Subject: China - when? how? where?
Hello everybody. I am beginning to plan this yearīs holidays. At the beginning, it was Greece in May, but now we are feeling very drawn towards China. I have been looking around in the Web, checking websites, asking for brochures at my travel agent, and now the important things are arising. I need the help of experts.

1._ Going on our own or organized tour? We are two, maybe three girls, and although we can speak good English, not a word in Chinese (when we want to say that something is strange in spanish, we say that it sounds Chinese to us, so go figure). Are there pros, are there contras? 2._ I think I read all the books in the market about China, but, could you recommend an interesting one, apart from Jung Changīs Wild Swans, or Paul Theroux railway trains? And travel guides? I have doubts between Lonely Planet and Rough Guide, because Rough Guide is usually good in Europe. 3._ I have found a website for a tour company called The Imaginative Traveller. Has anyone travelled with them? Are they good? Their brochures look so inviting... 4._ We are beginning to write down a list, with places like Beijing, Xiīan, Guilin, Shanghai, Suzhou, Hangzhou, Luoyang (of course Hong-Kong, we should meet Judy)... Is there any other place to recommend or to take away (maybe too industrialised,...)? 5._ Really important, the weather. I have read that July and August are rain months. One of my friends teachs at the University in Bilbao, and she probably will only be able to travel in August. Depending on how bad is the weather, maybe we should leave her behind. We have talked about it, and although sad, she doesnīt matter. Which months are the best ones? 6._ Health. Any special vaccinations? I thought about malaria and typhus, I donīt know about others. 7._ Safety. Is it OK for women to travel on their own? Any extra care we should take, as clothing?

And all the other bits and pieces that you might find interesting. Itīs strange, because I donīt mind going on my own in Europe (I guess itīs because I am playing at home), but I worry a lot about China. Itīs so big, so ancient, so overwhelming... I am really thinking about the group tour, although my travel agent is trying to drive towards Vietnam. She is great, and she always finds you good deals and give good recommendations, but I think that in this case she had a bad experience in Shanghai 12 years ago...

Regards from Covadonga in Bilbao