China Trip Update 2 – Booking my Hostels and choosing my seats on the Northwest Airlines

My previous update on my trip to China discussed why I wanted to go to China and receiving my Chinese visa.Now that it has been a few weeks I wanted to provide an update on my activities to prepare for the trip. So far to date, I’ve done some research into sites to visit, but I also wanted to take care of a couple logistical details including booking hostels and choosing my airline seats.

Booking my hostels…For the truly adventurous, some might advise you to wait until you get to China to find accommodations, however, I’m a realist. Maybe if I was staying in China for 6 weeks or longer would I do something like that, but I am only there for two short weeks. I don’t want to waste any of my time while I am in China finding a place to stay.

As a side note, I also considered couch surfing, but I decided that this trip was not the right time to do that. I may just try to meet up with a few couch surfer hosts in their city though. Probably the next time I go to China, I will try couch surfing out as I think it would be an awesome experience.

In my past trips to New Zealand and India, I have used Hostelworld.com to read reviews and book hostels. Unfortunately, Hostelworld charges a booking fee. They probably charge this booking fee to recoup the costs of running their site and while that’s understandable, I’d prefer not to pay a booking fee which was why I was excited when I found a new hostel site called Hostelbooker.com. Hostelbooker has pretty much the same line up of hostels as Hostelworld. There may have been one or two different hostels listed on Hostelworld, but there wasn’t enough of a difference to make me think twice about using Hostelbooker. The main savings I saw was the fact there was not a $2.00 booking fee. This may seem a bit cheap to haggle over a booking fee, but I tend to think most people would prefer knowing a site that doesn’t charge such a fee.

I read many reviews of hostels in Beijing, Shanghai, and Xian covering things like safety, cleanliness, service, and fun at the hostel. I am pretty easy going myself and probably could not have made a mistake with picking any of the hostels listed. Here are the hostels I selected:

Shanghai
Shanghai Blue Mountain Youth Hostel
Dates: August 30, 2009 – September 3, 2009

(September 3, 2009 – I will catch a night train to Xi’an that arrives on September 4, 2009)

Xi’an
Xiangzimen International Youth Hostel
Dates: September 4, 2009 – September 5, 2009

(September 5, 2009 – I will catch a night train to Beijing that arrives on September 6, 2009)

Beijing
Haina Hostel
Dates: September 6, 2009 – September 11, 2009

(September 6, 2009 – I will catch a night train to Shanghai that arrives on September 12, 2009)

Shanghai
Le Tour Shanghai Youth Hostel
Dates: September 12 – September 13, 2009

September 13 – Head home!

Certainly, if you have any comments about these hostels (hopefully I did not go wrong) or you will be these hostels yourself, feel free to leave a comment.

Choosing my airline seat…Usually, when you choose a seat on an international flight, you are dreading that economy seat. I’m actually very excited to be flying in business class on a Northwest Airlines 747 jet. While I’ve flown on a 747 jet before, this will be my first time in business class. Before everyone thinks I have a ton of $$$ and can actually afford a business class seat, I used frequent flyer miles to obtain this seat. I plan on enjoying and relaxing on my flights to and from China. In order to aid in my seat selection in the business class cabin, I consulted threads in flyertalk’s Northwest Worldperks forum. I eventually went with exit rows on the upper deck of the 747. Needless to say, I’m excited to be finally trying the 747 upper deck. This could be my only chance as many airlines are retiring these jumbo jets because of their operating costs. Let me know if you are on a DTW-PVG flight on Aug 29. If so, we can hang out at the DTW airport. Feel free to leave a comment if you’ve experienced business class service on a NWA 747.

As the day of the departure gets closer, I am definitely getting more excited for the trip. I have already started making a list to pack even though I will only be gone for 2 weeks. In future trip updates, I’ll discuss some of the activities that I have planned.

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China Trip Update – my visa is here!

I have my Passport back.
I have my Passport back.

About two weeks ago, I sent my passport to Washington DC to obtain a Chinese visa. On Thursday, I was excited to receive my passport back with a brand new Chinese visa! I quickly flipped to the visa pages in my passport to check out what a Chinese visa looks like….

Chinese Visa
Chinese Visa

Since I’ve received my visa, I thought this would be an excellent opportunity to spend some time talking about why China is my next destination.

Ever since I started traveling to different countries, I have always wanted to visit China. I think it has something to do with seeing things that are hundreds and thousands of years old mixed in with modern buildings and high tech things like high speed rail or the world’s largest man made dam. Last year when China hosted the Olympics and seeing the amazing structures and shows put on by Chinese, I knew I had to go to China to see and experience the sites, sounds, and culture of the Chinese. At the end of August, I will be in China for two weeks.

As I started to research what things I wanted to do in China, I realized that two weeks was not nearly enough time to see a country as large as China. Part of the decision of where to go and what to see was easy. I am flying in and out of Shanghai so it made a lot sense to spend some time in the city. I also definitely wanted to see the Great Wall of China so that made a trip to Beijing the next part of my trip. Finally, after seeing the images of the Terra Cotta Warriors during the Olympics, I had an interest in checking that out. This led me to add the city of Xi’an to my itinerary.

So far my itinerary looks something like this:

Shanghai – 6 days
Xi’an – 2 days
Beijing – 6 days

I am still researching everything there is to do in Beijing and Shanghai. I know there is the Forbidden City and Summer Palace in Beijing. I am still reading up on Shanghai and am not as familiar with the things to see and do there. I do have a couple guide books that I am going to use to give me an idea of what there is to do. I won’t necessarily do all the suggestions and will maintain flexibility to do other things once I am on ground in China.

The things I am most looking forward to are (in no particular order)

1. Train Travel in China
2. Getting to try different foods
3. Practicing my Mandarin Chinese!
4. Experiencing the friendly Chinese culture
5. Standing on the Great Wall of China
6. Seeing the Terra Cotta Army
7. Taking lots of photos

If you’ve been to Beijing, Shanghai, or Xi’an and have a suggestion, please feel free to leave a comment. I will provide a couple more updates before I leave in August.

Busy Busy Busy

I just wanted to write a quick update on the last two weeks or so. So far, I have survived the first 2 weeks of my job. It is quite interesting. I am enjoying being in corporate america for once. Things are alot slower paced. Sometimes that is a good thing and other times I wish the pace would pick up.

I have survived the first week of my marathon training. I did runs of 3, 5, and 8 miles. The training program I am using is from runnersworld and is 16 weeks long. Since the race isn’t for 20 weeks, I plan on doing the first 4 weeks of running and then starting over on the training program. This will help me get my mileage up and in the right mindset.

Another change that I’ve done with my running is that I have started to listen to music. For the 3.5 years that I’ve been running, I can count on my hand the number of times that I ran with an MP3 player and earphones. So this has been a nice change for me – although I still feel there are benefits to running without any sort of music/distraction.

Also – a quick update on my chinese language classes…So far its been going very well. The language is pretty difficult to master because of the different tones, the many meanings of words, and the fact that a direct english translation isn’t always possible. With this in mind, I am enjoying the class and just need to put a little more effort into listening to the audio a little earlier than 30-40 mins before class 🙂

Finally, I am going to share more articles that I stumble on in my google reader or the random ones that my friends send me. I apologize for the lack of article posting!

More to come this week…I’d like to write a more indepth post on my chinese classes especially the cultural aspects I am learning and also do a posting about my trip to India.

Have a great evening.