China is a different ball game to our usual Southeast Asian holiday destinations. A bit of planning is required – here are our tips for getting ready for that first trip. This time we visited Guangzhou and Yangshuo and traveled by train. While the former was fascinating as a stop-over from Hong Kong, Yangshuo is definitely worth a trip. My first visit to China – Beijing – made me curious about the rest of China, but I imagine Yangshuo having the same effect on people.
Chinese visa and 72 hrs visa free zones
The Chinese Visa Centre in KL is now at Hampshire Offices downtown. Parking may be a bit of a problem but the service is very efficient so you may get away with parking illegally on the roadside. I have applied for a Chinese visa here twice, and have been impressed by the ease of the process. Just make sure you’ve filled in the forms and have all the supporting documents photocopied. You don’t need to drag the kids to the centre: one member of a family can apply for the visas for the whole family – I provided them with a written consent from the other adult, just in case.
China train tickets
Use an agent! We used DIY China Travel and was impressed by their speed and level of service. They provide you with incredibly detailed instructions with photos on how to read your tickets and how to survive at Chinese train stations. Having said that, we still had a few issues – like choosing the right counter amongst 20 with scarily long lines of non-English speaking train travellers. Make sure you have enough time at the train station. For example, the one in Guangzhou is comparable to a middle-sized European airport.
My favourite tip by DIY China Travel was to try to spot student-looking people at the stations. Characteristics to look for: wears glasses and carries books. It worked! We would have been on a wrong train and in wrong seats without friendly young English students more than happy to get language practise.
The photo in the beginning is of Gongcheng station on the Guangzhou – Guiyang route, where high-speed modern trains pass through the amazing karst scenery of the North Guangxi. The train itself was comfortable and modern with a restaurant car.
Book your airport transfers beforehand and have the name of your hotel written in Chinese on you. Many hotels have cards printed out with their details on, stock up on those. List the places you may want to go in a taxi before setting out in the morning and ask someone to write them down for you.