people see bigger bills, they’ll try to make you pay more) Go to a bank teller window and ask for smaller denominations before traveling Keep your money in your front pockets Safety:  Safety You hear this all the time, but watch how much you drink. Know your drinking limit, don’t push it Trust your gut instinct, it’s usually right If it doesn’t look safe, it probably isn’t If you feel uncomfortable, leave! Don’t stay out too late in unfamiliar places Traveling with less means you are less likely to be robbed Take less valuables (i.e. laptop, jewelry, etc) In crowded places, keep an eye on your bag. Have a firm grip on it or wear it in front of you Keep your valuables in hard to reach places Leave your luggage or expensive items at the front desk when leaving your hotel room Don’t be too paranoid. China is safer than many other countries, and a lot of locals ARE trustworthy Additional Tips:  Additional Tips Have a photocopy of your passport & visa with you Bring any photo ID to use for student discounts Travel light! There’s a reason why HCNs only have one small bag - adapt! Re-wear clothing and layer! You don’t need a million outfits Hand wash your clothes. This service is expensive at hotels Make a small travel medicine kit of the essentials you know you’ll use Pack ahead of time OR make a list of things you need. Otherwise, you’ll forget something or pack something you don’t need Bring a book to read, there’s a lot of down time Don’t over plan your trips, it’s nice to have some R&R time Additional Tips:  Additional Tips Plan your day appropriately for YOU If you like to sleep in, make sure you get to where you want or need on time, otherwise you waste days Keep in mind temples/museums open early and close early. Try to start your day early, and chill in the evening (i.e. many places close by 5PM) Many buses only run once a day, usually mornings Keep TP/tissue & hand sanitizer handy at all times When traveling in cold weather, keep batteries near your body. Your body heat helps them last a lot longer Try to have your travel arrangements to the next location prepared at least one day in advance Many hostels can book for you in larger cities When traveling during major holidays, being able to purchase a return ticket one day prior to the holiday beginning saves a lot of stress Additional Tips:  Additional Tips Turn off all outlets in your home before leaving (i.e. water heaters, computer, etc) If you have plants, water before leaving and find a responsible person to care for them while gone Clean your home before leaving to travel. It’s nice coming home to a clean house Have someone check on your place while you’re gone. Thieves love the holidays since they know people travel - especially during Spring Festival Having a cell phone, if only for traveling, can be a lifesaver Bring a small flashlight & ear plugs Have enough money on-hand when traveling to more remote areas. There won’t always be a bank Don’t always rely on LPG. Do some research on the internet, there are a lot of cool places not mentioned in guide books Trip Suggestions Galore:  Trip Suggestions Galore Northern Xinjiang Southern Xinjiang Xizang (Tibet) Qinghai Gansu Xi’an Ningxia Northern Sichuan Western Sichuan Chengdu and vicinity Chongqing Fenghuang, Hunan Guizhou Kunming Northern Yunnan Southern Yunnan Hainan Guilin (Yangshuo) Southern Treaty Ports Shanghai Hangzhou Suzhou Shandong Beijing Northern Xinjiang:  Northern Xinjiang Time: Allow 9-10 days total Places: Urumqi, Tian Chi, Turpan, Kashgar, Karakul Lake Getting There: Trains leave from Chengdu, Xi’an, Chongqing, or anywhere along the railroad in Gansu province to Urumqi NOTE: The sun is more intense, sunscreen is highly recommended in this area. Outside of summer, evenings can also become very cool being a desert climate Urumqi:  Urumqi Why: To get anywhere in Xinjiang, you must pass through this provincial capital Hotel: Ya’ou Binguan - next to train station. Dorms are bare essential and grim, but you’ll most likely get the whole three-bed room to yourself (Y40). No shower available for a dorm - must upgrade to a twin room. Front desk safely holds luggage while out. Kongque Dasha has also been highly recommended, but is more expensive Time: 1 day or layovers for next stop Things To Do: Xinjiang Autonomous Regional Museum (Y30) - a must if you like Silk Road history and want to see mummies People’s Park (free) - relaxing, fun to watch/join local Uighurs dancing, see local artists paint, and watch old men fish Wuyi Night Market - mutton kebobs, shao kao bread, and keg beer are tops Pick up a bottle (or two) of Lou Lan wine - best wine for the buck in China (Y37-40) and is only available in Xinjiang Tian Chi (Heaven Lake):  Tian Chi (Heaven Lake) Why: Beautiful lake nestled in pine covered mountains, to sleep in a yurt! If you do not mind being rushed on a day trip and can get away from the hordes of Chinese tourists, the lake is a scenic walk along the waterfront in either direction Make the climb up (unless you want to save time by taking a lift) and save yourself money Bring warm clothes - the elevation makes it cold To/From: North gate of People’s Park in Urumqi. Tour buses leave between 9-9:30AM (Y50/person roundtrip). Bus leaves park 4-4:30PM. If you want to stay the night, you may have to pay for another ticket on a return bus the next day Hotel: A yurt! Don’t worry, Rashit will find YOU and his English is excellent (Y40 including meals) Rashit’s yurts are tucked away around a bend about a quarter away around the right-hand side of the lake Entrance Fee: Y90/person Time: 1-1.5 days Turpan:  Turpan Why: Second hottest and second lowest land depression in the world, imagine bustling cities while meandering through ruins, Uighur minority To/From: Urumqi nanjiao bus station. No train station near Turpan and it’s easier to go back to Urumqi to catch a train Hotel: Jiaotong Binguan - next to bus station. You won’t find cheaper rooms in town (Y25). Dorms are very clean and there are hot showers down the hall Hire a private car through an agency (there are a few in the bus station lobby). CITS tours take you on a whirlwind showcase of 8 stops with little time at each one. Private car should be Y100-150/person all day Tuyok - a must see! Old Uighur community, dried grapes, and Buddhist grottoes Gaochang Ruins - best parts are in the back and far corner of ruins away from tourists Flaming Mountains - have the driver slow down, it’s not worth paying for a ticket for only a few pictures Turpan:  Turpan Jiaohe Ruins Roundtrip taxi for under Y50. Couldn’t find place to rent bicycles Well preserved ruins Once entering the gate into the actual ruins, take a harp sharp off the main path. You can get a much better view of the ruins away from tourists. Eventually a worker may see you and wave you down Emin Minaret One of the most amazing mosques in all of China It’s a short nice walk on the edge of town. Locals don’t speak Chinese, so show a picture of it from your LPG - they’ll point you in the right direction Try to go in the morning for best picture light Entrance Fees: All places are Y30-40 Time: 2 days Other Things To Do: Food (pilo (pilaf), nan, etc), relax and watch a water show at the city square at night Kashgar (Kashi):  Kashgar (Kashi) Why: Great vibe in a laid back Uighur environment, completely different from the rest of China, the Sunday Market, its Old Town section To/From: 30+ hour train ride from Urumqi - hard sleeper tickets are limited. Overnight bus is a shorter journey, more buses are available daily, and ride on a paved highway (International Bus Station in Kashgar; nanjiao in Urumqi) Hotel: Seman Binguan - cheapest place (Y20) for foreigners and is a nice walk across town. Dorms are very basic. Tiannan Fandian is across from the local bus station, but will set you back Y100 for a double Time: 1.5-2 days Things To Do: Id Kah Mosque - one of the best mosques in China Old Town - enter the larger section from the Night Market and you’ll get to see the area for free Sunday Market - great to wander about on any day, but swells up to 50K on Sunday Livestock Market - best day to go is Sunday Window/Stall shop for instruments, carpets, fabrics, etc NOTE: Local time is two hours behind Beijing time Karakul Lake (Kara Hu):  Karakul Lake (Kara Hu) Why: Breathtaking scenery along the Karakoram Hwy, solitude next to a stark lake and snow capped peaks To/From: Long distance bus station (Y37) in Kashgar. One bus leaves 10:30AM, local time. Catch a morning bus going to Kashgar alongside the road (Y40). Private taxi can be hired for a day trip (Y200) Hotel: Yurt (40Y including meals) Time: 1.5 days Entrance Fee: None - locals may try to make you pay for a “ticket”, but most yurt owners will tell you it’s free Bring warm clothing - it gets cold and windy! Bring extra water if you don’t want to drink kaishui Peaceful hikes/walks can be found everywhere Southern Xinjiang:  Southern Xinjiang Time: Allow 7 days total Places: Yengisar, Yarkand, Karghilik, Hotan Getting There: Trains leave from Chengdu, Xi’an, Chongqing, or anywhere along the railroad in Gansu province to Urumqi. From Kashgar, bus to Yengisar. From Urumqi, bus to Hotan NOTE: The sun is more intense, sunscreen is highly recommended in this area. Outside of summer, evenings can also become very cool being a desert climate. There is a good chance that time will be local, not Beijing time - ask before purchasing tickets Yengisar (Yingjisha):  Yengisar (Yingjisha) Why: Knife shops and see where Uighur knives are made, split up the short ride to Yarkand Getting There: 1.5hr bus ride from Kashgar Hotel: Ask or look around to possibly find one, but most likely you’ll only spend several hours before getting on another bus to Yarkand Time: .5-1 day Things To Do: Shop around for knives - prices are similar to that of Kashgar, but you can soak in the local flavor Knife factory - watch knives being handmade in primitive fashion Chinese - xiaodaochang Uighur - pichak chilik karakhana Yarkand (Shache):  Yarkand (Shache) Why: To relax and enjoy the character of this small town, local Sunday market Getting There: Bus from either Kashgar or Yengisar Hotel: Sache Binguan (Y240) - expensive as heck but it’s only the place that foreigners are currently allowed to stay in. The hotel is about 1.5km from the bus station Time: 2 days Things To Do: Walk around - old town can be difficult to find, but is worth seeking out. LPG doesn’t cover much on this place, which means there is more to explore on your own Altyn Mosque complex (Y10) - use this site as a means to find old town, and check out a local mosque Tombs - great area to reconnoiter as there are also walks outside of town Sunday market - smaller than Kashgar’s and Hotan’s market, but still fun to shop around Karghilik (Yecheng):  Karghilik (Yecheng) Why: To break up the journey to/from Hotan, explore local markets and old town Getting There: Bus from either Yarkand or Hotan Hotel: Jiaotong Binguan (Y40) - next to bus station and local police tend to ‘encourage’ foreigners to stay here Time: 1 day Things To Do: Explore - of course, that is what this journey is about. So check out the old town and Friday Mosque (Jama Masjid), a 15th-century mosque surrounded by a bazaar Charbagh – nearby town (short taxi ride) Karghilik has a decent market Hotan:  Hotan Why: A Sunday market that rivals Kashgar’s, carpet and silk factories, ruins, to cross the famed Taklamakan Desert Getting There: Bus from Karghilik, or sleeper bus to/from Urumqi (20-25hrs, Y330-220 respectively). Try to time the departures so you can see the desert (i.e. the slower bus may be better for this). Stock up on snacks and water for this long trip Hotel: Happy Hotel (Y30) - best place due to location and owners are really nice Time: 3 days (including desert bus journey) Things To Do: Sunday Market - obviously the best day to go is Sunday, but any day is still worthwhile. Less toured by Chinese and foreigners Silk and Carpet Factories - interesting to watch locals produce their trade. Some places can be reached via taxi or bus in/outside town. Check your LPG Yotkan Ruins (Y15, Y30/roundtrip taxi) & Melikawat Ruins (Y10, Y75/roundtip taxi) - both offer remnants of ancient cities You may have to pay a small fee to take pictures at the ruins Xizang (Tibet):  Xizang (Tibet) Time: Allow 10-11 days total Places: Lhasa and area, Nam-tso, Reting Monastery, Drigung Til Monastery, Tidrum Nunnery Getting There: Via train from Chengdu, Xi’an, Chongqing, or anywhere in Gansu province, to Lhasa NOTE: Bring sunscreen, higher elevation makes the sun more intense! Pack according to the season, it can be cool in the evenings Lhasa:  Lhasa Why: Holiest place in all of Tibetan Buddhism, see thousands of Tibetans make a holy pilgrimage, to participate in a kora, active monasteries Hotel: There are many places to choose from, but the most liked by PCVs have been Yak Hotel, Banak Shol, and Snowlands (Y20-25). The IYH can book train tickets. Book your stay ahead of time since places fill quickly Time: 5-6 days Being at a higher elevation, take it easy the first few days and drink lots of water to become acclimated Things To Do: Explore - there are many smaller monasteries/temples throughout the Tibetan quarter outside the main Barkhor circuit. These are the real gems of Lhasa that are often overlooked by tourists and offer a warm welcome being smaller monasteries/temples Lingkor Kora - circuit that follows Old Lhasa. Great way to get used to the elevation. There are wonderful old rock carvings off the path, so keep your eyes open – they are at the base of the hill and covered in prayer flags Lhasa:  Lhasa Barkhor - recommended first circuit to hit for all the imagery, sounds, and bargaining markets. It’s the heart of Lhasa Jokhang (Y70) - heavily toured, but it’s the most revered religious building in all of Tibet Potala Kora - the inside of the palace feels empty and exploited, so taking in the views is best recommended on a circuit around it Food - chang (barley beer) and cha ngam (sweet tea - much different from yak butter tea) are locals drinks to check out. Keep an eye out for shops overlooking the Barkhor, opposite the Jokhang - great people watching opportunities Folk Music Bar - just outside Banak Shol, is a nice place to listen to Tibetan musicians during the evenings. Pick up an instrument and accompany the artist Sera Monastery (Y35 with ‘student’ ID): Another large monastery with a wonderful kora, and spectacular views of Lhasa, Potala, and Sera itself at a statue of Tsongkhapa, a climb behind the monastery Lhasa:  Lhasa Getting There: Take minibuses No 502 or 503 Pabonka Monastery & Chupsang Nunnery - both are less than an hour walk from Sera and are both well worth the visit to see places less visited. Arrive around noon at Chupsang and listen to chanting at the main hall Getting There: Take minibuses No 502 or 503 to Sera. Just before the military hospital, near a bend, get off the bus Drepung Monastery (Y45 with ‘student’ ID): See at one time what was the world’s largest monastery Getting There: Get on a minibus from Barkhor Square for Y2 If looking for a different experience, hop a wall to the left of the entrance at the parking lot. About another 200m forward, jump another wall and go to a rocky ravine. Climb the crease (it’s not an easy climb), and eventually you will make it to a sun-drenched grassy clearing that has a small waterfall at the end of it. Go for a dip, dry in the Tibetan sun, and have a snack Lhasa:  Lhasa Ganden Monastery (Y25-40): A must see for Lhasa with a scenic kora. Ganden is the first Gelugpa monastery and is the seat of this Buddhist order Getting There - Pilgrim buses leave Barkhor Square from 6:30-7AM, and return at 2PM (Y20/return). Get there early if you want a seat or buy your ticket the day before at a ticket kiosk on the south side of the Jokhang Samye Monastery (Y40) - see where the Buddhist faith first settled down and grew roots To understand the design of Samye, one needs to climb the hill behind it to see the 3-D mandala Getting There: Y40 bus from Barkhor Square at 8AM. Drops you at the ferry (Y3-10 depending on ‘foreigner’ price), and then jump on a truck or tractor (Y3) for a 9km trip NOTE: Permits are impossible to get unless going through an agency. You may or may not get caught. Just play stupid and be nice, and you can bargain it down a lot There are monastery guesthouses available at both Ganden and Samye (Y20-40) if you choose to stay for an evening Five-day Land Cruiser Trek:  Five-day Land Cruiser Trek Why: Nam-tso - beautiful turquoise lake with 7000m snowcapped mountains as a backdrop Reting Monastery - where the Dalai Lama would retire upon his return to Tibet Drigung Til Monastery (Y25) - better preserved monastery following the Cultural Revolution and head of the Kagyupa order Tidrum Nunnery (Y5) - wonderful hot-springs to bathe in Getting There: Hire a Land Cruiser for ~sY2800 (~Y550/person) Inspect the vehicle before leaving (i.e. is the 4-wheel drive and differential lock okay? Is there a spare tire? Does it leak gas? Etc.) Make sure everything is clear in the contract and whether the total cost includes entrance fees, special permits, etc Above all, meet with the driver beforehand and treat him with respect. Be friendly and include him on stuff, it’ll only make your trip that much more enjoyable Hotels: Discuss accommodations with your contractor Time: 5 days Qinghai:  Qinghai Time: Allow 10 days total Places: Xining, Ta’er Si, Qinghai Hu, Tongren, Yushu, Nangchen Getting There: Via train from Chengdu, Xi’an, Chongqing, or anywhere in Gansu province, to Xining, using Xining as the start/finish point The trip can also be done one-way to Chengdu or Xining via bus, but will take around 11 days from start to finish NOTE: Again bring Sunscreen. Sunburns are the worst when traveling. Xining:  Xining Why: Must pass through this city to go anywhere in Qinghai, a balance between Han, Hui, and Tibetan peoples Hotel: Post Hotel (Y10-14) - cheapest in town and near both the train and bus stations. If booked full, there are hotels down from the long-distance bus station (Y20-30) Time: 2 days Ta’er Si - very touristy, but nice to stroll around, especially around the kora above the complex. Don’t bother buying the entrance ticket, there are many other buildings you can enter without it and you will see better temples Getting There: Near the West Gate are taxis (Y6/person). Same fee for return Qinghai Hu (Y40 with ‘student’ ID) - EXTREMELY full of Chinese tourists, but bird island (niao dao) is peaceful to walk around once away from people. Don’t bother going to the observation deck Getting There: Y100 on a tour group. You spend very little time at the lake/island, but it’s the only way to get there cheaply. Book a ticket at a hotel Other Things To Do: Qinghai Provincial Museum (Y15) - great exhibits; city square - near the West Gate and full of tulips; browse through Shuijing Xiang Market or the market across the long-distance bus station for trinkets Tongren:  Tongren Why: Wonderful Buddhist complexes, watch masters and students study and paint thangkas, to purchase a thangka where they’re made Getting There: 4hr bus from Xining (Y30) Hotel: Sanxin Binguan or Huangnan Binguan (Y15) - town is pretty small and easy to navigate for either place. The prior offers cheap singles (Y60) with hot water Time: 2 days Things To Do: Bring a book to read and relax, in any one of the monastery complexes Rongwo Gonchen Gompa - wander through a giant maze of buildings, listen to monks debate, watch monks go about their daily life, sit and chat - they’re very friendly in this monastery, especially the keeper of the main hall a top the hill Wutun Si - complex is currently adding more structures and is nice to walk about. This is where thangkas are painted and you can watch students at work Prices: Small two/three tone (Y300), small many tone (Y1000), large two/three tone (Y400), large many tone (Y1200), small gold tone (Y900), large gold tone (Y1200); with silk border add Y200-300 Getting There: Taxi can be hired for Y10 at most, one-way Yushu (Jyekundo):  Yushu (Jyekundo) Why: See where Princess Wenchang married King Songsten Gampo, local gov’t supports local Tibetans, watch Tibetans bully Han and Hui, buy an aphrodisiac worm, see a community alive with Tibetan culture, monks, and nuns, one of the biggest statues you will ever see, fantastic scenery on the bus ride Getting There: 20hr dirty and cold sleeper bus from Xining. Buy your ticket one day in advance to/from (~Y160) Hotel: Labu Monastery Hotel (Y20) - receptionists are friendly and rooms are simple. Very hot, private showers are available for free in the hotel courtyard Time: 2 days Things To Do: Walking around - soak in the Tibetan environment in this Amdo region. The streets are covered with Tibetans, monks, and nuns on cell phones, motorcycles, running machines, etc. The monasteries feel alive, not empty Jyekundo Dondrubling Monastery - it’s a climb, but the complex gives wonderful panoramas of Yushu. Monks are very friendly and there’s a kora behind the buildings Sengze Gyanak Mani - the world’s largest pile of prayer stones, over 2 billion! Catch bus No 1 or 2 to get there (Y1) Yushu (Jyekundo):  Yushu (Jyekundo) Princes Wenchen Temple: Impressively carved statues in the mountainside and prayer flag covered canyon pass. The monastery is a small school and full of young studying-to-be monks who are extremely friendly and talkative. Class begins by blowing a conch shell To/From: Minibus near the bus station (Y4/way) leaves around 10AM, returns around 1PM. If you’re lucky, the monks there may give you a ride back into town, while making quick stops at the two temples along the way Go for a walk behind the temple in the pastures. You’ll eventually come to a small Tibetan school with children ranging from 5-15 yrs old. The teachers are happy to see foreigners and talk to you Zhira Gompa - about a 30-minute walk back up the road to a small monastery backed into cliffs and carvings, with stunning mountain scenery in the background Trangu Gompa - small temple with many pagodas covering its hillside. To/from: Catch the return bus back to town from Zhira Gompa to the complex. Taxi is Y50 back to or roundtrip from town, no less Nangchen:  Nangchen Why: A remote Tibetan town that most foreigners will never see, back entrance into Chomdo region (eastern Tibet), wonderful vibe from the town and locals, breathtaking vistas along the ride Getting There: 5.5hr minivan ride (Y40) outside Yushu bus station. Get there around 8AM Hotel: Nangqian Binguan (Y30) - only hotel in town for foreigners Time: 1.5-2 days Things To Do: Explore! This is really the only thing to do in town. Everywhere the town is alive with Tibetans Watch locals play billiards in town across from the drop-off point for minivans Stroll along the river and watch families do laundry Meander about the many rebuilt and new temples in town Gander at locals piling new prayer stones Amble about the edge of town in the countryside for stunning scenery Gansu:  Gansu Places: Tianshui, Xiahe, Zhangye, Jiayuguan, Dunhuang Time: Allow 10-11 days total Getting There: Via train from Chengdu, Xi’an, or Chongqing to anywhere in Gansu province. Most places in Gansu can be reached by overnight train/bus Tianshui:  Tianshui Why: One of China’s largest grotto complexes, to see a long forgotten time in China Getting There: Via train from Chengdu, Chongqing or Xi’an, or bus/train from Lanzhou Hotel: Dianxin Zhaodaisuo (Y30) - clean rooms right next to the train station Time: 2-2.5 day Maiji Shan (Y35 with ‘student’ ID) - the temple complex has grottoes over 1500 yrs old, and much more freedom to walk around that other grottoes They have guides to hire but save the money and do it on your own. If you can convince your group, or if you’re willing, you can pay (upwards of Y500) to see almost all the caves - a luxury you won’t get elsewhere Getting There: Minibus 34 (Y4) leaves from Tianshui train station, where you’ll have to hitch a ride on either a tractor or minivan (Y2) Water Curtain Caves (Y11) - sandstone cliffs, lush foliage, temples aplenty describe this secluded place to explore To/From: There are a couple early morning buses and trains to Luomen. Leaving, catch a bus to Longxi for trains/buses Hotel: Luomen Binguan (Y30) - only place to stay Things To Do: Fu Xi Temple (Y30), Nanguo Temple, Antique Market Xiahe:  Xiahe Why: Amazing Buddhist temples, grasslands to roam aimlessly about, friendly monks and nuns, home of the Gelugpa (yellow hat) order Getting There: Mornings bus from Lanzhou Hotel: Tara Guesthouse (Y15-25) or Labrang Baoma Hotel (Y25) - cheapest places in the area and bicycle rental is available Time: 2-2.5 days Labrang Monastery (Y40): Start walking along the outside and make your way around. Stop to look at all sorts of things along the way. This part of the trip is cheap and could easily take over half a day Sanke Grasslands: Rent a bike, and go on your way. The grasslands aren’t so much to look at but the bike ride there and back is nice Pack a lunch and have a picnic once you get there. Make sure you read the signs and ride all the way to the top White Rock Cliff: A cave that you can go in with a guide. It’s about 34 km outside of Xiahe and takes awhile to get to Plan a whole day for this. If you are on a budget this might also be out of your price range because transportation there is not cheap Other Things To Do: Eat local dishes, go to the souvenir shops, and explore alley ways in the town Zhangye:  Zhangye Why: Small lively town with blue skies and a great vibe Getting There: Via train from Chengdu, Chongqing, Xi’an, or anywhere along the train line in Gansu province. Take a bus up from Lanzhou and you’ll get to ride through and along the Great Wall Hotel: Liangmao Binguan (Y18) - dirt cheap, clean, and near the Drum Tower (5-minute walk east) Time: 2 days Things To Do: Big Buddha Temple (Y41) - has the largest reclining Buddha in China. Buddha is under construction Mu Ta (<Y20) - wooden pagoda gives a great view of the town once you get to the top Mati Si (Y45) - go hiking in the mountains and spend the rest of the day in a yurt, among flower covered hills. During the colder season, temples are closed and it’s free, but the area still provides good trails to ramble on The bus system for getting there only runs in the summer and sometimes then it is still in frequent. Your best bet is to rent a taxi with some friends for 200 kuai for the whole day Wander about - go to the Muslim market, the food market with silly ‘Chinglish’ signs, or just roam around town Jiayuguan:  Jiayuguan Why: End of the Great Wall, camels rides, to climb a glacier Getting There: Via train from Chengdu, Chongqing, Xi’an, or anywhere along the train line in Gansu province Hotel: Jinye Binguan (Y60) - next to bus station, clean, and can bargain down price up to 40% Time: 2 days July 1st Glacier (Y45): Can only go during summer. Hike along the glacier and even down to it Make sure you start the day early and budget plenty of time so that you can walk on the glacier Warm clothes are a must - it snows on the mountain in summer. Watch out for heavy downpours that can cause mudslides on the road Taxis can be hired for about Y350/roundtrip from Jiayuguan Jiayuguan Fort (Y50 with ‘student’ ID, high-season): See what most people imagine a western fort in China looked like. The Great Wall ends here and runs into the Jiayuguan:  Jiayuguan snowcapped Qi’lian mountains Back of the fort, you can ride a camel (Y10) and make sure to go to the museum, a must see Off-season, prices are half cost To/From: ~Y10 taxi/way Overhanging Great Wall (Y10 with ‘student’ ID): A very interesting part of a Ming-dynasty section of the wall that’s cheap to see. Getting There: ~Y20 taxi ride from the fort Jiuquan: A nearby town known for its oil and rockets, has many nice parks to visit. Some are free and others can cost up to Y30 for foreigners. The town is a nice place to walk around and fairly clean. Stop at a local beer garden in the evening for a drink or shao kao Getting There: Take a taxi from Jiayouguan (Y7/person). Taxis must be green and white. The other taxis in Jiayuguan/Jiuquan are used for getting around locally. You can also take the bus, but it is less inconvenient Dunhuang:  Dunhuang Why: Sand dunes, World Heritage site, grottoes and Buddhist art Getting There: Via train from Chengdu, Chongqing, Xi’an, or anywhere along the train line in Gansu province Hotel: Feitian Binguan (Y20-30) - cheap, clean, and roomy dorms Time: 1.5-2 days This tourist town can be expensive, especially during peak season. Be prepared to spend some money and drink lots of water Mogao Caves, et al (Y100): Despite the caves being rotated and more caves closing every year, the site itself is pretty impressive. It’s impossible to take pictures unless you sneak a pocket camera and don’t use a flash. It’s recommended bringing a flashlight If you want to see more caves, prices are Y100-500 extra Dunhuang:  Dunhuang Getting There: Take a minibus (Y10/way) from Mingshan Lu (Feitian Binguan), 8:30AM. Buses leave at noon. If you want more time, hire a taxi for half a day (~Y70) Western Thousand Buddha Caves (Y20 with ‘student’ ID): Not as impressive as Mogao Caves, but it’s virtually empty of tourists. Taxi (Y60/roundtrip) is easiest way to get there Crescent Moon Spring/Singing Sand Dunes (Y80): Massive dunes that fantastic views of the desert and lush pond below. Great place to come to during the evening for cooler weather and breathtaking sunset Getting There: Minibus 3 (Y1), 20-30 minute bike ride, or taxi (Y10/way) Once there, expect to spend at least Y100. This is a good place to take your own meal. There are many other things to do like riding the sand dunes (Y10) or riding camels (Y60) Other Things To Do: Walk about town, eat western food, visit the White Horse Pagoda Xi’an:  Xi’an Why: China’s first ancient capital, home of countless warriors, great preserved city walls, Muslim quarter, silk market, Asia’s largest fountain, one of five Taoist holy mountains Getting There: Via train from any major city Hotel: Bell Tower IYH (Y30) – spotlessly clean rooms with hot showers in a great central location. Decent in-house food Time: 3-4 days Getting Around: Most things are within walking distance Things To Do: Army of Terracotta Warriors (Y45 with ‘student’ ID) – some people love it, some don’t. It’s a must see if you’re in China and it’s recommended to go there not during nat’l holiday City Walls (Y40) - impressive structure that provides a nice 14K walk or tandem bike ride Muslim Quarter – superb shopping, delicious food, and a vibrant atmosphere make this a must see place. The Great Mosque (Y12) can be tricky to find Bell & Drum Towers (Y30/combined) – wonderful views of Xi’an and can even take a whack at the drum Forest of Stelae Museum (Y30) – Confucius temple housing many tablets, scriptures, and holds the record for world’s heaviest museum Xi’an:  Xi’an Big Goose Pagoda (Y25, plus Y10 with ‘student’ ID to climb) – full of temples and relaxing, with good views a top the pagoda. At 9PM, see Asia’s largest light and water fountain show. From the South Gate, take bus 609 Temple of the Eight Immortals (Y3) – Taoist temple that is less visited and empty in the morning. Take Bus 502 from the South Gate Qin Jin Tang Silk Factory – it’s a tourist trap along the way to see the warriors, but if you want guaranteed high quality silk, shipping to America, and the use of a credit card, this factory is worth a visit Hua Shan (Y100) – highlight for many, there are a variety of ways to ascend this mountain and can be done at a variety times. Hua Shan does have accommodations on top, so take your pick, especially if you want to see an early sunrise Pack your own food and water, there’s not much food wise while climbing, and the higher up you go, the more expensive things get Can be reached via private bus (Y25 from train station), train (Y31), or hire a taxi. Bus and train won’t take you directly to Hua Shan village. Taxis should be Y10-15 depending where you’re coming from Ningxia:  Ningxia Why: Hui minority in a more undisturbed, environment, non-Han dynasty tombs, to see a location not many Westerners or Chinese visit, if you’ve already seen many of the highlights in China Getting There: Via train from Chengdu, Xi’an, or Lanzhou to Yinchuan Hotel: E’erfuosi Dajiudian (Y55/dbl) - near the bus station and cheapest rooms in town. You should be able to bargain down the prices around 25% Time: 5 days Things To Do: Take a walk - amble around the Drum Tower, Old Town, Nanguan Mosque markets, Ningxia Provincial Museum (Y12 with ‘student’ ID), and Zhongshan Park, to get a feel for the older part of city Helan Shan & Western Xia Tombs - entrance fees range from Y10-40 depending on ‘student’ ID prices. Western Xia Tombs houses many interesting structures in addition to the tombs. Helan Shan is a great place to get some nice views of the surroundings and go hiking Easiest way to see it all is hire a taxi for about 200 Ningxia:  Ningxia Bayan Hot - small town in Inner Mongolia that is a nice day trip. Yanfu Si, a small active temple, and Sanguankou section of the Great Wall can be found here Take a bus from Yinchuan’s long-distance bus station early morning Zhongwei - laid-back town on the edge of Tengger Desert Getting There - bus or train from Yinchuan, or train from Lanzhou Hotel: Xingxiang Binguan (Y20) - this place is all about being cheap Gao Temple (Y20) - a threesome religious temple with a Cultural Revolution bomb shelter beneath the main temple hall Shapotou (Y65) - it screams Chinese theme park, but it can be pretty fun with sand dunes and the Yellow River as scenery Getting There - bus (Y4) outside Zhongwei long-distance bus station From camel rides to dune sledding (Y20), bungy jumping (Y120) to yangpi fazi rides (Y60) down the Yellow River, the cheesiness can be riot Northern Sichuan:  Northern Sichuan Time: Allow 6-7 days total Places: Songpan, Huanglong Nat’l Park, Jiuzhaigou Nature Reserve Getting There: Chengdu Chadianzi bus station. All buses leave in the morning to Songpan or Jiuzhaigou NOTE: The sun is more intense at higher elevations, sunscreen is highly recommended in this area Songpan:  Songpan Why: Horseback riding, camping, beautiful scenery, and a friendly town atmosphere Hotel: Songzhou Jiaotong Binguan (Y20/person) - attached to bus station. Convenient and simple - community showers with tepid showers. There are many other options nearby Happy Trails Horse Trek: Contact: Rick Chen - 0837-7231064 Hot Springs and Ice Mountain (2 or 3 days respectively, Y250-450) are the two most popular treks. If you don’t want to travel in a big group, opt for a different route Wear old warm clothes. You will get dirty and it is very cold in the mornings and evenings (stars are spectacular!), even in summer Pack light! Bring lots of water, a flashlight, and sunscreen Other Things To Do: Emma’s Kitchen - cheap decent Western food and Emma is full of helpful information Tibetan and Chinese massages Old town wall, tourist shops, and tea houses Huanglong Nat’l Park:  Huanglong Nat’l Park Why: Beautiful multi-colored calcium deposit pools and streams amidst pine covered mountains Getting There: Easy from Songpan, there’s a direct morning bus that will drop you off about ten minutes before the park opens. Get the earliest bus available Getting Back: More tricky Public bus directly back to town is unreliable You can hire taxi, but it’s expensive Or, outside the park entrance to the right are parked tour buses. Tell the drivers you want to get back to Songpan and a bus will take you most of the way. From there, outside the bus station, along the road are private mianbao taxis to catch. Otherwise, you can go to Jiuzhaigou, but there’s no place to store your belongings while in the park Entrance Fee: Y150 with ‘student’ ID Time: Half a day. Get there when the park first opens, it will be virtually empty. After 11AM, the park becomes extremely crowded and hard to walk in Bring your own snacks, there are few food stalls Jiuzhaigou Nature Reserve:  Jiuzhaigou Nature Reserve Why: Hero, a clean, natural Chinese environment, stunningly blue waters and beautiful waterfalls To/From: Chengdu or Songpan. Take earliest bus from Songpan Hotel: Jiutong Binguan (Y30/person) - attached to bus station. Hotels are expensive and are booked quickly. Short 10-15 minute walk to the park. Showers aren’t the best Entrance Fee: Y170/2 days with ‘student’ ID. Highly recommend purchasing a park bus ticket (Y90/day). Don’t sneak on the buses, most people get caught Time: 1-2 Days. Can be done in one day with a bus pass Arrive at the park when it opens and take the bus to the top right side of the park. This part is the most beautiful area The park is empty in the early morning. Chinese only ride the buses and stop at major points of interest alongside the road Use plank walkways the entire way down. They are empty, more scenic, and provide many missed views from the road Bus pass can then be used to go up the left side of the park to Long Lake and other areas Bring plenty of food and water! Other Things To Do: Shopping, waterfront restaurants and bars near the hotel Western Sichuan:  Western Sichuan Time: Allow 9-10 days total Places: Kangding, Luhuo, Ganzi, Dege Getting There: Via bus on the Sichuan-Tibet Hwy (these are some of the worst roads in China) from Chengdu’s Xinnanmen bus station. Expect to pay between Y550-600/roundtrip on bus fares. Pack snacks and water for this long journey You can also backtrack to Manigango, to continue northward to Xining, Qinghai NOTE: Bring sunscreen, the sun is much more intense at higher elevations Kangding (Dardo):  Kangding (Dardo) Why: A small town that mixes Western and Tibetan Culture Getting There: Morning bus from Chengdu’s Xinnanmen Bus Station Hotel: Chezhan Luguan (Y20) - next to the bus station. Further in town on a hill is the Black Tent Guesthouse (Gonggashan Lushe - Y20-30). If it’s full, there’s another hostel behind it, up an alley with nicer accommodations for less (Y15) Time: 1.5 days Paoma Shan: Makes for a nice morning hike, plus you can go up one side and come down the other, stopping at a lamasery. Bring a ‘student’ ID just in case you decide to enter the tourist temple complex up top (Y25) Nanwu Temple: an important governing post to the Potala in its day and provides nice views of the area Other Things To Do: From the mountain you can see Dorje Dra Gompa and Nanjiao Temple. These are nice to visit and can fill an afternoon. Mugecuo Hu is about 30km out of town and a taxi must be hired (~Y175/roundtrip), but it’s nice if you have the extra time Luhuo:  Luhuo Why: Fun for an afternoon and evening, overnight stay to Dege Getting There: Via morning bus from Kangding Hotel: If you are a no frills kind of person, stay at the bus station hotel (Y30/dbl). Grab a room quickly, they’ll be several buses fighting for rooms and the hotel staff is friendly if you attempt a little Chinese Time: Overnight to/from Dege Bring a jacket, it can get chilly in the evening at this elevation, or a sudden storm can hit Things To Do: Explore the town - there’s a decent size monk and nun population in town (several hundred). The edge of town is nice to stroll about and sometimes there are local events to go to Walk up to the Monastery - fairly large and active complex with beautiful views over the surroundings Hike around the hills - it can be a tricky climb, but the hills behind the monastery are peaceful with horse paths to guide you and are on fire with wild flowers of all colors Ganzi:  Ganzi Why: Full of temples and monks to explore, picture perfect To/From: Buy a ticket to Ganzi from Dege when returning back to Kangding. Buses leave for Kangding early morning - 6:30AM Hotel: Jinmaoniu Jiudian (Y30) - rooms aren’t the best, but it has the cheapest dorms. If you’re looking for a single, check out Chengxin Binguan (Y60) - nicer rooms Time: 1.5 days Things To Do: Walk around the countryside and soak in the fresh air and vibrant environment Visit with locals and talk with monks Ganzi Temple (Y15) - shimmering golden roofs and the region’s largest monastery (over 500 monks) Visit local lamaseries via taxi (~Y20) - Beri Gompa, Dagei Gompa, and Hadhi Nunnery NOTE: On your way to Dege, passing through Manigango, you will pass a glacier and go through Chola Mountain Pass. It’s over 20K ft above sea level and there is a good chance you will experience altitude sickness for a short period Dege (Derge):  Dege (Derge) Why: Ancient Buddhist scriptures, Tibetan atmosphere Getting There: Continued bus ride from Kangding-Luhuo. Trip takes two days overall from Kangding Hotel: The easiest hotel to find and one of the cleanest is at the bus station. A 3-person room is 60 kuai. Public bathrooms and showers that you must pay for. Time: 1.5 days Things To Do: Bakong Scripture Printing Lamasery (Y25): Chambers house up to 70% of all Tibetan scripture. Prints can be bought here (Y5-35), and the printing and binding procedures can be watched through a guided tour Buy souvenirs - Dege has some of the coolest around. Across from the lamasery local carve out wooden blocks for printing. Pieces can be bargained for Get lost exploring the town on the hill side while enjoying the fabulous weather. Homes and monasteries form endless passage ways leading to hidden temples and new sites Have tea with local Tibetans in their brightly colored homes, or walk with monks while having a conversation with them on their way to class Chengdu and vicinity:  Chengdu and vicinity Time: 7-9 days Places: Chengdu, Emei Shan, Leshan, Zigong Getting: If you can’t figure this one out, you shouldn’t be a PCV in China Chengdu:  Chengdu Why: A fun and modern city, passing through point, because you’re at IST, PST, or PC office for medical reasons Hotel: Traffic Hotel (Y30) - directly behind Xinnanmen bus station and facilities are very nice. Take bus No 55 from the train station Time: 3 days or spare time from trainings Things To Do: Giant Panda Breeding Research Base (Y30) - walkways with red and giant pandas to gawk at throughout the park. Try to go on a cooler day and in the morning when the pandas are more active Getting There: It’s a pain getting there unless you know the bus system and then take a taxi. It’s a lot easier going through a hostel for Y50 (including entrance fee) Time: Half-day People’s Park (Y2) - nearby Tianfu Square is a wonderful place to get away from the noise of the city and enjoy a cup of tea at Remin Teahouse. The park is full of people exercising, playing games, and people feeding koi Chengdu:  Chengdu Tianfu Square - one of the better city squares at night and you get to see one of the largest statues of Chairman Mao in China Antique Market - Qingshiqiao Market and Songxinqiao Yishucheng are both fun bazaars to shop and bargain at Monastery of Divine Light (Y5) - old temple complex filled with unique Buddhist statues and paintings. Music can be heard at certain times of day Getting There: Bus to monastery near the train station, or pile into a taxi (Y30) Time: Half-day Duijiangyan Irrigation Project (Y60) - an engineering feat done during the 3rd century BC, that allowed a river to be controlled and land to be irrigated Getting There: Via bus from Chadianzi bus station Time: Half-day You’ve lived here during PST, if you can’t figure where to get food and Western commodities, you’re on your own Emei Shan:  Emei Shan Why: One four holy Buddhist mountains, temples, lush scenery and streams, breathtaking views, monkeys, to say you’ve climbed the stair-master from hell Getting There: Morning bus from Xinnanmen bus station in Chengdu. Take a taxi from Emei town to Baoguo village (Y20) Hotel: Teddy Bear Hotel (Y20-30) - the owner is extremely nice and the facilities are very nice. If you choose to stay in Baoguo, this is the place Time: 2.5-3 days Emei Shan can be done year round and is fabulous at any time. Certain seasons though provide a better sunrise viewing opportunity Cable cars (use them when available, they’ll save time and there’s not much to see during these parts) and buses can be taken at any time Stop to look at the temples along the way, each has their own personality. The farther you can hike the first day, the more likely you will see a sunrise, if it is present You will see many monks and lamas doing pilgrimages Watch out for the monkeys! They can be vicious since tourists feed them. Hide any flashy objects from them Emei Shan:  Emei Shan This area is beautiful during daylight hours. Be prepared for snow. Pack cool and warm clothes, a flashlight, lots of water, and a book Recommended Trek: Take a bus from Baoguo bus station to Jingshui (Y40). From there, hop on the cable car (Y40) and pay the entrance fee (Y60 with ‘student’ ID) Hike up to Jieyin Hall (20.5km) and buy a roundtrip cable ride (Y50) to Golden Summit Temple where you can spend the night (Y15-40). Wake up early to enjoy the sunrise Alternatively, stay the night at Elephant Bathing Pool (Y20) and wake up extremely early (3:30AM) to hike to the top to enjoy the sunrise On the way down, use the 99 switchbacks towards Yuxian Temple. The hike down is gorgeous. Be careful! The steps are very slick and steep Spend the night at Venerable Trees Terrace (Y20-30), or better yet Pure Sound Pavillion (Y15-20), with its lovely sounding streams to put you asleep The next day you can either hike to Wuxiangang to catch a bus back into town, or hike all the way back to Baoguo Leshan :  Leshan Why: The world’s biggest sitting Buddha, fun pathways, temples, and grottoes to explore Getting There: Take an early morning bus from Xinnanmen bus station in Chengdu Time: Day trip Entrance Fee: Y35 with ‘student’ ID Once at the bus station in Leshan, hop bus No 3 to Dafo Temple Make sure you see some other things besides the Grand Buddha. The grounds are very nice as well Get there early so you don’t waste all you time standing in line to see the gargantuan statue Pack plenty of water for the day You can also pay Y50 to ride past the Buddha in a boat if you are short on time Other Things To Do: See temples in town (see your guidebook for details) and go window shopping. The town has tons of little shops everywhere Zigong:  Zigong Why: Home of dinosaur fossils and more Getting There: Take a bus from Chengdu. To get to the center of town, take bus No 1 Hotel: Do not stay near the bus station, it is too far away to do anything conveniently. Any hotel in the downtown area is fine. Pick something you can live with (Y60-150). Also expect to be hassled when you get off of the bus Time: 1-2 days Things To Do: Dinosaur Museum (Y30): A neat museum with plenty to see inside and out. Look everywhere carefully or you will miss something Getting There: Take buses No 3 or 35 and ride it to the end of the line (~40 minutes). The building is a giant dinosaur Xinhai Drilling Well (Y20): Coming back from the museum, this is a worthwhile stop as the process of making salt can be seen. At first it looks like there is not much there, but if you keep going along, the whole ordeal can be seen Getting There: Take either bus No 3 or 35 back and get off when you see a giant, old well Guild Hall - the structure is full of interesting architecture Wangye Miao temple, now a teahouse up the hill from the Shawan Hotel, is a relaxing place to unwind Take a walk up and down the river front in the evening Guizhou:  Guizhou Time: Allow 9-11 days total Places: Kaili, Xijiang, Zhaoxing, Chishui, Anshun Getting There: Via train from Chengdu, Xi’an, or Chongqing to Guiyang Kaili and village hopping:  Kaili and village hopping Why: Fun and quiet town, stopover on the way to minority villages, Miao and Dong minorities Getting There: Via train from Chengdu or Chongqing, or bus/train from Guiyang Hotel: Shiyou Binguan (Y26) - not the best by any means, but it’s the cheapest in town. Book ahead, it fills quickly Time: 1-1.5 days Things To Do: Walk around town - there’s plenty to see at the local markets, in the new district, and a small mountain to climb in town Food - food is different in the south, so explore the street vendor food and markets strewn about Kaili NOTE: Bus rides to minority villages may cause motion sickness, so bring medicine if this is a problem, and reap the reward of these two cultures Xijiang - the largest Miao population is located here and is a great place to observe their daily lives To/From: Bus station across from Kaili College. Buses usually leave around 12-2PM. Morning buses from Xijiang return daily Hotel: A place is located directly across the performance platform for relatively cheap and watch performances a top the roof. Alternatively, you can stay with family for Y40 (including a meal) Kaili and village hopping:  Kaili and village hopping Time: 1-1.5 days Food is limited and served only during certain hours, be flexible There is no bank in town, so have enough cash on-hand Things To Do: Watch performances, souvenir shops, stroll around town, enjoy a sunrise hike among paddies, and relax! Zhaoxing - small town where Dong minority culture can be seen, surrounded by spectacular structures Getting There: Bus from Kaili to Congjiang (8 hrs). If this is not available, take a bus to Rongjiang, to catch a bus to Congjiang. Most likely you’ll have to spend the night in Congjiang and grab a morning bus. Take your pick from any cheap Chinese hotel. The following morning, get on a Zhaoxing bound bus. Not all buses go directly to the village, so you may have to do a 45-minute hike (extremely hot during summer) or try to find a taxi along the way Hotel: Wood Guesthouse (Y30) or take your pick from any other cheap stay in town Time: 3-4 days (including travel time) There is no bank in town, so have enough cash on-hand Things To Do: Enjoy cultural performances, check out the local bar scene, pick up more great souvenirs, and most important, some R&R Chishui:  Chishui Why: Very chill atmosphere, almost zero tourists, light on the wallet overall Getting There: Via bus from Guiyang. Buses are also available if coming from Zigong, Sichuan Hotel: Being no foreigners, you’re only option is a local Chinese hotel. For nice accommodations, ask a tour group where they are staying or have a taxi take you Time: 2-3 days Things To Do: Shizhangdong Falls (Y60 with ‘student’ ID) – this waterfall is not as quite as big as the one in Anshun, but has a lot less tourists Getting There: Not easy, but the main bus station can take you there. Buses leave early morning or late afternoon. Ask ahead of time when buses will leave. Make sure to find out when the bus will return, or you may be stuck overnight. Sidonggou (Y30) – this pristine location sports four waterfalls, lovely scenery, and great walking paths the entire way Getting There: Local taxis around the bus station fill up with passengers and leave for the location Promenade along the water front and stop along to have teas, juices, and other local beverages Explore the few nice parks in town Anshun:  Anshun Why: Beautiful waterfall and scenery, massive caves Getting There: Via train from Chengdu or Chongqing, or bus/train from Guiyang Hotel: Ruofei Hotel (Y40) or Anju Binguan(Y20) - prices keep going up in both places, so don’t be surprised if you pay more Time: 2-3 days Things To Do: Huangguoshu Falls (Y135) - Thundering falls with billowing mist that provides a wonderful view to take in. There are lots of Chinse tourists Getting There: Buses leave from the long-distance bus station in Anshun Longgong Caves (Y120) - cheesy music and colorful lights accompany the boat ride through the caves Getting There: Via bus from Anshun’s west bus station Zhijin Cave (Y120) - biggest cave in China that rivals Mammoth Cave, and is covered in calcium deposits Getting There: Bus from Anshun’s north station. Then hop on a rickshaw to the second bus station in town for a transfer bus to the cave (Y3) Other Things To Do: In town, check out Xixiu Mountain Pagoda and Heavenly Star Bridge District Chongqing:  Chongqing Why: Hotpot, rivaling Buddhist grottoes, the Three Gorges Damn, passing through point for a cruise Getting There: Via train from any major city in China Hotel: Perfect Time IYH (Y30) - Time: 4-5 days Dazu Grottoes: Treasured Summit Hill (Y80) - grottoes were designed to fit in with the scenery between 1179-1249 with a 1000 arm Avalokiteshvara North Hill (Y60) - location of most of the grottoes and statues Getting There: Day trip from the long-distance bus station. Grab an early bus. At Dazu, either walk or Y5 minibus depending on the site Three Gorges/Yangzi River Boat Ride: Do your research beforehand for itineraries and prices online or from a guidebook ( Typical trip is 3-4 days, and best during off-season for a Chongqing-Yichang Second class cabins can be booked for around Y500 or less Make sure you know what the total price includes since the tours stop along at sites of interest Fenghuang, Hunan:  Fenghuang, Hunan Why: River town exploding with personality and uniqueness, Miao and Tujia minorities, few western tourists Getting There: Via train from Chengdu, Chongqing, or Guiyang. From Huaihua, frequent buses can be caught to Fenghuang’s Minsuyuan bus station Hotel: Fenghuang (Phoenix) IYH (Y15-20) - next to Tuo River, across from the action in the center of town Time: 2 days Things To Do: Wander - there are alleys, shops, temples, and old buildings galore to explore for free Through Ticket (~Y100) - covers a good chunk of the sites to see in town Southern Great Wall (Y45) - runt of the family, but still pretty cool nonetheless Getting There: Bus from the west station (old town) in town Huangsi Bridge Old Town - similar to Fenghuang, but smaller Getting There: Bus from the west station (old town) in town Kunming:  Kunming Why: Big city with a chill atmosphere, base camp location to traverse around Yunnan, get lost in the Stone Forest, pirated camping gear, and good food Getting There/Around: By train via Xi’an, Chengdu, Chongqing, or Guiyang. Most local sites are within walking distance Hotel: The Hump (Y25) – very clean, great downtown location, and easy access to transport hubs. Great environment and offers all basic services, including ticket booking Time: 3 days Things To Do: Pirated Camping Gear – much higher quality copied outdoor clothing and equipment than many other places in China. You can bargain down with some work Food – lots of local treats, so try to stray away from your normal dishes. Check out the chocolate youtiao and guoqiao mixian. If you’re craving western food, look for Donna's Donuts and Salvador's Coffee Shop Some of the better places to visit tend to be outside of Kunming proper. Take your pick from any guidebook or online and hop on a bus at the station Stone Forest (Y100 with ‘student’ ID) – spend a day trip on hours exploring stone trails that create a giant labyrinth to get lost in. Get off the main trail for best spots and some solitude Getting There: Kunming long-distance bus station near train station (Y30-40) Northern Yunnan:  Northern Yunnan Time: Allow 9-10 days total Places: Dali, Lijiang, Tiger Leaping Gorge, Zhongdian (Shangri-La) Getting There: Starting from Kunming, take a bus north. Coming back, either fly out of Zhongdian or Lijiang, or take an overnight bus back to Kunming NOTE: Bring warmer clothing during the winter, it gets cold at night. Days are usually fine Dali:  Dali Why: An ancient town nestled between snowcapped mountains, a scenic park with three infamous pagodas that symbolize Dali, wonderful vistas of a tranquil lake, Bai minority Getting There: Bus from Kunming Hotel: MCA Guesthouse (Y20) – located outside the South Gate, extremely friendly staff, quiet location, and clean environment. Dbl/Triple rooms are a bit more, but are superb Time: 2 days Things To Do: Three Pagodas (Y62 with ‘student’ ID) – take time to roam around the park for a nice half day well spent. There are great temples and views everywhere. If you want the LPG perfect water reflection shot, go to Chongshen Si closeby Dali Old City Wall (Y2) – for decent views of the city and landscape, walk along the wall Zhonghe Temple (Y15 with ‘student’ ID) – it’s cheap if you choose to hike up. Affords fantastic views of Erhai Hu and its surrounding vistas along the pathway Bai Minority Tea – 3-course tea that offers a relaxing and enjoyable cultural experience (Cafe Bamboo – on Renmin Lu) Lijiang:  Lijiang Why: Meander about small corridors in the Old Town, enjoy pristine mirrored views while hiking around the grounds, rambunctious ‘pirate’-like nightlife, Naxi minority, what you imagined China to be Getting There: Via bus from either Dali or Kunming Hotel: Mama’s Naxi Guesthouse (Y15) – family-run guesthouse in Old Town that literally makes you feel like one of the clan. Mama offers an 8-dish dinner (Y10) and fabulous breakfast (Y5). Luggage storage and taxi service for Tiger Leaping Gorge (Y20/person/way) Time: 2-3 days Must buy an Y80 ticket to enter into any attraction around or in Lijiang, excluding Old Town, on top of any entrance fees Things To Do: Shopping – great Naxi buys left and right. Bargaining is key and everything is handmade Old Town – stone streets surrounded with traditional Naxi festivities, lined with red lanterns, lined with small canals, and where most shopping will be done. Main drag can be touristy – wander off! Mu Family (Y20 with ‘student’ ID) – pricey to get into, but the complex is worth the entrance fee for its gardens Black Dragon Pool – stunning scenery in every direction around the lake and Yulong Xueshang as the backdrop Frescoes (Y30) – in Baisha beautifully painted frescoes dating back to the 15t

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