Yesterday was a pretty exciting day. We finally picked up our Chinese visa. It was a fairly straightforward process: On Tuesday, after waiting in a hot line for an hour, we dropped off our forms and two 2x2inch photos and four days later, we returned, paid the pleasant official $100 and I picked up both our passports. Done.
Given that we’re looking to spend a considerable amount of time in China, I was pretty relieved to actually have the official visa in my passport. Throughout the week, we joked that if China turned us down our new focus would be India for a month. But with it now official, India will have to wait until our next trip.
Planning a four-month adventure has been (and will be) a test of my planning and logistics skills. Designing an itinerary for this trek is an amazing challenge. When we first started talking about going on this trip we looked at a map and tried to figure out where we wanted to visit. I must admit, many of the names and places were completely foreign to me, save the major capitals. Many areas are still confusing such as the multitude of islands and beaches in Thailand.
However, we started with a clear goal in mind: in four months we would travel from Shanghai to Sydney. What sort of scenic route we took to travel this distance was yet to be determined.
There are many packaged group tours for China and Southeast Asia. Such groups are clearly organized and they can usually guarantee that you’ll safely see all of the sights you probably wanted to see in the first place.
However, we weren’t really looking for structure and I really didn’t want to pay someone to tour me around for a long period of time. You’re also never too sure of what kind of group of people you’ll be forced to spend your time with. I’m not entirely opposed to organized tours, I often find they’re a great way to be introduced to a city, but we wanted more flexibility. With that said, I’ve always found organized tour guidebooks and materials to be a handy resource for planning a trek as they follow a pretty tried-and-true travel route.
So with an emphasis on flexibility, the plan is to book as little as possible and see where we end up. Now that doesn’t mean we don’t have a route planned, but as it stands, the only hotel we actually have booked is in Shanghai where we are slated to spend five nights.
From Shanghai, the route is as follows:
Beijing, Pingyao (Well preserved ancient city), Xi’an (Terracotta Warriors), Chengdu (Pandas!), Guilin/Yangshoe (Gorgeous scenery)
Hanoi, Halong Bay, Hue?, Hoi An (For tailor-made suits), Nha Trang (beaches), Saigon, Mekong Delta (maybe)
Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and Angkor Wat
At this point we will fly to Australia. I’m really not sure how or from where, but I’m looking for the cheapest way possible. Right now it seems my best option is flying AirAsia from Malaysia to the Gold Coast in Australia where I want to see the Great Barrier Reef.
After touring Queensland, we’ll head south to visit family in Newcastle then on to Sydney where our trip comes to an end.
Shanghai to Sydney in four months. No problem.
If you have any suggestions about places to go (or to avoid), stay, eat or flyiing AirAsia, please please please let me know! Thanks.