Apr 24

Planning the trip to China

Passport and immunization record.

Passport and immunization record.

This article is the first in a series about planning and preparing for what is likely to be the most exciting trip of my lifetime! I’ve had a long time fascination with Asia, particularly China and Japan. Regular readers of this blog will remember the article from August of 2012, on Karate-do and found here. For many years, I was an avid practitioner and instructor of Karate and built friendships in that field of study. Now, as an English tutor, I have had the opportunity to share conversations with many wonderful ESL students in China. I’ve also had the pleasure of hosting some of my Chinese students here in my home. I have gained some great friendships and I hope to seek advice about the best options for visiting their country.

I am requesting that all of my Chinese readers take time to offer their bits of advice and suggestions for where an American should visit in China. Don’t be bashful. Even if your are not a current student, I would be grateful for any advice you may offer.

For this initial foray into The Middle Kingdom, the cities of primary interest to me are Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Hong Kong . A couple of students have opined that 2 days in Beijing is enough. I do want to experience an authentic Peking Duck dinner and see some of the main attractions, but my preference would be to see more outside of the capitol city. For example, I have been informed by several students that near the city of Shanghai there are a number of very attractive but smaller cities known for their extraordinary gardens and natural beauty. Also, the city of Xi’an with the Terracotta Warriors is attractive to me and I understand that the region is famous for noodle dishes. I love noodles! I think Szechuan Provence would be worth a visit, but is it too far away from the rest of my itinerary to be accessible on a trip with constraints on time? I think a visit to Tibet would be extraordinary, but I am certain that it would be out of the question this time. In fact, to my thinking, Tibet and the high mountain regions of any country are a special type of exotic destination requiring extraordinary preparations, including prior fitness training to be in shape for such extreme altitudes. That is not the purpose of this trip. On this journey, I am seeking to visit as wide a range as possible (up to 6 major cities and the countryside in between) across a large and diverse country, within a short period of time (2 – 3 weeks).

Like the United States, China is an expansive country with a lot to offer any foreign visitor. To narrow the highlights down to a reasonable travel plan that will fit within my time frame will be challenging. Is it possible to see this much in two weeks? Should I plan to fly or can I experience travel by train within China? Ultimately, I may be forced to recognize that China is too large and too complex to try and experience in only one visit.

One very good resource that I have found for researching this trip is from Sarah Naumann’s column on travel in China. If anyone can offer other resource for researching this trip, please share them.

Early in 2013, I purchased a new camera in anticipation for this big trip. I wrote about the new digital addition to my camera collection here. I am now fully equipped with all of the necessary memory cards, extra batteries, filters and other gear to venture to such an exotic destination. When I think of China, I think of exciting subject material and a mixing of the ancient with the modern. I imagine plenty of vibrant colors. The new camera has performed admirably thus far and I expect it will do well capturing the images and scenes of China.

I expect that this trip will dazzle my culinary interests as well. Food will be a major subject for photography during this trip. I have found that the little idiot camera (the Canon SD1300) works quite well for taking a quick snapshot of plated foods or a small table display of culinary delights. Any regular reader of this blog knows I am a bit of a food nut! In my previous life, I was a chef and spent many years in the restaurant business. I also have a tremendous interest in the foods of the Orient, though my skills and knowledge in this area of cooking are limited. For me, the bounty of culinary delights China offers is unparallelled in variety and complexity. What foods should I seek in each region? What are some of the famous foods from your region? Where are the best places to eat?

I must admit that I am a bit concerned about food sanitation in Asia. On one hand, I feel reasonably confident that the larger cities will meet modern health standards, but on the other hand, I suspect that if I venture to smaller cities and more rural areas, the standards of sanitation may be a little sketchy. My trip to the Philippines in 2010 was revealing with respect to health and sanitation standards in some countries. To the best of my recollection, all of my vaccinations are up-to-date, but I will check to see if there are any that I may need. Are there any issues I should be concerned about? Any things I should avoid for health or safety reasons?

Now, for the decision of when to travel. Originally, I had the idea to visit late in 2014. However, At this point, it is looking like it would be better for me to travel in 2015. The plus side of traveling at later date is that I have more time to plan in greater detail.

So far, my research indicates that the best season to travel is in Autumn, either September or, October after the National Holiday. I do not handle heat and humidity very well and I find it especially uncomfortable while traveling. I have been told that the weather is a bit cooler in autumn.

My Passport is valid through February of 2017. So, please let me hear from you. Tell me where I should go in China? What foods should I try? Where should I stay? What cities offer the most interesting cultural and historical significance? Let me see your comments and, of course, I thank you in advance.



Permanent link to this article: http://english-speak-english.com/preparing-trip-china-2014/


Skip to comment form

    • Julia on April 30, 2014 at 1:09 pm
    • Reply

    Welcome to China! 2015, at that timeI think I can be as your tour guide and drive you around Beijing.

    1. Hi Julia!
      Thanks for your very gracious offer to be my tour guide. I know I will need a lot of guidance when I get to China.
      Do you think that 2 days is enough time to see the main attractions in Beijing? Also, what do you think are the best or most important sights to see in the capitol city?

        • Julia on May 2, 2014 at 5:22 am
        • Reply

        Hi, Kevin.

        How long is enough? About this question, I think it depends on what you want to see. You know Beijing is a big city. Of course you can just chose the most famous sights, such as the Great Wall and the Forbidden City, including the Tiananmen Square. These will cost your two days. Anyway we can talk about your travel plan on Skype in our convenient tme.

        1. Hi Julia,
          Your question is a good one. “How long is enough?”, is subject to many different constraints, I.e. limits on time and budget will play a significant role with respect to how much time I am able to spend in each city. Perhaps I should rephrase my query and ask you are there any especially interesting attractions that you would recommend in addition to the main ones like, The Great Wall and Forbidden City?
          I look forward to speaking with you soon.

    • mn1000 on May 26, 2014 at 3:38 pm
    • Reply

    Hi teacher Kevin
    a nice blog and amazing sculpture you got the photo.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Mojgan.
      I am pleased that you like my blog and I hope you will read some more.

    • Lara He on May 29, 2014 at 11:43 am
    • Reply

    Highly recommandation for you of the Documantary : A bit of China. From my point of view, this is the best documantary filmed by Chinese. I would like to be your guider if you come to Xi’an.Although I am not good at history, I am definately sure that I will introduce you the best local flavors here till you don’t want to eat any more. 🙂

    1. Thanks for the tip, Lara. I will look for the documentary that you mentioned. I am delighted to accept your offer of tour guide when I come to Xi’an. The food pictures you shared made me hungry! I am very much looking forward to experiencing the many flavors of China.

    • Sabrina on June 23, 2014 at 6:28 am
    • Reply

    I highly recommend you to try food in Beijing,especially Roast Duck. You may want to go to the Temple of Heaven and you may notice lots of snacks near it. Besides, you may want to go to Tian`an Men Squares but dont buy anything people try to sell you because those are really expensive. If you want to experience so many people near you, try the subway at 7am or 5pm when workers come back home. If you have more time, it is great to go to the Great Wall because it is symbol of ancient China.

    1. Thanks for your comment and valuable recommendations for my visit to Beijing, Sabrina. Roast duck is one of my top priorities your city!

    • potter chen on July 4, 2014 at 10:21 am
    • Reply

    I think you may travel to Suzhou where you could see a lot of ancient gardens, I travled there on buisness trip many time in year of 2011. It’s just 30 minutes by takint the bullet train from Shanghai railway station. Many foreign visior will choose to visit there. If you have time, to visit the Zhangjiajie in Hunan province may be another option.

    1. You are among many students who have recommended that I visit the city of Suzhou. Thanks for your comment.

    • Summer on August 8, 2014 at 11:03 pm
    • Reply

    Firstly,Welcome to China.
    Secondly,There are so many tourist attractions which are worth seeing in China.Different people have different preferences.So just follow your heart to see what you want to see.
    In your blog,you say the Terracotta Warriors is attractive to you.Actually,it attracts me exremely as well.
    Xi’an is famous for the historic interest.I want to go there before you so i can give you some suggestions.
    The last but not the least,come here and visit Jinan.Your students miss you.

    1. Thanks for your comment, Summer!
      I am looking forward to visiting many cities in China. Xi’an and Jinan are high on my list of priorities!
      Perhaps you can travel with me to Xi’an. I would enjoy the company.
      See you soon!

    • Maggie on August 8, 2014 at 11:09 pm
    • Reply

    Hi, Kavin. You have a very nice blog. There are so many useful and interesting articles, which I love very much. I wish to finish all of them some day.
    Welcome to Jinan, the famous city of springs in China. Many springs spread everywhere of the city. It’s a historical city too. I am sure we will have lots of fun .

    1. HI Maggie,
      I was so impressed with your reading in the last lesson! Great job!
      Thanks for your kind comment about my blog and for your warm welcome to Jinan.

    • Ella Pan on August 11, 2014 at 7:34 am
    • Reply

    Hi ,teacher Kevin! Welcome to china in 2015! I think I will be your tour guaide in ShangHai.You need take at least three days in Shang Hai,and then we can take a quick train to HangZhou.I think that city you cann’t miss it.so just let me know when you come here,I’ll show you the plan,where you should visit,where you should stay and soon on!

    best regards!


    1. Thanks for your kind offer to guide me, Ella. I will keep you updated as my plans develop.

    • spring on January 13, 2015 at 9:48 pm
    • Reply

    Hi,Kevin, the following is the link i search for you which i think might be helpful . It contains a lot of information including sites introduction, food and security ,map and weather ,tansportation and so on .
    Wish it can help and look forward for your arrival …..

    1. Great, Spring. Thanks for sharing this info. I will try to preview the site before our next lesson and maybe I will have some questions for you.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.