Backpacking through China

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1. Posted by kesrya (Budding Member 5 posts) 17y Star this if you like it!


I am an acupuncture student interested in travelling to China for 2 -3 weeks in August 2004 (this is the only month I can do it, so please don't tell me to change my dates). As a student, I am very limitted on budget. I am also not interested in travelling with a tour group, as my goal is to make this into a "backpacking" trip in which I can see some places of special interest that are off the beaten tourist track. I will likely have one or two companins with me ... all of us are avid backpackers/hikers and we have no problem camping out with our sleeping bags or staying in unusual places ... in fact, that's what we are looking for.

I'd like some recommendations and advice from those who have been before ... obviously I need to have some idea of cost and logistics (for example, if we want to hike along the Great Wall for several days, is it even possible? Are there places to sleep/get food and water. How much might this whole trip cost?). How difficult will it be to get hotel/hostel accomodations without a reservation? How long in advance do we have to buy a train ticket?

Right now, I am mostly interested in staying in the Northern areas. I would like to fly into Beijing, and possibly travel as far West as Kashigar. I would like to hike along the Great Wall, possibly take a short cruise along the Yanghzee, stay in a yurt in Hohot/Inner Mongolia, and travel along the Silk Road. I am especially interested in the Kunlun Mountains (because of an acupuncture point named after them and its background), but I'm not sure what there would be to see/do in that area. We really want to see the land and experience the culture.

Thank you for any suggestions/ideas you have to offer.

-- Tracy

2. Posted by mortenag (Budding Member 4 posts) 17y Star this if you like it!

Hi Tracy...

My name is Morten, male, 22 years old and from denmark. Currently i am working in China, Tianjin as a voulenteer, but im a finish in august. So I want to take my back and backpack througt china and Vietnam for 4 months. I want to go out west as far at Dunhuang... lovely dunes and camel riding... :)I like your plan, but if you only have 3 weeks you can forget about going out west... the time is too short.... China i s a big country. But if you are interesting we can go together the first 3 weeks and then I continue on my own... let my know what you think...

Morten:) Sorry my english level is not so high...

3. Posted by kesrya (Budding Member 5 posts) 17y Star this if you like it!

Thanks for the reply. I have been doing some research on things I would like to see ... I still have my heart set on going out west. The idea to do this trip came about when we were discussing the Kunlun Mountain acupuncture point in class, so I really want to see that mountain range. Is it truly impossible for me to get out to Kashi or Hotan?

-- Tracy

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5. Posted by pharoah_26 (Budding Member 2 posts) 16y Star this if you like it!

Unlike Morten I think you can do it though you will not be able to stay in anyone place too long. I am currently in ChongQing China and I can ask a few of my friends what they think about this, but I am planning a similar trip in July and to go to Urumqi from Beijing by train, stopping along the way at Hohhot, this you can do in under three weeks, but to get to Kashigar would be REALLY pushing it. Here's what I could do if you want, since my trip is before yours I will see exactly how long it takes me and update this thread to let you know if it is possible.
Some things I do ACTUALLY know; camping along the great wall is only possible in certain areas, and obviously the further from Beijing the better the liklyhood you can camp, going west from Beijing takes you through Hohhot (inner Mongolia) and so stopping there for a short trip is VERY possible (11 hour train trip) but staying in a yurt and getting out into the "grasslands" can prove to be difficult and a tourist trap, but hey if that's what you want then who cares right? As for buying your tickets in is difficult to do and in most places impossible, you just have to buy them at the station when you get there, I know that's a little scarey, especially with your time schedule but if you buy in advance you really could pay through the nose...I'm not even sure HOW you buy in advance...try the CITS in Beijing they have a few english speakers and maybe able to help you, though when I tried the CITS here in ChongQing they couldn't into Beijing and hit the train station right away and if you really have to the bus station but but but...well talk about for buying food, you needn't worry about that, as long as you don't mind trying new things, food at the local stands is cheap, and (most of the time) very tasty, once you get here you will be surprised exactly how cheap the food is. And finally total for three weeks, and watching your expenses I would say you could easily do it for $1000.00 per person maybe even less if you cut some corners...that's just a ball park figure and again after I go on my trip I would be glad to update this thread to let you know what I've experienced.
I hope that this information is helpful and as of right now I really do believe you can make in three weeks...but it will be fast fast fast

6. Posted by guosthk (Budding Member 4 posts) 16y Star this if you like it!

Hi, kesrya,

Sleeping outside is a good idea at this time in north China, because it is too hot in houses without air-conditioning. You can see many local people doing so just on roadside (if not raining). Food and water are no problem if there are people, and China is not lack of people. Backpacking is a good idea, but you should drop on a correct place: China is a place as large as US, with not so convenient transportations. Interesting places (for first comers) are: areas near Beijing, Tianjin, and Tangshan; areas around Xi'an; areas around Pearl Delta; areas around Shanghai, Hangzhou, Nanjing; Yunnan and Guilin. Kunlun Montain is too far away, and high, even most Chinese people like me never went there.

I really suggest you go Beijing-Tianjin-Tangshan, lots of funs there, especially Qing's East Tomb at Tangshan, I went there several times. What is more, Tangshan is also a neat quiet city for leisure in summer. Accomodation in China are much cheaper than in US, there, your money really means money:). Yes, a round-trip ticket plus RMB2000 (US$300) is enough.

I am very busy with my work now, otherwise I can go with you.

- Tong

7. Posted by Kitkit (First Time Poster 1 posts) 16y Star this if you like it!

Hi guys, I'm new to this forum and just came across it when I finally decided to do some research on my trip.

I'm a medical student from Toronto and is about to finish a research project here in Shanghai that tied me up for the last 2 months. I'm going back to Canada on August 19th, but before that I can I've had enough of the smog in SH and would like to wander for about 2 weeks. As I was busy with my project, I hadn't had much time to research much and I also neglected to buy a Lonely Planet for China.

I think for 2 weeks, it would make sense to take to train form SH to Xi'an and look around Shaanxi. Then perhaps go north to Inner Mongo, although I am reading too many people saying it isn't too worthwhile. Then take the train to Beijing for several days. Afterwards, go South passsing through Shandong and see Tai Shai and Qingdao before getting back to SH for my flight out.

Does anyone have any cool suggestions to make this plan a little more interesting? I considered wandering West, but like many have said in this thread, time may not be enough. Where's a good spot to play around the Yangzie or Yellow River on my iternary that is sortof unbeaten but do-able?

I'm thinking of doing this alone as I do not have a travel-mate (unless anyone wants to join me!) and I hate tour groups and touristy things. I've had enough of the big city and just want to do something extrodinary and special before heading home. However, do let me know if you think I'm crazy, please.

Any advice would me much appreciate. I'm Hong Kongese and my mandarin is so-so but I'm hoping I can manage.

Thanks guys,


8. Posted by kesrya (Budding Member 5 posts) 16y Star this if you like it!

I wanted to thank everyone for their posts and private messages. I have been too busy to respond back to everyone, but I wanted to let you know that I considerd everything that was suggested and it really helped me to narrow down my plans.

Right now, my itinerary will be: Beijing - Great Wall - Xian - Chengdu - Emei Shan - Chongqing - Yangzee River cruise - Yichan - Beijing.

I have a hotel and tours booked for my first few days in Beijing, and I have the Yangzee cruise booked, as well as all the train tickets between the major locations.

I will still have to find my own accomodations along the Great Wall (we plan to hike Jingshanling to Simatai and take a bus bck to Jinshanling for the night, and then if possible Mutianyu to Huangcheng - I've read that you can camp out in the guard towers overnight). I will also have to figure out accomodatins once I get into Xian, figure out bus trip from Chengdu to Emei and from Chengdu to Chongqing, and accomodations on Emei.

We leave August 11th and return home Sept. 2nd. I am so excited. If anyone has any suggestions or advice specific to my itinerary, or to China in general, please let me know. I am still a bit nervous that I really can't speak any Chinese, and I'm a little wary of food 'cause I've heard alot about HepA dangers (at this point in time it is too late for me to get innoculated).

Thanks again!!!

- Tracy