TRANSCRIPT

Trip Coach: July 11, 2006

Dan Washburn, founding editor of the blog Shanghaiist.com, answered your questions about China

Dan Washburn: Hey, everybody. Good afternoon (or good early morning, as the case may be). Dan Washburn from Shanghaiist.com here to attempt to answer all your questions about Shanghai and beyond. Let's get started ...

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NY: Are there any good marine academies (sailing) in China?

Dan Washburn: The Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club has been around since the 1800s. The Shanghai Boat and Yacht Club, on the other hand, just got its start in 2001. I am unfamiliar with both clubs, so I can't speak to whether they are "good" or not, but those would be two good places to start. I haven't met anyone who sails here. And China's most famous sailor is still explorer Zheng He -- he's been dead since 1433. But as China's ballooning crop of millionaires look for more ways to flaunt their status, it's only natural that pursuits like sailing will gain in popularity. The China International Boat Show in Shanghai earlier this year reportedly attracted some 20,000 attendees. China's got an entry in the ongoing America's Cup, too -- but it doesn't look like things are going very well.

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Rockaway Beach, OR: We plan to go to Hainan Island, China and Southeast Asia in November for six months. Because we want to make the island our base, we need to know if we can get a tourist visa that allows us more than two entries into China. We understand that we can likely get one extension on the number of entries, but don't feel we want to take the chance of not being able to get back into China. Thank you, Marilyn

Dan Washburn: Six months? Lucky you. Visas can be endlessly confusing here and a real headache to deal with by yourself. Luckily there are people here who will handle the paper work for you. I forwarded your query to Magic Cheng, my visa agent, and this is what he said:

The L (tourist) visa commonly is only 30 days or 60 days when you apply it. It can be renewed twice in China, and each time 30 days. So, it's not good to hold an L visa if you plan to stay for six months. The best way is pay some money to an agency and get an F (business) visa. They can usually get a two-entry, 90 day F visa. They can stay 90 days, and leave for Hong Kong and come back again. Then another 90 days -- so total 180 days.
If their age is between 26 to 55 years old, then they can easily apply for a 30-day F visa (if they can not get longer one) to enter China, and we can renew it in Shanghai for another six months.


Magic said the above advice pertains to current Shanghai rules. I would suggest finding a visa agent (in advance, ideally) wherever your first point of entry in China may be. If you are traveling through Shanghai, I suggest talking to Magic. His website visainchina.com lists prices for various services. If there is not a special reason tying you to Hainan, however, other locations in Southeast Asia would likely be cheaper and more hassle free.

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Mt. Pleasant, MI: My husband and I (ages 28-29) are looking to take a trip to somewhere warm in Asia in early March 2007 (date range between March 4 - 18th). We don't have a specific location in mind, but are looking for inexpensive, cultural experiences and have a budget of approx. $3000 to work with. We have previously traveled to both Thailand and India - we enjoy smaller, rural areas that are off the beaten tourist path, and we enjoy interacting with locals. We would also be interested in volunteering, but I would like a few days to lounge pool-side or shop. Any suggestions on where we can go to have it all? Our departing airport would be DTW. Thanks!

Dan Washburn: I will be predictable and suggest a place in China. I absolutely love Yunnan Province, which borders Tibet, Burma, Laos and Vietnam. Yunnan is home to dozens of ethnic minority groups and features spectacular scenery, from snow-capped mountains in the northwest to tropical rain forests in the south. You can travel in Yunnan cheaply, as well.
 
With only two extended trips there under my belt, I have barely scratched the surface of what this region has to offer. But I can offer some advice. I would make the capital city of Kunming your base. It's known as the "Spring City" for its year-round mild climate. Kunming is a very comfortable place to relax, stroll and shop. From Kunming you can head west toward the mountains and the tastefully touristy town of Lijiang. It might be a little chilly in March, but the area is beautiful. Slightly farther north of Lijiang is Lugu Lake -- a gorgeous village home to some of of the happiest people I have ever met (could it be because they live in a matriarchal society?). I suggest visiting the half of Lugu Lake that is in Sichuan Province -- less touristy.
 
For a warmer climate and a decidedly Southeast Asian feel, head to Xishuangbanna, the rain forest region in the south. Laid back Jinghong is the main city there, and the perfect place to arrange trips into the countryside for hikes or bike rides through the minority villages and pineapple farms.
Both Jinghong and Lijiang are accessible from Kunming via bus or plane (you can also take the train to Lijiang). Although train and bus rides in China are often, um, memorable, I flew last time because I was pressed for time. About a year ago, you could buy pretty cheap one way flights ($40 or less) right at the Kunming airport.
 
Since my time is tight here, I will suggest a couple links of mine that have some more detailed info. Also, my photos from Yunnan can be found here and here.

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