I was in China almost 20 years ago and I am sure much has changed, and now the country is more open to tourists. Not to diminish the importance, but my wife and I are not so interested in the busy tourist sights such as the Great Wall, The Three Gorges and the Terracotta Warriors. We would like to be as independent as we can using local private guides and drivers. I am sure that more people speak English now as opposed to 20 years ago. We would like to see rural countryside,small villages, the terraced rice fields, mountains and remote temples. We want to experience the people, the culture and especially their unique cuisine. This is what I remember the most from my past visit. I would like to find 3 or so places to stay vividly and then do day trips. Places such as Wuyuan in Jianqxi Providence, Jiuhuashan Holy Mountain in Anhui, Suzhow and Yixing in Jiangsu and the tea fields in Zhejiang ar what are of interest to us. Is this a realistic and practical possiblity? I have read that once you get outside the large cities like Bejing and Shanghi that travel costs are more reasonable. Is that a fair statement? If this trip is realistic and possible, where should we begin doing our homework and what are good reources. We absolutely do not want to be part of a tour group. I realize that this is a very wide subject, but I didn't know how else to ask since I do not see any similar posts. My last trip was a business trip and all arrangements were made for us, so I did not pay too much attention to the details.