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2-week Japan/China itinerary for first-time visitor

New York City, New...
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2-week Japan/China itinerary for first-time visitor

I am in the preliminary stages of planning a 2-week trip to Japan and China in mid-April. I will be flying to Japan from NYC and out of China. I would like to visit Tokyo, Kyoto, Beijing and Hong Kong and have 2 weeks (total) to do so. A few questions:

1. How do you recommend I allocate my time?

2. How should I travel among these destinations? I would like to take the bullet train from Tokyo to Kyoto. Should I fly out of Kyoto to Beijing/HK or should I take the bullet train back to Tokyo and then fly from Tokyo to Beijing/HK?

3. What should be my first stop in China if I'm travelling from Tokyo/Kyoto, Beijing or HK? I will be flying out of my second stop back to the U.S.

Many thanks for your input.

Sherbrooke, Canada
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1. Re: 2-week Japan/China itinerary for first-time visitor

This is a lot of places in 2 weeks, and they are quite far apart. Excluding the transportation it barely leaves you with 2-3 days per place.

I suggest you ask your questions also in the Japan forum.

As far as Beijing is concerned, this usually requires 4-5 days. In HK it depends on what you want to do but it can take 2 days to one week.

I think that from Japan you could fly to either Beijing or HK. I would base me decision on flight availability from Japan then back home.

Remember that you need a visa to enter China.

Edited: 14 December 2010, 02:19
BC
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2. Re: 2-week Japan/China itinerary for first-time visitor

If this is your first time to tokyo, it may be better to spend a few days in Tokyo because this is a pretty neat city. Also, you can take side trips quite easily to places like Nikko, kamakura and Hakone. Do try to spend a night at a Japanese style hotel in Hakone and enjoy the outdoor hot spring.

After that, you can fly direct to Beijing and spend another 5 days quite easily there..

Beijing, China
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3. Re: 2-week Japan/China itinerary for first-time visitor

I'd echo the above points. Mid April is usually a very nice time to visit Beijing, weather-wise. As a general guide, 4-5 days is a minimum recommendation and many trip reports have stated that members would have liked a few more days. For a 'taster' 2 or 3 days is ok, if there's a likelihood of returning.

New York City, New...
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4. Re: 2-week Japan/China itinerary for first-time visitor

Thanks for your terrific input.

I've decided to pass on Japan as timing and price-wise, it seems impratical. I am now trying to figure out how to allocate my time in China. I have a friend in Hong Kong and I'm determined to visit Beijing, but I'm not sure where else to go. I'm a big city guy, but I'm not sure I want to hit 3 metropolises (i.e., HK, Beijing and Shanghai) in a 2-week trip.

Is Shanghai a must for a first-time visitor to China?

If not Shanghai, what would be a good compliment to HK and Beijing? I've heard good things about Xi'an, but have been told it's difficult to get to. I'm in my mid-thirties and don't like sleepy towns, but I do like visiting places totally unlike anything I can find in the U.S. That probably narrows my options down to just about every place in China, but I hope it gives you a little more insight into what I'm looking for.

Another thought would be to hit Bangkok, just to get a taste for another country/culture in the region. Thoughts on this idea?

Based on what you recommend, how should I allocate my time? I expect to have about 12 nights to work with.

Thanks again!

Beijing, China
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5. Re: 2-week Japan/China itinerary for first-time visitor

Personally, I'd just stick to Beijing and Hong Kong. Xi'an is very easy to get to (major tourist destination) and is worthy of 2 days sightseeing in itself - so that could be a short stop between the two. I can't see much value is going all the way to Bangkok just for a sampler - better to go as part of a longer trip to that region. Don't know about Shanghai.

Miami Beach, Florida
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6. Re: 2-week Japan/China itinerary for first-time visitor

First, Xi'an is a one horse town, so to speak. It is not difficult to get to, it is just that you spend 1/2 day to get there, stay 24 hours, and spend 1/2 day to move on. You could spend two days, but you run out of things to do after 1.5 days. So it is not an efficient use of time on a short trip.

You should allocate a full day to take the Great Wall walk/hike from Jinshanling to Simatai. It is an unforgettable experience. Search on the Beijing Forum and look at the Top Questions (upper right column) on the Beijing Forum page.

A common added destination for your time and itinerary is Guilin/Yangshuo for its clean unpolluted and pastoral countryside with unique tall karst hills. Fly to Guilin and leave immediately for Yangshuo,. There are bamboo raft rides, private rides on the Li River, and small boat trips to little villages. It has a laid-back feel, and the town center of Yangshuo is pretty westernized, almost like a ski village. Lots of night life and good times, and yet you can stay out in the countryside closeby if you want a contrast to Beijing and Hong Kong. It may be a bit rainy, but spring will have arrived.

Shanghai is a valid alternative, especially when you use it as a base to explore nearby cities and towns. You did not mention your exact interests, but here are a few examples. There are centuries-old "water-towns" as well as the former capital of Nanjing within short train or bus rides. Suzhou is the home to an outstanding collection of Asian gardens which will look good in April. You will see a lot of New York (fast-paced) and Toronto (clean and generally safe) in the way of llfe of new Shanghai.

If you decide on Shanghai, make sure you take the DK Eyewitness Guide to Beijing & Shanghai, an essential book with virtually every sight identified with color pictures, maps, illustrations and diagrams on each page.

New York City, New...
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7. Re: 2-week Japan/China itinerary for first-time visitor

SoBeSparky,

Thank you so much for your incredibly detailed response. As you say, I don't think that Xi'an is an efficient use of my time. I think I'll pass on this visit.

The Great Wall walk is right up my alley. I'm a big runner/walker and would relish a long trek along the Wall.

Your description of Guilin/Yangshuo really intrigues me. It sounds like Yangshouo would be a great repreive from the hustle and bustle of HK and Beijing. I'm also a person who enjoys nightlife, so that component of this area appeals to me. A few questions:

- If I'm coming from HK, would I still need to fly to Guilin or is there public transportation from HK?

- If I need to fly from either Beijing or HK, is there a discount airline you'd recommend? My friend recommended Dragonair, Hong Kong Airways or Shanghai Airlines.

- How far is Yangshuo from Guilin?

Finally, if I have 15 nights in China -- I believe if I leave from NYC on a Friday I get to China on a Saturday night and I can leave China on a Sunday and be in NYC that same day -- how would you recommend I allocate my time among Beijing, HK and Yangshou?

Thank you so much for your input.

Other good samaritans, feel free to weigh in!!

Beijing, China
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8. Re: 2-week Japan/China itinerary for first-time visitor

Not sure about going to Guilin from HK other than by air, but you can either fly or take an overnight train from Shenzhen (both means would be cheaper than flying out of HK). Check ctrip.com for price guides. All airlines provide discounts domestically - not much to choose between them. Yangshuo is about an hour by bus from Guilin. You could split your time fairly equally between the three places - tweak it once you have more idea what you want to do in each place. There's no need to think about booking internal travel for a couple of months.

New York City, New...
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9. Re: 2-week Japan/China itinerary for first-time visitor

Qupnicely,

Thanks for your input. When you say, "You could split your time fairly equally between the three places," do you mean split my time among HK, Yangshuo and Beijing?

Have you been to Yangshuo? Do you agree that Yangshuo is my best bet for a third stop other than HK and Beijing?

Thanks again.

Beijing, China
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10. Re: 2-week Japan/China itinerary for first-time visitor

Yes, I mean initially plan, assuming you stick to these 3 centres, on dividing your time equally - then once you have decided what you want to see in each place you may adjust your nights' stays or travelling schedule to suit.

Yes, I've been to Yangshuo and I think it is worth visiting for a minimum of three days. The town centre is actually quite touristy but the surrounds are much more pastoral and the landscape is very interesting. There used to be a good website called 'yangers' dealing with travel in the area - perhaps have a search for that, if it's still operational. I can't say whether it's the best bet for you but it is certainly a very good option.

You could do this trip HK-YS-BJ or the other way around - I don't think it makes any real difference - and having open jaw international flights would be preferable.