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The Trip: The details so far

Click map for larger, animated version>>>>>>>>

What: I am planning a cross-country trip of China this summer. I will leave from Shanghai, head northeast toward Heilongjiang and then make my way southwest, eventually ending up in Tibet. I will be traveling primarily by train and bus, whatever is cheapest. I will be stopping in many places and writing many stories and taking many photos for my website along the way.

I will also be doing my best to stay off the beaten trail. I want to go places not many tourists go, see things not many tourists see, meet people not many tourists meet. I’d like to give my readers a glimpse of the “real China” … whatever that may be. So although I will visit some of the famous spots, a lot of my trip will hopefully be spent in cities and villages few tourists ever visit. I’m hitting up my former students at Shanghai University and contacts I’ve made through my website to be my hosts and guides when I stop in their parts of China.

I think this project has a lot of potential. It’s going to be a weird and wild adventure. I encourage you to stop by this website often so you can join me on my journey.

Also, be on the lookout for a brand new design for this website. It will launch sometime before The Trip.

When: I plan to leave on or around July 1. I think the trip should take three or four months. But I really have no idea.

Why: Why not?

Who: Right now, it looks like it will be just me for most of the trip. Several people have expressed interest in joining me for sections. We’ll see.

Where: The specifics of my route are very flexible and uncertain — I expect it all to change several times during the summer — but see the map attached for a rough sketch. The route I end up taking will largely be determined by the places in which I have contacts. Here is a list of those places as of right now (it changes constantly):

Places I have established contacts (but I can always use more!): Beijing, Chongqing (Qixing Village-Liangping Town), Gansu (Lanzhou), Hunan (Changsha), Inner Mongolia (Baotou), Jiangxi (Pingxiang, Shangrao), Shaanxi (Xi’an), Shanxi (Linfen), Sichuan (Chengdu), Zhejiang (Hangzhou)

Places I might have contacts: Liaoning (Shenyang)

Provinces and regions I might travel through and could use a contact or two: Anhui, Guizhou, Hebei, Heilongjiang, Henan, Hubei, Jiangsu, Jilin, Ningxia, Shandong, Tianjin, Tibet, Yunnan

Important note: Really, if you’d like to be a contact, please let me know — regardless of your location. Even if I already have a contact in your city, or if I have not mentioned your province as one I will travel through, please e-mail me. The more contacts I have, the better.

Finances: How much will the trip cost? Good question. I really have no idea. (Lots of question marks still surround this trip. And, because of the unpredictability of traveling in China and massive scope of this trip, I expect many question marks to remain for the duration. That’s part of the fun.) But I definitely do not have a limitless supply of funds. Actually, I have a very limited supply. So I will be be living very cheaply. Very cheaply. Can I sleep on your couch? (Seriously.)

Language skills: My Chinese is poor. I actually think it’s gotten worse over the past few months. But, from my past experiences traveling in rural China, I don’t think this will be a huge problem. Also, many of my contacts along the way speak English very well. And some of my potential travel partners are bilingual. So I’m not worried. Well, maybe a little.

Suggestions: Also, if you can think of any not-often-reported-on Chinese places, activities, customs, traditions, people, trends, news of the weird, etc., that you think might make interesting reading for a collection of China travel essays — stories from my summer trip — please let me know. I’m always looking for unique angles or storylines. The stranger the better. Please e-mail me your ideas or just leave a comment to this post.

Finally: A big THANK YOU to all who have already offered help or advice. The response has been great so far. Keep the suggestions coming.

06.08.2004, 7:20 PM · The Trip


  1. Hey Dan,
    I am a fellow Atlantan living in Suzhou, China. My wife is from Dalian, well, actually from a small town just north of Dalian called Wafangdian. When I go there for Spring Festival, vists, etc, I am THE ONLY westerner there. It might be a place of interest for you. The town is famous for apples, diamonds and ball-bearings (don’t ask me the connection). I know you want to stay off the beaten path and I know looking at your map this might not be the easiest to get to, but it is worth a shot!

  2. hi, Dan. It’s Dana here. just back home from a short trip with my tourists. Just wanna say that I will get more time from next week to think or plan about where can you visit here. Mongulia group of this month was canceled. so I have enough time to do it. as I said, you will be intereting in some places in Hu Nan province.talk to you about it soon. o. congratulations for your new house. looks very nice after decorated from you.

  3. Dear Dan,

    I’ve just began reading your blog and I want to support your journey. I admire what you’re attempting to do. I am an Australian who is currently working in Harbin, Heilongjiang. I work as an English teacher at an extra-curricular school teaching juniors - very basic English but the only English that I am qualified to teach. The school I work for has provided me with an apartment. I can offer you the couch for a few nights - maybe a week. The apartment is on the cruddy side, but it’s what I call home right now. You can contact me on my e-mail address. I can’t get through to your own e-mail because I am using an internet bar computer. Hope to hear from you.


Shanghai Diaries is a website about Shanghai, China ... and lots of other stuff. Voted Best Mainland China Blog in the 2004 Asia Blog Awards.

Editor: Dan Washburn

Related: Shanghaiist and Mudan Boutique

Dan is a freelance writer living in Shanghai. More about Dan.

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