Our departure date is the 6th too, I realized I'd made a mistake with the date but couldn't find a way to edit my post!!
This will be our first visit to China and first trip with Exodus and we're really looking forward to what we think will be a fantastic experience.
We fly to Beijing from Newcastle via Dubai, arriving just after 1500hrs, we are flying independently of Exodus but I think our flight must arrive at a similar time to the one they arrange as we have been told that we can transfer to the hotel with the rest of the group.
Nice to meet you all here. We are on the trip starting the 6th Aug as well.
We are a family of 3 (our son will be almost 8yrs in August) from Birmingham- not far from most of you. We are looking forward to this holiday.
We chose to fly from Birmingham to Dubai.
Hi, nice to meet you too, we are flying from Newcastle to Dubai, I would imagine we'll be on the same flight from Dubai to Beijing.
Apparently travellers are only eligible for an included airport transfer if they are travelling on the Exodus arranged flight, as we have made our own flight arrangements I checked with Exodus and because the flight from Dubai lands in Beijing at approximately the same time as the flight they arrange, they said we could be transferred with the rest of the group, you might want to check the same if you haven't already.
Not looking forward to paying the final balance soon but we are really looking forward to the trip. We have added on an extra 3 nights in Dubai on the way back for some chill out time which will be great. We just have to apply for our visas (forms and photo's are ready) and get a few bits and pieces and we'll be ready.
Here's a list of the hotels we're stopping in on our tour:
Beijing - Dong Fang Fan Dian Beijing
Jinshanling Great Wall - Jinshanling Hotel
Luoyang - New Friendship Hotel Luoyang
Xi'an - Skytel Hotel Xi'an (Originally City Lion Hotel)
Chengdu - Garden City Hotel Chengdu
Yangshuo - Morning Sun Hostel Yangshuo
Honk Kong - Salisbury YMCA of Hong Kong
Got the list from Exodus this morning, check them out see what you think.
Didn't mean to butt into your conversation but just to say that we did this trip last August (with kids aged 5, 9 & 11 - though there were 18 in our group inc 10 kids up to 16) - it was truly amazing. Just seeing/living Chinese life was as fascinating as some of the sights. Do let me know if you have any specific questions. But do remember to travel light - I think I didn't anticipate how much physical effort there was in hauling the baggage for 5 through city streets/railway stations etc early every morning!
Yes, we stayed in exactly the same hotels. The majority were excellent and could have been any city in the world - clean, modern, choice of food etc. The hotel in Yangshao is a bit more local Chinese but charming - the staff couldn't do enough (and they'll do your washing and hang it out to dry on the roof - cheaper than in some of the bigger hotels!). The only grim night was the hostel at the wall. I'm sure Exodus don't have a choice - the area is hardly awash with accommodation. They do warn you that it's basic - but it's really quite grim and dirty and the food is no great shakes there either - take packed food. Which is easier said than done since it takes a day or two to find your feet in Beiijing in terms of shopping for food. We were amazed to find that in a two storey supermarket there was nothing we recognised to buy - lots of pickled stuff, lot of dried stuff (lots of duck feet and crazy vegetables for sale on the roadside!) - but it took ages to find eg bread, ham, milk and a fruit we recognised!
The food generally is lovely - the first night they take you to a Peking duck restaurant which sets the scene. But nothing is in English until you get to Yangshao (the south is nearer the 'backpacker trail' I think so you see menus in several languages) so it really is almost impossible to order anything anywhere without your guide! Our guide had it in her head that English people like sweet & sour chicken & aubergine - so whilst she ordered a selection of food at every lunch/dinner - it became a bit of a standing joke that they would always be on the menu! The food in the south is generally spicier but we had kids of 5 & 8 at the time and they certainly didn't starve - there's always plainish noodles & rice & chicken etc. We also had a couple of vegetarians in our party who were equally well catered for.
It's hard to remember what was optional. The only extra we refused was a cormorant fishing trip in Yangshao cos the kids were a bit weary. We paid for our kids to have a kung fu lesson from the monks at the Shaolin temple which they enjoyed. We paid for a couple of evening shows - one acrobatic show at a theatre & one (I think in Xian) which was 'cultural' music & dance, plus a dumpling meal (a local speciality) - that was a fun night - so all well worth it. The local guides do their utmost to get the best value for money - haggling with restaurants and rickshaw drivers for prices (30p) for a rickshaw ride that we would think negligible.
Hong Kong is generally more expensive (which is why exodus stay in the YMCA - though that's as luxurious as any western hotel). Don't (as some in our party did) save up your souvenir shopping until then.
The wall walk really is a wilderness walk. You really do need the hiking boots they recommend. It took us 5 hours to walk 7 miles & we didn't see another soul. Just amazing.
The train journeys are another highlight in their own way. The sleeper train is fun. The daytime train journey more challenging. The Chinese government sell 4 times as many tickets as there are seats so you literally have to sit on people (old people/babies etc!) until they move (difficult for us polite Brits but the guides are firm!)
Highlights - the Wall, the pandas, the cookery lesson (in a lovely venue), the scenery in the south - and just the people & the way of life (if you have anyone blonde in your family they need to be prepared to be photographed 36 times a day).
Hope that was helpful & you have a fantastic time.
We've booked with Exodus again this year (to Jordan) so it's all good!
Thanks very much for all your info, i'm sure it will come in very handy(I'm already trying to plot the location of supermarkets in Beijing as I don't fancy munching on a bag of duck's feet while I'm walking the wall!).
One last question, did you go on your trip at the same time of year as we're going on ours, what were the temperatures like? I notice in the trip notes that long walking trousers are recommended for the walk on the wall, would you agree(Ok then, three questions)?
What are you all packing? Don't want to pack too much, at the same time would like fresh clothes. Will there be time to wash? As we seem to be travelling almost everyday.
What's the weather like? it says 22 deg C and above which means light weight cottons should
be fine? What else should we be packing as essentials?
Thinking of taking 2 back packs and not much else.
Hi, I'm comming too with my cousin and her 2 girls aged 11 and 13. I'll be taking the wall slowly too so as to enjoy it more, use my camera/binos and reduce the liklihood of falling over...I have a habit of doing this, but am well prepared as my cousin is a GP!! Assume long trousers for walk is due to slip and graze potential.
Well done toekneeallen for researching supermarkets - we'll be behind u in an orderly (British) queue, so wait for us! Hard to imagine the heat due to cool climes here and the lack of sun in Chinese photos due to smog! Long sleeves useful in evenings to reduce bites.
V helpful pointers to reduce luggage weight (max 20kg) due to constant moving, however if we buy things in HK we have a 30kg limit going back - we're just limited by internal flight restrictions.
See some of u in Dubai....I feel as though I ought to have a carnation or copy of the Times or something!!
8 days to go....
Yes toekneeallen, we went at almost exactly same time of year last year and yes, you do definitely need long trousers for the wall! You start out in your shorts, then there are two hours of 'long grass' when they tell you to put your trousers on. The vegetation was taller than our 5 year old!
And don't be fooled by the pictures of 'all those steps'. Those are the restored tourist bits. The actual hike is very different - on earth, scrambling over rocks, climbing up hills (and there really are narrow ledges that wouldn't be allowed in this country!) There is nowhere to stop off - we didn't see another soul in 5 hours of hiking. But don't be too alarmed - the views are incredible. And our 5 year old made it back alive. As did an asthmatic lady in our group in unsuitable shoes!
There is a supermarket within easy walking distance of the Beiijing hotel! But it may not be full of things you recognise! They do give you a 'packed lunch' (but I seem to remember it was a banana and a hard boiled egg each ;) ) You might want to pack some biscuits!
Laundry wise, take enough pants for the first week at least. You're right - there are not really laundry opportunities until you stop for two nights (if you can hang on until Yangshao the hotel laundry there is much cheaper than in the big hotels - and you get to see your smalls hung out to dry on the roof!)
We arrived on a weekend - the sun shines then, when the factories are closed. It was overcast & bearable for our wall walk. The heat really kicks in in Yangshao in the sweaty south.
Have a fantastic time x
Hollydog, Thanks very much for all the information you have given us, I'm sure we'll use it wisely. After what you've told us about the wall walk I'm really looking forward to it, it sounds great!
Dianawb, I don't think a carnation or a copy of the times will be necessary, we'll be the ones with the huge grins on our faces!
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