Trip duration: 2/28/14 to 3/7/2014
Route: Dallas => Beijing (with a layover in Chicago); Shanghai => Dallas (with a layer over in Chicago)
Flying Method: Miles (award flights booked in January ’14 for March ’14 departure)
- American Airlines AAdvantage: 70,000 miles (DFW-PEK; SHA-DFW on economy via AA) – don’t remember how I earned the miles. It’s probably a combination of purchases/flying/CC sign-on bonus from an old Citi Platinum Select AAdvantage Visa.
This is one of those spur of the moment trips. One of my coworkers was in Hong Kong for work in early 2014. She mentioned that after her project’s finished, she was planning to visit China with her sister whose husband is a diplomat stationed in Mongolia. Knowing that I’m a travel nerd, she invited me to come along (or i half invited myself…LOL). After poking around AA’s award chart, luckily I was able to use the MileSavers award for a roundtrip airfare to China. Since it’s off-peak in Asia, it only cost 70K miles based on my intended schedule. My itinerary in China was as follows: Beijing => Xi’an (via air) => Beijing => Shanghai (via high speed rail).
I arrived into Beijing in the middle of the night, by the time I checked into the hotel (Hilton Wangfujing) it was already past 1 in the morning. Boy was I glad to finally kick off the shoes, shower and get some rest. The next morning I was picked up from the hotel by our travel guide to start our Forbidden City and the Great Wall tour. I was happily reunited with my coworker/friend and met her older sister. Yippee! We booked the tour via viator.com (viator is a reliable tour broker who works with local tour operators and offers tour packages all over the world). It’s definitely doable for someone to explore new places on their own. However by going on tours you will always have knowledgeable locals who are able to offer insight and background history of the places you’re visiting. It’s really all personal preference.
Being born and educated in Taiwan up through junior high school, I have to say I’m a bit biased when it comes to China. Politics aside, China has such a rich history which spins over thousands of years. You can’t help but admire and be amazed at the architecture you see and the stories you hear.
The 2nd day in Beijing we decided to do another tour with our tour guide and went to the Summer Palace, Lama Temple and the Beijing Zoo.
After an amazing history session in Beijing, we flew to Xi’an to continue on the history hunt. This time we mainly had our eye set on the terra cotta warriors. The interesting thing about Xi’an is that the city is surrounded by 4 large city walls. We spent the afternoon walking around the Muslim Square and exploring nearby areas. It’s so interesting seeing Muslims in China, but yes they do exist. Even though we only stayed in Xi’an for 2 days (1 night), we felt it was enough to see all the major attractions.
After our visit in Xi’an, we flew back to Beijing and took the high speed rail to Shanghai the following day. The train ride took 4 hours, it was really comfortable and clean. You even have more leg room than an economy seat on a commercial airplane. We got into Shanghai and checked into our respective hotels (I stayed at the Hilton in Jian while my friend and her sister stayed at the JW Marriott near the Bund). I explored the area a bit and took the train to meet up with them the next day. The transit system is pretty easy to maneuver in Shanghai. It’s affordable and really convenient.
This trip was really the 1st time that I ever had to plan things out on my own, and I enjoyed doing it quite honestly. Even though my friend and her sister have had their fair share of travel experiences, their husbands usually plan everything. So it’s a first for all of us to have to figure out what each of us want to see and do, and figure out how to get there. China in my opinion is a bit hard to travel to if you don’t know the language, hence I kinda served as the translator for my friends (and being mistaken as their guide….uhhh excuse you no i’m not going to talk my friends into buying your expensive souvenirs). However being a first time visitor myself and with my rusty Mandarin, often times things would get lost in translation. I remember this instance when I was getting a cab ride to my friend’s hotel at the JW Marriott in Beijing. The cab driver didn’t know any English and I had no idea what Marriott is called in Chinese. After a very frustrating conversation (he was starting to raise his voice at me and this girl was about to unleash her fury), we had to pull up to a random hotel and asked a bellboy for directions. Goodness gracious, lesson learned to have the name of the places you want to go in the local language.
As always, hope you enjoyed reading my trip report. 🙂