In this issue we revisit China. I went to China again in December 2004 with the same company (Voyages Jules Verne) and on the same tour (Beijing and Chengde) as my visit in October 1994. It was interesting to see what had changed, and what had not changed, in the intervening 10 years. I went with María, who is Spanish and it was interesting to see how an English tour company and our activities in China would cope with a Spanish speaking tourist.
A THAI Round-the-World ticket costs you less than you think. There are many options for you to choose from, depending on your origin and the direction you take. If you decide to choose, for example, Option 1 — Starting from Australia with a THAI/Lufthansa/United Global Connection fare, you’ll find they cost only slightly more than the excursion airfare from Australia to UK/Europe via Asia both ways. You can’t get much better value than that! You can choose to fly First, Business or Economy class.
The full details are available on the Thai Airways International site at:
This is my own account of my trip in 1994. I included it in an earlier issue of the newsletter, but I am repeating it here to set the scene and so that you can share the differences I noted now from 10 years ago. I never finished that web site - it is missing the trip to Chengde - but I still have the diary I wrote on that trip so I will finish it off this summer. I will drop a note to subscribers telling them when it is ready.
Beijing has changed enormously. The Forbidden City and the Summer Palace have not changed at all. The Great Wall is now much more densely populated with people selling everything from photos to commemorative plaques and military greatcoats. Chengde is exactly as it was 10 years ago.
So start by taking a look at my views from 10 years ago, which you will find at:
In the centre of North China Plain, Hebei Province embraces Beijing and Chengde. It "consists of Central Hebei Plain, the Taihang Mountains with peaks rising one higher than another, the Yanshan Mountains and other weird mountains and ridges in various sizes". Part of the China Planner web, you can find here summary information about all the many interesting sights in Hebei province. Ideal if you want a quick glimpse before deciding whether to explore further.
You can find the Hebei Province page at:
This is a concise, but very comprehensive, description of what there is to see in Chengde. It does tell you what to see. It doesn't convey the sheer beauty of the place. I was delighted 10 years ago and even more delighted this time, with the visual spectacle. No photos here, but a good catalogue of things to see.
The emperors certainly new how to create a harmonious and beautiful environment on a large scale. Get some idea of what they created on:
This is different approach to Chengde. The WWW is becoming so full of commercial sites that you can search for hours to find real information like this. Small, but useful and with some photos that capture the feeling of the place.
The web site includes lots of information on many Chinese cities, but this link takes you directly to Chengde:
Beijing really has changed in 10 years. The seemingly millions of bicycles have given way to huge traffic jams of new cars, skyscrapers are everywhere and the shopping centres rival London or New York. It's still different enough to be exciting though. Fried blackbeetles or snake kebab can be bought in the street markets and in the silk market you can haggle down prices even in Spanish!
Here is an up to date guide with lots of useful information and pictures. Whether you prefer the Beijing of 10 years ago is a matter of taste. Compare this site with my comments in my Trip to Beijing and form your own opinion.
The site states that "Our mission is to be the best Beijing guide available on the web. Here you will find everything you need to have a great time in Beijing. Even if you never intend to visit, or are physically or monetarily unable to visit, we hope you can live vicariously through our site. Original photography will feature heavily throughout the site." Take a look on:
And now for something completely different! With traditional chinese music playing in the background and illustrated with marvellous 360 degree panoramic movies this is a really great web experience. The site describes itself as "The Beijing Guide uses 360° panoramas, original Chinese music, audio of Chinese phrases, video, photography and humor to actively show travelers aspects of Chinese culture in which they can participate. Find out how to ride a bike with the masses, navigate the subway system, take a taxi without speaking Chinese and find your way to the (correct) toilet." It also includes a brilliant section on how to speak chinese, with audio examples, plus photos of the Beijing Olympic facilities under contruction. Food, money, transport, night life, and pretty much everything you could possibly want to know.
You will see the difference between Beijing 10 years ago and today. You will probably decide to visit. But visit this site first:
For useful books on travel in China, you will find a comprehensive listing with prices and reviews on my books page (with links to buy direct from Amazon.com) on:
Hotel accommodation in China is plentiful and using a reputable agent can secure you substantial discounts. Agoda can usually find you a good deal and you can check their availability below.
Agoda is our favourite hotel booking agent. They are based in Thailand and have an excellent reputation for great bargains and excellent customer service.
Back issues of this newsletter are available. You can find them on:
The countries covered in other issues are:
Far East Air Fare deals from ConnectedGlobe
For flights to China originating anywhere in the world use this ConnectedGlobe link
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