We’ve been looking at our next trip away from the continent and at the minute, we are focusing our efforts on China. Thinking of the sheer size of the country we’ve decided that it’s likely that for our first trip – we’ll stick to just one or two places – perhaps take in a city or two (Shanghai, Macau…) and then something a little more scenic (Guilin, Zhangye…). We are yet to decide on how we’ll reach China – but we’re looking into train travel over flights – the real way to slow travel.
As there’s an awful lot to consider – I’ve decided to post much of our research, along with some helpful hits and tips for planning slow travel trips to China right here on the blog.
Thinking About Trains – Europe to China
As we love travelling by train it seems only right that we should complete our first long distance experience (while writing the Slow Travel Diary anyway) by embarking on another trip on the rails. Last year we travelled from London through Paris and to Annecy, and then just a month ago, completed the trip to where we are now, in Firenze, Italy, by travelling by TGV to Turin and then onwards by the Frecciarosso to Firenze. The year before we travelled from London to Venice by train stopping off in Paris, Lyon, Annecy, Turin, Milan, Genoa, Santa Margarita Ligure (and Portofino), Firenze and Venice. We’ve also travelled through South East Asia by train (including a fantastic journey from Bangkok to Chiang Mai in 3rd class), the UK and through Germany to Denmark – though much of this we’ve yet to write about here (but we will be adding as much as possible!!) In short we love train travel.
As we’re currently based in Firenze, it’s highly likely that we’ll travel by train first from Firenze to Padova, and then cross into Germany, first stopping at Munich and then onwards to Berlin (and visit Maria’s family for a day or two), and then from Berlin to Moscow (perhaps visit some more of Maria’s family) and onwards from Moscow to Beijing on the great Tran-Siberian Railway – a dream come true.
Below is a breakdown of that journey split into the 3 major legs of the route – all based on our research so far.
Tours in China
Now I’ll be honest, I’ve taken one tour in my entire life – a private tour of the Necropolis under the Vatican..and that was because it’s the only way to get under there. I’m not a fan of tours. But for a country like China, it’s beginning to dawn on me that we’ll probably benefit from a tour or two – especially in the countryside and, if we decide to head in that direction, places such as the Gobi Desert.
I’d prefer to avoid the traditional tour operators who more often that not operate scams to force people into shops and the like (I really don’t have the patience for such things) and so have been researching new operators such as Jetbay – who at least on the surface seem to offer a more modern, moderated and tailored approach. Additionally they have some good resources online for trip planning especially for China, and some interesting tours that take in both the larger cities and the outer regions of of the country- that I think will be helpful to open our eyes to places we might not otherwise think of visiting.
At the minute – it’s likely we’ll stay in Beijing and then move onto Guilin. Though, depending on time, we may also go to Macau and Shanghai. This of course will only be ideal if we stay for at least a month – as we’re not fans of rushing – as I’m sure is obvious – this is the Slow Travel Diary after all. However, as mentioned – it’s likely that we’ll take a tour of several places to get a general idea of the cities and then move onto the second half of our trip – say a week in Shanghai if we like it, or 2 weeks in Guilin exploring the wilderness. Though this is still very much in the air – pending further research and hopefully a few hints and tips from the travel community…
If you have some tips of your own – particularly on train journeys in China (we’ll be covering this in a later post) – and on your experiences taking tours in China – then we’d love to hear from you in the comments.
* Cover image is by Kevin Jaako
If you liked this post please share it: