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Novice looking for advice....Guilin area or Yangtze River?

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Chilliwack, Canada
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Novice looking for advice....Guilin area or Yangtze River?

Hi, just doing some early research in planning for a trip in 2014 to China. Trying to nail down itinerary before going too much further. In looking at various tours/areas etc I think we want to visit Beijing, Xian, Tibet, perhaps Chengdu and it looks like we would be able to choose between either a Yangtze River cruise or visit Guilin. In Guilin the tour I am looking at includes a trip on the Li River, a visit to elephant trunk hill,, reed flute cave and an excursion to Longji rice terraces. Any advice suggestions on which one would be better for a first time visitor to China? Thanks...

Beijing, China
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for Guilin, Xi'an, Tibet
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1. Re: Novice looking for advice....Guilin area or Yangtze River?

Pick Guilin and avoid Yangtze which is already ruined by the dam project. Highlight of Guilin isn't in the city itself, but surround Yangshuo. I suggest you spend most time in Yangshuo not in Guilin city. Longji rice terraces well worth a look from Late May to early Oct.

Chengdu, China
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2. Re: Novice looking for advice....Guilin area or Yangtze River?

Recommend you do the Guilin trips rather than the Yangtse cruise if you are tight in time.

Shanghai, China
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3. Re: Novice looking for advice....Guilin area or Yangtze River?

If Guilin means Yangshuo, then I agree to both above.

San Diego...
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4. Re: Novice looking for advice....Guilin area or Yangtze River?

I've done the Yangtze River Cruise and also lived in Guilin for about 9 months. If this is your first trip to China, then I would definitely pass on the cruise and head to Guilin. You'll enjoy the visit to Longji rice terraces and the Reed Flute Cave is also enjoyable, but elephant trunk hill is't all that special but also hard to miss since it's right on the Li River in Guilin, however the Sun and Moon Pagodas on Shanhu (Shan Lake) across from the Waterfall Hotel are very nice, especially when lit up at night.

If you are taking a tour rather than traveling independently, make sure it's one that includes a Li River cruise down to Yangshuo or has you spending a few days in Yangshuo. There are many tours that include visiting several sites in the Yangshuo area after the boat arrives and then takes you back to Guilin by bus. However, Yangshuo (30km south of Guilin) is definitely the place to head to for great scenery and it's very worthwhile to stay there a few days - much better scenery than you'd see on the Yangtze River.

Chilliwack, Canada
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5. Re: Novice looking for advice....Guilin area or Yangtze River?

Thanks John! Thats great...yes right now we are in the early stages of planning and we are leaning to a using a private guide/driver as it gives us more freedom to do what we want etc. The tour I am intersted in starts in Shanghi, then has 3 days in the Guilin area. Day 1 you visit the Rice fields and go back to Guilin for the night, day 2 is the Li River cruise, with the afternoon free in Yanshuo and overnight stay in Yangshuo, day 3 back to Guilin and a visit on the way to reed flute cave & elephant hill. From there a day in Chengdu, and onto Tibet then Xian and finally Beijing. One concern I have is the amount of flights involved with this trip. I think you fly to every single location, so a lot of time would be taken up at airports, and of course there is a chance of delays etc as well. I was wondering if Chengdu was worth the stop? Also how many days should we allow in Lhasa? This is one of the most important parts of the trip for us. I think they have only 1 1/2 days there. The day you arrive (and they say to take it easy and basically stay in your hotel to get acclimatized. A full second day, and the morning of the third day and leave in the afternoon that day. Is that enough? Or should we add an extra day there? Thanks for all your guys great help!

San Diego...
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6. Re: Novice looking for advice....Guilin area or Yangtze River?

You have so much time to do planning for your trip you really should consider doing it as an independent trip - i.e. not use a tour with some exceptions (Tibet and some day tours). You didn't say how much time you have avilable for your trip in total. This of course can make a difference in making recommendations. In making my plans I also usually set aside one full day for the day of travel and then depending on my departure/arrival time use any remaining time to play tourist.

I've travelled fairly extensively on my own in China (but not to Tibet) since 2006 and still only know about 4 or 5 words of Mandarin yet get around just fine. You can use a company such as Ctrip.com to make your internal flight arrangements - a company that I've used extensively and have never been disappointed - just great customer service (and in English). If it were me (and no doubt others will have different recommendations), I would fly into Beijing, then basically travel south and leave for home from Hong Kong (or go South to North and leave from Beijing), So from Beijing either fly or take the high speed train to Shanghai, fly to Xi'an, then Chengdu tour Tibet and then go to Guilin, fly to HK and return home. Another option might be Beijing, overnight train to Xi'an, fly to Shanghai, then Chengdu, Tibet, Guilin and HK.

The Panda reserve in Chengdu is in a very nice park like setting where you can easily spend a good part of a day and you'll see a ton of Pandas (at least I did) in a better than zoo environment. There are other places of interests there so if money and schedule allow it's good for at least 2 full days.

In Guilin, I"d do your day 3 plan on day 2 (visit reed flute cave & elephant hill) and then on day 3 go to Yangshuo. You can get transportation direct from Yangshuo back to the Guilin airport so this would save a little transportation time. I"d recommend staying another full 2 days at the least in Yangshuo.

You probably need to do some research on Tibet or ask questions specifically about the Tibet part of your trip in the Tibet forum. I believe still at this time (and who knows for 2014) that you can only get a permit for Tibet if you are a group of 5 of the same nationality. If you arrange through a tour group handling more than just your gourp it might not be an issue. There are Tibetan areas in China though that can be visited without a permit.

Chilliwack, Canada
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7. Re: Novice looking for advice....Guilin area or Yangtze River?

Thanks again John, we dont have a set timeframe yet, probably 3 weeks from the time we leave home until we get back. I do know from reading that you need a tour group to get into Tibet. Funny how things evolve... we really didnt have asia on our radar as a travel destination, but we thought a Vietnam river cruise might be fun, and from there it went to a Yangtze river cruise, to now perhaps no river cruise at all, and just exploring China. So many interesting destinations in the area and as I mentioned Tibet has always been somewhere my wife has wanted to visit. It would be a shame if we booked all this and couldnt get entry to Tibet. I know that is a hit and miss thing though. I think maybe an idea may be to drop the Yangtze river cruise and if we cant do Tibet when the time comes, to insert the river cruise instead. Might be a back up plan.

San Diego...
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8. Re: Novice looking for advice....Guilin area or Yangtze River?

Definitely good to have a Plan B when traveling in China and especially with Tibet where travel can be shut off to foreigners at any time. While the cruise is OK and very relaxing, you might also look at visiting Dali, Lijiang and Shangri-la in Yunnan province as another alternative to visiting Tibet.

Bogota, Colombia
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9. Re: Novice looking for advice....Guilin area or Yangtze River?

Could you please confirm if this area is a good choice for ending December or early January? We are setting up our China schedule and we will be in Fuijian province so need also to confirm if bullet train is available to reach Yanghuo, either from Xiamen or from Zhangjiajie. Thanks for your advice.

10. Re: Novice looking for advice....Guilin area or Yangtze River?

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