14 Days Eastern China

14 Days in Eastern China - (Updated 3/3/2013)

This itinerary describes a route that starts in Hong Kong, and follows the coast by train and bus stopping in the coastal city of Xiamen. The route then heads inland by train to the Wuyi mountains. Travelers can then reach Hangzhou by overnight train. Shanghai can be reached by high-speed rail in just one hour from Hangzhou. The itinerary ends in Beijing which can be reached by flight or high-speed rail from Shanghai.

 

 

 

 

Notes on the itinerary:

  • This is a great itinerary for first time travelers to China.
  • The itinerary can be started from Hong Kong heading north, or backwards from Beijing heading south.

The big attractions of this itinerary are as follows:

  • Climb to the top of Victoria Peak for a breathtaking skyline view of one of the most modern, densely populated cities on the planet. (Hong Kong)
  • Spend a day exploring the gardens and historic homes on Gulangyu island (Xiamen)
  • Enrich your knowledge of tea culture while hiking the beautiful Wuyi mountains. (Wuyishan)
  • Bike around the West lake, stopping along the way to sample Hangzhou’s unique culinary style. (Hangzhou)
  • Take a stroll on the Bund historic district and eat Xiao Long Bao (Shanghai)
  • Visit the Forbidden City, Summer palace, National Museum of History, Drum and Bell Towers, and experience the ancient history of Imperial China first hand.
  • Spend a day getting lost in a hutong, mingling with locals, eating Peking duck, dumplings, and pulled noodles. (Beijing)
  • Explore the reclaimed 798 modern art district and learn more about Chinas emerging international art scene.

 

Destinations along the route have a very different feel to the traveler

  • Hong Kong – 香港- Ultra-modern, clean, and population dense, this city was occupied by the British for close to 100 years. This fusion of East and West gives this city a very different feel to any other city in Mainland China. Hong Kong is famous for its own culinary style.
  • Shenzhen – 深圳 – Shenzhen lies on the Mainland China boarder of Hong Kong. Shenzhen is famous for factory production. There’s not much to see here, but travelers can easily catch trains or busses to most other cities in China.
  • Xiamen – 厦门 - Xiamen is a laid-back city, located right on the coast of Fujian province. Xiamen is considered to have one of the nicest beaches in China. Xiamen is also home to the garden island of Gulangyu.
  • Wuyishan – 武夷山 - Famous for its tea, Wuyi Mountain is famous for its scenery, tea, and mysterious Chinese folklore. Wuyi became a UNESCO world heritage site in 1999, and since then has become a large attraction for nature and tea enthusiasts from all over China.
  • Hangzhou – 杭州 - Long considered one of the best cities in China for retirement, Hanzhou is a city famous for its scenery, food, and history. One of the highlights of Hanzhou is its West Lake. Staying in one of the many hostels located near the West Lake, travelers can spend time exploring the West Lake area enjoying the relaxing lifestyle.
  • Shanghai – 上海 - Located only one hour from Hangzhou by high-speed rail, Shanghai is the financial capital of Mainland China. It is the most modern and largest city in China, and is a rare fusion of East and West. Shanghai is massive, and has much to explore. Shanghai also has British influence, and is home to an area of Western architecture on the Pudong river called “the Bund”.
  • Beijing – 北京 – Beijing is the political, and modern historical capital of China. The city itself is massive, and is also very old. Beijing has a large subway network making it easy to navigate. The culture in Beijing is much different than the rest of the country, which makes Beijing an interesting city to explore and learn about modern and ancient China.

 Getting to Hong Kong  or Beijing

  • Both cities have fantastic international access. You can purchase tickets from most other large airports in the world directly to Beijing or Hong Kong
  • Another option is through Manila, Philippines via Cebu Pacific Air. They frequently run specials which make getting from Manila to any large airports in China (Guangzhou, Hong Kong, or Beijing) extremely affordable. (This is a great option for those wishing to tour the Philippines after finishing their China portion.

Hong Kong to Shenzhen 

  • The Hong Kong East Rail Line will take you directly to the border-crossing at Shenzhen. If you are an American or British citizen you will need a pre-arranged tourist visa to cross into China. This visa can be arranged before your trip, and can also be arranged in Hong Kong.
  • Once you have crossed the border into Shenzhen you need to arrange your travel plans to get to Xiamen. (see Shenzhen to Xiamen)

Shenzhen to Xiamen

  • Plan to cross the border around noon to secure your tickets on the overnight bus. The rest of the day can be spent exploring around Shenzhen before getting back to the overnight bus in the evening.
  • Overnight bus tickets can be purchased from the border crossing station on the Shenzhen side from several booths offering private sleeper coaches. The bus trip takes about 8 hours and costs around 200 yuan.
  • Another option is to head to the bus station and purchase tickets directly from the ticket window. This is less convenient, and should be a back-up plan should you fail to secure tickets at the border crossing.

Xiamen to Wuyishan

  • Have your hostel in Xiamen arrange overnight train tickets from the Xiamen train station. They usually can pick them up for a nominal charge.

Wuyishan to Hangzhou

  • Upon arrival in Wuyishan purchase your overnight train tickets to Hangzhou in advance from the train station. Otherwise have your hostel arrange to help you buy tickets and pick them up on your behalf.

Hangzhou to Shanghai

  •  High-speed trains from Hangzhou to Shanghai Hongqiao station leave every 15 minutes. Just show up at the train station and purchase your tickets. The ride takes about 45 minutes.

Shanghai to Beijing

  • Travelers can purchase overnight train tickets, high-speed train tickets, or plane flights. Sometime the flight option is the cheapest and best option. If you plan to take the high-speed rail be sure to check the availability from your hostel a few days in advance as they tend to sell out. Overnight trains are another, cheaper option for those wishing to save money or have no other options.

Sugestions from the Editor:

 

Day 1, 2, and 3 - Hong Kong

Day 3 - Shenzhen

Day 4 and 5 - Xiamen

Day 6 and 7 - Wuyishan

Day 8 and 9 - Hangzhou

Day 9, 10, and 11 - Shanghai

Day 11, 12, 13 and 14 - Beijing

This guide will provide you with a rough idea for a 12 to 14 day trip along the coast from Hong Kong ending in Beijing. Included destinations are Hong Kong, Shenzhen, Xiamen, Mount Wuyi, Hangzhou, Shanghai, and Beijing. If you feel that this is helpful please like us on facebook. Enjoy!

Day 1, 2 and 3 – Hong Kong - 香港


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About Hong Kong: Wikitravel Hong Kong

Hong Kong is a modern marvel and is completely worth a few days of your time. A great traveling resource is the tourism bureau located at the pier in Kowloon; only a short walk away from the Chunk King mansion. Hong Kong also has an interesting history and several markets that are definitely worth checking out.

 

Deciphering Information From the Tourism Bureau

Accommodations in Hong Kong –

  1. Recommended**** - Chung King Mansions in Kowloon - Hong Kong is expensive compared to Mainland China. Inexpensive hotel rooms in affordable areas of the city can easily cost over 1500 Hong Kong dollars. The newly renovated Chunk King Mansions are packed full of youth hostels with affordable rooms. A small but clean personal room will cost you around 388 Hong Kong dollars or less. We recommend the Kyoto guesthouse. Its extremely clean and a step up above most of the other hostels in the mansions. Block A, 15th Floor, A3 & A8, Chung King Mansion, 36 - 44 Nathan Road, Hong Kong  Hong Kong         Phone - 2721 3574

    Chunk King Mansion

Attractions in Hong Kong - Consult your LP or Wikitravel Hong Kong

 

Getting from Hong Kong to Shenzhen(深圳) -

  • Take the light blue rail the runs to the north of city all the way to the mainland China border crossing. Note - you must have a valid China visa to enter the country. Once you cross the border you can purchase your tickets for the overnight bus to Xiamen from one of the ticket vendors at the train station exit.
  • High speed rail now extends from Shenzhen all the way to Beijing. It is possible to circumvent mount Wuyi if you want to stay on the high speed rail.

Day 3 - Shenzhen 深圳

  • Cross the border in the morning / afternoon and purchase your train or overnight bus tickets to Xiamen ASAP. Theres not much to see in Shenzhen so we reccomend only spending an afternoon to kill time before your train / bus departure. The overnight bus from Shenzhen to Xiamen will take about 8 to 9 hours. The high speed train only takes a few hours.
Activities in Shenzhen - Wikitravel Shenzhen

Shenzhen Skyline

Day 4 and 5 - Xiamen 厦门

Xiamen is a relatively inexpensive city in China and is a great place to study Chinese at one of the many Universities in town. If you are interested, please contact us and we can let you speak to some of our contacts who have studied at the University of Xiamen. You can explore the beaches, check out the night shopping district, and most importantly spend a day exploring Gulangyu.

Gulangyu Island

 

Accomidations in Xiamen -

  1. Jia Home Hostel - Highly reccomended. One of the nicest hostels that we have stayed in in China. Clean and affordable and decent location near the train station. Phone - 0592-5832600   Email - jiahomehostel@hotmail.com
  2. There are several YHA hostels around Xiamen. There is also one located directly on Gulangyu. You cant go wrong with any of them.

Jia Home Hostel Xiamen

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Xiamen City Streets

 

Attractions in Xiamen - See Wikitravel Xiamen

  • Gulangyu - Spend a day exploring the gardens and quaint streets of this island off the coast of Xiamen.
  • Eat late snacks at one of the nightly snack streets

Getting from Xiamen to Wuyishan (Mount Wuyi) -

  • We reccomend that you purchase your train tickets to Mount Wuyi on your first day in Xiamen. Train tickets in China are fast to sell out. Trains depart in the evening and arrive the next morning in Wuyishan. There only is a slow train to Wuyishan and believe us... it is SLOW so be sure to book the overnight. Upon arriving at the train station in Wuyishan purchase your tickets in advance for your overnight train ride to Hangzhou.

Days 6 and 7 - Wuyishan 武夷山

Wuyishan town proper lies only a few miles from the entrance to wuyishan national park. There are three main reasons that people come to wuyishan and you should make sure to explore all three.

  1. Hike through the mountains and experience great natural scenery.
  2. Take a float down the river on an authentic 竹排 (zhupai - bamboo raft)
  3. Learn about and purchase amazing quality green and oolong tea for the CHEAP!
Fujian provence is best well known for its tea and Wuyishan is especially known for its 大红袍 (Da hong pao - type of oolong tea) Make sure you try and buy in one of the many shops in town. Pretty much everyone in town has family who grows the tea themselves and the taxi drivers are happy to bring you to their homes where you can sample the tea and buy it directly from the farmers. It is relatively safe to go with the cab drivers, however just keep a tight grip on your cash as China is a country that is notorious for scammers. This tea can get REALLY expensive so I would recommend  settling for the mid grade stuff if you don't know what your buying. As with everything in China; haggle haggle haggle.
Accommodations in Wuyishan -
  • If you feel like splurging a little stay at the Dragon resort Phone : 599-5136666
  • The cheaper option is to stay at the Home Inn in the downtown.
  • If the Home Inn is booked do not worry. There are plenty of other options in the downtown area.

Riding a Zhupai in Wuyishan

Activities in Wuyishan - Wikitravel Wuyishan

  • (See above) intro to Wuyishan
  • WARNING: When entering Wuyishan national park you will be approached by local farmers wanting to take you in the back entrance of the park for a small fee. We strongly do not recommend this as it is illegal. You will also start your hike from the back of the park and have no choice but to hike for hours to get out. Pay the full price and go in the front entrance.

Getting from Wuyishan to Hangzhou -

  • You should already have your tickets booked to go to Hangzhou. Take the overnight slow train to Hangzhou. Arrive in Hangzhou in the morning.

Days 8 and 9 - Hangzhou 杭州


Hangzhou is best well known for its West lake, specialty cuisine, relatively clean skies, and slow pace of life. Hangzhou is also located in Zhezhang provence which is the richest per capita provence in China. We recommend spending a few days here to relax.

There are several train stations in Hangzhou that you can arrive from Wuyishan. Most likely you will arrive at the South station. Hire a taxi and have him take you to Hangzhou old town (杭州古城 - Hangzhou gu cheng). Here you will find many hostels that you can stay at and are all just a short walk away from the West lake.

West Lake in Hangzhou

 

Accommodations in Hangzhou -

  1. Wushanyi International Youth Hostel - Great location right in the Hangzhou old town. Very clean; as usual you cant go wrong with any YHA hostel. Phone - 0571-87018790
  2. There are various other hostels located all over the old town and around the West lake.
Attractions in Hangzhou -
  • If you stay at the Wushanyi hostel you can rent bikes from the hostel and bike around the West lake. The lake is only a 5 minute bike ride from the hostel. This is truly the best way to experience the lake and allows you to gain a ground perspective.
  • Eat at grandmas kitchen (外婆家 wai po jia) - Ask the hostel for directions. The food authentic hangzhou cuisine and is AMAZING!!!!! Located on the side of the lake.
  • Take a tour of the national tea museum. If you are interested in tea culture you can learn about the history of tea in China and educate yourself on various types of tea. 10 minutes by taxi. Ask the hostel for directions.
  • Buddhist Caves
  • Consult LP or Wikitravel Hangzhou

Grandmas Kitchen Cuisine

Getting from Hanhzhou to Shanghai -
  • The Hangzhou old town is located right near the train station. Have the hostel call you a taxi or write directions. The bullet train takes about 35 minutes from Hangzhou to the Hongqiao train station in Shanghai. Trains leave every 20 minutes or so there is no need to buy tickets in advance.

Days 9, 10 and 11 - Shanghai 上海

 

Shanghai is considered to be the most modern city in Mainland China for good reason. Shanghai has a long history of foreign influence, and this is clearly visible from its architecture. There is a lot to do here and if you choose you can be going non-stop 24 hours a day.

Accomidations in Shanghai -

  • Shanghai is loaded with inexpensive hostels. However its best to make your reservations in advance in order to ensure availability. Your will pay a premium to stay on the bund, however it is worth the extra money that you will most likely spend on taxi cab rides.
  • Captain Hostel Shanghai - A little expensive in terms of hostels in Shanghai, but the location is great. Right on the bund.
  • Rock and Wood hostel - This hostel is located a little far from most attractions in Shanghai. However it is reasonably priced, safe, clean and huge. This means they usually have availability when most other hostels are booked up. No.615 Lane, ZhaoHua Road Changning District Shanghai, China Tel: +86-21-33602361

Shanghai Skyline

Eating The Shao Long Bao

Attractions in Shanghai - see Wikitravel Shanghai

  • Take a stroll on the bund.
  • Take a bud tour of Shanghai aboard a bug red bus tour.
  • Eat Shao Long Bao at Yu Garden market
  • Visit the Oriental Pearl Tower in Pudong
  • Visit one of many fake markets

Visiting The Oriental Pearl

Getting from Shanghai to Beijing -
  • The new bullet train that runs between Beijing and Shanghai takes just over four hours. You can purchase your tickets at the Hongqiao train station in Shanghai when you arrive from Hangzhou. As a side note you can read about the construction and controversy surrounding this rail line here.

Days 12, 13 and 14 - Beijing 北京

Check out our Beijing itinerary, which offers a 3 day itinerary that will show you the very best of the city.

The Summer Palace

 

Accommodations in Beijing -

  • Beijing is loaded with inexpensive hostels in popular areas all over town. As always I don't think you can go wrong staying in any YHA approved hostel.
  • I recommend staying in an area that is relatively centralized.
  • There are several hostels in SanLiTun or in the area just south of Tiananmen square.
  • Consider Couchsurf! Beijing has a massive Couchsurf community.
Attractions in Beijing - See Three Days in Beijing for a great suggestions how to spend your time here. Some of my favorite attractions in Beijing are the following:
  • The Forbidden City
  • The national history museum (国家博物馆) located to the East side of Tiananmen square. The museum entrance is free.
  • Summer Palace
  • Chaoyang Acrobatics Theater - This is a MUST SEE.
  • Eat some of my favorite wings in the world at The Hot Bean Cooperative.
  • Party like rock star in Sanlitun bar district.
  • Stroll through 798 art district.

If you have any other question you can email the editor: matt@backpackinchina.com