|12 Days of Solo Backpacking in China: Beijing, Datong, Pingyao and Xian|
First things first, secure your Chinese visa! You don’t want to waste your effort planning for a trip when you are not certain of this step yet. For Filipinos looking for Chinese Visa assistance, I recommend Asia Pacific Travel agency located along Escolta, Manila. You may connect with them via (02) 3533729. What I especially like about this agency is they have friendly agents and very very affordable processing fee! Super recommended. In case you want to apply by yourself, the requirements are very easy and can be found here. On other instances, my mother usually submits them to the embassy and I prepare authorization letters just in case.
There were just too many places that I wanted to see in China, but due to time restrictions of twelve days, I decided between Beijing, Xian, and Chengdu. I figured Chengdu is too large and I probably need to spend more time there (since also traveling to Jiuzhaigou, one of Chengdu’s famous tourist destinations, could take 3-4 days, I decided to put this plan aside and reserve it for a trip during autumn season), I was left with Beijing and Xian. Upon reading some blogs, I was able to discover some interesting cities that I could pass by before going to Xi’An, such as Pingyao and Datong. If you’re coming during summer or springtime and have some extra money to spend, you can also head out to Inner Mongolia, Luoyang or Chengde. Tianjin is also famous for those looking for side trips due its close proximity to Beijing.
For more tips on traveling to China, I will be making a separate post soon. :)
Hostels in China are amazingly cheap and you’ll really feel that your money was well spent with the facilities they have around. Rates around big cities run around 40 to 80 CNY, my most favorite stay was at this quaint hostel in Pingyao. At 20 CNY a night and with this lovely traditional architecture, what’s not to love?
I didn’t have a strict itinerary and only had to list the places that I want to see because I didn’t have much time to plan, but this itinerary is doable for nine-eleven days with careful planning and cramming.
I took a direct flight from Manila to Beijing, and on the same day, made my way to Datong. Pingyao was my next destination before heading to Xi’An. From there, I went back to Beijing. One loop.
You may download a copy of my itinerary in China via this link that also includes my budget details for the entire trip.
|My route for my solo trip to China, the distance look quite near to each other, but train travel would usually take 8-12 hours|
My total expense around China was about 3200 CNY, daily average of 270 CNY (around 40 USD) for lodging, transportation, food and tourist fees. I decided not to limit myself with the food because eating out in China is not expensive! I am also in love with their Pizza Hut and Ajisen Ramen branches in China, the menu is so extensive and different compared to what we have in the Philippines.
You can also grab a copy of my “accounting sheet” during the trip through this page in case you want to have an idea how much you’ll likely to be spending per day.
|Breakdown of my travel expenses in China, 3200 CNY for a solo female backpacker for 12 days? Not bad!|
THE SOLO JOURNEY BEGINS…
When I think of Datong, I am reminded of the dust and grime all over the city. It seems like they were doing some massive reconstructions when I was there. Datong didn’t give off that excitement and there’s really not much to do except for The Yungang Grottoes and Hanging Monastery, but both of these are certainly worth the visit. From then on, I realized that though the food and transportation in China could be cheap, the entrance fees to these sites are steep and can take a toll on the wallet. I still think that both of those places are top-notch and not to be missed especially if you are around Northern China.
|one of the most impressive statues in Yungang Grottoes|
|always included in top 10 most precarious structures built all over the world, going to The Hanging Monastery is an impressive old temple with unique history|
I was really aiming to spend maximum of two days in Datong and wanted to get out as soon as I can. I was still a noob with how overland train travel works in China so I ended up just buying standing tickets to Pingyao. That or get stuck for another day in Datong.
Pingyao is such a low-key destination, but the possibilities on what you can see made me excited. I was supposed to reserve one day for Mianshan, a mountain famous in the region of Shanxi for its natural scenery, but had to cancel since I spend almost one whole day for travel.
I spent the next day traveling outside the suburbs of Pingyao to see the famous Wang Family Courtyard House which is a massive complex of ancestral houses that seemed like a big maze, Zhangbi Underground Castle, an ancient defense system and Shuanglin Temple, that seemed more like a museum for me, it was pretty amusing since it houses tons of old sculptures! That day was like going to Disneyland!
Going around the walled city of Pingyao could take a day or two. The experience can be compared to going to those folk villages, the area was preserved beautifully to represent how the place looks like hundreds of years ago.
|Pingyao and its lovely architecture|
|one of the famous house complex in China! I felt like I was in a labyrinth|
|such an impressive display of ancient art skills at Shuanglin Temple|
I was starting to feel the summer heat when I arrived at Xi’An which resulted to cancelling of plans of going to Huashan and trying this death defying stunt. Might as well be prepared next time and go there with a companion, and better yet, with a travel insurance.
Xi’An is one of those walled cities in China, but it is really large compared to that of Datong and Pingyao. There are lots of interest areas here, but if you’ve been to a number of pagodas, temples and the likes, you can skip. If there’s one thing you must not miss around the city, it’s Muslim Quarter. I never had an idea that China was so diverse, not until I went here and experienced the culture by myself.
When thinking of Xi’an, it’s almost always connected to The Terracotta Warriors, which still gives me goose bumps every time I think about it. A similar attraction, though underrated, is The Tomb of Emperor Jingdi. Think of the warriors only smaller and much cuter.
|I'd be surprised if you'll miss the Bell Tower located at the heart of Xi'An's busiest intersection|
|food choices at The Muslim Quarter - not to be missed!|
|figurine like display at The Tomp of Emperor Jingdi, so impressed with the minute details!|
|seeing The Terracotta Warriors, a childhood dream come true!|
I have probably spent too much time researching on the logistics for Datong, Pingyao and Xi’an, I had actually no plans what to see when I arrived in Beijing, so this itinerary is probably doable two to three days tops.
Beijing is full of those shopping districts and restaurant-filled streets, it’s really confusing what there is to see, since I was not really there to buy stuff (super overpriced!) so I ended up just appreciating the architecture. Types can range from hutong or ancient at Nanluoguxiang and Qiamen Street, or modern ones at Wangfujing and 798 Art Street.
One thing that I also love about this city is the harmonious unity of preserved ancient traditions with the very urbanized lifestyle of the locals. Places that shows the unique culture of the Chinese are dime a dozen. I was able to see The Forbidden City and Summer Palace and it made me feel like I was a royalty for a day
The Great Wall is almost synonymous to China, it’s what we always think of when visiting to this country. The feeling of going there was surreal, thinking about the hundreds of years of history embedded to that place was priceless.
|quite unique food choices at Wangfujing|
|imperial palaces at The Forbidden City|
|Be surrounded by nature and cool off from the summer heat at The Summer Palace|
|The Great Wall - one of the highlights of this escapade|
This trip to China just made me went to crave for more, the country was just too large, I feel like there’s still too much I need to see. Aside from seeing natural and cultural treasures, I was just amazed with how this country is developing and how their government has provided convenient ways for people to travel.
China has been said to be a difficult place to explore, and for me, it certainly proved as a big challenge to step up my game. Being a solo female traveler to China at that time, I had doubts most especially as to how I’ll be able to move around without any companion since it’s been a while since I’ve traveled alone, and to a non-English speaking country, to make things worse. Turns out, it wasn’t so hard at all, even with the surprises I encountered along the way, you just got to have an open mind for mistakes and learn from them.
China was a good prep for more exciting ventures, traveling as a solo female at that time was not just a learning experience for me about travel and cultures, but also gave me time to think and know more about myself. Just one of the many things I love about traveling.
|eye bags after planning for this trip, so worth it!|
More of China here