Where In China Should We Go For A Long Weekend?

Filed Under: Great Deals, Other Airlines

Ben mentioned the nice fares on Xiamen Airlines from LAX to many cities in China for about $1,850 round trip in business class, available this September to December. I was thinking it’d make for a fun trip.

Now, getting Ben to commit to planning a trip is sometimes a bit like a cat trying to grab onto the light from a laser pointer. He doesn’t make many firm plans far in advance, and thus can do awesome things like take advantage of last-minute award space.

I, on the other hand, have a “real” job and therefore must plan my travel around other commitments. But this is a very good deal, and it has been a while since Ben has had to put up with my sense of humor and love of board games on an international trip, so I think the time is right for a long weekend trip.

Since this fare seems to be valid to so many cities in China (with a connection in Xiamen), there are a lot of potential options for destinations. I’ve been to Beijing before (with Ben, actually), so I’d like to try somewhere new. While I’ve never been to Shanghai, Ben has, and it’d be nice to go to a city neither of us have visited.

Here are some ideas for places to go on this fare:


They have a panda breeding research facility that you can visit, which looks amazing. Given that pandas are very reluctant to reproduce, I’m super curious how the folks at this research center manage to bamboo-zle them into doing so.


I think it’d be fun to stay at the Castle Hotel (an SPG Luxury Collection property!). Kind of looks like what you’d get if Medieval Times, Camelot, and Cinderella’s Castle were all smashed together.


To check out some of their fancy hotels and beaches, which seem generally very reasonably priced (thanks, @Mike, for this idea!).

The Ritz-Carlton Sanya looks pretty legit.


Mainly because of the umlauts in the name. What’s the deal with that? Seriously, I’ve always been fascinated with the culture and identity of the Uyghur population there.

What do you all think – where would be a good place in China to go on this fare for a long weekend?

  1. How about Tibet?

    There aint a ton to see in Urumqi itself – most of the neat stuff is outside the city and some cool Silk Road sites! Might be hard for a weekend but lots of cool stuff out there!

  2. Fly to Beijing and drive up north to the highlands of Inner Mongolia. It’s awesome. Chengdu is quite a dull city and not good for any travel in the summer. Also food there is quite difficult to enjoy considering those spices they put even for a Chinese it is difficult sometimes. Don’t even consider XinJiang province as your trip will be very restricted due to the separatist activities in the province so maybe not the best time now. Santana is SUPER hot like chengdu during the summer but is a great getaway during winter seasons. Just avoid first week of Oct and other Chinese holidays. The best would be Dalian if you are travelling in summer the city by the sea have a great port and much to look around. Enjoy your trip in China.

  3. Andrew, I recommend Xi Hu (Hanzhou) or Kunming. Both are relaxing and offer 5 star resort options.

    If beach is more your thing, try Sanya.

  4. If you like exotic stuff: Tibet, Mongolia, Xian, check out the caves in Shanxi province, shangrila in Yunnan province…

    Relaxed city breaks: Tianjin, Dalian, hangzhou or Suzhou

  5. Sanya is beautiful, spent two weeks there 4yrs ago and loved it. Very nice beaches and some very nice hotels for rather reasonable prices as you pointed out. If you like cultural things they have a large, for lack of a better word, amusement park of Buddhist gods with a statue larger than the Statue of Liberty jetting out into the ocean. Felt like going to Disneyland but each attraction wasn’t a a ride or a Disney character it’s a different temple to a different god. Very culturally interesting for those so inclined.

  6. One vote for Chengdu if you can handle spicy food. It’s a charming thousand-year old city with very relaxing atmosphere. And if you have enough time, be sure to visit Jiuzhaigou National Park.

  7. Assuming you’ve got a Chinese visa…. Why not stay in Xiamen? It’s a nice smaller city along the coast and you can take the ferry to Taiwan’s Kinmen Island. Chengdu is worth a visit for both the Panda Research Institute and the hotpot. Sanya gets crowded so I prefer Haikou as it’s less crowded and cheaper. Qingdao would be fun since it was a German colony and the beer brewing tradition was left behind. Plus it has a monthlong beer festival in August. To visit Tibet, you’ll need a special permit.

  8. Just how long is this long weekend? Even with a 4 day weekend (which for most of us working stiffs is pretty rare), that’s not much time given all the traveling/connections.

  9. You have the option to fly to Chengdu direct from the US and many of those other cities soon. Therefore, I would instead encourage you to research Zhangjiajie. The beautiful sandstone columns will give you a great appreciation for the vast differences in sceneries, cuisine, and customs across China.

    If you need to stick with your original choices and based on my experience as an expat in China, I recommend Chengdu.

  10. Another vote for Lijiang, it’s beautiful! Don’t go to Sanya; it’s overcrowded and touristy.

  11. Given the current state of affairs in the US, I would suggest heading immediately to the immigration office and apply for asylum.

  12. Skip Sanya, not worth it. I would suggest Guilin for the landscape. Hangzhou or Shanghai for city life.

    Lijiang is also stunning I hear, the mythical “Shangri-La”

  13. I would suggest Jiuzhaigou, which is just a short flight from chengdu and very pretty, but if your more into culture, I would definitely suggest Lijiang, it’s a really interesting place and also quite beautiful. Chongqing is also a nice place for hotpot, if your into that, and Chengdu for pandas and spicy Sichuan food in general, enjoy your trip!

  14. You are forgetting about Xiamen itself. I just visited Xiamen a couple of days ago. I was surprised. Very upcoming promising city and quite some outstanding hotel options. People are really friendly too.

  15. Highly recommend Urumqi, or anywhere out in Xinjiang. Flying to Urumqi and watching the landscape change, similar to a east to west transcon, is quite the experience — in the middle of a vast desert, out pops the largest inland city from any sea or ocean in the world. The people, food, culture and diversity is unlike any other part of China. Western China is certainly worth more than just a long weekend (I spent 10 days trekking through the Tianshan Mountains) but if you’re looking for an adventure and something so unique to China that is probably closer to the -stans both in geography and in culture, I cannot recommend Urumqi enough. I’d go to Urumqi for the its food alone — the fruit, raisins, lamb skewers… simply out of this world!

  16. Throwing my hat into the ring for Tianjin. It’s got a bit more of a European vibe unlike anywhere else in China. As a bonus, there’s also a Luxury Hotel from the 1800s which is super out of place.

  17. Another vote for Mongolia. Has Ben ever been?
    I went to Hangzhou a few years back – the lake is very nice.

  18. Go to Xi’an and see the terra cotta warriors. There is also an excellent Muslim quarter in the city with awesome food.

  19. Are the fares good for Xiamen itself? If so I’d definitely recommend it. There’s a mountain with requisite temples to hike up, an “old town” with Portuguese colonial architecture, beaches near the old fort, and you can take a trip out to the far beaches to see the competing propaganda billboards across the strait dividing the prc from Taiwanese-controlled kinmen.

  20. The critical factor here is the length of the trip. For instance, I’d highly recommend places in Yunnan Province (Tiger Leaping Gorge, Shangri-La/Zhongdian; Lijiang has already been mentioned), but that’s not going to be feasible for a long weekend. As others have suggested, staying in Xiamen may be the way to go. I’ve never been but heard nothing but good things. Dalian is a great city, and the city center is relatively compact (by large Chinese city standards). If you go there, the area around Er Tong Park (儿童公园) and Ming Ze Hu (明泽湖) is nice to walk around. Hangzhou would make for a nice long weekend as well.

  21. @ Andy 11235 — Unfortunately fares are much higher if traveling just to Xiamen, I guess because they have the advantage of flying nonstop. 🙁

  22. I have been to Chengdu (many times), Dalian and Sanya, and the winner is…Chengdu!

    — World’s largest and truest Panda breeding farm.
    — Sichuan Opera, just WOW! (Look it up).

    The above two should be plenty for a long a weekend. Then there is:

    — Dujiangyan, the oldest dam and irrigation system. Built in 250 BC, it is still fully operational with little or no modification since it was built!
    — Qingcheng Mountains, the craddle of Taoism, is a fascinating excursion that includes visiting ancient monasteries and admiring pristine a mountain range consistent, oddly, of 36 peaks, 72 caves and 108 scenic spots… 😉

    Dalian is a “Tech City” and “meh”, and Sanya is China’s Honolulu. Chengdu is it, but it may require more than one long weekend to fully appreciate, in which case my next recommendation would Sanya. Can’t go wrong in Beijing (Great Wall, Summer Palace, Forbidden City, etc, etc) or X’ian (Terracotta Warriors).

    So many choices, so little time!

  23. Lijiang, Guilin or Xian are all nice for scenery. If you work anyway and stay at a high end chain hotel just go to Shanghai or Guangzhou. From those cities Lijian was my favorite. We stayed at the Banyan Tree and liked it. Xian Terracotta army is definitely worth to see, just don’t get dragged to a store for a sales pitch by your tour guide. Guilin going up the river to Yangshou is ‘the Chinese scenery that you see on lots of paintings.

    Sanya is nothing to write home about except if like to relax at the beach or pool. Stayed at a Conrad there in a villa with a private pool for a couple days and was very relaxing.

    I do like Beijing a lot but would avoid it in the middle of summer.

    How many days do you have and how many can you actually spend sightseeing?

  24. Spent nearly 6 months trekking around China mostly in the South West and North West. Lijiang didn’t really impress me but I’d already been hiking for two months in Yunnan and Szechuan by then and I found it all a bit touristy and fake (yeah, travel snob, I know).

    Xishuangbanna would be my recommendation. Fly in to Kunming and then take a night bus for some real Chinese adventure!

  25. A few favorites: Lhasa, Urumqi, Lijiang, Yangshuo, Jiuzhaigou.

    Xiamen itself isn’t bad for a day – noticed some of the returns on these fares had a one-night/day layover!

  26. I think you guys are overthinking this. Just go to Xiamen — I hear it’s actually kind of groovy now. I see the nonstop as $1977 RT. That’s only a little more than, say, Dalian.

    Also, more Park Hyatt reviews please. (I know XMN has none, so I just contradicted myself.)

  27. I went to Chengdu specifically to visit the panda center. You can get pictures holding baby pandas if you don’t have moral objections to that kind of thing. I think it was around $250USD a few years ago and cash only. They only do it a few times a day and for a very limited number of people, so get there early if you have your heart set on it. Also, like someone mentioned above, if you’re not used to authentic Sichuan food, you might find it overly spicy and pungent.

    As far as Shanghai, I just watched a show where Emeril Lagasse and Mario Batali ate a bunch of dumplings listed on the Shanghai Dumpling Index, which is apparently a real thing that exists. 🙂 It’s definitely on my bucket list for things to do on a long weekend.

  28. Sanya is EXTREMELY touristic for Chinese. Don’t go there in the summer. Places like Zhangjiajie or Guilin/Yangshuo are worth visits. If you want scenery, try Lijiang and the rest of Yunnan province.

  29. You should definitely check out Yunnan. Dali, Lijiang, and Kunming are all great cities to visit. Also, there’s tons of great hiking throughout.

  30. I would personally recommend Qingdao. It is a very beautiful place, and it doesn’t have that much pollution against Chengdu. It does have direct flights to SFO and YVR. If you want to go to Dalian, the Palace Hotel is wonderful, and you can transit through Tokyo. Both recommended place to go in china

  31. I am an American expat living in Dalian, so I have to put in some good words for Dalian. The Castle Hotel is really nice, my son just went to his prom there! Hotel has nice restaurants too. Dalian is clean, modern, right on the ocean– nice oceanside boardwalks for long walks, lots of green space– parks galore, nice beaches. Great restaurants everywhere. No real historical sites to see, as it is a relatively new city, but it would be perfect for a weekend trip.

  32. Chengdu is a great base to see some awesome stuff. Aside from the pandas I recommend

    1) Sanxingdui – ancient, pre-Han Chinese site, awesome prehistoric alien like giant bronze masks
    2) Leshan for the giant Buddha and associated temples
    3) Emeishan for the mountain, Buddhist monestaries and tea
    4) shuijinfang baijiu distillery tour in Chengdu
    5) The Dujiangyan irrigation system
    6) The Jiayang steam railway – winds up through beautiful bamboos forests and their is a tour of a coal mine at the Tom and an interesting slice of rural china.

  33. Been to both Chengdu and Sanya. Sanya is the better option if you want to relax, but if you want to see ‘real’ China go to Chengdu. Chengdu is brilliant and if you want to go to the breeding center go early as it gets super busy and hot during the day. I would say Chengdu is better and is a great place to visit

  34. Definitely Guilin, been there this year and it’s an amazing place.
    The views are amazing and it’s a very interesting city to explore.
    Be sure to visit the main street.
    Enjoy your trip.

  35. It’s weird that no one has mentioned Xi’an? Xi’an is usually on the top 3 list of typical China itineraries for Westerners. There’s a reason for this. A must go if you’ve never been there, just like Beijing. I can’t say this strongly enough, go there first if it’s new to the both of you.

    And do not go to Tianjin or Guangzhou. Those are boring cities with not much to see. Guangzhou does have good food, but you’d have the same (Cantonese food) in a more accessible package in Hong Kong instead.

    There’s quite a bit of natural scenery in China as well. It’s odd that they have not been mentioned much. Guilin and Yunnan are good examples, but there are many others as well.

    Chengdu is a good option as others have mentioned. So is Xiamen itself.

    A lot of people have mentioned Hangzhou, but I personally don’t like it as much (it’s main feature is a crowded touristy lake with hot smoggy summers). The biggest plus it has is it’s proximity to Shanghai. But if you’re going for proximity to Shanghai, I’d go for Suzhou with its exquisite landscaped gardens instead (very uniquely Chinese).

  36. Guilin into Yangshao. Seriously if neither of you have been then it will blow those other locations out of the water and is where many of the chinese go on holidays. Its like an hour and a half flight time from Hong Kong. My next trip to China will likely include Chengdu. Xi’an is interesting especially seeing the warriors but the city is incredibly polluted. I had the toughest time breathing there of anywhere in all of China.

  37. @JIm sez: “It’s weird that no one has mentioned Xi’an?….”, and then again: “There’s quite a bit of natural scenery in China as well. It’s odd that they have not been mentioned much. Guilin and Yunnan are good examples, but there are many others as well.”

    LOL. No, what’s weird is that you can make such demonstrably wrong claims with great confidence and no sense of irony…

    I (on June 2, 2017 at 1:29 pm) and many others mentioned Xi’an, 24h or more before you did; and Guilin is not only mentioned in the post just before yours but also in many before that. Yunnan? Here’s @Jush on June 2, 2017 at 8:12 pm, i.e., about 19 hours before you mentioned Yunnan: “You should definitely check out Yunnan.” And here’s @German Expat on
    June 2, 2017 at 2:32 pm mention both Guilin and Xian, ~24h before you: “Lijiang, Guilin or Xian are all nice for scenery.”

    You clearly do not have the monopoly on knowing about nice spots to visit in PRC.


  38. @DCS Not sure what’s with the personal attack. Are you trying to pick a fight?

    I missed the Xi’an mentions. As for Yunnan and Guilin, I stand by my comment. Most of the responses have focused on cities instead of scenery. I did name those two locations specifically to agree with previous posters who suggested it.

  39. @Jim — I just pointed out a fact. If you consider it an attack to point out your factual error and want to duke it then let’s. You cannot stand by the claim that other focused on cities rather than scenery either because it is also wrong. Many, if not most, did focus on the scenery or a mixture of locations that included scenic sites. Here again, e.g., is @German Expat on June 2, 2017 at 2:32 pm, ~24h before you, saying “Lijiang, Guilin or Xian are all nice for SCENERY.” [caps mine].

    You suggested nothing that had not been suggested before. If that bit of truth offends you, then so be it.


  40. @DCS Do you have any actual, useful, criticisms to my recommendations on these locations? If you disagree with my assessment of the locations, that’s fair. But right now you’re just trolling on completely offtopic things.

    I think this is the last time I’ll respond to your nasty comments. But for the record, you citing one other comment (or 2, 3) on scenery out of 50 does not contradict my original comment of “have not been mentioned much,” so I stand by my comment. And these are definitely not “most” comments like you falsely claim. Your false comment about “monopoly on knowing about nice spots,” which I never said or even alluded to *is* an unsubstantiated attack. In fact, most of my original comment (all with the exception of the first paragraph) were in response to other people’s recommended locations, so obviously I would never claim such a monopoly.

  41. @Jim — If you wish to continue this “feud” you’ll have to do it alone. All I did was to point out these laughably inaccurate statements of yours:

    “It’s weird that no one has mentioned Xi’an?”
    ” It’s odd that they have not been mentioned much. Guilin and Yunnan are good examples…”

    You were wrong on both counts.


  42. BTW, your claims were that “no one” had mentioned Xi’an — That was wrong.
    Also, that scenic areas had not been “mentioned much” — That was wrong too, as Guilin was mentioned multiple times and Yunnan at least twice. Go back and count.

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