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China

Tales of Five Visits

I've visited the People's Republic of China five times. In 1998, 1999, 2000, 2002, and most recently 2006, spending a total of nearly seventeen weeks in the country. I'm no expert. I've never lived there, I know only a handful of words in Mandarin. I've only been a tourist. And it's a tourist's impressions that you're going to read here.

China changes rapidly, and being a large country, trying to offer practical travel information and other similar details that I, for example, provide on Cambodia, is not an easy task and one which I will not try to tackle, except where I've recently visited an area. Having most recently made a five-week visit to the southwest region of the country, I will offer some practical information on that area of China and add a number of comments and corrections to the guidebook you'd be most likely to carry through the region - Lonely Planet Southwest China or the larger Lonely Planet China.

This section on China is broken up by geographical regions and the dates visited. I will try to get the other sections up as soon as possible, check back next month to see what additional stories have been added.

Each section can be read independently or to read them as a comprehensive travelogue, follow the chronology below and read each section in that order.

First visit: April 17 - May 10, 1998
Hong Kong > Beijing + Simatai > Xi'an + Huashan > Shanghai + Suzhou > Guilin > Yangshuo > Guangzhou > Hong Kong

Second visit: April 21 - May 18, 1999
Kunming > Dali > Lijiang + Tiger Leaping Gorge > Kunming > Chengdu > Songpan > Chengdu > Yangshuo > Kunming

Third visit: April 8 - April 23, 2000
Guangzhou > Zhangjiajie + Wulingyuan > Yangshuo > Hong Kong

Fourth visit: April 10 - May 13, 2002
Chengdu > Kangding > Hailuogou + Moxi > Luding > Chengdu > Lijiang > Tiger Leaping Gorge > Haba > Baishuitai > Zhongdian > Deqin > Zhongdian > Xiaguan > Baoshan > Tengchong > Kunming > Yangshuo > Kunming

Fifth visit: April 3 - April 20, 2006
Xiamen > Beijing > Shanghai > Yangshuo > Xiamen

Sixth visit: June 1 - June 11, 2008
Kunming > Dali > Lijiang > Zhongdian > Deqin > Kunming

Readers' Submissions includes stories from Tibet, Taiwan and Hong Kong
In Search of the Diamond Mountains (January 24, 2011) by Tessa Morris-Suzuki NEW!
After the Terracotta Warriors (January 19, 2011) by Leah Eades NEW!
A Short Guide to Xi'an (January 19, 2011) by Leah Eades NEW!
The Dark Side of the Moon (January 18, 2011) by Dave Lather NEW!
Xi'an: Where China Became a Nation (September 21, 2010) by Habeeb Salloum
Adventures in Rural Tibet (September 4, 2010) by Mark and Haley LaMonica
The Day the Foreigners Came to Town (September 4, 2010) by Stacey LaFayette
Exploring Yunnan (March 12, 2010) by Charlotte Halligan
Shanghai (February 8, 2010) by Vicky Beckett
Hong Kong Botanical Gardens (July 24, 2009) by Kimberley Rain Miner
Putuoshan: With or Without You (June 20, 2009) by Bill Pfeffer
Finding the Inner Kora (February 6, 2009) by David DeFranza
Zheng He: China's Most Famous Navigator (February 6, 2009) by Habeeb Salloum
Head Like a Snake... Feel Like a Duck (September 28, 2008) by Jose Corpas
One Night with Duck Head (June 19, 2008) by Timothy Hogg
How to Eat a Hairy Crab (June 18, 2008) by Alvin Wang
A Wimp's Way to Everest (March 9, 2008) by Carolyn Bonello
Friendship Highway (March 8, 2008) by Carolyn Bonello
Freeze-dried chicken feet and the Three Gorges (October 8, 2006) by Victoria Lubbock
A Day of Rocks and Sea: Kayaking and Climbing in Taiwan (September 9, 2006) by Antonio Graceffo
Taiwan, Foreigners Preserve and Update the Martial Arts (September 9, 2006) by Antonio Graceffo
Midnight Crossing: Paddling the waters of Hong Kong (April 30, 2006) by Antonio Graceffo
Hills, Mountains, and Sea: The Adventure Side to Hong Kong (January 21, 2006) by Antonio Graceffo
Everyday Buddhism (October 2, 2005) by Antonio Graceffo
A Glance at the Amei (August 8, 2005) by Antonio Graceffo
On Learning the Awful Chinese Language (July 27, 2005) by Antonio Graceffo
Misadventures in Chinese food (July 23, 2005) by Antonio Graceffo
Putuo Shan: Kill it yourself meals (June 7, 2005) by Robert Flawith
Tai Shan: the reality of China's heavenly mountain (March 7, 2005) by Robert Flawith
The Monk from Brooklyn: an American at the Shaolin Temple (October 21, 2004) by Antonio Graceffo

From Taipei Taiwan (May 29, 2004) by Peter Howitt

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Beijing
1998, 2006 . My first introduction to the People's Republic of China. Taxi scams. Art dealers. Fun in Tiananmen. Wandering the Forbidden City. And more. (2006 report not yet posted)


It's not your usual booking site... have a look!

Chengdu
1999, 2002. Gateway to pandas, horse treks, glaciers, and more. Some impressions of the city and my experience being an American in China during the May 1999 bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Yugoslavia.

Google
 

Dali - Xiaguan
1999, 2002. The first time, I tried the "I'm not a tourist, I'm a traveler" thing and gave Dali a couple of days. I wasn't overly impressed. The next time, I passed it by, transiting through Xiaguan on my out to the hinterlands of southwest Yunnan.

Deqin
2002. Prayer flags, glaciers, high roads, and shrines to a sacred mountain. A predominantly pictorial essay.

Guangzhou
1998, 2000. In 1998 I got in and out as quickly as possible. In 2000 I had to stick around for a couple of days. Is Guangzhou the giant headache it's made out to be? Not entirely, no. (Reports not yet posted)

Guilin
1998, 2002. The first time I passed through Guilin I mistakingly spent the night. That was a mistake. The second time I only had to go back and forth from Yangshuo a couple of times to get a silly visa extension. Was it any better?

Haba - Baishuitai
2002. Continuing the Tiger Leaping Gorge trek by walking to Zhongdian. Okay, I'm on a horse now, and we're only going as far as Baishuitai... then we'll take the bus.

Hailuogou - Moxi
2002. National parks, Chinese style. Still, it's not often you can see 7,500-meter Gongga Shan on a spectacularly clear day.

Hong Kong
1998, 2000. (Reports not yet posted)

Huashan
1998. Climbing the sacred Taoist peak - quickly.

Kangding - Luding
2002. Not a lot (but something!) about Kangding and Luding, but if you ever wondered what to do if you're ten hours from Chengdu with no transportation available, read on.

Kunming
1999, 2002. 1999 - in and out and not much else. 2002 - I actually explored the city for a day or two, well, a few blocks of it anyway.

Lijiang
1999, 2002. A much better alternative to Dali in my not so humble opinion. In 1999 I spent a few days around town while 2002 was a quick transit.

Shanghai
1998, 2006 . Once one of the greatest cities in the world, things were quiet here for awhile. But that's all in the past as Shanghai is once again well on its way to establishing itself as one of the most important urban centers on the planet. I love this place. (2006 report not yet posted)

Simatai - The Great Wall
1998. Climbing the wall in whatever they call those Siberian-Mongolian storms. Yellow winds, I think, but it was raining - just a bit.

Songpan
1999. Horse trekking in northern Sichuan. Four cold days to Ice Mountain and back.

Suzhou
1998. Gardens. More gardens.

Tengchong - Baoshan
2002. "The Big Empty Hill" is probably the most aptly named mountain in all of China, though I'm not so sure about that "Big" part. Anyway, volcanoes and hot springs and stuff.

Tiger Leaping Gorge - Hutiao Xia
1999, 2002. Yes, I've hiked this thing twice. No, my knees don't work so well anymore.

Xi'an
1998. Think of an unattractive industrial city, put three million people in it, and then put nearby one of the most spectacular archaeological finds this century. And I still think it's overrated.

Yangshuo
1998, 1999, 2000, 2002, 2006 . I keep coming back, because I fell in love with the place in 1998 and 1999 did nothing to change my mind. But things have changed a lot here. (2000-2-6 reports not yet posted)

Zhangjiajie - Wulingyuan
2000. The Wulingyuan Scenic Area. Ever heard of it? Too bad, it's a nice place. (Report not yet posted)

Zhongdian
2002. This place is getting really popular lately. Should it be? Sure, but don't forget Deqin, Haba, the Tiger Leaping Gorge, etc

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