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Planning to visit China this summer - Beijing, Xi'an, Shanghai and Hong Kong. Would love to see a bit more of the countryside as well (rice paddies etc.) but don't think we'll have time to get out to Guilin for a few days. Is there anywhere just outside the major cities that would be worth a day trip where we could see similar?

Shanghai, China
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1. Re: Countryside?

Not really I guess. Skip Xian and do Yangshuo instead. 8 years in China and never been to Xian-but love Yangshuo!

Sherbrooke, Canada
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2. Re: Countryside?

Yangshuo (Guilin) is unique with its landscape. You are seeing only large cities. Not sure how long is your trip but you might cut back a bit of time on Shanghai and HK (which are similar in a way) or drop Xi'An completely.

Beijing, China
Destination Expert
for Guilin, Xi'an, Tibet
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3. Re: Countryside?

Make a day trip to Suzhou from Shanghai with train. You will see rice fields on the way if it is season rice still exists. On flight to/from Shanghai you also could see rice fields.

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4. Re: Countryside?

It is absolutely possible to see villages, rice fields, and countryside not far from major cities, but you have to be very adventurous, and you probably need to speak a little Chinese, though you might be able to get by with gestures and the name of your destination written in Chinese characters. I am using Google Map's aerial/satellite view (and Panoramio photos) to identify interesting rural destinations on the outskirts of cities I'll be visiting. If you switch to the regular map view, you can get the name of the destination. If you install a Chinese character set on your computer, the map will display place names in Chinese characters. If you study the map, you can figure out the nearest town to the village you want to see (including its name in Chinese characters). Then you go to the bus station of the nearby city where you are staying and find the bus to that town. (Big cities like Beijing have more than one bus station. You can often figure out which bus station handles your town with some internet research, though I'm not sure if you can do this without being able to read a little Chinese. Alternatively, your hotel might be able to point you in the right direction.) Once you arrive in the peripheral town, show people the name of the village you want. There may be a bus there, or you might have to take a taxi or even travel on the back of a motorbike for a small fee, but I think it can be done. As I said, though, you need to be very adventurous to try this.

By the way, there aren't many rice fields near Beijing or Xi'an as the climate is too cool and dry. Instead, in the north you will see fields of wheat, maize, and perhaps soybeans. Rice fields are farther south near Shanghai and Hong Kong.

Alternatively, you can add Guilin or Yangshuo to your trip, since they have unique landscapes and a tourist infrastructure better suited to accommodate tourists, especially tourists who don't speak Chinese.

5. Re: Countryside?

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