1. When is the best time to visit Shanxi?
Shanxi is good for travel all year round. It has a continental climate with cold dry winters (November to March) and hot humid summers (June to August). In terms of season the best time to visit is during autumn from September to early November when warm sunny days with clear skies and pleasantly cool evenings are the norm. The second best time is spring from late March to May when weathers are not drastic and the accompanying wind blows away the pollutants. This is also a good time to see blooming flowers in the countryside. Sporadic sand storm may happen in spring though. If you do not mind the cold, winter with its falling snow is a unique time to visit Shanxi; the mountains and the Great Wall are often cover with snow, offering amazing snowy scenery.
2. How is the rail system like in China?
China has one of the biggest and busiest rail networks in the world and train links almost every city and town. Travelling by train is one of the cheapest and most comfortable mode of travel around China especially for long distance travel. It is also the safest and most reliable compared to travelling by air or by coach. All trains leave and arrive on schedule, and there are seldom any delays.
Rail network in China is generally classified into Normal Speed Rail and High Speed Rail (HSR). Normal speed rail where trains run at 100-160 km per hour are the most common rail service while High Speed Rail where high speed trains (aka bullet trains) run at 200-350 km per hour is fast becoming the norm train service between major cities.
Normal speed rail has both sleeper and seater berths. For sleeper berth, there are three classes: hard sleeper, soft sleeper and deluxe soft sleeper. A hard sleeper carriage has several open cabins (without doors) along the train aisle. There are 6 sleeping berths to a cabin; an upper, middle and lower berths on each side of the cabin. As the cabin is open to the aisle, it has less privacy and can be noisy in daytime. A soft sleeper cabin has door which is closed to the aisle. Each cabin consists of only 4 berths; an upper and a lower berths on each side of it. Deluxe soft sleeper is one class above soft sleeper and comes with only 2 berths to one cabin. Soft sleeper mattresses have more cushion and are softer than hard sleeper mattresses. For seater berth, there are two classes: hard seater and soft seater. Soft seater is just a normal seating coach where passengers sit next to one another. The soft seat coach can be crowded with passengers and their luggage, so travelling in this class will not be so comfortable. Hard seater is the least comfortable and cheapest among all with hard and non-reclining seats. All normal speed trains are fully air-conditioned and equipped with a dining carriage where you can order meals. All carriages are also equipped with boiling water and cold water dispensers and a squat toilet.
High Speed Rail comes with 6 different classes; second class seat, first class seat, business class seat, VIP seat, soft sleeper and deluxe soft sleeper. Second class seat consists of 5 seats in a row (3+2) with non- reclining seats and without foot rests. First class seat consists of 4 seats in a row (2+2) with partially reclining seats and with foot rests. Soft sleeper and deluxe soft sleepers are only available on the overnight trains. High speed trains are also equipped with seat toilets and handicapped restrooms.
3. Is the internet freely accessible in China?
The internet is highly censored in China through the so-called “Great Firewall” – the combination of legislative actions and technologies enforced by the Chinese government to regulate the internet domestically. Websites that are blocked in China include Google (including Gmail), Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snap Chat, YouTube, Dropbox, etc. If you need to check your emails, it is advisable to auto-forward your emails to other non-blocked accounts such as Hotmail or Yahoo Mail beforehand. A substitute for WhatsApp and Line is WeChat – Chinese multi-purpose social media mobile application.
4. What do I need to pack for this tour?
A detailed packing list will be provided upon tour confirmation.
5. Will there be any forced shopping tours?
No, all our tours are strictly No Forced Shops, No Factories and No Detours. However if you are interested in any particular factory or shop, do let us know and we can arrange for it.
6. What are the typical meals during the tour?
Breakfast will be provided by the hotel. Continent styled or American styled breakfast will usually be served at the better hotels (4-5 Star). Lower end hotels (3 Star) or hotels in smaller cities tend to serve Chinese styled breakfast which may include the following food: dim sum, fried noodles, porridge, mantou, etc. Lunch is included in our package as well and will be arranged at a descent restaurant with 2-4 Chinese dishes (depending on your group size) and 1 soup. Dinner is left to your own arrangement; you may take this opportunity for some food adventure.
7. Can vegetarian meals be arranged?
Yes, many Chinese are also vegetarians; vegetarian food can be easily found in China.