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Itinerary: 12 Days in China (for Vegetarians)

Trip details:

Daniel

My parents (in their mid 50's) are planning a trip (12 odd days) to China. Have given details on their likes/dislikes, their expectation from the trip. Would request you to create an amazing itinerary for them. They plan to travel in the 3rd week of May for about 12 odd days


About them

They do not mind walking. They are fine with spending money where required, but are conscious of it being value for money. They enjoy curated experiences, more than just point to point check boxes on things to do. They are not extremely hardy, they want a comfortable stay, not super luxurious but not a backpackers inn too.


What we are looking to get out of our trip to China

Shopping (3-4 days):

- Great place for shopping clothes, household items
- Place where you can do business with suppliers, network with them, identify products for trade (trade fairs). What is the best way to do it?

What we mean by shopping is of products that are made and exported (consumer goods, clothes). We are not that keen on the local handicrafts/ silks/ cottage industry stuff. The intention is to generate trade associations, meet suppliers, check out amazing products people come up with etc. and from what I have heard you can shop in the same region. Think Chengdu might be good, not sure? From Chengdu, a 2 day trip to a very interesting picturesque place in Tibet would be great too


Food:

- We are vegetarians, but love exploring local food places, trying local flavors. We savor amazing food, right from Michelin star restaurants to street food places, but we are vegetarians


Nature (3-4 days):

- Want to see the stunning places. While we are there want to have a customized experience (for instance a river cruise with food served) etc. This is just an example, we may not know what all can be done. You can get creative and curate the perfect experience


City (4-5 days):

- Focus on curation of experiences in the city (Shanghai, Beijing)


Knowledge:

- We want to learn about Chinese medicine. Have an authentic experience of Chinese medicinal techniques, learn few techniques, buy something

Questions

Any ways in which travelers can teach English for a few days, earn some money?

Any other creative way to earn money, while you are traveling?


Based on the above:

Which are the places they should go to?

How should they travel? Can they do some legs by train? How safe and comfortable are the trains?

... Show more

Day One: Beijing:

Assuming you're staying at one of the three hotels I've recommended, then you'll be walking distance from the Drum Tower and the Bell Tower, both of which are beside each other, and which will be nice easy things to visit for a leisurely first day. You can climb up both towers for lovely views of the surrounding hutong (narrow lanes). Don't miss the 10-minute drumming performance inside the Drum Tower, held every day at the following times: 9.30am, 10.30am, 11.30am, 1.30pm, 2.30pm, 3.30pm & 4.45pm.


Drum Tower map:



 


The Drum Tower


The Bell Tower


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In the afternoon, you could visit the Lama Temple, Beijing's largest Buddhist temple, and also walking distance from your hotel (albeit a longer walk than the Drum & Bell Towers - about 20 mins). Don't miss visiting the final hall in this temple. It houses the world's largest sandalwood Buddha!


Lama Temple map:



 


Lama Temple


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There's a great vegetarian restaurant near the Lama Temple, which you could go to for dinner. It's called Xu Xiang Zhai Vegetarian Restaurant, and has an English menu and a good-value, eat-as-much-as-you-like buffet for lunch (11.30am to 2pm) and dinner (5.30pm to 8pm). It costs ¥68 per person. Outside those times, it's a la carte, so more expensive, but still decent value.


Xu Xiang Zhai Vegetarian Restaurant map:



Xu Xiang Zhai


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Day Two: Beijing:

Day trip to the Great Wall:


Organise this through The Orchid hotel (even if you don't stay there), because they are reliable, have plenty of English speakers, and the easiest website to navigate. You'll find details on their website. Make sure you arrange this with them before you arrive, if possible, just to make sure they are doing a trip on the day you want.


The other two hotels I've recommended for Beijing will also be able to help you with a trip to the Great Wall, but you might not be able to book the trip before you arrive. That is another option, though, if you're happy waiting until you get to Beijing before organising it.


Note, you need to leave a full day for the Great Wall. Otherwise it will feel like a rushed visit.


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For your evening meal, you could try the lovely Baihe Vegetarian Restaurant. It's a short taxi ride - or a 30-minute walk - from your hotel. It's housed in a converted courtyard and does standout vegetarian food in a peaceful atmosphere. I often see monks from the nearby Lama Temple coming here for lunch, or just for some tea (the Chinese tea menu is also excellent here - in fact you can just come for tea if you like). The menu is in English, and has photos, but there's no English sign outside, so pay attention to what it looks like in the photo below. The address is:


23 Caoyuan Hutong (which is a hutong off a larger road called Dongzhimennei Beixiaojie).


In Chinese, the address is:


东直门内北小街


草原胡同23号


百合素食


Baihe Vegetarian Restaurant

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Beijing, Day 3:

If you have another day in Beijing, then you could use the time to visit Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City. I suggest first going to Tiananmen Square, as you can get there easily by subway. It has it's own subway stations (Tiananmen East and Tiananmen West), so it's very easy to reach.


Once you've had a wander round there, walk north (under the large gateway that has a huge painting of Chairman Mao on it) to reach the Forbidden City. This is the immense former palace that was home for no less than 25 former Chinese emperors. You'll enter at the south gate, and leave, eventually, by the north gate. Note, the Forbidden City is huge, so there's a lot of walking involved. Don't miss the Clock Exhibition (housed in a building off to the right, at about the halfway point of the complex. There's a small cafe and restaurant just here too, if you need a rest.


BEWARE! Rickshaw riders hound tourists outside the north gate of the Forbidden City and trick them into taking expensive rides on their rickshaws. They say "three". Tourists think they mean three yuan, but they actually mean three HUNDRED yuan! Don't fall for it. Just ignore them completely. Instead, either take a bus (turn left as you leave the Forbidden City and walk 100m to the first bus stop. From there, Bus 124 goes to the Drum Tower, and costs ¥1 per person). Or, walk away from the Forbidden City for a short while and hail a taxi from the road.


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ALTERNATIVE Day 3: Introduction to Chinese Medicine.


For a wonderfully accessible window into the ancient art of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), contact the cultural centre called The Hutong (www.thehutong.com/chinese-medicine/), and arrange to take a introductory class in TCM for one of your days in Beijing. They are run by an Australian-Chinese guy called Alex Tan, who is a trained TCM clinician. You can contact him through the website above, or through his own website, Straight Bamboo (http://straightbamboo.com/).


Note, The Hutong cultural centre is located in a hutong alley, close to Beixinqiao subway station. It's about a 30-minute walk from the three Beijing hotels I've recommended.


You can also take part in Chinese cookery classes here. All the details are on The hutong website (www.thehutong.com).


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You could try dumplings for an evening meal close to your hotel. Mr Shi's Dumplings is on the same hutong (narrow lane) as both The Orchid hotel and Old Square Beijing Hotel. It has an English sign, an English menu and staff who speak a bit of English. Importantly, it also does vegetarian dumplings!


The address is:


74 Baochao Hutong (宝抄胡同74号).


Mr Shi's Dumplings

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Day 4, Beijing to Shanghai:

You could either leave on an overnight train on Day 3, or on a fast train on the morning of Day 4. Up to you, but either way you'll be arriving in Shanghai on Day 4, and probably want quiet a relaxing day after you travels.


Make sure you pre-book your train ticket (using the company I mentioned in the general duscission notes: China DIY Travel (http://www.china-diy-travel.com/en), as it's very difficult to purchase train tickets close to the date of travel. I'd recommend taking the super fast G-train, if you can. It's one of those bullet trains, and does the trip in about five hours! The other option is taking a slower, overnight train, where you can sleep in your own bunk. Speak to the guys at China DIY Travel about the options.


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Once you arrive, ease yourself into Shanghai with a pleasant stroll along The Bund, the city's historic riverside promenade. One of the three Shanghai hotel options I've recommended (Astor House Hotel) is right by here.


 


The Bund


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The second option, if you decide to stay at either Magnolia Bed & Breakfast or Quintet, is to take a leisurely stroll around the tree-lined lanes of the French Concession district, which both those hotels are located in. There are plenty of cutesy boutique shops to poke your nose in, and the charming arts district known as Tian-zi-fang is also in the area (off Taikang Road).


Tian-zi-fang Arts District in the French Concession


 


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For food, if you're on The Bund, you could try Hongyi Plaza, a shopping mall on East Nanjing Road (at No 299), which is packed with great restaurants across a number of floors. Many if not most of them have English menus. Wander around and take your pick. Alternatively, if you want to splash out, try M on The Bund, a fabulous top-end restaurant, with romantic riverside views and an excellent continental menu, including vegetarian options. It's not cheap, though! A short taxi ride, or 15-minute walk, from The Bund, is Shanghai's oldest vegetarian restaurant, Song Yue Lou. It's located by Yuyuan Gardens, which is also a popular tourist attraction. It specialises in mock-meat creations, plus plenty of tofu dishes. It's touristy, but fun. The menu here is also in English, although staff don't speak much English. The name and address in Chinese is as follows:


旧校场路99号


松月楼 


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If you're in the French Concession area, and staying at Magnolia's or Quintet, then perhaps try Noodle Bull, a modern noodle restaurant just around the corner from the bed & breakfast, which does a range of delicious noodle dishes (including vegetarian options) that are all MSG-free. Address is 291 Fumin Road. Chinese name and address as follows:


富民路291号


狠牛面

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Day 5: Shanghai Day Trip (to Zhujiajiao ancient canal town):

About 30km west of Shanghai, Zhujiajiao (朱家角) is one of the most charming and easy to reach of a number of ancient canal towns in the Shanghai region.


 


Zhujiajiao Canal Town


 


Its old town (古镇; gu zhen) is a collection of Ming- and Qing-Dynasty alleyways, bridges, temples and pavilions, with canals twisting their way through everything. Wander the streets, take a quick boat ride, or just sit down and watch the world go by.


Places to look out for include: City God Temple | Qinghua Pavilion, inside Yuanjin Buddhist Temple | Fangsheng Bridge.


It's free to wander around the old town, but if you wish to enter some of the ancient buildings, you need to buy a sightseeing ticket: ¥30 for 3 sights, or ¥90 for 9 sights.


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To get here from Shanghai, take a bus from Pu'an Road Bus Station (普安路汽车站), just south of People's Square. The buses, which are coloured pink and white, take one hour and leave every 20 minutes between 6am and 10pm. The bus service is called "Huzhu Gaosu Kuaixian" (沪朱高速快线), which means the "Shanghai to Zhujiajiao fast service".

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1   2  
Overview By Daniel McCrohan
Replies (+)

Daniel McCrohan wrote:  

Hi Puneet,

Thanks for choosing me as your travel ninja! Really looking forard to helping plan your parents' trip. Am sure they'll love China!

Thanks too for detailing their general plans and needs. That's really useful for me. Bearing all that in mind, I'm considering (roughly speaking) the following trip: 

--

Beijing (3 days - including a day at the Great Wall, and an introduction to Chinese Medicine)

Shanghai (2 days - including a day trip to an ancient canal town)

Yiwu (3 days - this is the shopping/trading part of the trip. Yiwu is home to the largest small-commodities wholesale market in the world!)

Guilin & Yangshuo (2-3 days - this is where your parents will get that stunning Chinese scenery they're after, including riverboat trips)

--

The above plan allows for one or two extra days for travelling. Speaking of which, I'd suggest the following:

• Beijing to Shanghai (train, 5 to 6 hours) - trains in China are very reliable and comfortable

• Shanghai to Yiwu (train, 2 to 3 hours)

• Yiwu to Shanghai (train, 2 to 3 hours)

• Shanghai to Guilin (aeroplane, 2 to 3 hours) - this journey is over 20 hours by train, so I recommend flying)

• Guilin to Shanghai/Beijing/Hong Kong (aeroplane) - depending on where your international flight out of China leaves from.

I think Yiwu will be better for their shopping and trading needs than Chengdu, but let me know if you'd rather switch to Chengdu. Tibet isn't really feasible given the timescale. You'd need two full days to get there, even from Chengdu (the nearest big city), and then some time to acclimatise to the altitude. I think that one's for another, longer trip.

Let me know what you think about the above outline. Once you've given me the thumbs up (or suggested any changes you want making), I'll go ahead and plan an itinerary in more detail.

Many thanks

Daniel

Puneet Lahoty wrote:  

Daniel,

Thanks for responding, understanding it is holiday time in China, so appreciate your quick response.

Ballpark sounds good. Had a few questions:

For shopping: it being a wholesale market, can we do retail shopping as well? Would you think it is better than Guangzhao?

Have heard about Xian, Hangzhao. This is something I have heard, and you are the expert, so trust your choice, however wanted to know what made you choose Guilin over the others? 

Any option of teaching English somewhere for an extremely short period? Any other ways in which travelers can do odd jobs to make small money?

 

Overall I am happy with the broad skeleton, we can talk more about how we include awesome experiences, which I am sure you will be able to help with

 

Thanks

 

Puneet

Daniel McCrohan wrote:  

Hi Puneet,

Glad you mentioned Hangzhou, because I was thinking about that city too. I've looked into it some more, and discovered that it's only 50 minutes by train from Yiwu, so what your parents could do is stay in Hangzhou (which is a lovely city by a lake), and then travel to Yiwu each day they want to go there. Yiwu isn't a particularly nice town to stay in anyway (it's just an average mid-sized Chinese town). It would be far preferable to stay in Hangzhou, as long as they don't mind the commute each day.

What do you think?

I chose Guilin over Xi'an and other places because you specifically asked for nature and scenery. They'll need to travel south for that.. or to travel way off the beaten path, which they don't have time for. Guilin is a beautiful, but accesible part of China. In fact, it's Yangshuo (a village/town near Guilin) which is the place they'll really enjoy, I think. You can get to Yangshuo by boat from Guilin, which is great fun, and includes floating past some gorgeous scenery.

Xi'an is just another city. No nature or scenery there... although it does have the Terracotta Army as a top-draw sight. If they specifically want to see that, then let me know, but it will eat up at least two or three days of an already packed itinerary. Perhaps they could swap Shanghai for Xi'an? That would be one option. Otherwise, best left for a second trip to China.

Cheers

Daniel

Daniel McCrohan wrote:  

Oh, and as for teaching.. are you coming to China too? Or is it your parents who want to teach? They won't have time for work on a two-week trip to China!

If you're planning a separate trip to China, to look for teaching work, then I might be able to help, yes.

If it's for this trip, there simply won't be time. 

Daniel

Puneet Lahoty wrote:  

Daniel,

What about Guangzhao, would you suggest Yiwu over Guangzhao?

I think they would want to do Shanghai and Beijing, we could avoid Xian

Can you send me the updated itinerary, intention is to travel in the next few weeks. Want to book the tickets as soon as possible. 

 

Thanks

 

P

 

 

 


Itinerary Completed! By Daniel McCrohan
Replies (+)

Daniel McCrohan wrote:  

Hi Puneet,

Ok, I've done the itinerary: 12 days in China, including Beijing, Shanghai, Hangzhou, Yiwu, Guilin and Yangshuo. Should be a great trip!

I've recommended a choice of hotels for each location. Make sure you book them asap to avoid disappointment.

Also, make sure you book all your train tickets now. I recommend using China DIY Travel (http://www.china-diy-travel.com/en) for all your train tickets. They are run by an Australian guy and his Chinese wife, and they allow you to pre-book train tickets, which you then pick up from each relevant train station. They give you details for how to do this at each station. They are very reliable.

For internal flights, I tend to use ebookers (www.ebookers.com), but you could also try eLong (www.elong.net) or cTrip (english.ctrip.com).

For tours within cities (such as trips to the Great Wall or river cruises etc), I recommend arranging them through the hotel you are staying at, or another hotel I've recommended. This way you'll be dealing with people who speak decent English (staff at normal Chinese tourist offices usually cannot speak much English, and tend to deal moslty with large Chinese tour groups).

I hope this helps.

All the best with your trip. I hope your parents have a fantastic time in China!

Daniel

Daniel McCrohan wrote:  

Hi Puneet,

Just a note to say that I've answered all your comments on the itinerary. Hope that's of some use.

All the best

Daniel

Puneet Lahoty wrote:  

Daniel,

Thanks for your comments. Quick thoughts:

- Other than Alex, is there any good place for Chinese medicine/ Chinese massages? It could be in any other city, which is not a problem

Daniel McCrohan wrote:  

Hi Puneet,

Have added some more comments to the itinerary. note my comment on TCM. I don't think you're going to find what you're looking for, given a) the fact that you don't speak Chinese, and b) the fact that you're in China for less than two weeks. Most proper courses are weeks, if not months long. It's a highly complicated philosophy. You'll be able to find plenty of places for a lovely massage. As well as the ones I've mentioned, just ask at any of the places you stay at and they'll be able to recommend something. Hope this helps.

Daniel McCrohan wrote:  

Hi Puneet,

Just adding to the TCM conversation...

Thanks for you note. As I mentioned above, I don't think you're going to find what you're looking with regards TCM on this trip to China. Holistic retreats aren't popular here like they are in other parts of south and southeast Asia. There are a few, but they are expensive and very commercially driven - not the type of thing your'e after, as far as I can tell. TCM treatments are very much long term things (treatment for specific ailments can last for months, sometimes even years), so proper, authentic TCM practioners will, I imagine, be reluctant to allow you to just dip in and try. I have to admit, though, I'm no epxert on this. I'm just going on what I've heard, and on the TCM experiences of friends of mine who also live in China. As I say, my advice would be to contact Alex and ask him more about the subject, and about all the options you might have. I'm an expert on traveling in China, but he's the TCM expert.

Hope this helps.

And all the best with your trip

Daniel 

Puneet Lahoty wrote:  

Thanks Daniel. 

Our flight back to India has a layover in Chengdu, with the option of staying there for a day or two. Do you have some recommendations of places to stay in Chengdu, things to do?

 

 

Daniel McCrohan wrote:  

Hi Puneet,

Just to say, I've just replied to your query about where to eat in Zhujiajiao. It's in the comments section of the itinerary.

As for Chengdu, as Aashish said, if you want a full itinerary for Chengdu, this would count as a new paid-for itinerary. Am happy to do this for you. I know Chengdu very well. Let me know.

Just very quickly, though, I would recommend staying in a youth hostel in Chengdu. There are a number of excellent ones and, as I've said before with other places, the hostels provide you with the best help in terms of trip-planning within a town or city, and in terms of staff who can speak English. And don't worry, they are not full of young, rowdy guests. Plenty of older people and families also stay in hostels in China.

I would recommend the following:

Traffic Inn (www.trafficinnhostel.com). A hostel and hotel combined, so gives you the option of staying in a hotel room, but still has all the travel-help advantages of a hostel. Note, the private rooms in the hostel are nicer than the private rooms in the hotel, but they don't have private bathrooms. Quite central, and very close to the long-distance bus station, so handy for day trips (although you will probably book trips through the hostel anyway, so won't need to worry about this).

Loft (www.lofthostel.com). Has rooms with private bathrooms as well as cheaper ones with shared bathrooms. Very central. 

Hello Chengdu International Youth Hostel (www.gogosc.com) Large hostel, sprawling its way around two garden courtyards. It's a little way out of the centre, but very well run, and like the other two, can organise all your day trips.

As I say, each of these places has staff who speak good English, plus everything set up for first-time visitors to the city. They can give you recommendations for nearby restaurants (although they all have restaurants themselves too), and they can tell you what the options are for sightseeing in Chengdu. They also run trips every day to all the main sights, including the Giant Panda Breeding Research Base, which is the best place to see pandas. The accommodation at each hostel is simple, but clean and comfortable. You'll have no problem at any of these.

Hope this helps

All the best

Daniel


Extra Hangzhou hotel added By Daniel McCrohan
Replies (+)

Daniel McCrohan wrote:  

Hi Puneet,

I've added an extra hotel option for Hangzhou. It's called The New Hotel. You can find it in the "Stay" section. I meant to include this one before, but forgot. it's more expensive than the other two, but if you want to treat yourselves this place has a great location, and it won't break the bank. Note, you may be able to get cheap deals for this one through booking websites such as cTrip.

Thanks

Daniel


Shanghai Shopping By Daniel McCrohan
Replies (+)

Daniel McCrohan wrote:  

In response to your question on "fakes" markets.. here's an excerpt for an article about shopping in Shanghai which I wrote recently for Air New Zealand: *** 

---

Bargain Buys

For the true, like-a-local shopping experience, don your best haggle hat, sharpen your elbows and join the crowds at Qipu Market (168-183 Qipu Rd), a huge, rundown department store jam-packed with cheap T-shirts, skirts, shorts and shoes. Another similarly frenetic option is Fenshine Fashion & Accessories Plaza (580 West Nanjing Rd) - also called Nanjing Xi Lu Fakes Market - which is stocked full with bags, belts, sunglasses and electronics. For bargain souvenirs, and more fakes, try Asia-Pacific Xinyang Fashion & Gifts Market (2000 Century Ave), housed in the basement below the Science & Technology Museum.

---

Each of the above markets stocks masses of cheap clothing and fake-branded products. Happy bargain hunting!

Daniel

Puneet Lahoty wrote:  

Daniel,

As we are making the bookings, we might need your assistance on getting SIM cards (best options) etc. But for now, there has been a development, due to which my parents can only travel in July. Have heard it rains a lot then, is it a recommended time to go there?

 

P

Daniel McCrohan wrote:  

Hi Puneet,

Local SIM cards are very easy to get. You can pick one up at Beijing airport if you like. Look around for official kiosks in Arrivals. Failing that, just ask at the first hotel you stay at. They'll be able to point you towards the nearest phone shop that sells SIM cards. A SIM card should only cost you about ¥50-100 (depending on how much credit you ask for), and most of that amount will include the credit - the actual card will only be about ¥10 or ¥20. Make sure you bring along a mobile phone which isn't 'locked' to your home-country network, otherwise you won't be able to use the Chinese SIM card. If your phone is locked, you can always just buy a cheap local phone along with a local SIM card. The cheapest phones cost around ¥200-300.

Don't worry about the rain. Yes, it does rain more in July in Shanghai, but it won't ruin your stay. It's not persistent like monsoon rain in India can be sometimes. Even during the rainy months, you might get lucky and see no rain at all during the days you're visiting. Note, it also rains a lot in Shanghai during June and August.

Hope this helps

All the best

Daniel


Beijing, Option 1:

The Orchid


Hotel website - http://theorchidbeijing.com/


Rooms from ¥700. Compare rates here.


Founded by a Tibetan woman and a Canadian guy, this lovely boutique hotel is a modern recreation of a traditional Beijing courtyard. Cute, but very comfortable, and just a short walk from the Drum and Bell Towers. They can help you find a car and driver for your stay, if you wish. They also run day trips to the Great Wall. See their website for details. Book as early as possible. This place is very popular!


Note, you could still book a Great Wall trip through this place, even if you don't stay here, so don't worry too much if it's full, and you end up staying somewhere else. Just explain your situation and they will understand.

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Beijing, Option 2:

Courtyard 7


http://www.courtyard7.com/


Compare rates here


A more traditional option, this beautiful hotel is set around a series of 400-year-old courtyards, and is located in the heart of Beijing's historic hutong (narrow lanes). It's situated just off the bustling shopping hutong called Nanluoguxiang, and like The Orchid hotel, is also walking distance from the Drum and Bell Towers.


This place is Chinese-run, but some staff do speak English.

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Beijing, Option 3:

Old Beijing Square Hotel


http://www.oldbeijingsquarehotel.com/


Rooms from ¥680. Compare rates here.


In the same hutong (narrow lane) as The Orchid hotel, so also walking distance from the Drum and Bell Towers, this is another lovely courtyard conversion. The courytard here is covered, but the atmosphere inside is tranquil, and staff are friendly. Like Courtyard 7 hotel, this place is also Chinese-run, but some staff do speak English.

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Shanghai, Option 1:

Astor House


www.astorhousehotel.com


Rooms from ¥600 (if stay minimum of two nights). Compare rates here.


Bags of history, located just off The Bund and stuffed with old-Shanghai charm.

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Shanghai, Option 2:

Magnolia Bed & Breakfast


www.magnoliabnbshanghai.com


Rooms from ¥650, inc breakfast


Cosy, designer B & B, housed in a 1930's French Concession building, and run by a food-loving Shanghai couple (who also run a cookery school in Shanghai). Rooms here are stylish, but modern, and the whole place is a labour of love. Only five rooms, though, so book early!

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Shanghai, Option 3:

Quintet


www.quintet-shanghai.com


Rooms from ¥850


Another boutique bed & breakfast, also in the French Concession district (close to Magnolia's B & B), Quintet has six beautiful double rooms with classic designs, but modern touches.

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Hangzhou, Option 1:

Mingtown Youth Hostel


Private Rooms from ¥200. Compare rates here.


I know you don't want to stay at youth hostels, but the ones in China are generally very good, and frequented by older travellers, not just youngsters. This one by the east shore of West Lake is great value and very popular. Make sure you book a private room, rather than a dormitory, and it will feel like you're staying in a hotel anyway. Youth hostels in China also have the added attraction of having staff who speak excellent English and so can help guests with finding places, taking tours, booking tickets etc.

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Hangzhou, Option 2:

Crystal Orange Hotel


Hotel website (can't do online bookings): http://orange-crystal.hotel.com.tw/eng/


Online booking website: http://english.ctrip.com/hotels/hangzhou-hotel-detail-61383/crystal-orange-hotel-hangzhou/


Rooms from ¥800 (although from ¥400 sometimes if book online). You can also compare rates here.


If you really don't fancy a youth hostel, try this boutique business hotel, about 100m from West Lake. Staff won't speak so much English here, although it's walking distance from Mingtown Youth Hostel, so you could still pop in there to ask about things, even if you're staying here.

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Guilin, Option 1:

Backstreet Youth Hostel


http://www.guilinhostel.com/backstreet/en/


Rooms from ¥120. Compare rates here.


Again, I know you don't want to stay in youth hostels, but in small towns they really are the best option in terms of being foreigner friendly. This place is very well run. Staff speak good English, and they run excellent tours of the surrounding area. I've stayed here a couple of times, in private rooms, and they really are excellent value. Simple, but clean and smart. Also, the location is very central, so there are lots of restaurants and shops nearby. The river is also just at the end of the road.

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Guilin, Option 2:

Lijiang Waterfall Hotel


http://www.waterfallguilin.info/En/index.html


Rooms from ¥720. Compare rates here.


If you want somewhere larger and more comfortable, then this is the best hotel in the town centre. It's fully equipped with everything you'd expect from a top hotel, although it's not quite up there with 5-star hotels, hence the relatively affordable prices. English language skills aren't as good as at the youth hostels around town, but some staff do speak English. They also run riverboat tours and city tours from here, but I'd recommend booking any tours through Backstreet Youth Hostel, even if you don't stay there. 

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Yangshuo, Option 1:

Yangshuo Mountain Retreat


www.yangshuomountainretreat.com


Rooms from ¥600. Compare rates here.


Delightful retreat in the gorgeous countryside surrounding the small town of Yangshuo. It's located 9km from Yangshuo, beside Moon Hill, one of the region's well-known scenic spots. Staff speak English, there's great food, and the scenery is breathtaking. The hotel can arrange for an English-speaking guide to give you a tour of the countryside. Contact the hotel so they can help arrange a taxi for you to get here from Yangshuo bus station (where your Li River Cruise will end). That will cost around ¥30.


Note, opposite this place is Yangshuo Village Inn (www.yangshuoguesthouse.com), owned by the same people. It's equally gorgeous, and slightly cheaper, although not quite as comfortable. Which ever one you stay at, though, you'll be able to dine at the excellent Italian restaurant, Luna, which is on the rooftop of Yanghsuo Village Inn, and has fabulous views.

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Yangshuo, Option 2:

C.Source West Street Residence


http://www.booking.com/hotel/cn/c-source-west-street-residence.html


Rooms from ¥300


Formerly called Hongfu Palace Hotel, this historic hotel is housed in the town's Jiangxi Guild Hall, and is delightful. It's located in the heart of Xi Jie (West Street), which is the busy hub of the town, and is a pedestrianised cobbled street which leads down to the river. The hotel, though, is set back slightly from the road, so not as noisy as you would think. Rooms are beautifully decorated and the ambience is regal. Only some staff speak English, but you're right in the centre of things so you can find places on your own. To get here from the bus station, walk left out of the bus station then turn left onto Xi Jie (West Street) after about 200 metres, and you'll see the hotel on your right after another 200 metres.


This place shares it's location with Le Votre, Yangshuo's first (and still best) French restaurant.

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Hangzhou, Option 3:

The New Hotel


www.thenewhotel.com


Rooms from ¥1000. Compare rates here.


Despite the name, this lovely mid-range hotel, overlooking West Lake, has a history of more than 100 years. It's housed in three European-style, colonial-esque buildings and has a number of different types of rooms, many of which have lake views. They do a few tours, but they are aimed at Chinese tourists, so may not be ideal. Check when you get there and see what you think. English-language skills may not be very good here, but some staff will speak some English.

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