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Thread: China

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    Cyborg with a Tiara
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    China

    Really enjoying my trip to China this week. Passing along some info for others who might travel here. I’m here on business, but we’ve had time to play a little as well, and a previous trip I can add tips from that, too.

    High Speed Rail. Really easy. You can get your tickets on Trip.com and pay for them, then if you are a foreigner, you just need to go to the ticket counter (not automated kiosk) to pick them up. We rode “business class” which is the highest class of service, more than First Class. Our local friends say first class is plenty good, and they are probably right, but Business Class was so cheap and huge that we went for it. Still saved our company money over a plane ticket, and since you don’t have to do security and bag check, it’s not really any more time unless you’re going across the entire country. We traveled about 3 hours from a new industrial city to Shanghai and it was a very nice ride.

    Shanghai: the subway is super wicked easy. A three day pass was about $5 and we went all over with no trouble and no worries. There’s an app that allows you to stand in the street and locate the nearest subway entrance and shows all the various lines and stops. All the lines and stops are written in both Chinese and English. We didn’t even need help - just go. Faster than a taxi and about 1/10 the price. You could take the subway from the airport, even, though you do need to switch lines to get off the airport spur. There’s an “old town” area with restored stone buildings and a pedestrian way, and a different old British area (the Bund) with old Brit architecture and a river promenade. Jing An temple was beautiful and fun and right off a subway stop.

    Beijing: On. A previous visit (10 years ago) I was advised to hire a car if I wanted to go to the Great Wall, instead of a tour; probably 2x or 3x the price, but wholly flexible. It was great advice, I got to spend as much time as I wanted and we stopped at a Cloisonne’ shop on the way back to the city. If I had been with a colleague to split it, it would have been cheaper than the tour anyway.

    Everybody here uses WeChat to text, and there’s a ride service called Didi that they use, but we never needed it because the subway suited us fine.

  2. Top | #2
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rhea View Post
    High Speed Rail. Really easy. You can get your tickets on Trip.com and pay for them, then if you are a foreigner, you just need to go to the ticket counter (not automated kiosk) to pick them up. We rode “business class” which is the highest class of service, more than First Class. Our local friends say first class is plenty good, and they are probably right, but Business Class was so cheap and huge that we went for it. Still saved our company money over a plane ticket, and since you don’t have to do security and bag check, it’s not really any more time unless you’re going across the entire country. We traveled about 3 hours from a new industrial city to Shanghai and it was a very nice ride.
    Second this, the high speed trains are very good. The only issue is baggage. The train stations are also much closer to town in most cases.

    Shanghai: the subway is super wicked easy. A three day pass was about $5 and we went all over with no trouble and no worries. There’s an app that allows you to stand in the street and locate the nearest subway entrance and shows all the various lines and stops. All the lines and stops are written in both Chinese and English. We didn’t even need help - just go. Faster than a taxi and about 1/10 the price. You could take the subway from the airport, even, though you do need to switch lines to get off the airport spur. There’s an “old town” area with restored stone buildings and a pedestrian way, and a different old British area (the Bund) with old Brit architecture and a river promenade. Jing An temple was beautiful and fun and right off a subway stop.
    I wasn't aware of the 3 day pass. We always just use the stored value cards. My understanding is they are refundable but we've never worried about it, her relatives just use whatever's left. So long as you're going in the core of the city it's 2 Yuan per trip--about 30 cents. The same stored value cards work on the buses. They're RFID, you just tap the sensor with them, you see a decent number of older women with the cards in their purses and they just put the whole purse up against the sensor.

    The subways aren't as advanced elsewhere and you won't always find English, but they're good wherever they exist.

    Everybody here uses WeChat to text, and there’s a ride service called Didi that they use, but we never needed it because the subway suited us fine.
    Never tried Didi, all her relatives use WeChat. It also has computer-to-computer voice and video calling for free--ordinary Skype won't work over there. Remember, the government can monitor whatever you do.

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    Question: How did you find the (reported) air pollution? Did it cause you issues at all? Is it dependent on location?Asking for a friend who is delaying his trip to visit his daughter.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Toni View Post
    Question: How did you find the (reported) air pollution? Did it cause you issues at all? Is it dependent on location?Asking for a friend who is delaying his trip to visit his daughter.
    You're not going to get good air pollution numbers, the Chinese government is covering them up. The numbers simply don't go into the range that's normally considered the danger zone. (Same as the temperature never goes into the range that would mean they can't require people to work outdoors.)

    Being over there always bothers me a bit but I would expect that from the humidity anyway so I don't know if the pollution as such has caused me trouble. Location is somewhat of a factor, the cities are more polluted that the countryside, the north is more polluted than the south. (More coal is burned for heating & cooking. The government has been trying to address this but it's not an easy problem to solve.) Winter is worse than summer. (But beware of grid overloads causing power failures in summer so the AC doesn't work.) If anything he might want to aim for rainy times as the rain washes the sky.

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    Shanghai is one of my favorite cities, and the subway to and from the airport is the cheapest, fastest way to go. It is, essentially, the New York of China. There are so many things to see, and my wife and I have spent many hours walking around the city. I strongly recommend a visit to the National Museum. IMO, it is one of the best museums in the world, and it is free. The Bund is wonderful at night, because the buildings across the river are colorful video displays. One of the great night displays anywhere I've seen.

    If you want to try something non-touristy and out of the way, a local suggested that we go to Century Park (Shanghai) and rent a quadricycle. We did that an had a wonderful time pedaling around the park. However, there is so much to see in Shanghai, that you may not find the time for it.

    Air pollution can be a real problem in Shanghai, especially when farmers outside the city burn brush. However, it is nothing like Beijing. Also, you can visit quite a few water towns outside of the city by train.

    ETA: If you go, be especially wary of very friendly young couples who chat you up and then suggest going to see a traditional tea ceremony. We knew about it in advance and were able to avoid the scam, although we were approached a few times. This is an old scam in China, but you should read up on other scams to expect. You will be singled out, if you look like a foreigner. Never go anywhere with someone that you meet by chance, and be wary of very helpful, friendly strangers who speak English. Another word of advice: avoid taxis unless you speak Chinese. Even if you have your destination written down in Chinese, metered taxis will often take you to the wrong destination in order to run up the charge. It is almost always better to take public transportation. Bus drivers can be very helpful and friendly. Rely on the subway systems in major cities. They are really great. If you take a train between cities, expect a delay getting into the train station, as all luggage is scanned at the entrance.

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