Thursday, 7 March 2013

How We Made It: China, again

Our day-by-day journal with the China trip that we took, how we were able to go around and survived surprisingly despite being Chinese-language illiterates. Our itinerary maybe touristy but it was already difficult especially communicating nevertheless, it was a damn good and fun experience. It was our second time in China and we are still looking at part 3 or 4 or more.

Route: Manila-Beijing-Xian-Wudangshan-Xian-Shanghai-Manila
Period: October 18-27, 2012 (late Fall)
Travelling Party: 2

Day 0: Manila-Beijing via Cebu Pacific.
Midnight - Arrived Beijing. Rest. Stayed at cousin's place at Hairun International Compound in Chaoyang District. Beijing is huge and divided into several districts so make sure you are somewhere near public transport (train stations, bus stops).

Morning - Depart to Mutianyu Great Wall, another section of the Great Wall relatively newer than the famous Badaling. Not that easy but was able to arrange a cab for 550yuan for return trip. Arrived Mutianyu after 2.5 hours. Check out for information and details. We paid 80yuan/head for the cable (return) and 45yuan for the entrance fee per adult. There are other features and activities in Mutianyu had we had time I would try it out. Back in the house late afternoon and met old colleague at night.

We were supposed to still visit Temple of Heaven on that same day but ran out of time 'coz we cant help but to extend our time at the Great Wall. Temples and sites usually closes early - Temple of Heaven at 5pm. Almost all of Beijing's commercial establishmenrs cease business everyday at 8pm.

Top: Beijing Airport. Mid: Sichuan Air.
Bottom: Zhongwei Aiport 
Morning - 4AM - headed Beijing Airport (Terminal 3 for domestic flights) for a 7AM flight. Had breakfast at the airport, plenty to choose from. Sichuan Airlines, our carrier from Beijing to Xian (booked via 1,565yuan for 2pax) had a stopover at halfway - Zhongwei Sapotou Airport (a small airport situated in the middle of flat-dry fields). 
Afternoon - Arrived Xian Airport after 5 flying hours excluding the quick layover of about 30 mins. Took airport bus just outside the arrival area. Travel time, 1 hour. Fare, 25yuan.

Got off city center (bus stop/pick-up the same) west of the Bell tower around 2PM. Hailed cab (because we do not know how to use their bus, yet) and handed our hotel address.

Found our hotel after 1 hour of looking and before we ran out of hope of locating it. Surprisingly, the cab driver was all-effort to get us to our destination contradicting to how we've known and experienced Chinese in the mainland are. Taxi flag down, 6yuan. Checked in at 4PM. Yes, it took us some time to finally settled to our room - hostel staff had to call for help for us to be understood despite the sign languages we were doing. Xian Yi Jia Express Hotel - south of Bell tower, near Small Wild Goose pagoda, accessible to public bus but difficult to locate (hostel is a tenant in building just like in HK), clean, spacious, reception/staff do not speak English.

After settling and getting some rest, went out to familiarize with the neighborhood, the bus routes and scouted for food shops. Dinner at KFC, 20-40yuan.

Day 3: XIAN (Terracota Warriors - TW)
Morning - Terracota Warriors. Via bus #306 located at parking lot in front of Xian Railway station. You can reach Xian Railway station (and the rest of the city) via city bus (take note of the bus #s), for 1yuan. Bus fare to TW is 7yuan/way. Leaves every 15 minutes I think. Had breakfast at Dico's. There are KFC and Mcdo too.

posing in front of the Warriors - 50yuan for this shot
After 1.5 hours, arrived TW. Followed directions to ticket booth. Fee, 150yuan. Entrance gate located very far from ticket area. Went with the flow. Gate nearby for guided tours only and that is not necessary. Most of the Warriors are rooted at Pit 1, the other pits are purely pits with scattered broken pieces of the relics. You gotta find a good timing for some good shot especially at the front portion due to some ill-mannered crowd. The pit is protected with stable railings around which will make it a little difficult to take a solid close-up photo with the Warriors on your background. Touching the figures are impossible and not allowed too.
Afternoon - Finished around 5PM. Went back to the drop-off/pick-up point (a parking lot beside the road). 
Souvenirs being sold inside Pit#1 building are cheaper than those being sold along the long walkway from the gate to the halls/pits. 
the grey bus. blockbuster line. Xian city to Terracota vv

Got back to city after 3 hours due to rush hour traffic and rain that day. Dinner at a local famous noodle house - Mr Lee just fronting railway station. 

Morning - Checked-out from hostel. Breakfast at Mcdo at the Railway station. Headed Wudangshan. Bus ticket area just beside KFC and terminal is behind it. You'll see it once you get into the gate/door. There are only 2 direct bus trips going to Wudangshan - 8am and 3pm everyday for a 6-hour land cruising. We missed the first trip and we can't afford to wait that long for the next. Option 2 - bus to Shiyan then transfer to another bus to Wudangshan. We booked the 10AM sched. Buses stop at certain area after 2-2.5 hours for wee breaks, stretching and eating. 
bus ticket Xian to Shiyan. 129yuan
Afternoon - Reached Shiyan bus terminal (a little distant from the city proper) after 5 hours. Took bus # 7 (30mins time but i lost track of the costing after we missed the direct bus but it sure was cheap) to get us to the city center where Wudangshan buses are.Buses to Wudangshan are painted green (usually non-AC) with print Wudang Mountains parked just along the street while waiting for passengers. We paid about 10yuan(?) for 2 for an hour's ride.

our hotel room in Wudang. 180yuan/night
Finally, we arrived at Wudangshan, a very small town, after almost 8 anxious hours on the road. It's safe to get off near their big supermarket (before the bridge) if you still don't know where to find your hotel. Cab carried us to hotel - Qiaojiayuan Hotel for 10yuan. A little difficult to find because the hotel name sign was different ( i forgot what was it). Hotel's rate thru was 180yuan per night good for 2, cheaper than the walk-in rates. Nice room and owner was very helpful (our savior in Wudang) who speaks English.

Day 5: WUDANGSHAN (Wudang Mountain National Geopark)

Whole day - At 8AM, we weren't able to figure out where was the hotel's free breakfast so we were ushered to this noodle house opposite the hotel (beside the bus stop). Good noodles, 2-5yuan per serving. We then hopped on the city (green) bus to the gate of Mt Wudang complex, fare 1yuan. Again, just go with the flow to get to the ticket booth and there are English signages as well to guide. Ticket costs 140yuan. This is a freestyle unguided tour which include unlimited bus trips (stopping at every site in both directions) within the vast and high complex. You decide what, how, where and when to go based on the map sold at about 15yuan. So it's better you do your research and plan your route to maximize your time inside. There are options for 2 or more days tours. 

Karate Kid movie starred Jackie Chan & Jaden Smith was shot here
the bus plying around the Geopark
top: yummy lunch. happy tummy
bottom photos: area for lunch and last stop for bus loop
Lunch at the topmost part of the bus loop. There are quite a few good restos there and food was great. We had real yangchow rice, chicken stew and a veggie. The serving was more than enough for us 2. Price was relatively reasonable.

We finished our tour a little earlier due to some drizzling. Again, city bus back to hotel though we stopped at the supermarket to buy some stuff and walked to hotel.

Morning - As early as 7AM we were already at the parking area for the direct bus going back Xian. The schedule was 8AM. We didn't want to miss it again. Bus arrived late (930AM). Again, there were stopovers. The roads were new and smooth. We also passed several tunnels.

Afternoon - We were back in Xian after 6 hours. The bus didn't stop at the same terminal where we boarded (beside KFC), kind of far (not able to take down the place) but within the city. So, please determine/ask which city buses to take to reach your hotel from there. We were able to get help from Kung-Fu students going to the Railway station where we checked in to our 2nd hotel in Xian - Xian Railway Hotel which is just beside the train station (and the area of food shoppes). Tariff for standard double room was 188yuan per night. This time we need not do sign language for us to check in. Outside the hotel building showed "English certified" or something which means somebody knows/understands English which, is somewhat a cue in choosing a "good" hotel/stay in China.

Top: Bell towers night&day.
Bottom left: Big Wild Goose Pagoda
Bottom right: Xian rickshaws. Bell&Drum tower tix

kept us full in Xian.
Thank you KFC, Dico's, McD and Mr Lee
Night - City Tour. Rode bus #609 and reached Big Wild Goose Pagoda (southward). Then took another going other way and back to the rotunda for the Bell Tower. Ticket at 50yuan, including Drum Tower. Both  has performances scheduled everyday. Went back to hotel and dinner. There are several nice spots to visit within the city Xian so spending one more day wont be  that bad.


Morning - Early checked out but left our luggage at concierge. Gone to the Drum Tower and enjoyed day scene at Bell Tower. Both towers are walking distance from each other. At the underpass going to the Drum tower from Bell are high-end shops. The integrated ticket is valid for 7 days from purchase.

Afternoon - We are leaving for Shanghai. Checked into the train station (just look at the monitor board for your train sched and directions). We bought our tickets at the train station ticket booth 4 days earlier with the assistance of a concerned Chinese student who knew English, yey! You can book online as well but only within 20 days before the desired date of departure. Please go to for more information including how to read a Chinese train ticket.
Xian railway stn
We located our boarding gate and waited. It was not the cleanest lounge, just a precaution.  K558, our AC train, a hard sleeper left Xian at half passed 5. Dinner aboard train. I actually enjoyed the food trays passing our carriage from time to time because it smelled, looked and tasted good. 20-50yuan per pack/meal good for 1 serving.

Night - Not able to sleep well because I was at the upper berth, the bed about 2 feet from the ceiling - one of the things we were not able to request (for lower berth or middle) when booking the tickets (we didn't know how to say it anyway), we were just glad someone cared to help us.

the food cart,  the 3-berth beds, the hard-sleeper train

Morning - After 12 hours, we were still on the train. The other thing that we missed to inform the assisting student was that we wanted the fastest train - Z category, 4 to 5 hours faster than our K558, priced higher of course but waiting lounge was VIP-looking.

Afternoon - After several sitting, standing and lying positions on the train, we set foot Shanghai past 1PM. At least, Shanghai has efficient city trains where we transited thru to our hotel from the terminal - Manhattan Jinling Business Hotel located near Nanjing road. Rate, 238yuan for a night. 

We grabbed our lunch (microwavable) from Family Mart just beside hotel. Priced at 30-60yuan, some range of menu to choose from and unexpectedly tasted delicious (so we had a few more meals there).
Night - Raided the business district area where the tallest building (Shanghai Finance Center) is located and the Orient Pearl TV tower. Made our way to the Bund after (by train but reachable by foot). The area is a display of both modern and classic structures. Everything was pleasing to the eyes. We wanted to try the river cruise but we found it expensive at 100yuan so we just walked around by foot. Climbing up the Orient Pearl TV tower wasn't pocket-friendly as well.

Pudong Skyline
Morning - Checked out very early to spend the rest of the hours of our last day in the city. Again, city train brought us to Qibao district, the old city shanghai. Lunch by food tripping. It has almost all sorts of Chinese street food. There are also museums inside for a certain fee.

good food surprisingly
Afternoon - Back to the hotel after we made our way to the souvenir mall after we left Qibao. 'Trained'  ourselves again to the airport for our flight home.

Pudong Airport & Tita Filipina, visited
her son who is an Intl School Teacher
Night - Shanghai to Manila via Cebu Pacific. 5 hours airborne.

Early Morning - Touched down Manila. End of trip.


You can only change/buy local money at Bank of China; bring a language translator (an app maybe or a book) with you even for common phrases only; be ready for the crowd, it's China, the world's most populated.

15 flying hours; 20 hours train rides (ex city trains); 22 long-journey hours on the road (bus&car); 3,000 photos taken; 500USD spent approx (ex airtix); 4 hotels; 4 cities/towns visited.


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About Dee

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I was born and raised attune with nature, grew up from the countryside and a strong believer in endless possibilities. I am drawn to adrenaline rush and was never a girly kind but I dig chick flix and plays some music. I started this site during a 6-month distressing/long sojourning away from the corporate world. I gathered all the travels I went and translated them into words. I am not fond of sharing details of my trip and thought looking at the photos I've effort-fully taken was enough. Yet to my amazement reading through it flashes back more wonderful memories like a gush of throwback Thursdays. This is also a good venue to practice writing and to connect. So, thank you for stumbling upon my corner. Sorry I can't update regularly but I hope you'd visit again as my journey continues, find some useful information here and most of all be inspired to go on adventures your own. See you on the road!