China-US travel bleg

File:Statue of Liberty, NY.jpgI’m heading off overseas with my 15 year old son. Turns out the cheapest way to get to the US, where we’re spending most of our time is via China. And, in case you’re interested and didn’t know of it, Flightfox is a great way to pay people who know what they’re doing to do lots of research for you on the best value flights.

So this is a list of places we’re going. I’m after any tips you may have on where to stay and what to see. Or useful web resources to plan the trip. Or best car hire etc.

Dec 29-30: 2 days in Beijing. I’ve been to Beijing once before and visited Beijing University, the winter palace, the Olympic village and Tiananmen Square. It’s an enormous place and I don’t really know what else I should do – though I presume the Forbidden City and the Great Wall should be high on the list.

Jan 19-20: Shanghai. This is only place I know next to nothing about so would love some advice on where to stay and what to see.

Dec 31-Jan1:Los Angeles. I don’t much like LA, but we only have two days and will choose from the two great Getty Museums, the incredible Gehry Concert Hall, and for Alex Hollywood and Disneyland and the Queen Mary, Spruce Goose etc. Any ‘must sees’ I’m missing.

From Jan 2 to 15 we’ll land in Washington, see some sights and then hire a car and make our way to Boston by around the 11th or so when we’ll head on a car trip to Maine and its yummy lobsters with a good friend for a few days before heading back to San Francisco. After a couple of days in Washington checking out the sights, we fancy checking out Frank Lloyd Wright’s Falling Water which is in Pennsylvania and Gettysburg is on the way. So we’ll check out what might be incorporated into that trip. Any suggestions?

Then perhaps up to Niagra, or back to Philadelphia and thence onto New York for a few days where I doubt we’ll be short of things to do. Thence to Boston and San Francisco which I know pretty well and where we’re spending a couple of days and three great nights in the only ritzy place I plan to stay, the lovely Palace Hotel. Thence to Shanghai for a couple more days and then home.

So . . .  please feel free to recommend any great value hotels, or cool AirBnB places to stay in any of these places or things we should see and do?

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13 Responses to China-US travel bleg

  1. Patrick says: is pretty cool for booking hotels and cars.

    There are just too many sights in Washington but the Holocaust museum (you may have to book) and the national portrait gallery and the supreme Court (you may have to go early and queue if there is even a sitting day) and the smithsonian national air and space museum.

  2. Fred says:

    You pay a fee for Flightfox. How much is this fee and how is it calculated? The Flightfox websdite isn’t clear how it works.

  3. Maurie Joyce says:

    Hi Nicholas The Newseum in DC is well worth a visit. Great collection of papers from the last 400 years and much more..

  4. murph the surf. says:

    If travelling in snow bound areas you might run into some problems with hire cars.
    The hire companies intensely dislike hirers putting on snow chains.The risk is of great damage to the car if incorrectly applied.
    So don’t be tempted because if you have a GPS in the car the company can also track your movements and if you move into a snow bound area requiring chains then your contract is invalidated and all sorts of penalties can be applied.
    General advice is to avoid apartments for hire in NY NY as it is illegal and despite many happy tales there are also tales of complete fraud.
    Therefore I recommend a suite at the Plaza!The Ocean and Oyster bar is something else too.
    Stores to see – Dean and Deluca. A fantastic upmarket deli.
    Trip to the top of the Empire State building is always great fun.
    Breakfast/ lunch in Brentwood is recommended in LA.
    Stick to areas around Santa Monica and Venice – a great place to stay in Santa Monica is the Palihouse ( ex Embassy Apartments )Apartments –
    Great location and easy walk to many restaurants and stores.The LA County Museum of Art is also worth the time to visit.
    If you want to see the home of surf culture USA – a trip to Huntington Beach will at least show you how blessed we are in Australia with our wide, open and clean beaches.

  5. murph the surf. says:

    Some less than usual things to do around Shanghai –
    Museum of the First Congress of the CCP.Ah feel the history seeping from the walls!
    A great figure in China’s literary and political circles during the mid 20th century was Lu Xun. Now there is a museum commemorating his work in Shanghai.A visit here may be better after reading some of his essays- his most well known work is an essay titled “The True Story of Ah Q”.
    A visit to Hangzhou- it used to take a few hours by train but could be much more accessible now – one very strange visit I made was to the secret bunker( actually a military command centre ) of Lin Bao.He was the reputed coup leader who fled Mao’s wrath only to die in a mysterious plane crash in western China – the bunker is now part of a hotel!
    I saw it in the late 80s and the underground swimming pool was impressive.
    Around Hangzhou you can also visit the very famous West Lake and also sample Dragon Well tea from the tea farms nearby.As long as the skies are clear it is a very attractive town.Nearby is Suzhou- once described as the Venice of the East.

  6. Mate tells us, the Shanghai museum is very good and has a good tea house , “Emmas on the Bund” (bookings needed, hotel will know details) is a top rank restaurant and opposite it is a high rise that has a great bar with an out door terrace on the top floor, fantastic views of the river and city.

  7. conrad says:

    There’s lots of stuff in Beijing depending on what you are interested in — lots of obscure museums — although you probably need a Chinese friend/associate who is interested in this sort of stuff to take you as there is no simple central location for the obscure stuff. That being said, I haven’t been for about a decade, so things could be better.

    The big problem you are going to have is it is going to be exceptionally freezing (and smoggy) so doing stuff outside will be hard. There are some benefits of this — I walked around the Forbidden city in that sort of weather, and there were about 6 people in it (versus about 6 million in peak times), but the cold was a killer. The same is true of the Great Wall. If you go, the parts that are older and more crumbly are nicer than the refurbished wall.

    In terms of obscure stuff, if you’re interested in mathematical history, there’s a bell museum that houses the oldest set of bells where a single one could produce a tone and semi-tone depending on where you hit it. These bells caused a revision in when people thought mathematics was developed (apparently these are hard to make). I remember you used to be able to pay 10Y (or whatever it was) to hit some of them, which is kind of a worry really given their cultural importance!

    If you are stuck inside, then you can see some Chinese acrobatic performances sometimes (sometimes combined with Chinese opera, which is somewhat unbearable to Western ears), which can be fun. No doubt most hotel people can tell you what is going on for this type of stuff.

  8. Nicholas Gruen says:

    Thanks for all this guys – and feel free to keep going!

  9. Christine says:

    Hi Nicholas, I write a China travel blog, and have some tips on what to do in Beijing and Shanghai, hope it can be of interest. I also currently live in Washington DC, so feel free to contact me for any insiders tips. I am happy to be of help!

    Have a great trip, the itinerary sound alike a lot of fun!


    • Nicholas Gruen says:

      Wow, thanks Christine, will check out your links. I’ve already booked 2500 Pennsylvania Ave NW from the second to the forth of Jan. Hope you approve – seemed like a good deal on Expedia at the time. Further insiders tips appreciated.

      • Christine says:

        Sounds like a good location, between Georgetown and The Mall, the two areas you’ll probably spend most of your time. Our favorite museum is Air and Space and Natural History Museum – you can spend your whole day there, catching an imax movie if your feet get too tired! Then there is the Spy museum and Newseum. So much to see and do! You find my contact information on my website if you have any questions about China and / or DC. Have a great trip!

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