Glacier National Park Photo Essay

This journey will capture some of the must-see locations at Glacier National Park! First of all, it is absolutely massive and beautiful! There’s an unlimited amount of hiking trails and scenic drives that will bring a smile to anyone’s face :)

Quick Info (if you’re interested):

Glacier is beautiful in the summer but very busy and packed with people (generally May-early Sept). Fall is great, but facilities will start to close down. Winter is a good time to see everything covered in snow and you can enjoy cross-country skiing. Spring comes late and is short-lived, but it can be one of the quieter times of the year.

What you want to see will dictate how long you should stay. I’d say you can get a good overview of the park and drive through all the famous locations in 2 days (minimum). If you want to hike though, you could easily spend a week or more trekking the over 700 miles of trails. There are also plenty of tours, boating, fishing and biking opportunities.

Going to the Sun Road is an absolutely-must-see if you’re going to Glacier National Park. It is a windy, fun road that peaks at Logan’s Pass and connect east and west Glacier. Parts of the road are open all year, even in the winter, but plowing becomes a monumental challenge each year. Going To The Sun Road has it’s own “Current Road Status” section (see link below).

Glacier is crazy busy during the summer and most of the campgrounds are first-come first-served; all of which seem to fill up before noon. You can make reservations at “Fish Creek, “St. Mary,” and group reservations at “Apgar.”

Glacier National Park is open every day of the year and you can enter at any time. Many facilities close down during the winter, but there are lots of good cross-country skiing opportunities at that time. If you are driving to Glacier from any distance away, you will probably need to camp or book a hotel outside and then get up early the next day to get into the park and get a campsite (most sites are gone between 8-11am).

Staying inside may not be all it’s cracked up to be! There are tons of campgrounds and hotels close by and you should consider sleeping outside the park and then driving in during the days. Camping varies between $10-$23/night during the summer season.

For more information go to their official page at: www.nps.gov/glac/index.htm

And now … let’s jump into the Photo Essay!

View from "Going To The Sun Road"

Glacier National Park

Lake McDonald

Lake McDonald

Going to the Sun Road - Viewpoint

Viewpoint on Going to the Sun Road

The Famous Photo-in-Front-of-a-Sign!

West Glacier, Glacier National Park

St. Mary - NE Entrance

St. Mary Entrance -Glacier National Park

Barney Takes in the Scenery

Barney goes to Glacier National Park

Logan's Pass

Logan's Pass - Glacier National Park

A Closer Look of the Waterfall

Glacier National Park

Hungry Horse Dam & Reservoir

Hungry Horse Dam

Barney at Hungry Horse

Barney goes to Hungry Horse Dam!

At a Campground Outside Glacier

Camping Outside Glacier National Park

Thailand Itineraries

Welcome to Searching For Your Zen Itineraries!
(Recommendations to help you plan your perfect vacation)

– Click on the maps to make them bigger –
– Click on the city names to read more about them –
Contact Me if you have any more questions –

Thailand

Primary Methods of Travel: Don’t let the shape of Thailand fool you. It is a massive country and trains are slow, not as popular as other countries and have a questionable safety record. If you can, FLY! It’s cheap, fast, safe and efficient in Thailand. If you can’t fly, then take a BUS … if you can’t catch a bus then take the train.
Local Currency: Thai Baht
Rough Conversion Rate:  30-34 Baht = $1 USD

sunset 2

Thailand is my favorite country I have ever been too for beaches and relaxation! Weather, food, beaches and people are top notch and the longer you can afford to travel in Thailand, the better!

Thailand is massive when you look at how far it is from North to South. It is an unbelievably beautiful country and the people are what makes it one of the most sought-after tourist destinations in the world.

Careful! It’s easy to fall in love with Thailand and there is a laid back, hard working, down-to-earth culture that extends across the country. Thailand can be split into 4 geographical cultures:

1. Phuket (Islands, beaches and sun)
2. Ko Samui & Ko Pha Ngan (Full Moon Party, binge drinking, partying)
3. Bangkok (Fast paced, huge city, tons to see, Dirty in more ways than one)
4. Chiang Mai (Jungles, elephant rides, hippy atmosphere, relaxing) – Access point to Chiang Rai & Pai

Depending on what kind of traveler you are, your age group, purpose of vacation and amount of time you have … Thailand has something for everyone.

** The Full Moon parties at Ko Pha Ngan (which now happen on 1/2 moons & 1/4 moons – as in every week) are suppose to be epic … but at the same time I’ve heard rumors that it’s just too big, tough to get to and just a bunch of young people getting wasted and being stupid. I haven’t gone personally, but I suspect that there are better ways to kill a week in Thailand. Either way, you can probably expect these 3 things:

1. Lots of alcohol & drugs (illegal and heavily regulated in Thailand)
2. Immaturity and all the fun that goes with young people, alcohol & few restrictions.
3. CRIME! Every popular tourist trap in the world will eventually draw pick pockets, thieves & questionable drugs falling in drinks. The Full Moon party is just too perfect to keep these people out. Watch your drinks and watch your passports/wallets.

1 Week

Thailand, itinerary, 1 week
Thailand, itinerary, 1 week
Thailand, itinerary, 1 week

Remember that Thailand is a very long country and takes a considerable amount of travel time to get from one end to the other. With one week in Thailand I would ask yourself what you want to see and take the slow approach to traveling.

* If you only have a week, I recommend “Option B.” Phuket is awesome and the Full Moon Party is crazy, but I think you will truly get the Thailand experience by heading north and relaxing in the jungles up north.

A: The Beach Option
Phuket BeachesPhuket – Phuket is the perfect beach vacation! The city itself is actually on a huge island with an international airport! The beaches are incredible and there are plenty of islands (Koh Phi Phi, James Bond Island, etc.), fun night life and day trips for all ages. It’s a great place to start your 1 week vacation in Thailand!
Bangkok – Bangkok is a zoo! It’s huge, organized, seems to have a protest every 10 years and serves as the heartbeat of SE Asia. Bangkok is an awesome city though and you can’t see Thailand without adding it to the itinerary! There’s tons to see and do … click the link to find out more about the Chaos of Bangkok.

B: The Laid Back Jungle Route*
BangkokElephant Baths – There are tons of flights going into Bangkok and it is a great place to start a Thailand adventure. Spend 3-4 days in Bangkok and then escape the chaos and head up north to Chiang Mai. Click the link to find out more about the Chaos of Bangkok.
Chiang Mai – Ah, what a beautiful city! Let yourself relax by getting a Thai massage, take meditation lessons and ride elephants. Then swing by a temple and check out some waterfalls amongst the impressive mountain scenery.

C: The Party Goer!
Party Chiang MaiBangkok – There are tons of flights going into Bangkok and it is a great place to start a Thailand adventure. For this option I’d recommend spending 1-2 days in Bangkok and then start your trek to Ko Samui and then on to Koh Phangan (there are tons of bus options from Bangkok that include ferry transportation to the islands).
Koh Samui (transfer to Koh Phangan) – Well, this is it … the Full Moon Party! I haven’t been, but I’ve heard it is quite a party! If you’re one of those people who has to see it, click the link above and PLAN AHEAD! There are a lot of things that can screw up your experience if you don’t plan ahead (it’s crazy there and accommodation fills up). For more info check out Nomadic Matt’s Ultimate Guide to the Full Moon Party.

10 Days

Thailand, itinerary, 10 days
Thailand, itinerary, 10 days
Thailand, itinerary, 10 days

10 Days is the absolute minimum amount of time I would spend in Thailand. For this option you can afford to go a bit slower and should have time to add a 3rd city to your itinerary. Depending on your style, I’ve squeezed in some extra cities that won’t take you too far out of the way.

* Again, I’m recommending “Option B” because it’s the ultimate way to experience the Thai culture and relax. You can’t go wrong with any of these options though.

A: The Casual Traveler
Hua HinPhuket – Phuket is the perfect beach vacation! Incredible beaches and an international airport make this a perfect starting point to travel Southern Thailand. There’s a lively night life, great beaches and day trips to various islands. From there, you can book a flight, train or bus and meander north (Recommended: Take a bus! It’s the best way to travel in Thailand.)
Hua Hin – This quaint little beach town will put you within a few hours of Bangkok and it’s a great place to relax, shop and continue your beach vacation. Hua Hin has a growing retirement and expat community that has officially put them on the map.
Bangkok – Finish your vacation in Bangkok! It’s huge, organized, seems to have a protest every 10 years and serves as the heartbeat of SE Asia. It’s an awesome city and you can’t see Thailand without seeing it! There’s tons to see and do … click the link above to find out more.

B: Jungle Relaxation*
BangkokChiang Mai Waterfall – There are tons of flights going into Bangkok and it is a great place to start your 10-day Thailand trip. Spend 3-4 days in Bangkok and then escape the chaos by heading north to Chiang Mai. Click the link to find out more about the Chaos of Bangkok. (Recommendation: FLY to Chiang Mai – it’s cheap, quick and easy and you won’t have to sit on a 12 hour bus ride).
Chiang Mai – Ah, what a beautiful city! Let yourself relax by getting a Thai massage, take meditation lessons and ride elephants. Then swing by a temple and check out some waterfalls amongst the impressive mountain scenery.
Pai – Pai is super, super, super laid back. It’s 3-4 hours by shuttle from Chiang Mai and the drive is a winding tour of the northern mountains of Thailand. Get your hippy on and prepare to relax at the hot springs, ride scooters to waterfalls and peruse the bars and shops along the main street. (If you don’t want to see Pai, another great option is Chiang Rai).

C: Whew – This is Gonna Be Crazy!!
PhuketLadyboy Show – Phuket is the perfect beach vacation and has something for everyone! Amongst the incredible beaches and an international airport, there’s a lively night life and no shortage of bars and parties! If you’re not too hung-over, book a day trip to see Koh Phi Phi (the island where they filmed The Beach). I don’t have a good suggestion on how to get to the Full Moon Party from here, but you should be able to buy one ticket that includes a ferry ride to Koh Samui. 
Koh Samui (transfer to Koh Phangan) – Well, this is it … the Full Moon Party! I haven’t been, but I’ve heard it is quite a party! If you’re one of those people who has to see it, click the link above and PLAN AHEAD! There are a lot of things that can screw up your experience if you don’t plan ahead (it’s crazy there and accommodation fills up). For more info check out Nomadic Matt’s Ultimate Guide to the Full Moon Party.
Bangkok – Getting from Koh Phangan to Bangkok will be up to you. I haven’t personally done it but you have 2 good options (Bus or Flight). Both will involve ferries and this trip is most-likely going to be a long day of traveling. If you’re still up for it after partying in Phuket and the Full Moon Party, Bangkok will not disappoint! The night-life never sleeps and you can see and do just about everything in Bangkok. (Tip: be wary of scams and fraudulent activities in Bangkok – If you are a partier, they are looking for you!)

2 Weeks

Thailand, itinerary, 2 weeks
Thailand, itinerary, 2 weeks

2 Weeks is certainly enough time to get a taste of Thailand! The following 2 Itineraries will force you to make a decision. With the amount of time you will lose to see Koh Samui & Koh Phangan, I don’t think you will have enough time to head north.
“Option A” will give you the overall experience of Thailand.
“Option B” is for those who want to see the Full Moon Party and experience southern Thailand.

* My recommendation for the 2 week itinerary is “Option A.” Adding the north will give you a more rounded experience of Thailand.

A: The South to North*
PhuketScooters in Chiang Mai, Thailand – Phuket is a great way to ease into your 2 weeks! You can fly directly there and beaches and islands will be waiting for you! Between the lively night life, beaches and day trips you can easily spend 3-4 days here. Then, meander north (Recommended: Take a bus! It’s the best way to travel in Thailand.)
Hua Hin – This quaint little beach town will put you within a few hours of Bangkok and it’s a great place to relax, shop and continue your beach vacation. Hua Hin has a growing retirement and expat community that has officially put them on the map.
Bangkok – Move on to the chaos of Bangkok. Check out the sites and enjoy the food. Bangkok is huge, organized, seems to have a protest every 10 years and serves as the heartbeat of SE Asia. It’s an awesome city and you can’t see Thailand without seeing it! There’s tons to see and do … click the link above to find out more!
Chiang Mai – From Bangkok, I’d recommend flying to Chiang Mai (Get a return ticket and then take your final flight out of Bangkok). It will save you a day of travel and you won’t be run down by a 12 hour bus ride. Chiang Mai is a beuatiful and relaxing city with Thai massages, meditation lessons, jungle tours and elephant rides! It will leave you wishing you could stay for 3 weeks! If you have extra time, consider adding Pai or Chiang Rai to your itinerary).

B: The South to South
PhuketKoh Phi Phi – Phuket is a great way to ease into your 2 weeks! You can fly directly there and beaches and islands will be waiting for you! Between the lively night life, beaches and day trips you can easily spend 3-4 days here. It’s also a great city to transition to Koh Samui & Koh Phangan.
Koh Samui (transfer to Koh Phangan) – Here we go … the Full Moon Party! I haven’t been so check out Nomadic Matt’s Ultimate Guide to the Full Moon Party. Make sure you PLAN AHEAD and allow yourself a lot of time to get to and from the islands and try to get there a few days early.
Bangkok – You will want to see Bangkok if you go to Thailand. From the islands, it will most likely be a long day of traveling (by bus & ferry) … if you can fly that may be the best option, but flights can be really expensive. Bangkok is an awesome city though and the heartbeat of all of SE Asia! There’s tons to see and do and it’s also a good city to catch your flight out of Thailand.
Pattaya (link goes to Lonely Planet’s Pattaya guide) – I never made it to Pattaya but its reputation certainly precedes itself. I’ve heard Pattaya has become packed with tourists and busy beaches … but so has everywhere else. You could actually make it a day trip from Bangkok if you’re short on time.

3 Weeks

Thailand, itinerary, 3 weeks
Thailand, itinerary, 3 weeks

If you are lucky enough to score 3 weeks to travel Thailand, you are going to get a great opportunity to really see the country! Jess and I personally did 3 weeks and we felt like we got a really great overview. The only difference in the 2 itineraries above is that:

“Option A” goes to Koh Samui (Koh Phangan) and “Option B” hits Hua Hin instead. Both options will require that you hand pick some cities:

Option A: Pick 1-2 of the following cities (Pattaya, Pai and Chiang Rai)
Option B: Pick 2-3 of the following cities (Pattaya, Pai and Chiang Rai)

* I’m actually going to recommend “Option A” this time because I think the experience of the Full Moon Party will far exceed that of Hua Hin. Option A will take longer than Option B so you will have to either shorten your stay in some other cities (or cut out another city entirely) in order to make time to get to and from the islands.

A: Babes, Beaches & Beers*
PhuketPhuket Beach – Again, Phuket is a great way to start Thailand because of the international airport. Enjoy the beaches, nightlife and excursions and take your time … you have 3 weeks in Thailand! you can easily spend 3-5 days here if you want. Then, meander north (Recommended: Take a bus! It’s the best way to travel in Thailand.)
Hua Hin – This quaint little beach town will put you within a few hours of Bangkok and it’s a great place to relax, shop and continue your beach vacation. If you’re looking to retire in Thailand, there’s a growing retirement and expat community here and you can see what you think!
Bangkok – Move on to the chaos of Bangkok. Check out the sites and enjoy the food. Bangkok is huge, organized and serves as the heartbeat of SE Asia. It’s a great city and well worth your time! … click the link above to find out more!
Pattaya (link goes to Lonely Planet’s Pattaya guide) – I never made it to Pattaya but its reputation precedes itself and you can see it in as little as a 1-day trip from Bangkok. I’ve heard Pattaya has become packed with tourists and busy beaches … but so has everywhere else. Consider 1-2 days max in Pattaya or save the days and head north!
Chiang Mai – From Bangkok, I’d recommend flying to Chiang Mai (Get a return ticket and then take your final flight out of Bangkok). It will save you a day of travel by avoiding that 12 hour bus ride. Chiang Mai is a beautiful and relaxing city with Thai massages, meditation lessons, jungle tours and elephant rides! With 3 weeks, it would be a tragedy not to make it up there.
Pai – Pai is super, super, super laid back. It’s 3-4 hours by shuttle from Chiang Mai and the drive is a winding tour of the northern mountains of Thailand. Get your hippy on and prepare to relax at the hot springs, ride scooters to waterfalls and peruse the bars and shops along the main street. This is one of your optional add-on cities and the one I’d recommend the most.
Chiang Rai (Click the link to read what Annette from “BucketListJourney.net” has to say about Chiang Rai!) – I haven’t made it to Chiang Rai. It sounds similar to Chiang Mai, but a little farther north and home to the famous “White Temple” (Wat Rong Khun).

B: Tamer Not Lamer!
Fish Eating FeetPhuket– Again, Phuket is a great way to start Thailand because of the international airport. Enjoy the beaches, nightlife and excursions and take your time … you have 3 weeks in Thailand! you can easily spend 3-5 days here if you want. Then, meander north (Recommended: Take a bus! It’s the best way to travel in Thailand.)
Koh Samui (transfer to Koh Phangan) – Here we go … the Full Moon Party! I haven’t been so check out Nomadic Matt’s Ultimate Guide to the Full Moon Party. Make sure you PLAN AHEAD and allow yourself a lot of time to get to and from the islands and try to get there a few days early. If you go to Kho Phangan, I would cut out Hua Hin and head straight to Bangkok.
Bangkok -Move on to the chaos of Bangkok. Check out the sites and enjoy the food. Bangkok is huge, organized and serves as the heartbeat of SE Asia. It’s a great city and well worth your time! … click the link above to find out more!
Pattaya (link goes to Lonely Planet’s Pattaya guide) – I never made it to Pattaya but its reputation precedes itself and you can see it in as little as a 1-day trip from Bangkok. I’ve heard Pattaya has become packed with tourists and busy beaches … but so has everywhere else. Consider 1-2 days max in Pattaya or save the days and head north!
Chiang Mai – From Bangkok, I’d recommend flying to Chiang Mai (Get a return ticket and then take your final flight out of Bangkok). It will save you a day of travel by avoiding that 12 hour bus ride. Chiang Mai is a beautiful and relaxing city with Thai massages, meditation lessons, jungle tours and elephant rides! With 3 weeks, it would be a tragedy not to make it up there.
Pai – Pai is super, super, super laid back. It’s 3-4 hours by shuttle from Chiang Mai and the drive is a winding tour of the northern mountains of Thailand. Get your hippy on and prepare to relax at the hot springs, ride scooters to waterfalls and peruse the bars and shops along the main street. This is one of your optional add-on cities and the one I’d recommend the most.
Chiang Rai (Click the link to read what Annette from “BucketListJourney.net” has to say about Chiang Rai!) – I haven’t made it to Chiang Rai. It sounds similar to Chiang Mai, but a little farther north and home to the famous “White Temple” (Wat Rong Khun).

4 Weeks

Thailand, itinerary, 4 weeks

The more the better! 4 weeks is enough time to move from north to south and see just about everything at a reasonable pace. Keep in mind, The Full Moon Party (Koh Samui/Koh Pha Ngan) could take up to a week to get there and then get out. If you cut it out entirely, you will have much more time to relax and ease your way through Thailand. If you want to go though, I still think you can go to most of the cities on this itinerary … just a bit less time in each place!

* Only one route this time! I think all of these places are managble in 1 month and of course, you can pick and choose what locations fit your needs! This is only a Recommended Itinerary and you should tailor it to your own perfect trip! Have fun out there~

A: The Full Circuit!
Flip Flops at a HostelPhuket – With 4 weeks you can pick your direction. Chiang Mai and Phuket both have international airports so you could reverse this itinerary and be just fine. Either way, you will definitely love the beaches, nightlife and excursions in Phuket! Take your time and then pick where you want to head next!
Koh Samui (transfer to Koh Pha Ngan) – Here we go … the Full Moon Party! I haven’t been so check out Nomadic Matt’s Ultimate Guide to the Full Moon Party. Make sure you PLAN AHEAD and allow yourself a lot of time to get to and from the islands and try to get there a few days early.
Hua Hin – This quaint little beach town will put you within a few hours of Bangkok and it’s a great place to relax, shop and continue your beach vacation. If you’re looking to retire in Thailand, there’s a growing retirement and expat community here and you can see what you think!
Bangkok -Move on to the chaos of Bangkok. Check out the sites and enjoy the food. Bangkok is huge, organized and serves as the heartbeat of SE Asia. It’s a great city and well worth your time! … click the link above to find out more!
Pattaya (link goes to Lonely Planet’s Pattaya guide) – I never made it to Pattaya but its reputation precedes itself and you can see it in as little as a 1-day trip from Bangkok. I’ve heard Pattaya has become packed with tourists and busy beaches … but so has everywhere else. Consider 1-2 days max in Pattaya or save the days and head north!
Chiang Mai – From Bangkok, I’d recommend flying to Chiang Mai (Get a return ticket and then take your final flight out of Bangkok). It will save you a day of travel by avoiding that 12 hour bus ride. Chiang Mai is a beautiful and relaxing city with Thai massages, meditation lessons, jungle tours and elephant rides! With 3 weeks, it would be a tragedy not to make it up there.
Pai – Pai is super, super, super laid back. It’s 3-4 hours by shuttle from Chiang Mai and the drive is a winding tour of the northern mountains of Thailand. Get your hippy on and prepare to relax at the hot springs, ride scooters to waterfalls and peruse the bars and shops along the main street.
Chiang Rai (Click the link to read what Annette from “BucketListJourney.net” has to say about Chiang Rai!) – I haven’t made it to Chiang Rai. It sounds similar to Chiang Mai, but a little farther north and home to the famous “White Temple” (Wat Rong Khun).

Thailand Extras & Considerations:

Elephant Kisses

Ride Elephants
(
Chiang Mai)

Elephants are super smart, intuitive and fairly gently animals. You will quickly fall in love with elephants if you decide to book an excursion with them. REMEMBER to look for a humane company when searching excursions. Don’t pick one with the “saddles” and look at the reviews before booking. Some companies really suck in Thailand, but most are good. Just research it beforehand and you’ll be good!

(Click the link read more)

Screen Shot 2015-07-18 at 6.31.49 PM

Full Moon Party
(Koh Pha Ngan)

I haven’t been, but it’s suppose to be awesome. The Full Moon Party (+ 1/2 moon and 1/4 moon parties) are huge parties that attract a growing amount of backpackers and tourists each year. It is very established now and will take at least a week in total to get there, party and then get back.

(Click the link to read Nomadic Matt’s
“Complete Guide to the Full Moon Party”)

IMG_3584

Koh Tao
(island)

If you’re into SCUBA diving this island is quickly becoming a massive tourist destination for experts and beginners alike. If you’re looking for warm, clear water and want to add some dives to the itinerary this is a good island to add!!

(Click the link read more)

IMG_3525

Ko Phi Phi
(island)

Leonardo Di Caprio made this beach famous in the movie “The Beach.” It is the secluded island that him and his friends discover. Now, the island is completely inhabited by a never-ending stream of tourist boats, ships and yachts. You will find absolutely zero seclusion here, but it is a cool island nonetheless!
You can easily book a trip from Phuket.

(Click the link to read more)

Chiang Mai, Thailand Waterfall

Waterfalls & Hotsprings (Pai)

There is no shortage of hot springs and waterfalls across Thailand, but if you can make it head to Pai (a 3 1/2 hour drive from Chiang Mai). The secluded mountain town is unlike anything you have ever experienced. Rent a scooter for $3.00 a day and leisurely explore the surrounding scenery!

(Click the link read more)

IMG_3936

Escape Hunt
(Bangkok)

Believe it or not, this is the #1 Trip Advisor Attraction in Bangkok! It is a super fun thing to do with 2+ people and it only takes an hour. If you have some time to kill in Bangkok, book your mystery room and see if you can escape in time!

(The link above goes to SFYZ’s article “The Madness of Bangkok”
To see Trip Advisor’s Escape Hunt page, click here)

massage

Thai Massage

Thai massages are known far and wide! Personally, I struggle to relax during them, but it is a fun experience and eventually really relaxing! They will bend, crack and stretch you in ways you didn’t know were possible! You can find Thai massages in almost every city in the country … it’s a huge industry there.

(Click the link to read more)

IMG_3441

Thai Food

Possibly the greatest part about going to Thailand … the food! Thai ffod is delicious, fresh and super cheap. After we had to leave Thailand it took me 3 months to stop missing Thai food on a daily basis. See for yourself: Pad Thai, Khao Soi, Tom Yum Soup and Curry Mmmmmm……

Did you like this Itinerary? Well, more are coming soon!

More Itineraries

China Itineraries (1,2,3 & 4 Weeks)

Welcome to Searching For Your Zen Itineraries!
(Recommendations to help you plan your perfect vacation)

– Click on the maps to make them bigger –
– Click on the city names to read more about them –
Contact Me if you have any more questions –

China

Primary Method of Travel: Trains are a great way to get around China. Travel China Guide is a great resource to find and book trains. Go for the “D Train” or “G Train” if you can … they’re faster and way more comfortable.
Local Currency: Yuan or RMB (Renminbi – The People’s Money) – Sometimes called “Kuai” [pronounced: kwhy]
Rough Conversion Rate:  6 RMB = $1 USD

China is a massive country and has tons of history, scenery and tourist attractions for any traveler. Many people though, will enter China on a 30 Day Tourist Visa and may find themselves wondering where to even start.

After living in China for 2 years I was lucky enough to see most of the cities I mention below. A couple quick disclaimers though: I never made it to Yunnan Province, Chengdu or Tibet – all of which are popular tourist destinations and I’ve added to the itineraries.

So, without too much rambling, here are my recommendations on how to make the most out of your next trip to China:

1 Week

China, travel, itinerary, 1 week
China, travel, itinerary, 1 week

China is a tough country to tackle on 1 week and I would highly recommend spending AT LEAST 2 weeks to see China. However, if 1 week is all you have, here are a couple “speedy” options:
*Due to Xi’an being so far out of the way and only having a week to see China, I recommend, “Option A.”

A: The Big 3*
IMG_2373Hong Kong – Hong Kong is an amazing city to ease you into China. It opens up Macau for you, flights are common to Hong Kong & you can cram a ton into 2 days.
Shanghai – Shanghai is the biggest city in the world and has an incredible skyline that will not fail to impress.
Beijing – A MUST SEE if you’re going to China. Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City and the Great Wall are all doable in 2 fast-paced days.

B: The Northern Route
IMG_3380Beijing – A MUST SEE if you’re going to China. Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City and the Great Wall are all doable in 2 fast-paced days.
Xi’an – Home of the Terra-cotta Warriors and un-missable in the eyes of some. Other than the warriors, Xi’an doesn’t have a whole lot to see that will take you more than 2 days total.
Shanghai
 – Shanghai is the biggest city in the world and has an incredible skyline that will not fail to impress.

2 Weeks

China, travel, itinerary, 2 weeks
China, travel, itinerary, 2 weeks

2 Weeks is starting to become a little more manageable. You will have more time to see beyond the basic tourist sites and you will also have a chance to see some of the cities outside the big cities.
*I recommend “Option A” again. I love Hong Kong, but if you really want to see the real China, Luoyang has too much to pass up.

A: The Cultural North*
IMG_1760Shanghai – Shanghai will serve as easy access into China. There’s tons of flights, transportation is great and buying train tickets will be easy from the biggest city in the world!
Hangzhou – This is one one of my favorite cities in China. Beautiful scenery, clean air, lots of foreigners and tons to see! Check this city out if you get the chance.
Luoyang – Luoyang is massively famous in China and for good reason! It is home to 3 things that are worth seeing: Longmen Grottoes, The Whitehorse Temple (1st Buddhist temple in China) and Shaolin Temple (Famous martial arts school).
Xi’an – Xi’an doesn’t have a whole lot worth seeing, but it does have the infamous Terra-cotta Warriors that are worth seeing. If you go to Luoyang, Xi’an is a quick train ride away.
Beijing – And back to Beijing to finish your 2 weeks! Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City and the Great Wall can be checked off in a couple days and you should still have time to pick a couple other cool sites (The Summer Palace, Lllama Temple, Bell Tower and the National Museum).

B: A Taste of the South

Sunset SmallerHong Kong
 – If you have to see Hong Kong I can’t blame you. It’s an awesome city and its the easiest city in China to get around in for foreigners. It would be a great way to start your 2 weeks, but you will have to cut out some other cities. 
Shanghai
  – Getting from Hong Kong to Shanghai is easy by train and you will ease yourself into China by starting with 2 major cities (big cities are easier to get around and more accustomed to tourists).
Hangzhou – Because this is my favorite city in China, I am recommending it instead of Luoyang (it will be hard to see both in just 2 weeks and I think you may have to pick between Luoyang and Hangzhou). In Hangzhou, You will get to see tea fields, beautiful scenery and the impressive “West Lake!” Don’t forget your camera!
Xi’an – Xi’an doesn’t have a whole lot worth seeing, but it does have the infamous Terra-cotta Warriors that are worth seeing. If you go to Luoyang, Xi’an is a quick train ride away.
Beijing – And back to Beijing to finish your 2 weeks! Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City and the Great Wall can be checked off in a couple days and you should still have time to pick a couple other cool sites (The Summer Palace, Lllama Temple, Bell Tower and the National Museum).

3 Weeks

China, travel, itinerary, 3 weeks
China, travel, itinerary, 3 weeks
China, travel, itinerary, 3 weeks

3 Weeks is starting to become way more comfortable. You will have more time to absorb Chinese culture without feeling like you are running to the next place all the time. Below, Itineraries A, B, and C become consecutively busier. I added Guangzhou to all the 3 week itineraries and added Nanjing, and Chengdu as potential add-on cities, depending on how fast you like to travel.
* I recommend “Option A” for the 3 week option. Nanjing (Meaning “South Capital” in Mandarin) and Chengdu (where you can see Pandas) are great add-on cities, but “Option A” gives you more time to relax and enjoy the cities you are in. Ultimately, it will be up to you!

A: Nice ‘n Easy Overview*
IMG_4641Hong Kong – At 3 weeks, I would highly recommend seeing Hong Kong. It’s different than everywhere else in China and a good place to start your China journey.
Guangzhou – Guangzhou is the 3rd largest city in China. It’s a beautifully green city with a huge river drifting through the center of it. There’s a handful of things to do, but if you only do one thing, make sure you do a river-boat tour!
Shanghai – It’s just a must see city when you go to China. With 3 Weeks in China, I would spend 3-5 Days in Shanghai.
Hangzhou – This is one one of my favorite cities in China. Beautiful scenery, clean air, lots of foreigners and tons to see! Check this city out if you get the chance.
Luoyang – Luoyang is massively famous in China and for good reason! It is home to 3 things that are worth seeing: Longmen Grottoes, The Whitehorse Temple (1st Buddhist temple in China) and Shaolin Temple (Famous martial arts school).
Xi’an – Xi’an doesn’t have a whole lot worth seeing, but it does have the infamous Terra-cotta Warriors. From Luoyang, Xi’an is a quick train ride away.
Beijing -Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City and the Great Wall can be checked off in a couple days and you should definitely have time for some other cool sites (The Summer Palace, Llama Temple, Bell Tower and the National Museum).

B: Panda Express (add Chengdu)

IMG_4724
Hong Kong – At 3 weeks, I would highly recommend seeing Hong Kong. It’s different than everywhere else in China and a good place to start your China journey.
Guangzhou – Guangzhou is the 3rd largest city in China. It’s a beautifully green city with a huge river drifting through the center of it. There’s a handful of things to do, but make sure you do one of the river-boat tours!
Shanghai – It’s just a must see city when you go to China. With 3 Weeks in China, I would spend 3-5 Days in Shanghai.
Hangzhou – This is one one of my favorite cities in China. Beautiful scenery, clean air, lots of foreigners and tons to see! Check this city out if you get the chance.
Luoyang – Luoyang is massively famous in China and for good reason! It is home to 3 things that are worth seeing: Longmen Grottoes, The Whitehorse Temple (1st Buddhist temple in China) and Shaolin Temple (Famous martial arts school).
Xi’an – Xi’an doesn’t have a whole lot worth seeing, but it does have the infamous Terra-cotta Warriors that are worth seeing. If you go to Luoyang, Xi’an is a quick train ride away.
Chengdu (I’ve never been there so I borrowed Amy’s advice) – Chengdu is home to the Pandas and from what I’ve been told, it’s actually an awesome city for backpackers and tourists. It’s a long ways out there though, so you might want to consider flying to Beijing for the next leg.
Beijing – Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City and the Great Wall can be checked off in a couple days and you should definitely have time for some other cool sites (The Summer Palace, Llama Temple, Bell Tower and the National Museum).

C: The Enthusiastic Traveler (add Chengdu & Nanjing)

2014-01-16 13.07.21Hong Kong – At 3 weeks, I would highly recommend seeing Hong Kong. It’s different than everywhere else in China and a good place to start your China journey.
Guangzhou – Guangzhou is the 3rd largest city in China. It’s a beautifully green city with a huge river drifting through the center of it. There’s a handful of things to do, but make sure you do one of the river-boat tours!
Shanghai – It’s just a must see city when you go to China. With 3 Weeks in China, I would spend 3-5 Days in Shanghai.
Hangzhou – This is one one of my favorite cities in China. Beautiful scenery, clean air, lots of foreigners and tons to see! Check this city out if you get the chance.
Nanjing (“South Capital”) – It’s only a quick hop by train from Hangzhou and gives some insight into some of China’s more recent history (WW2 era). Home to Sun Yat Sen’s memorial and the Nanjing Massacre Museum there are plenty of things to see and do.
Luoyang – Luoyang is massively famous in China and for good reason! It is home to 3 things that are worth seeing: Longmen Grottoes, The Whitehorse Temple (1st Buddhist temple in China) and Shaolin Temple (Famous martial arts school).
Xi’an – Xi’an doesn’t have a whole lot worth seeing, but it does have the infamous Terra-cotta Warriors that are worth seeing. If you go to Luoyang, Xi’an is a quick train ride away.
Chengdu (I’ve never been there so I borrowed Amy’s advice) – Chengdu is home of the Pandas and from what I’ve been told, is actually an awesome city for backpackers and tourists. It’s a long ways out there though, so you might want to consider flying to Beijing for the next leg.
Beijing – Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City and the Great Wall can be checked off in a couple days and you should definitely have time for some other cool sites (The Summer Palace, Llama Temple, Bell Tower and the National Museum).

4 Weeks

China, travel, itinerary, 4 weeks
China, travel, itinerary, 4 weeks

Most people traveling to China will get a 30 Day Single Entry Tourist Visa! This is a great way to tackle China and if you are planning on spending the entire 4 weeks there, these itineraries might help you with planning. You should ultimately create your own adventure in China based on what you want to see and do … but these itineraries can serve as a starting point!

Keep in mind, if you are visiting Hong Kong on a single entry visa go there 1st or last! If you go to mainland China first and then enter Hong Kong, you won’t be able to return to mainland China a 2nd time. By going to Hong Kong 1st or last, you won’t use any of your “30 days” (allowed visa days) while you’re there.

* I recommend “Option B” (Only if you decide to see pandas in Chengdu).
** My personal recommendation though, is “Option A” (Skip Chengdu & give yourself more time to see other things. For extra ideas check out “4 Weeks+” below).

A: The Grand Tour**
Hong Kong2014-01-19 13.42.13 – A great place to start your China journey and absolutely unavoidable if you have 4 weeks.
Guangzhou – Guangzhou is the 3rd largest city in China. It’s a beautifully green city with a huge river drifting through the center of it. There’s a handful of things to do, but make sure you do one of the river-boat tours!
Kunming – I’ve heard good things about Kunming and it will get you within reach of the famous southern mountains of China. (I haven’t been there personally so I have linked to Trip Advisor’s “Things to do in Kunming”).
Lijiang (Linked to “The Travel World” because I haven’t been there) – If you want to see those tall, beautifully, green mountains that southern China is famous for then plan a trip to Lijiang. While you’re there you can check out Tiger Leaping Gorge – Lonely Planet describes it as “The unmissable trek of southwest China.”
Shanghai – There’s no excuse to miss Shanghai with 4 weeks.
Hangzhou – This is one one of my favorite cities in China. Beautiful scenery, clean air, lots of foreigners and tons to see! Check this city out if you get the chance.
Nanjing – Nanjing is a city built around an elaborate canal system. It’s a pretty cool walled city, is one of China’s ancient capitals and home to the Nanjing Massacre Museum.
Luoyang – While you’re there, Check out these 3 things: Longmen Grottoes, The Whitehorse Temple (1st Buddhist temple in China) and Shaolin Temple (Famous martial arts school).
Xi’an – Xi’an doesn’t have a whole lot worth seeing, but it does have the infamous Terra-cotta Warriors that are worth seeing. From Luoyang, Xi’an is a quick train ride away.
Chengdu – It’s suppose to be cool (I haven’t seen it) and it’s where everyone seems to go to see and hold Pandas. It’s a long way out of the way though, and holding pandas can get expensive. If you do decide to go, plan on flying from Chengdu to Beijing. It will be much quicker and probably similar in price to taking the train.
Beijing – And back to Beijing! Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City and the Great Wall can be checked off in a couple days and you will definitely have time for some other cool sites (The Summer Palace, Llama Temple, Bell Tower and the National Museum).

B: A Bit of Everything*

Hong KongIMG_1562 -A great place to start your China journey and absolutely unavoidable if you have 4 weeks.
Guangzhou – Guangzhou is the 3rd largest city in China. It’s a beautifully green city with a huge river drifting through the center of it. There’s a handful of things to do, but make sure you do one of the river-boat tours!
Kunming – I’ve heard good things about Kunming and it will get you within reach of the famous southern mountains of China. (I haven’t been there personally so I have linked to Trip Advisor’s “Things to do in Kunming”).
Lijiang (Linked to “The Travel World” because I haven’t been there) – If you want to see those tall, beautifully, green mountains that southern China is famous for then plan a trip to Lijiang. While you’re there you can check out Tiger Leaping Gorge – Lonely Planet describes it as “The unmissable trek of southwest China.”
Chengdu – If you’re going to see the Pandas and Chengdu then definitely swing up from Lijiang for this itinerary. It’s much closer and you can work your way back to Shanghai and up to Beijing more fluidly.
Xi’an – Xi’an doesn’t have a whole lot worth seeing, but it does have the infamous Terra-cotta Warriors that are worth seeing. From Luoyang, Xi’an is a quick train ride away.
Luoyang – While you’re there, Check out these 3 things: Longmen Grottoes, The Whitehorse Temple (1st Buddhist temple in China) and Shaolin Temple (Famous martial arts school).
Nanjing – Nanjing is a city built around an elaborate canal system. It’s a pretty cool walled city, is one of China’s ancient capitals and home to the Nanjing Massacre Museum.
Hangzhou – This is one one of my favorite cities in China. Beautiful scenery, clean air, lots of foreigners and tons to see! Check this city out if you get the chance.
Shanghai – There’s no excuse to miss Shanghai with 4 weeks.
Beijing -And back to Beijing! Tiananmen Square, the Forbidden City and the Great Wall can be checked off in a couple days and you will definitely have time for some other cool sites (The Summer Palace, Llama Temple, Bell Tower and the National Museum).

4 Weeks +
If you managed to line up more than 4 weeks in china OR you just want to mix and match with the itineraries above, here are a few popular destinations to check out while you’re in China:

Bungee, Jumping, highest, tallest, Macau, Tower, world, scary

Highest Bungee in the World

If you’re an adrenaline junky check out Macau while you’re around Hong Kong! Amongst the gambling and sights you can jump off the Macau Tower, the world’s highest bungee jump.

(Click the link read more)

Harbin, ice, festival, worlds, largest, freezing, cold

Harbin Ice Festival

The Harbin Ice Festival is the biggest ice festival in the world. It is way, way, way out of the way and SUPER COLD! But … it is pretty awesome to see. Check it out around Christmas time thru February-ish.

(Click the link read more)

2014-04-19 13.49.43

Luoyang Peony Festival

If you love Peonies then you will love this Peony Festival! It’s sometime in April depending on the year, but make sure you get there during the right week; otherwise it’s a little under-whelming.

(Click the link read more)

tallest, statue, world, spring temple, buddha, China

Spring Temple Buddha

The Spring Temple Buddha is the tallest statue in the world, but it is shockingly out in the middle of nowhere. If you want to check out this huge statue, you’re closest major city will be Luoyang. 

(For detailed instructions on getting to the statue click the link above)

Zhujiajiao, Water City, Sunset

Zhujiajiao – Water Town

This is an incredible little town that lives on the water! It is a perfect day trip from Shanghai and a perfect place to try food, get cool souvenirs and work on your bartering skills. Head out with enough time to get a table and eat along the waterfront … if your lucky you will catch one of their awesome sunsets.

(Click the link read more)

Tibet, map

Lhasa,
Tibet

If your dream is to see Tibet then I would recommend going during your China trip. You will need a Chinese visa in a addition to some other paperwork to get in. Tour groups may be your best bet.

(Link goes to chinahighlights.com)

Did you like this Itinerary? Well, more are coming soon!

More Itineraries

A Nomad’s Thoughts on Returning Home (part 1)

Part 1: 10 Thoughts on Returning Home After 2 Years Abroad
Part 2: Resolution and Advice After Being Home for 2 Weeks

Ah, it’s been forever since I’ve posted an article. In fact, this is the longest I have ever gone without posting anything.

I have a good excuse though :)  … In the past 3 weeks I flew from rural China to San Francisco (stayed 72 hours) and then flew back, gave my 550 Chinese kids their end-of-year oral/written exams, then packed everything from the past 2 years and flew back to Canada with Jess!

Whew, it’s been crazy, exciting, and ultimately just a lot of fun!

So, Jess and I have been living and working in China for the past 2 years. All in all we had a great experience, but it was definitely time for us to come home. 

As we re-enter N. America though (I wrote this on the plane ride back), I found my mind wandering to unexpected things. Curiosity, anxiety and even nervousness began to set in at the prospect of delving back into the realm of familiarity.

IMG_6296

Saying our final farewells the week before leaving Asia.

So, as Alaska stared back at me 35,000 feet below, I began to think of reverse culture shock and how it would effect me this time around. 

With that in mind, here are 10 thoughts that popped into my mind as I prepared to re-enter the familiarity of North America after 2 years abroad:

IMG_6268

1. People will speak the same language again… ah!

As crazy as it seems, there is an intimidating aspect to this. In China, we used hand motions and our pathetic level of Chinese to communicate with people. If something didn’t work out though, we could always just blame it on that nameless “communication barrier.” We don’t have an excuse for miscommunication any more!

2. What if everything is different back home? 

This thought has diminished over the years as I began to realize that things very rarely change back home. It’s always a bizarre feeling to take off, travel, experience the world, change as a person and then come back just to find everything the exact same.

I suspect very little will have changed this time too. However, I still find myself wondering what will have changed. Something had to change!

3. Am I going to have to be responsible again? 

Alright let’s face it, backpackers travelers and nomads are rarely working that hard :) Life abroad is exciting, challenging, and stressful at times, but it just doesn’t compare to the stress that comes with the fast-paced society, jobs, bills and over-all life in western culture.

I’m wondering if returning home will come with a burden of responsibility that I haven’t had to deal with for the past 2 years.

4. I can’t wait to eat normal food again!

No explanation necessary! I loved Chinese food, but I am sick of rice and noodles. It’s time to eat a steak and drink a real beer!

Starring out Plane Window
Teaching English in China TEFL

5. Wait … does this mean I have to get a job again?

It almost brings a tear to my eye just thinking about it… I just hope it isn’t true, but I fear I may actually have to work again… (to be determined)

6. What if no one can relate to my stories? 

What if I try to tell that crazy story about, “catching a bus in rural China, the driver got lost and we got stuck in a small town, locals were taking pictures of us and we ended up talking to an old Chinese lady for an hour about tea and flowers even though neither of us even spoke Chinese …. ” and then I look up and realize that no one can even begin to relate.

In some ways, if you can’t relay a story properly (which I suck at telling stories), it can have a small diminishing effect on the experience itself. I hope people’s inability to relate to our experiences doesn’t dampen our memory of them.

7. Will I start comparing everything to life abroad? 

We’ve been so excited to return home for so long now! I wonder if once we get back to Canada though, if we will start experiencing a “grass is always greener” dilemma.

– Maybe that food we’ve craved for so long isn’t going to be as great at 1-x as much money!
– Or maybe that cold American Beer I’ve dreamed about will be less than satisfactory because it cost $6 … and I have to start tipping again!
– Maybe the excitement of getting to drive myself places will be diminished by the cost of gasoline, insurance, tickets, etc.

Or … maybe, everything will just be awesome! We’ll see …

8. I wonder what things I missed while I was gone.

Countries and cultures go through shockingly profound changes in just a couple years. Politics and leaders change, new movements begin, music, youth and styles change … I’m curious how the countries we know have changed in our absence.

China, Chinese, food, meal, eating, round, table
Teaching, English, China, students, teacher

9. How long does it take for “home” to feel like home again?

I’m not sure how long this will take. I’ve lived in 23 or 24 houses in my life now and my personal guess is 30 days.

I’m also going to be living in Jess’s hometown so I’m curious how feeling “home” (as in N. America) will compare with feeling “home” (as in house/home).

10. Can I actually afford to live back at home again?

Life in China was cheap! Teaching English was the lowest paying job I ever had, but I liked it a lot and saved more than I’ve ever saved in a 2 year span. I think there will be an adjustment to not just buying everything we want without having to think about it.