My wife and I have recently returned from a wonderful trip to China. Our itinerary was:
London to Beijing (3 nights); overnight train to Xian (2 nights); flight to Jiuzhaigou (3 nights); flight to Chengdu (1 night); flight to Guilin and transfer to Yangshuo (4 nights); flight to Shanghai (2 nights).The local agents were CITS.
Day 1 (Day 5 of our trip)
We took the overnight train from Beijing with a two-berth compartment. Don't be misled by the term "soft sleeper". The beds were about as soft as concrete. I eventually got some sleep when I slept on top of the duvet.
After a rest at our hotel our guide took us to the Muslim Quarter and the Great Mosque. It was a sunny day, we had a really good guide who was happy to go at our pace, and we had a positive feeling towards Xian.
We visited the Forest of Steles Museum, which I think was much more interesting with our guide to explain things than it would have been on our own. we then went to the Big Goose Pagoda, where we were lucky enough to see a Buddhist ceremony taking place.
We went to the Happy Mall, near our hotel, for dinner. We saw a nice-looking vegetarian restaurant here, but being committed carnivores we went to a nearby grill instead, where we had a good, cheap meal. We finished just in time to watch the fountain show.
Day 2. Our first stop was to Banpo Neolithic Village. Having a little knowledge of neolithic sites back home, it was interesting to note some of the same styles here, even though this dates back much earlier (4,500BC). We then made a brief stop at a ceramics factory. Some of the objects here were quite exquisite, but they had price tags to match. This was the only factory visit we did outside Beijing.
When we got to the Terracotta Warriors, we told our guide we anted to start off at the smallest pit (Pit 3), and build up to Pit 1 (she normally did it the other way around). This worked well. Pit 2 has some warriors on display where you can see the original colours. Pit 1 is impressive in scale, but I particularly liked the area where the warriors are being restored because you can seethem at eye level. It wasn't all that busy, probably because it was lunchtime.
In the afternoon we thought, given the amount of walking we were doing, we thought it would be a good idea to have a foot massage in the hotel. This promised to cure all manner of ailments, including "dreadfulness". Afterwards, I was convinced that my dreadfulness had been cured. My wife, however, soon informed me, in a tone that would brook no argument, that I remained just as dreadful as ever.
We had dinner in a Muslim restaurant called The Silk Road. One of the dishes we had (chosen by pointing at the menu) was like a pizza covered in a lamb stew. It was very tasty, but seemed impossible to eat with chopsticks. Fortunately, the very friendly staff took pity on us and brought knives and forks.
We really enjoyed our time in Xian, and we particularly liked the area around the Big Wild Goose Pagoda. There was lots going on, and there was a laid back feel that contrasted with some of the hustle and bustle we found in Beijing. If I'd had an extra day, I'd have spent more time exploring the Muslim Quarter and the Wall.