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Welcome to China

Similar to countries such as the United States, Russia and Australia, trying to see all of China in only a few weeks is a difficult thing to do. However, with a bit of planning, a switched on local tour guide, and a bit of luck with transportation schedules, you can see a great number of highlights. And China has many.

With about 1.5 billion people, China is certainly a well populated and thriving country. Even outside of the major Chinese cities such as Shanghai and Beijing, the regional cities could be considered major metropolitan centres in just about any other country in the world in their own right (well, maybe not India) with populations of 6 - 8 million.

Our first trip to China was undertaken as part of a guided tour. Now, if you read the introduction on the homepage, you would know that we don't do tours. However, given the perceived language and....shall we say...organisational barriers of China, we thought it best to join a credible outfit that would guide us and no more than 10 others, around the highlights of China for a couple of weeks. Based on a recommendation and itinerary, we choose Intrepid Travel (www.intrepidtravel.com) to be our guides and participated in the ' Best of China' tour. The results from Intrepid were mixed, but more about that below. Let's stick to the good things - The Great Wall, Terracotta Warriors, Tiananmen Square, modern and plentiful shopping, fantastic food, and great people. Click on each of the links below to get an overview of our adventures in each of the cities / areas we visited in China over a two-week period.    

China Map

Our first and last impressions of Intrepid Travel are that they are a solid outfit that know the travel business pretty well. Could you do China for less cost and just as easy without them? Yes, but being on a tour makes a lot of the logistics easier so you can concentrate on enjoying the trip. In addition, the guide (if you happen to be assigned a compentent one which our group certainly was not initially, but later changed to a fantastic local guy by the name of Frank Zhou) is a great source of information at each location and valuable for ordering and recommending amazing Chinese food - nothing like the Western version of Chinese that you get from the local Hong Kong Harry's takeaway. More about our guide and food on each city / area page. Overall, Intrepid Travel are expensive for what you get in terms of transportation, accommodation and sights. Two overnight trains (14hrs and 20hrs) are taken - the first being in 2nd class hard sleeper with no privacy or security - plus another night on close to the worst boat sailing on the Yangzi River, that is combined with two and three star hotels that range between 20 and 40 euros per night (non-negotiated rack rate). This is China, you say? Not when there are four star or first class options available that would cost a fortune in Europe, but are next to nothing in China. We recommend investigating how you could organise the trip yourself before committing to a tour (avoid Intrepid Travel though), as you would most likely do it more 'luxurious' - at least more hygienically -  for the same amount of money. If you need a guide, employ a local one when you get there! 

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