Before we depart China we plan to travel mostly by train from Qingdao to somewhere near Guangzhou. The train is my Ms 10’s idea. She is particularly fond of overnight trains (ugh). Fortunately they’re not too bad in China. A couple of good websites for travel planning are helping us identify places to stop: Travel China Guide and China Highlights. They can be a little liberal when it comes to the realities of what is on offer in a particular city, but their info is usually up to date and very thorough.
For booking in China, I use local travel website, Ctrip. It’s okay, but has some limitations, such as stupid rules that won’t allow you to book adult and child tickets together online. They also won’t let you book train tickets instantaneously. I usually find prices on Ctrip then take the screenshot to a local travel agent to purchase. This agent is a desk inside a mobile phone store. One of life in China’s infinite frustrations is that one end of the desk is for booking flights and accepts card payments, while the other end of the same desk is for train bookings and accepts cash only.
Well, since having this idea it seems overnight trains may be frequent North to South, but not so much East to West. We may need to fly some routes. Or take a weird southerly direction to get East, hence:
Nanjing: Nan 南 means south. One of the cool things about Chinese cities is that some of the major ones are named for their points on the compass. “Bei” 北 means north (Beijing), “Xi” as in Xi’an, means west. Nanjing has been the capital of several empires and the Republic, and features in many important events in Chinese history – the Opium Wars, Taiping Rebellion, and was the site of the worst horrors of the Japanese occupation.
Wuhan: water village sort of outside Shanghai
Our main stops though, are:
Chengdu: home of the panda
Lijiang – Shangri La, tiger leaping gorge, minorities
Guiyang/Guizhou: minority groups and hand papermaking. There are supposed to be UNESCO listed villages (listed for their traditional methods of papermaking) in this area.
Guilin/Yangshou: pretty. You know those dome shaped mountains and rice field photos of China you see? They’re mostly taken here.
Kunming/Guangzhou: depends who has the cheaper flights back to Qingdao
Now I just need to get all this booked!