I'm planing a trip trough china. i actually will leave in one week (i just found out about this page) maybe someone has some last minute tips? i'm traveling from beijing to Datong, to Xian, then i'm planing on flying to Chongquing (how difficult is it to get plane tickets? how much in advance should i book it) then i want to go on a boat to see the three gorges of the yangtze river ( i absolutely don't want to go an a luxury expensive tourist boat, is that possible? where would i book such a trip), from wuhan i go to guilin, spend there about a week and then i go back to shanghai...i know it's a lot of things i want to do and china is huge. i guess i just see a little bit of the surface, but i'm planing on going back to china and become a english teacher. so this is just a first impression.
i'm very grateful for every advice, recommendations and tips
For the trip from Da Tong to Xi An, I suggest you if possible to stop by Tai Yuan. I took a bus trip from Tai Yuan to Da Tong about 4 hours. You will find this kind of mid-size bus around train station. 5 years ago, it only costs 40 Yuan. But I think the road trip is much better than the train. Because the road is climbing up and down the mountains. On the way, if the weather is nice, you will see many beautiful views along the mountains. You will pass the old battle field which is famous for a family of generals (Yang's in Song Dynasty) back to thousand years ago. And in Tai Yuan, I think you should not miss the old temple and loyal garden "Jin Ci". That's fantastic!
In Tai Yuan, it's not hard for you to get a train ticket to Xi An.
But if you have more time, I suggest you must stop by Ping Yao, an incredible old town with fullly covered citywalls like Xi An, and well-preserved old buildings, fascinating old bank (the first bank in China), old clothing stores...... Ping Yao is only one or two hours of train away from Tai Yuan, and it's on the way to Xi An. You might just need one extra day off the train. I am not sure but seem to know that the train ticket you buy from Tai Yuan to Xi An, allows you to stop and get off the train anywhere during the trip, and return to the train continuing your trip within 30 days. You can check with the local ticket office in Tai Yuan if you're able to communicate with Chinese. Or ask your other Chinese friend.
But, I really love Ping Yao and Jin Ci in Tai Yuan. These two, particularly the first one, are not even well-known for Chinese. They have tremendous original Chinese culture and art condensed in a not very large space. You can't miss them!
But, in the end, I should remind you to check all these information with Chinese friend in China who are more familiar with the trip around that area. My experience is 5 years old. Things might change a lot. I wish not, though.
If you want a budget Yangtze river cruise, just go to Chongqing train station (the main one in the centre of town). Just at the exit gate, there are several boat tour booking agencies. They will offer you a range of boats (probably starting at the luxury end). If you're happy to share a cabin with others, the 2 day trip to Yichang should only be 200-300 yuan. The trip to Wuhan would be 500 yuan maximum.
Hope that helps.