I am thinking of adding on China to a trip to Japan- so that's why I have a short time. Would it be worth it and could I see Hong Kong and Beijing in that time ? I would need to fly and what might an internal return from Hong Kong to Beijing cost me ? I think a week in Hong Kong would be too much.
I think you can see most of the major things in both cities in 3 days each. We did it recently and that was enough. Of course, it's not enough to actually learn everything, but as an intro it's fine.
Did you fly between the two cities (what would an internal flight cost), and also wondering if shanghi, is better to visit than beijing ?
We didn't fly between the cities, but we took flights Xi'an-Shanghai and Shanghai-Guanghzou. We bought the tickets in the US, so it was about $300 for the internal China flights. We talked to people who bought tickets while in China and they were cheap. But we didn't have too much time to run after the tickets in addition to the already busy schedule.
Shanghai vs. Beijing depends on what you want to do and see. If you want to see all the historic parts (the Wall, Forbidden City, Summer Palace, Tiananmen square) then go to Beijing. If you want to see the night life, eat good food, shopping, then go to Shanghai. Shanghai, of course has it's own nice historical stuff like the museum, gardens, bazaar, the Bund.
Knowing what I know now, with only a week, I would choose one city, take in the sights within the city, and venture out to smaller towns and villages. While Beijing offers the Forbidden City, Summer Palace etc, a lot of its history is being mowed down for new high rises. Experiencing Chinese culture takes effort, as you can easily get by as foreigner without a word of Mandarin. Go shopping at Ikea and Walmart and you wont have to feel like you even left home. A 4 hour train ride north of Beijing takes you to Chengde which boasts the Emperor's Summer Resort and 8 Temples. Its also in the mountains, with cleaner air. There are all kinds of interesting agricultural villages, and you get a different sense of China than you do in the big city. I'm not sure their way of life will be protected much longer, so I would recommend the experience while it is still available. I'm sure similar side trips could be arranged from any of China's major centres.
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