A friend and I are traveling to China starting in mid October this year for ~ 3 weeks. By looking at various postings it appears best to: A.) plan a trip w/o a tour company altho a local guide that is well recommended sounds delightful B.) don't try to see or go to too many places in one visit C.) listen to the locals and possibly Lonely Planet guide book for best places to see/activities to go to. Trying to keep this in mind, what do you think of a tentative plan to stay in Beijing for 4 nights, Xian for 4 nights, Shanghai (with side trips) for 4 nights and then on to visit friends for 4 nights in Guangzhou, finishing in Hong Hong for probably 3 nights and flying out from there? I have heard one name consistently as a guide for Beijing, another briefly mentioned for Xion, but no ideas for a local guide for Shanghai. Any recommendations? It appears that if you set hotels and in country flights up with a local, licensed guide you get much better pricing as well. Are these prices better than what you found on elong and ctrip? Thanks in advance for any advise. We are really looking forward to this adventure!