Sunday, December 09, 2012

Domestic Travelling in China (Shanghai, Xi'an & Chengdu)

No trip to China is complete without a visit, at the very least, to the Terracotta Warriors in Xi'an & the Chengdu Panda Base
Before leaving Cairns did some research and worked out that booking flights and hotels via the Ctrip website looked pretty straightforward, however decided to wait until we were there before making any firm bookings.
Once in Shanghai and after checking with Hong Kong based brother who also recommended Ctrip, decided to take the plunge and travel "freestyle". 
Shanghai Pudong Airport - Terminal 1
After allowing for an important business meeting in Aust. that MDR had to do via Skype we decided to head over to Xi'an on a Monday night (2h 40m flight), then head out early Tuesday morning to tour the Terracotta Warriors site allowing a whole day in Xi'an, overnighting for a further night there, then flying to Chengdu (1h 30m flight) early the next morning, spending half a day at the Panda Base and returning to Shanghai that evening.  This would mean avoiding crowds on weekends and allow us to visit the important sites early in the mornings when it would be less busy.  Lucky also that our trip to China was in November, which is low season, no local holidays and also cooler weather - just perfect!
Ctrip listed many domestic airline options with very cheap to very pricey fares.  Our China Eastern flight from Cairns had been good so ended up booking all of our flights with them.  China Southern had been recommended to us as well by Allen's Tours in Xi'an but China Eastern worked out to have more flights and cheaper fares.
Domestic Flight on China Eastern
Booking via Ctrip online with the iPad was fine until the payment page, tried three times but it kept crashing. Getting a bit dispirited by then as I didn't fancy calling Ctrip and struggling with language difficulties, however it was either calling or not going!  Pleasantly surprised when I called the English booking line, the sales agent at the other end had great English, was very fast and our three flights were booked in a jiffy.  Also helped a lot that I'd entered in our details and passport numbers and taken note of the flight details.  Just had to read out my credit card number and the flights were confirmed via e-ticket with emails arriving shortly thereafter.
Our of our flights were ex Shanghai Pudong (East) as that was the airport we were familiar with, however in retrospect it may have been better to return to Shanghai via Shanghai Hongqiao airport which is on the Puxi (West) side of Shanghai where we were staying on our return from Chengdu.  But we did have to leave our big suitcases somewhere and it turned out to be very quick and easy to leave them at the baggage storage facility which was about 30m from the China Eastern (MU) check-in area at the excellent Shanghai Pudong airport.
The domestic flight on MU was seamless, quick check-in using just our passports (no annoying e-ticket printouts needed), new aircraft, on-time, and polite co-passengers on board.
We were surprised by the level of security, just like travelling international.  Passports are checked then there is a very rigourous security check which included being "frisked" with the metal detector wand.  This turns out to be the case on all domestic flights so it's smart to allow plenty of time to get through security checkpoints.
China Eastern In-Flight Meal - W Class MU5410  CTU - PVG
The airports at Xi'an and Chengdu were very similar to Shanghai Pudong, very large, quite new and very efficient.
Aviation Radish - Too scared to try this!
All of our flights were seamless and where we used taxi's, very short queues.
In-flight meals were pretty good, quite substantial compared to Australia.  Forget the in-flight coffee though, it's served lukewarm in a plastic tumbler with that awful "Coffee Creamer" powder.

We managed to find nice coffee shops at all the airports so have your coffee fix before you board!

1 comment:

Akmos17 said...

Lucky also that our trip to China was in November, which is low season, no local holidays and also cooler weather - just perfect! Translator in Beijing