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Firefly, Squee

I Need a Travel Icon!

So, you know how I asked for travel ideas? Well, I posted something up on Facebook asking for travel buddies and ideas.  My mom saw it, and asked if I wanted to go to China with her.  As if she had to ask!  I've wanted to go to China forever (I've been to the airport in Hong Kong, and that's it), especially since my mom's side of the family is Chinese.  Anyway, it was really just an idea that we started looking into, and nothing definite, until we found really cheap plane tickets to Beijing.  And now, less than a week after we first started talking about it, my mom, my two sisters, and I are all set to spend three weeks in China!  I'm very excited, not only about my destination, but also about my travel companions.  I've traveled quite a bit, but the last time I went overseas with one sister was over ten years ago, and I've never been overseas with the other sister.  I'm sad my dad and brother can't go, but it will be a fun girls-only adventure! 

Anyone been to China before and have tips/advice/suggestions?  My mom and one of my sisters have been, but it was for a humanitarian trip, and they didn't do much sightseeing and had most of the trip planned for them. This trip is very open, except for the fact that we're flying in and out of Beijing.

Also, who has a Kindle or other e-reader? I used to be set against them, but the last two times I've spent a semester abroad, I saw how useful they could have been for travel.  Considering I like to travel quite a bit, I've been thinking of getting one, though I can also read e-books on my laptop, iPod Touch, and phone.  I put off buying it, because I wasn't sure when I was going to travel next, but now that I'm definitely spending three weeks in China, I'm thinking about making the investment.  So, thoughts about whether it's worth it, and which e-reader I should get?  I'm thinking about the Kindle, as it seems to be the best reader for the price, and I'm thinking e-ink is the best way to go.  But I'm up for any and all suggestions!

In less than exciting news, my Spring Break is almost over, and I've gotten nothing productive done school-wise.  We're starting new units in both math and reading Monday, and testing is coming up, so I've got a LOT to do. Oops.


Holy crap that is so awesome!!!

My friends PoisonDartFrog and MonkofSilence traveled to China a few years ago, I'd ask them.

This is one of my travel icons.
Thanks; I think I will!

I've used this as a travel icon before, but mainly only when people are trying to decide whether or not to travel. XD
I really like that icon
This is my other travel icons.
Breathingbooks is currently living in China as a teacher--she could give you great advice.
Thanks for the suggestion! I've got at least one LJ friend teaching in China as well. I'm going to go poke her if she doesn't see this and respond on her own. :P
My biggest advice would be to not just do the Beijing/Shanghai/Hong Kong route that a lot of tourists do. Shanghai in particular just isn't that exciting, and if you go, I wouldn't say to book too many days there. I liked it the first time I went, but my friends and I booked a week there, and at the end of three days had literally done everything. Beijing, on the other hand, I booked five days in, and ended up wishing I'd chosen to spend more time there. I was only in Hong Kong for a day. It was cool, but ridiculously expensive compared to the rest of China. I'll also admit that I was there after having been in China for a year, and the thing I liked most about Hong Kong was the western influence (Hamburgers! Coffee!! English books!!!).

Places I'd recomend:

Yunnan Provence, first and foremost. Particularly if you start out in somewhere like Beijing, because Beijing and Yunnan are very culturally different. Yunnan has a good percentage of China's ethnic minorities, and stunning natural scenery. The capital city, Kunming, is very pleasant... I have grand dreams of living there one day, and would do so next year if I didn't like my current job so much. However, I wouldn't say to spend a lot of time in Kunming. A day or two at most. It's a gateway to the rest of Yunnan. My favourite town there is Dali, which was one of the first places in China to open up to tourists, and was a big hippie destination back in the day. The old town there is just lovely, and if you get beyond it out into the countryside, that's even better. It's also an easy place for people who don't know a lot of Chinese to travel, as it's quite set up for travelers. I've not been to Xishuangbanna myself, but you can walk through the rainforest there, and many of my friends have gone and come back with glowing reports (at least two very well traveled people have said it was their favourite place in China). Travel advisories say you should take anti-malaria medicine for Yunnan, but you don't really need it for Kunming or Dali. If you go out into the more wild parts, though, it gets more important.

Yangshou is also a really nice city, though the feel is quite similar to Dali. Stunning countryside. Well set up for travelers. It's a huge rock climbing destination, though I didn't do that personally.

There's a tropical island off the coast of Xiamen. If you've ever wanted a dirt cheap tropical island vacation, it's the place for you. Also, said island has really cool European/Chinese fused architecture. I went there during my first summer in China. I'd planned to stay for three days, and ended up staying for ten.

Chengdu is also one of my favourite cities.

Of course, if you find yourself in Wuhan, I'd be happy to give you a tour (if I'm also here during the time of your travels). It's completely off the tourist map, and a very authentic Chinese city. It's also a transportation hub, so a lot of trains pass through here on their way to other places. It's one of the cheapest places in China. A lot of Chinese travel here to do their shopping! Being in the center as it is, the food is particularly varied, because it's influenced by just about every region of the country. It's also right on the Yangtze river.

For air travel within China ctrip.com and elong.com offer very cheap plane tickets.

Taking the train here is also very nice. You can get sleeper trains to a lot of cities, where you get on the train, go to sleep, and wake up in your destination of choice. They're very comfortable (except for the disgusting toilets). I also like long train rides as a way to see more of the scenery.

If you've not used hostelworld.com, it's your friend for finding cheap places to stay. Hostels in China are by and far very good -- better than some hotels I've stayed at. A lot of them have single room options, and I can think of several where you can get a room for four people for twenty yuan a night per person (less than three dollars a night!). I know good hostels in a lot of cities, so feel free to ask once you know where you're going.

Apologies for the short novel. :)
Thanks so much! I was hoping you'd drop by and give advice. There is A LOT of helpful info here, and in fact, I think I'm going to just copy and paste this into an e-mail to my mom. (She and I are both doing research for the trip, but she gets the final say on things.)

Expect me to bug you if I have more questions. XD