In June 2017 we travelled in 22 days through China – from Lao (Mohan border) to Mongolia (Ehrenhot). A total of approx. 5’600km. Here some practical information about the journey. For more ample details and pics see our respective blogs. Kindly note all information given is based on our personal perceptions and observations. Of course you might experience it in a different way.
Tour operator and guide:
It is our second journey through China. In 9. 2016 we travelled with tibetmoto from Kirgistan (Torugart – Kashgar – Tibet – Yunnan) to Lao. Out of other operators like Navo, Chinaoverland, weitu we choose tibetmoto for his transparent quotes, his promt replies to e-mails and his offer where no customs deposit for the car is required. However, finally we were not really convinced of his services: with exception of a very kind and knowledgeable guide in Tibet, the other 2 proposed guides we had (altogether we had 3, they change at each province) were completely unmotivated or had no knowledge about the area. Hence long delays and big stress. Outside of Yunnan tibetmoto is working through other agencies; this may explain certain insufficiencies. However, arising problems are always quickly solved by Hendrik, the owner of tibetmoto. But the first impression counts.
Our second and actual trial is with weitu (Chengdu Greatway Tour Co.). We had to pay the caution for our car (Landcruiser Prado RMB 50’000). Weitu is very flexible for route-changes/ propositions and quickly answers e-mails. We had to fix our journey approx. 2 months in advance and pay a 1st instalment. The last payment we did 1 month in advance.
Entering China at Mohan our guide Jens (Zhang Suqi) ensured very quick customs and immigration formalities. Road worthiness test, drivers licence and number plates within less than 1h. Jens proofed to be a very competent guide throughout the journey to Erenhot. Good local knowledge, always good humour and friendly, accurate organisation of overnight stays and very flexible for route changes. Customs formalities at Erenhot in less than 1h. Altogether a very good experience! Return of customs deposit after 2 months.
Sights and entrance fees:
Remark on Chinese entrance fees: Very expensive. But you can definitely get it at half of the cost or even for free if you’re less than 18 or more than 60 years old. Thus, planning your life simply forsee an early or a slightly late visit to China to take advantage of the teenie or granny discount.
Roughly our route: Mohan – Yuanyuang rice fields – Jianshui – Shilin – Kunming – Xichang – Leshan – Chengdu – Guangyuan – Xian – Pingyao – Yanmenguan Great Wall – Hanging Temple (Xuankong Si) in Hunyuan – Datong – Badaling – Beijing – Ulanqab – Erenhot.
Yuanyuang rice fields: a must have seen sight; absolutely gorgeous, even if there is not the photogenic season with water in the rice fields. Drove the whole circle within this area. Fees for 4 sights (3 terraces and the trad. Hanivillage Quinkou) 100RMB. Had fog in the morning at the paying terrace Duoyishu – nothing to see. Went back later and could get in for free again.
Jianshui: Nice old town, but being converted into Disneyworld. Have a look at the twin dragon bride 5km outside town (free). Visited Confuzius temple (60 RMB) and residence of Zhu family (40 RMB).
Shilin: Stone forest 175RMB + 25RMB for shuttle bus. If you have seen Halong Bay or the area around Pang Nga leave it. Very touristy.
Kunming: The streets in the old town in the center of Kunming are being rebuilt. Birdmarket not there anymore.
Xichang: Walked to the lake, huge wetlands – it’s just an overnight stop. But have a real B-B-Q in the town center!
Leshan: Great Buddha (90RMB) absolutely fascinating. Luckily the queue was not that Long.
Chengdu: Pandas (around 200RMB), a must have seen sight.
Guangyuan: 1000 Buddha cliff or Quianfoya scenic spot (around 50RMB), absolutely fascinating. For us better than the Yungang grottoes in Datong.
Xian: Muslim quarter in the evening a must. Plenty of foodstalls. Have a look at the Great Mosque (25RMB) – looks more like a Chinese temple. Climbed bell and drum tower (50RMB for both), nice view at sunset. Terracotta warriors (150RMB), a must have seen sight.
Zhangbi underground castle (60RMB): Nice village and temples above ground and long tunnels underground, really worth a visit.
Pingyao: Lots of old houses but center also converted into Disneyworld. Buy a combiticket (130RMB) for all sights – old bank buildings, temples, houses of former security services. Visit the lanes away from the center.
Yanmenguan Great Wall: don’t go to the official site (90RMB+5 for bus), all is rebuilt. You’ll find an old part of the Great Wall at N 39.21212, E 112.79753 for free.
Hanging Temple (Xuankong Si) in Hunyuan: Nothing for people suffering from vertigo, but very nice (100RMB).
Datong: Old town completely rebuilt, not worth visiting. Yungang grottoes (150RMB) nice but very touristy, preferred 1000 Buddha Cliff in Guangyuan.
Badaling Great Wall: (40RMB), either you climb or you take the Austrian cable car. All rebuilt, but just standing there plus the views are fantastic.
Beijing: Forbidden town (60RMB). It’s a museum with little atmosphere.
For most of the trip we took the highway. The fare is approx. 5-6 cents per km. Traffic is little – except in big towns. The road from Mengla to Yuanyang is narrow and winding – similar to Lao roads. Some 300$ for the whole trip.
As we are equipped with just a rooftop tent we are dependent on some infrastructure like water and a toilet. Hence, we slept in hotels and guesthouses having a safe parking. Our guide looked for a specific centrally situated hotel on internet and we had a look at it. It worked perfectly. We spent approx. 180RMB per night (mostly with breakfast).
Easiest in the country where you live. With the invitation letter of your travel agency no problem.
Even don’t try any conversation in a hotel or restaurant. Except in big tourist centers nobody will ever understand you. We had a post-it with the Chinese script for: eat, beer, chicken, pork, beef, rice, not too hot and toilet. What else would you need for a splash.