China Travel Tips

Reflections on Travel in China

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Visiting and Hiking the Great Wall

The Great Wall is one of the most visited sites in all of China.  Most Group Tours go to the Badaling section of the Wall because it is closest and there is a freeway going there.  Not my most favorite place to visit the Wall often with over 80 or more buses in the parking lot.  My choice has always been the Mutianyu section for most tourists.  The walk or hike is fairly easy as you can see in the photos.  This section has been repaired except for a steep section in the distance where you can see a part that has not been repaired and left as it was found many years ago.   For avid hikers the Simatai section is often visited although steep and more rugged.  If you are interested in doing a one way hike, the Jinshanling to Simatai sections for avid hikers is the most popular hike.  For a more rugged hike that takes about 3 hours, the sections of Huanghua to ZhuangdaoKou Guan is good but expect dense vegetation and rocks to navigate around.   The Great Wall is about 40 or more miles north of Beijing extending out to the Yellow Sea east and west into north central China.  The western section however is difficult to see since it is mostly in ruins.  To get to the Great Wall you can take a bus tour that picks up at many of the Beijing Hotels, take a train to the Badaling section or hire a car and driver for the day with a cost of about $100.  My private tours include a car and driver and you may stay as long as you wish before returning to the city.  I like to take a picnic lunch and enjoy a nice walk on the Wall meeting other tourists and some of the local people.   For more information on the Great Wall, contact me at   My name is Dave   My web site is

Click on the photos for a full screen view.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Trains of China

Many people who have never ridden a train or not taken one for several years want to experience riding the trains in China.  Up to 10 years ago the trains all over China were similar to our trains of the 1940's.  Today some of those same trains are used in the more rural areas of China but here you see some of the new trains that have come on line.  The train with the mountains in the background is the new Tibet train that serves Beijing, Xian, Chongqing and Chengdu with stops in between.  I have ridden it from Lhasa to Chongqing for the experience and to advise my customers about it.  It seems just like a regular Chinese train however it does have oxygen equipment in each car as well as individual oxygen masks if needed.  I didn't find a need for them. The Tibet trains seem to always be full and costly.  Food should be taken with you as train food is not especially good.  The train goes all night as well as during the day so scenery is limited to daylight.  I spent two nights and one and one half days during my trip.  Coming from Lhasa because of the altitude we came east from Lhasa, across the plateau to near Xian and then south to Chengdu and finally Chongqing.  Sleepers are two upper and two lower bunks of mixed sexes.  They do have western and Asian style toilets and nice wash rooms.   Do I recommend it?  Not really, I think the new Fast Trains are more exciting as you see in the other photo.  The new CRH3 trains are capable of 350 Kms. per hour although kept down to 185 mph for safety.  They are not available on all routes yet because the rails must be updated to handle these faster trains safely.  I rode one from Chengdu to Chongqing this last year and it was super smooth with no clicking or side way motion at all.  It cuts travel time almost in half from the older standard trains.  Some cities no longer offer air service between them because of the fantastic service offered by the new fast trains as they are called.    If you want an even faster experience you can take the Mag Lev train in Shanghai to the airport that goes 284 mph.  It takes a bus about 1 hour and 15 minutes to get to the airport but takes the Mag Lev train just Seven Minutes!!!  For more on trains contact me at     

   Click on the photos for a full screen view!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Meeting the Local People in Parks

One of the best ways to meet the local people in China is going to parks.  Parks are full of activities for everyone including children.  Chinese people love seeing foreign children and if you have your own children with you they will certainly enjoy joining in playing games.  Language never seems to be a barrier with children.  It of course helps to have a guide along to translate but you will also find many people speaking English these days and often like to practice their English with you.  Here you see the national pass time of the board game Marjon   Learning to play Marjon is a great ice breaker as you may often be asked to join in a game with them. There are tea houses and snacks served in almost all parks.  Here you also see an orchestra playing in the park.  They are non-professionals who join a club to play music.  You will also find chorus clubs practicing their music in the parks on weekends.  Let my 25 years experience in travel in China help you plan your own tour to China.  My web site is  We are a BBB A+ rated tour company here in Seattle.

China is known for its beautiful parks and gardens and you will find these all over China.  I even have a Garden Tour that I have put together for those interested in  Chinese Gardens and parks.   The park you see here is in Chengdu and also has a Bonsai collection that is hundreds of years old.
Click on the photos for a full screen view.