AUG 15,2012 - OCT 15,2012 (62 DAYS)
Hello, my name is Daniel, during my travelling in Asia I spent two months in China. Below you can see my path, and all kinds of tips.
I travelled between August and October, the weather was perfect, The chinese holidays are in this part of the year as well, so pay attention for problematic transportation and accomodation.
I went from Beijing south east, to the Back-door area (back-door of tibet), I had planned to go to Guilin and the Yang Yang rice terrace but the busses were full so I took a flight for an amazing week in Shenghai.
The two months cost me 2000 U.S$, 1000$ per month.
Student card! Guys, this can save you a lot of money. Even if you don't have one, arrange something. If you pass through Bangkok you can buy a fake one in the Kawasan st. with just pennies. If you arrive from Nepal you can also arrange something there. I traveled with a lady friend who showed her donor card... If you can invest in a card it's worth the money because of all of the student discounts you'll receive at every sight.
Facebook - no access. In respected guest houses you may have a blue dove symbol on the desktop, it's a VPN software which allows you access on to Facebook. Skype isn't a problem.
Prepare yourself in advance for all possibilities - don't leave to go anywhere without knowing where you're headed, how to get there, how and and when you're coming back. If it's possible have it in Chinese as well.
Restaurants - usually they don't have menus in English. You simply get inside the kitchen and point to the things you want. You get used to it quickly and it usually works somehow. If you are vegetarian have a written note in Chinese saying you don't eat meat, otherwise it's hard to explain.
Numbers- the Chinese don't count with fingers like westeren people so pay attention, and ask someone to teach you how to count in chinese so you can communicate. Sometimes the counting changes between the different districts.
You should book rooms in advance (China is different from India in that sense). There are numerous sites that are good for that - pagoda, hostelword, hostelbookers etc. You can also book by phone or email and save the site commission.
It's highly recommended to book a room in advance. A super recommended place is the King Joy Hotel. It has dorms, an amazing hotel! Leo Hostel, and Three Legged Frog are also recommended. All of those hostels are in Qianman area, Beijing.
In general, in Beijing it's very convenient to get around with the Subway, except for the airport (cost 25 yuan, cheap and fast). From each point to each point it costs 2 Yuan, cheap and comfortable.
We took a 20 hour train ride to Lanzhou and from there, a bus to Xiahe (pronounced Shia-che), The second most sacred city for the Tibetan people (after Lhasa). Most of the people prefer to get to Xi'an to see the Terracotta Army instead of Xiahe.
Langmusi is a small lovable Tibetian village. You can trek by foot or by horseback riding. The views are amazing and the atmosphere is relaxed. The village is 2-3 hours drive from Songpan, a beautiful city from which you can also go on different treks. You can choose if you want to get to Langmusi or Songpan.
A recommended place is Langmusi hotel. 30 Yuan for a bed in a private room - toilets are outside. The owner is very nice.
From the village we took a horse trek for two days from The Tibetan horse trekking, with a lady who speaks perfect English, her name is Li-Ii. The trek passed through amazing Mongolian style plains. We slept in a nomad's tent and lived their everyday life for a single day. Interesting and worth every penny.
In Langmusi area you can also find hot springs. Pay attention: there's a separation between boys and girls. It's a very interesting experience. These places aren't tourist havens either, and the Chinese are investigative, touchy, and interested. Entrance fee is 10 Yuan. A taxi back and forth is another 150 Yuan.
Jiuzhaigou is a reservation, packed with tourists, water pools, and lakes with amazingly crazy colors. You just can't stop shooting your camera. The water has intense, crystal clear colors. You just cannot believe it's natural!
The next morning we left for Chengdu. A very recommended place to stay here is Chengdu Sim's Cozy Garden Hostel, guest house on another level. The hostel is equipped and prepared for tourists. 50 Yuan for dorms.
Another recommended place is Chengdu Lazy Bones hostel.
Chengdu is a large city. It has a Decathlon store if you are in need of sport or camping gear. It has shopping malls with all the major brands. It even has an Ikea...
Jellyfish bar (http://www.chengdubeer.com/2013/04/the-jellyfish/) and The Spot restaurant which are next to each other have the same owners. They are very nice, prices aren't cheap but it's worth it if you have a special occasion or the desire for a real Hamburger.
An amazingly cheap Muslim restaurant with handmade noodles (it's worth to take your camera with you) for people who stay at the Sim's Cozy - leave the guest house and turn right, continue for a few meters and look at the signs. On the right side you'll see a restaurant with a not too large blue sign with a picture of a Mosque. Tasty and cheap!
From Chengdu you can also drive and climb Emei Shan mountain. Another option is a day trip in Qingcheng Shan (Mount Qincheng), a very lovely place to tour, with shrines. Worth a day trip if you have time.
From Chengdu we drove to Tagong via Kangding (123 Yuan and another 50 Yuan for a van to Tagong).
From there we continued to Litang. It cost us 20 Yuan to get to Xinduqiao and from there to Litang. Prices vary a lot - the van drivers want 300 Yuan; we managed to take a bus that arrived in the morning for 80 Yuan. You should try to hitchhike if you can't find a van with a decent price.
Litang is a gray and boring city. It's main tourist attraction is its Sky Burial (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sky_burial). It's a Tibetan ceremony in which instead of burying or burning a deceased person, they disassemble the body and feed it to vultures. As much as it's sound un-tempting, it's a crazy ceremony! If you're in the area you should definitely watch this ceremony. It's not as gross as it sounds, and it's very interesting.
The ceremony takes place on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays between 7-11. You should be very patient. We arrived at 7 and the ceremony was only at 10. People who left in between missed the ceremony.
From Litang we continued to Shangri-La in Deqen. We spent a night in Xiangcheng, Xiangbala Seven Lakes Hotel, 200 meters up hill from the central bus station
A very very recommended guesthouse is The Olive (http://theolive.asia/wp/?page_id=61). It's a new place, great atmosphere, impressive rooms, lobby with sofas and television. The manager speaks English and helps a lot (she's sometimes at the restaurants across). You can find in the guest house many recommendations from the others in the area.
From Shangri-La we left for the Tiger Leaping Gorge, the most famous trek in China. A lot of green and one big river. Two days trek you can have from Shangri-La/Lijiang and get back to Shangri-La/Lijiang.
We slept at the Halfway Guesthouse to which we reached after seven hours of walking. Very cheap place, good food and comfortable rooms!
From there, it's another two hours to the end point (Tina's Youth Hostel). From there, there's an option of walking two hours back and forth to the river. Not recommended for people with knee issues - very steep descent.
In the trek there's an option to leave the big bags at the first guest house in the entrance, which allows you to pick up the bag when you're back and continue from there with a bus to Lijiang/Shangri-La.
We slept at Panba hostel which is very recommended.
Fun town which has all kinds of day trips, around the lake, around the market, mountains, bike tours, etc.
A recommended guest house is the Jade Emu (http://www.jade-emu.com/), run by a very nice Australian and avid billiard fan - who ever beats him gets a free night; loose and you'll buy him a beer.
Another attraction in the area in Wu Wei temple (Wu Wei Si), where you can learn Thai Chi and Kong-Fu. The cost for a week is 500 Yuan which includes food (vegetarian), accommodation and the lessons. In the temple they have strict discipline, early wake up, and you've got to come with a lot of patience. But many experiences are waiting for you there.
Very recommended pace to stay is Rock & Wood (http://www.rockwood.hostel.com/), an amazing guest house with very high standards. Private room there is a suite!
Very recommended restaurant is New York Style Steak & Burger (http://www.xiaomishu.com/shop/C14D12K16680/). A dreamy place, prestigious (60 Yuan for a hamburger).
In Shanghai there's the Shiliupu
famous fabric market. This place can prepare anything you want in a matter of a day or two. It's very recommended for women. There are countless tailors and catalogs. You just pick anything you want from the catalog, they do some measurements, and the day after- it's ready. You can also bring picture or a design from home. My girlfriend bought an evening dress for 300 Yuan and we didn't even bargain.