Friday, August 28, 2015

China ( North East ) 2015

Travel solo, backpack, strange places, free & easy, go as far as you can
About warmth & hope in this world 
A breakfast menu in Old Beijing

" Travel makes one modest. You see what a tiny place you occupy in the world " 

" Better to see something once than to hear about it a thousand times "

" Chances are, other people you meet travelling alone are going to be incredibly interesting people " 

" My 28 days traveling solo to North Eastern China (provinces of Heilongjiang, Jilin, Liaoning, Shandong & Beijing)  from 31/7- 28/8/2015 - focusing on my visits to towns bordering Russia (ie Heihe & Suifenhe) & North Korea (ie Tumen & Dandong) and the coastal cities of Liaoning & Shandong (ie Dalian, Yantai & Qingdao) - a total of 13 cities/towns " 

Travel Itinerary: Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia) > Beijing > Harbin > Heihe > Wudalian Chi > Harbin > Mudanjiang > Suifenhe > Mudanjiang > Yanji > Tumen > Yanji > Changchun > Dandong > Dalian > Yantai > Qiangdao > Beijing > Kuala Lumpur 

Total expenses incurred (28 days): CNY5,370 + Rm954 = Rm4,256 (US$1,105)

Air Asia Ticket (KL>Beijing>KL): Rm775
Airport bus & Taxi : Rm75
Airport shuttle bus + train express: CNY50
Visa fee: RM104
Hostels (dorm/single): CNY1,550 (25.5 days)
Food: CNY994
Entrance fee (total): CNY270 (senior)
- Forbidden City : CNY30
- Summer Palace : CNY30
- Wudalian Chi : CNY 40 x 2
- Jing Po Lake : CNY40
- Imperial palace of Manchu state : CNY40
- Bang Chui Dao Island : CNY20
- Yantai Shan : CNY30
Ferry: CNY180 + CNY10 (Dalian>Yantai)
Speed Boat: CNY200 (Wudalian Chi & Jing Po Lake)
Long Distance Bus (total): CNY976
- Haerbin>Heihe : CNY166
- Heihe>Wudalian Chi : CNY83
- Wudalian Chi>Haerbin : CNY103
- Herbin>Mudanjiang : CNY96
- Mudanjiang>Suifenhe>Mudanjiang : CNY39 x 2
- Mudanjiang>Jing Po Lake>Mudanjiang : CNY50
- Mudanjiang>Yanji : CNY74
- Yanji>Tumen>Yanji : CNY15 x 2
- Ynaji>Changchun : CNY117
- Dandong>Dalian : CNY99
- Yantai>Qingdao : CNY80
Train (total): CNY698
- Beijing>Herbin = CNY306(high speed)
- Changchun>Dandong = CNY78 
- Qingdao>Beijing = CNY314 (high speed)
Shuttle bus (scenic area): CNY186
Taxi: CNY15
Metro: CNY38
Day Tour: CNY100 (Dandong)
City bus: CNY88

Exchange Rates (23/7/2015): CNY1=Rm0.615 (Ringgit Malaysia); US1=Rm3.85

North Eastern China Map 
Map of  Heilongjiang Province
Map of Jilin Province
Map of  Liaoning  Province
Map of  Shandong Province

When I booked my Air Asia promotional ticket for this China trip in Nov 2014, I was aiming at visiting Russia via Beijing to Harbin and then by train to Vladivostok. From Vladivostok I will then travel north east by train all the way to Khabarovsk, Ulan Ude, Irkutsk, Novosibirsk and then return to Beijing via Manzhouli. But getting a Russian visa is bureaucratic unless you are prepared to pay Rm480 (US$125) using an accredited agency in Kuala Lumpur to apply the visa on your behalf !

With a change in my travel plan, I then focused my north eastern China trip to visit cities & towns bordering Russia & North Korea. Now that I had done the trip, I must confess that the outcome was fabulous and rewarding !
The 13 cities/towns I visited in north eastern China were:

Heilongjiang Province
- Harbin
- Heihe
- Wudalian Chi
- Mudanjiang
- Suifenhe
Jilin Province

- Changchun
- Yanji
- Tumen
Liaoning Province
- Dandong
- Dalian
Shandong Province
- Yantai
- Qingdao

For public transport, I used high speed trains for my travelling to bigger cities like Beijing to Harbin and Qingdao to Beijing. As for the smaller towns along the Russian & North Korean borders, I relied mainly on long distance buses instead of normal trains as it was difficult to buy a sleeper train ticket during the summer month of August when millions of students were on vacations. Everything worked well except I missed visiting Mohe & the Arctic Village (northern tip of Heilongjiang) as most sleeper train tickets were sold out well in advance !

Most of my hostel accommodations in bigger cities like Beijing, Harbin, Qingdao, Dalian & Yantai, were booked on line via Hostelworld website. A number of the youth hostels I stayed in these cities were within walking distance to Metro, bus stations & the old towns so I saved considerable time moving around the touristy places. As for the smaller towns like Wudalian Chi, Heihe, Mudanjiang, Yanji, Dandong etc, I put up in smaller hotels located 50-100m from the long distance bus terminals upon arrivals - no advance booking !

Due to their close proximity, I was able to visit Suifenhe on a day trip from Mudanjiang. Likewise, I did a day trip to Tumen from Yanji.

It was far more economical & convenient to sign up a day tour package eg Mudanjiang & Dandong as their major tourist sites are located far away from the city centre.

As for my visits to coastal cities like Dalian & Yantai, the six hour ferry crossing between both cities was an interesting experience ! The bus ride from Yantai to Qingdao took slightly over 3.5 hrs via a new express way. 

All in all, a very fruitful visit for me to see the greater region of the north east China. In every free & easy travelling, one has to walk extra mile to see with your own eyes the many wonderful places around you, whether it is natural or man made ! Travelling does enhance your knowledge in geography, history, culture & customs of a nation !

Early autumn is still the best time for visiting north eastern China as the weather is much cooler unlike the late summer month of August - rather warm during the day !


Forbidden  City

Haerbin, Heilongjiang

St Sofia Church

Heihe, Heilongjiang 

China & Russia Border, Heihe 

Wudalian Chi, Heilongjiang

Laoshan Volcano Crater

Mudanjiang, Heilongjiang

Jin Po Lake

Suifenhe, Heilongjiang

China & Russia border

Yanji, Jilin

Changbai Shan People's Cultural Park

Tumen, Jilin 

China & North  Korea border

Changchun, Jilin 

Imperial Palace of the Machu State

Dandong, Jilin 

Ya Lu Jiang & Bridge

Dalian, Liaoning

Bang Chui  Dao

Yantai, Shandong

Yantai Shan 

Qingdao, Shandong 

Qingdao Beach

The world is so big (China is big too), my thought is to seek out and see the world

So near yet so far, I missed visiting Mohe & Artic Village in this trip - I shall return & make this dream comes true

Arctic Village, Mohe

Beijing, China (2015)

Total expenses incurred (5 days) : CNY869
Airport Bus: CNY24
Airport Express train: CNY25
Metro: CNY28
Hostel (4.5 nights): CNY225 (dorms)
Food: CNY195
Train (high Speed): CNY306 (Beijing>Haerbin)
Entrance fee: CNY60
City bus: CNY6

Metro Map of  Beijing 

This was my sixth visit to Beijing, the first was in 1997 ! As I had visited majority of the tourist sites in Beijing in my past visits (1997, 2002, 2009-2011) and for my 5 days in Beijing, I re-visited the Summer Palace, Forbidden City, Yuanming Yuan, Tienanmen Square, Wanfujing etc A privilege for me, now that I am a senior citizen and I paid a 50% concessions for all the entrance tickets to these popular places !

In Beijing, I put up in two different youth hostels. The most interesting one was in an old courtyard home (300 year old) at a hutong area of Old Peking ! In modern Peking, many of the old buildings in hutongs had been demolished in recent years so what a great experience for me to spend a few days here. I believe "Old is Gold" as in Old Peking, this gave me the opportunity to observe the daily lives of the local people in hutongs, sampling food made from old recipes & traditional styles; charming old buildings & public amenities, morning markets etc. 

With a Metro city map, I was able to move around the city with much ease, though in some high traffic Metro stations, you could see an unusually large crowd rushing to board the trains, so just be patience ! Whether you like it or not, you just have to face it if you choose to take a Metro in Beijing, frequented by people living in a city with a population of over 22 million. 

Beijing welcomes you & me !!!

Beijing International Airport - Terminal 2 (for boarding Air Asia flights)

Beijing Train Station

Beijing Airport Train Express (Dongzhimen - Line 2>Beijing International Airport Terminal 2 - Air Asia Departure) 

Operation Hour 06.00>22.30
CNY25 per ticket

Tienanmen Square & nearby area

Tienanmen Square
National Museum of  China
China Railway Museum
China Railway Museum

Forbidden City 

Entrance fee CNY30 for seniors

Summer Palace

Entrance fee CNY30 for seniors

Old Summer Palace (Yuanming Yuan)


Old Peking

Da Zha Lan walking Street, Old Peking 

Da Zha Lan walking street originated  in Ming Dynasty (1420)
600m from Qianmen Metro station

Hutongs (Alleys)

Madame Tussauds Beijing

The Founder of First Chinese Cinema Film

Savoring Beijing Food in Old Peking Street - The food I tasted with a hostel mate from Nepal !

CNY 70 for this lunch + rice for 2 
CNY 15 for this breakfast for 2 
CNY 5 for 2 Old Peking bread
CNY 15 for a pack of 4 Baoxi 
CNY22 for a plate of mixed pork offals + rice 
CNY10 for lamb & Squib (3 pcs)

Beijing Leo Courtyard Hostel

CNY90 for a dorm bed
300 year old courtyard

Beijing City Central Youth Hostel

CNY70 for a single bed

Raju Lama, my hostel mate from Nepal; together we roamed the hutongs, Tienanmen & Old Peking for 3 days prior to my departure from Beijing to Kuala Lumpur