China: Hong Kong, Macau, Guangzhou, Yangshuo, Ping’an, Hangzhou, Shanghai, Nanjing, Xi’an, Beijing in 25 days

Trip introduction
Destination
Asia
Travel-from
London (England)
Number of travelers
2 people
Trip duration
25 days
Visited places
29 days
China
6 days
Hong Kong (China)
2 days
Macau (China)
3 days
Guangzhou (China)
3 days
Yangshuo (China)
1 days
Pingan (China)
2 days
Hangzhou (China)
2 days
Shanghai (China)
1 days
Nanjing (China)
2 days
Xian (China)
3 days
Beijing (China)
Trip package (and costs)
Total spent, incl:
3450 $USD
Trip itinerary
  1. Day 1-6. Sightseeing Hong Kong: Mong Kok, Kowloon light show, Hong Kong Island, Victoria Peak, Tian Tan Buddha, Repulse Bay.
  2. Day 7-8. Macau: stop tour of the Casinos, Ruins of St Pauls.
  3. Day 9-11. Guangzhou: Chinese meat market, Buddhist temple, Shamian Island.
  4. Day 12-14. Yangshuo: coutryside on scooters, bamboo river cruise.
  5. Day 14. Ping'an: rice terraces.
  6. Day 15-16. Hangzhou: West Lake.
  7. Day 17-19. Sightseeing Shanghai.
  8. Day 19. Nanjing: Seshuan Gardens, Nanjing Mausoleum.
  9. Day 20-21. Xi'an: tours of the towers, Xi'an Museum, Museum of Terracotta Warriors.
  10. Day 23-25. Beijing: Tiananmen Square, Forbidden City, Summer Palace, Great Wall.
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China: Hong Kong, Macau, Guangzhou, Yangshuo, Ping’an, Hangzhou, Shanghai, Nanjing, Xi’an, Beijing in 25 days

Trip dates: 9 September – 03 October 2015.

From: London (United Kingdom) to Hong Kong, Macau, Guangzhou, Yangshuo, Ping’an, Hangzhou, Shanghai, Nanjing, Xi’an, Beijing (China)

Travelers: 2 adults

Trip review: 5****

Hong Kong

So we’re in Hong Kong. After almost 48 hours of constant air conditioning since check in at Heathrow we both agreed it would be good to get out to breathe some fresh air. We were definitely made to regret that statement as we were hit by 33 degrees of sticky unbearable heat!

We spent most of the first day exploring Mong Kok and Kowloon. This mainly involved diving in and out of air conditioned shops and visiting the ladies market (that isn’t just for ladies). We were in bed by 8:30pm absolutely knackered from lack of sleep and heat!

On next day we decided that to last a full day we would need the Hong Kong metro as we had seen briefly the day before it is fully air conditioned. The metro is very impressive and puts London’s Underground to shame. The carriages are wide, there is no horrible sounds of scraping metal, they even have TV’s showing the news and full phone signal on them! Oh and the tickets are very cheap.

We ventured over to the main Hong Kong Island to do some exploring and even found the longest escalator in the world. It kept on going for a good 15 minutes.

In the evening we went to the harbour in Kowloon to see the light show that the many skyscrapers across the river beam into the sky. The skyline is very impressive and photos do not do it justice!

We finished the day by eating at a Chinese restaurant, our first Chinese meal. Ordering was easy enough, but when it came to eating; that was a different story. After we both struggled eating, the restaurant staff took pity on us and showed us how to use chopsticks, we didn’t even ask! It was after they showed us for a second time that they came back with forks. They also took our noodles back into the kitchen and cut them up for us haha.

One evening we visited “Victoria Peak“. A tram takes you up to the highest point in Hong Kong where there are a number of shops and restaurants. We went out on to the viewing platform where the views of the city are simply amazing.

We have also visited the “Tian Tan Buddha” which is another main tourist attraction. This is a large bronze statue. It’s impressive! We took a 25 minute cable car ride to reach the Buddha. This takes you high into some mountains revealing some nice views as long as the mist isn’t too dense.

One morning we ventured down to Repulse Bay which is a glorious beach to the South of Hong Kong Island. The sand burns your feet in the sun and everyone sits under trees as the temperature is unbearable. We did plan on staying all day but you just cannot last more than a few hours.

We liked Hong Kong. It has a very impressive skyline and a few unusual tourist attractions. The weather and the food took some getting used to but it would make a good holiday destination in the future!

Macau

Macau is well known for gambling and takes more money than Las Vegas each year. We spent about half hour studying a map of the area and the bus timetables, and finally boarded a bus in the direction of the tourist area. Eventually we made it to the area of Cotai where all the casinos are based. This definitely looked like the Macau we were expecting!

As we didn’t have that long, we went on a whistle stop tour of the Casinos, luckily there is a free shuttle bus linking the major ones. We managed to visit: The Venetian, The Galaxy, The City of Dreams, The Plaza and The MGM. They are all spectacular in their own way.

The Venetian is the biggest casino in the world and even has a canal running through it. We were surprised to see that it has a Manchester United shop! The casinos were full of different Chinese games which looked interesting. Our budget didn’t allow for any gambling however, so we stuck to watching. Probably for the best!

Next day we visited the “Ruins of St Pauls“, battling our way through the heat. We even made the most of staying in the air-conditioned crypt for twenty minutes!

Guangzhou

We have met up with Chris and Sally who have been kind enough to let us stay with them in Guangzhou and when we arrived they kindly arranged for us to go on a river cruise that evening. The cruise was really nice; we sat on the top deck in the open air looking at the buildings passing by. Canton Tower looked especially impressive as it continuously changed colours. It was so nice to relax with a few drinks in the warm night sailing down the river.

The next day we went for a “Dim Sum” breakfast where you select and share a number of small dishes. We tried chicken feet and ate some animal stomach – not sure which animal! We spent the day exploring Guangzhou.

The Guangzhou Metro is a lot more crowded than in Hong Kong. Everyone pushes to get on and off, they have little patience! The train ticket is in the form of a plastic coin which is very advanced and eco-friendly compared to England. Apparently China has been trying hard recently to cut back on its carbon emissions.

We visited a Chinese meat market where they kill chickens right in front of you! The Chinese like to believe fresh is best and often buy meat in this way. At least it hasn’t been sitting on the shelf in Tesco for the past week, haha.

We also visited a traditional Buddhist temple which was fascinating. Chris took us for a Chinese massage in the afternoon, it is incredibly cheap compared to England, only £7 for a full hour! The Chinese are known for their brutal massages and this was no different. They really push their fingers in hard and we might have some bruises in the morning!

In the evening we visited “Shamian Island” which is a tourist area of Guangzhou. The area is full of nice restaurants and hotels for holiday makers. They even have an open air restaurant on the river! Alcohol is amazingly cheap, a glass of wine for 60p.

Over the last 3 days in Guangzhou we vised some local attractions and tryed out new foods. We visited Guangzhou Zoo, they have over 5000 animals here including Panda’s. The entrance fee was just £2 each, very cheap compared to rip off Britain haha!

We also visited “Chimelong Paradise” which is a local theme park in Guangzhou. This was enjoyable and had lots of interesting rides. We have noticed some Chinese people aren’t very good at queuing for rides, the same can be seen on the Metro where they don’t let you off before trying to get on. But people were friendly though, they are just a little impatient.

We have also been to a large shopping mall with 7 floors. The shopping malls here are really cool; they have loads of restaurants and entertainment attractions like big amusements arcades. This one even had an ice rink.

Chris and Sally took us to a Taiwanese hotpot restaurant for dinner one evening. You sit at a big table where each place setting has a metal bowl. The idea is that you cook your own food. Sounds crazy to go to a restaurant and pay to cook your own food but it seems very popular here in Asia. So you order a meat which they bring out raw with a bowl of vegetables, you then boil your food in your metal bowl. It’s certainly fun fishing around a boiling bowl with chopsticks.

Guangzhou is a cleaner, more modern city that we both imagined. It’s much quieter than the vibrant pace of Hong Kong. It has been good to try more local foods thanks to Chris & Sally being our Guangzhou guides, they even introduced us to a traditional drinking game that involves guessing numbers of dice!

Yangshuo

Yangshuo is beautiful. It is a small tourist town located next to the Li River and Yulong River, surrounded by small mountains. It is a bit cooler here, the humidity of the previous cities has gone leaving a nice comfortable temperature, and luckily it was still sunny.

The town is full of nice restaurants, bars and markets. We even could find some souvenirs here as we had’t yet found any in the cities.

The following morning we hired some scooters so that we could go out into the countryside. Everyone drives scooters out here you don’t even need a driving licence! We headed towards Moonhill, basically a mountain with a hole in it. As you drive along the main road, there are lots of tourist attractions to see such as water caves. We turned down onto a side street to try and see some more countryside outside of the main tourist area. The road led to a small village where the residents have grouped together to form an unofficial toll of 10 Yuan. We didn’t mind paying as they don’t exactly look rich. After the village, the path turned into rubble and looked handmade, we continued for some time passing fields of crops and the odd house. People were working in the fields collecting vegetables. It was so incredible to see people living such different lives to ourselves. We even saw some cows wondering around the roads and people with animals on ropes walking along.

We decided to go to the Li River as we had been told that this is where the best scenery of the mountains can be seen. A bamboo river cruise was just over an hour long and was a good opportunity to relax and enjoy the view. We stopped off a couple of times along the river where people try to get you to pose for photos, we avoided these and took our own pictures. This was definitely a highlight of our trip so far, the scenery on the river is just beautiful.

Ping’an

Ping’an is a small remote village located in Longji, well known for the very distinct rice terraces in China. The scenery here is incredible. Each season the rice terraces are a different colour, as we were heading into autumn the terraces were in the process of turning yellow. We spent the day walking, to get the best views of the terraces.

Walking around Ping’an is tiring as the paths are uneven and there are thousands of steps with it being so high up. We also looked around the village which has lots of small shops selling unique hand-made gifts. There are no vehicles and it was interesting to see local ways of living. They use small horses to carry items such as drinks into the village. They seem to be very self-sufficient, growing their own foods. We tried the local food of “Bamboo Rice”, which is what it says, rice cooked and served in bamboo.

Hangzhou

Hangzhou is another Chinese tourist town. The main attraction here is “West Lake” which we spent a day at. It took 3 hours to walk round the lake and it is very picturesque. The lake is featured on the back of the 1 Yuan note. The town itself has quite a few unique tourist shops and market stalls, very similar to Yangshuo. For us it really was just a flying visit as we had lots of other places to see.

Shanghai

Shanghai is possibly the most iconic city in China. We stayed 10 minute walk from The Bund to the Huangpu River. So the first evening we took a walk down to the river to see the Shanghai skyline. I must say that although it does have a couple of interesting buildings (the “Oriental Pearl TV Tower” being the main highlight) it does not even compare to the magnificent skyline of Hong Kong.

Next day we boarded a sightseeing bus to see what Shanghai has to offer, this showed us some hidden sites which were interesting, such as the China Pavilion of the Shanghai 2010 Expo, very much like a modern museum.

We’d been really looking forward to Shanghai, however it disappointed us a little. The city is nice but we didn’t find much to do, there seemed to be a lack of tourist attractions and cheap activities for travellers.

Nanjing

Our hostel provided Chinese tours to Nanjing, and we were in. The tour included two Buddhist temples, a visit to the “Seshuan Gardens“, a trip to a random supermarket where nothing was in English, and the “Nanjing Mausoleum“. The tour was very fast paced, lunch consisted of going to a Chinese restaurant and eating as much food as possible in the space of ten minutes before rushing off again. We had no idea what was going on for most of the day but that actually made it quite fun, it was like a mystery tour not knowing where we were going next. We even took a boat ride, which was nice.

Xi’an

Xi’an is an old city, but it seems to have a certain charm about it. It was once the capital of China and has a distinct city wall around the outside. There are no modern office blocks like in Shanghai. Instead the City revolves around “The Bell Tower” and “The Drum Tower” both historical attractions in the City. We took tours of these towers, where there are performances of bell ringing and drumming.

We have also visited Xi’an Museum. This was possibly the best museum we have visited, Xi’an has a fascinating history.

Obviously the main attraction when visiting Xi’an is the “Museum of Terracotta Warriors“. We booked a tour to the museum, which was in English this time. On the way to the museum we stopped off at a factory which manufactures replicas of the Terracotta Warriors. This came as a surprise as it was not included on the tour itinerary. The factory was very interesting, it showed how the Warriors were made all those years ago. You can even buy a life-size warrior and have it shipped home!

At the museum we decided to “accidentally lose” our tour group and explore on our own. We couldn’t understand the tour guide anyway. There are 3 archaeological sites (pits) at the museum: pit 1 is the main attraction while pits 2 and 3 are smaller. In each pit you walk around the outside looking down at the site where there are many pieces of broken unearthed warriors. The warriors were found broken and later pieced together into their original form. Pit 1 is the most impressive and houses the majority of the warriors, whilst pit 2 and 3 show mainly excavation work still on-going. The whole site is incredible, definitely a must see. It is even described as the eighth wonder of the world.

Beijing

On our first day we went to see Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City. It was busy but we did manage to get a few good photos. The Forbidden City is interesting but there is not too much to see. It consists of some old buildings and courtyards that have been reconstructed.

Then we headed to the Silk Market and Pearl Market which are well known for selling copies of famous designer brands, definitely worth a visit if you want some good bargains.

In the evening we visited the Birds nest Stadium and the Water Cube. The area is really quiet now and feels a bit of a waste but you can get some good pictures and the structures are very impressive.

Some other travellers we met recommended visiting the Summer Palace so we decided to give it a go. The Summer Palace is cheaper to enter than the Forbidden City and is actually much bigger. We thought it was better than the Forbidden City as there is a large lake and nice gardens to wander around.

The following day we visited the Great Wall. There are many sections of the Wall that tourists can visit, and we decided to avoid the busy areas and head to a section called “Mutianyu” which is well known for its beautiful scenery and is not usually too crowded. We decided to try and do this one ourselves so we got up very early to go out and get the public bus. After much searching we gave up looking for this bus as it seems that it is impossible to find. We headed back to the hostel where we found that we were just in time for the days tour to Mutianyu and there were two places spare, hurray a bit of luck at last we thought!

We had to pay extra to get a cable car up the mountains to the wall, and get a toboggan back down. We thought this was worth it as we could get longer to walk on the wall, and it looked fun!

It was such a great experience to go to the Great Wall and although it was a slightly foggy day the views and scenery are stunning. Walking along the wall is very physical work, there are many uneven steps and it is a good workout. The wall is mainly reconstructed however we did walk to one part which is in its original form. Unfortunately you cannot walk on this part as it is too dangerous, it is a good opportunity to take photos of the original wall though. We both really enjoyed visiting the wall and will definitely come back to visit another part. We were a bit jealous when we found out that some other travellers had booked tours to sleep on The Great Wall, this sounds like a fantastic idea for a future trip.

When we arrived back from the wall, we decided to visit the Night market and were brave enough to try scorpion on a stick! The scorpion tasted burnt and crunchy, the man even sprinkled something on it like in the HSBC advert. The market also had other dodgy delicacies we weren’t brave enough to try such as: Silkworms, Starfish, Crickets & Sheep Penis. Lovely!

Beijing seems a lot quieter than the other major cities that we have been to in China; this makes it a nice city to visit. We really enjoyed our time in Beijing even though it didn’t go smoothly. We would like to return in the future and spend longer here as there is a lot to see and do.

Transportation

  • Hong Kong to Macau: turbojet ferry, about an hour.
  • Hong Kong to Guangzhou: a train, couple of hours. We travelled just over 100 miles north and crossed the border into mainland China without any problem. We already got our visa’s sorted in the UK before we left.
  • Guangzhou to Yangshuo: sleeper train to Guilin (12 hours) + bus from Guilin to Yangshuo (about 1 hour, 18 Yuan/each). We had 6 sleeper cabin, a cabin that doesn’t have a door so people walk past all night. Unfortunately we were right by the toilet which is used for the Chinese tradition of spitting! Guilin for about 8am in the morning.
  • Yangshuo to Ping’an: tour bus (3 hours one way). The journey involved taking a coach on a steep winding road up into the mountans, often coming very close to sharp drops! What made it worse is that the Chinese driving style hasn’t changed, the coach drivers seem perfectly comfortable with overtaking trucks on narrow corners. Sometimes it was just best to not look out the window!
  • Yangshuo to Hangzhou: train, 17 hours. We had hard seats as there were no beds available. We were disappointed to find the train seats practically vertical and not even slightly reclined, we knew we were in for a long night! When it came to boarding the train, people simply cannot queue and they were literally shoving each other to get on first. The journey was pretty awful and we will definitely try to book sleeper trains in future!
  • Hangzhou to Shanghai: train. We didn’t realise when we had booked the train tickets that we had actually booked a bullet train. The train is a fantastic feat of engineering and the Chinese proudly display the train speed inside the carriages. We reached and average speed of about 190 mph.
  • Shanghai to Nanjing: bus tour.
  • Shanghai to Xi’an: 18-hour sleeper bus. It was bumpier and not as good as a bed on a train but certainly better than a seat train.
  • Xi’an to Beijing: the bus journey was awful. It took 26 hours! There are check points/toll roads all over China and for some reason our bus stopped at one which was closed for 9 hours. The bus was smelly and the toilet did not flush, it just dropped out onto the road.

Accommodation

  • Best Western Sun Sun hotel (Macau): The hotel itself was nice and the staff were helpful. A tourist map gave it a 2* rating. Inside it was more like a 4* though.
  • Pod Inn (Hangzhou)

Trip map


Trip photoes

  • Hong Kong

    Hong Kong

  • Hong Kong. Tian Tan Buddha

    Hong Kong. Tian Tan Buddha

  • Hong Kong. Repulse Bay

    Hong Kong. Repulse Bay

  • Hong Kong. Avenue of Stars

    Hong Kong. Avenue of Stars

  • Macau. City of Dreams

    Macau. City of Dreams

  • Macau. St Pauls Ruins

    Macau. St Pauls Ruins

  • Guangzhou. Zoo Panda

    Guangzhou. Zoo Panda

  • Yangshuo. River Cruise

    Yangshuo. River Cruise

  • Yangshuo. Riding Scooters

    Yangshuo. Riding Scooters

  • Yangshuo. 20 yuan

    Yangshuo. 20 yuan

  • Yangshuo. Moonhill

    Yangshuo. Moonhill

  • Ping'an. Village

    Ping'an. Village

  • Ping'an. Rice Terraces

    Ping'an. Rice Terraces

  • Ping'an. Rice Terraces Workers

    Ping'an. Rice Terraces Workers

  • Hangzhou. West Lake

    Hangzhou. West Lake

  • Shanghai. Bullet Train

    Shanghai. Bullet Train

  • Shanghai

    Shanghai

  • Nanjing. On the River

    Nanjing. On the River

  • Nanjing. Mausoleum

    Nanjing. Mausoleum

  • Xi'an. Terracotta Warriors

    Xi'an. Terracotta Warriors

  • Xi'an. At the Terracotta Factory

    Xi'an. At the Terracotta Factory

  • Beijing. Great Wall

    Beijing. Great Wall

  • Beijing. On the Great Wall

    Beijing. On the Great Wall

  • Beijing. Watercube

    Beijing. Watercube

  • Beijing. Tiananmen Square

    Beijing. Tiananmen Square

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