TRAVEL Q& A

Fine China

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By Anne McDonough
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, August 21, 2005

Q. I am taking my granddaughter to China next summer for about 13 days. She will turn 12, I will be 63. We need to narrow the scope but don't know where to begin.

Pat Moseley, Washington

A. A standard first-time China itinerary includes Beijing, Xi'an, a Three Gorges cruise, Guilin and then home via Shanghai, according to Pista Nadj, a vice president of New York-based Ritz Tours, which specializes in Asia travel. But with a 12-year-old in tow, save Xi'an and the Yangtze for another trip; unearthed clay figures and three days of nonstop scenery, no matter how stunning, probably won't hold her attention for long.

Here's an idea that covers a lot of ground, but it requires several plane trips and an open-jaw international ticket. But you'd see, among other attractions, the Great Wall and the disappearing hutongs (alleys) of old Beijing, giant pandas and Dr. Seuss-like landscape.

Keeping in mind that summer means high tourist season and hot temps, you could acclimate in Beijing. Then fly about 2 1/2 hours southwest to Chengdu, capital of Sichuan province, for teahouses, plates of gongbao jiding (spicy chicken with peanuts) and the Giant Panda Breeding Research Base. About two hours away, Emei Shan, one of China's four famous Buddhist mountains, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Then fly southeast to Guilin and take a boat or bus to backpacker haven Yangshuo, where you can bike the countryside, which is pocked by limestone formations, and have dinner at a local farmer's house. The town's main street is lined with cafes (where your granddaughter can kick back with a DVD) and tailor shops, perfect for custom-made souvenirs. Then fly to Shanghai for the Shanghai Museum and thrills provided by an acrobatic troupes. With another day or two, two popular daytrips from Shanghai include Suzhou and Hang- zhou.

The domestic flights run about $100 to $150 each way. Some companies offer city-specific packages that can be cobbled together for the independent traveler (though Chengdu is often missing from the list). Ritz Tours (212-286-1096, http://www.ritztours.com)/ and CITS USA (626-568-8993, http://www.citsusa.com/ ), the American branch of China's largest tour company, are among them. Other operators are listed on the China National Tourist Office's Web site (888-760-8218, http://www.cnto.org/ ).

Q. When we're traveling by air, we check my husband's wheelchair. It would be easier to take it aboard. Is there a general policy that applies here?

Kathleen Baldwin Annapolis

A. In accordance with the Air Carrier Access Act (passed by Congress in 1986 and amended several times since), "aircraft with 100 or more passenger seats shall have a priority space in the cabin designated for stowage of at least one folding wheelchair," and it doesn't count toward your carryon allowance.

The rub? Although wheelchairs are given stowing priority over other carryon items going on the plane at the same time if you preboard, it's a first come-first served policy. As Howard J. McCoy of Accessible Journeys, a Pennsylvania company focusing on wheelchair travel, noted, "With the reality of today's turbo travel world, there might be a flight with multiple people with disabilities."

Apparelyzed.com, a Web site run by a British quadraplegic, provides links to the disability policy pages of 25 major airline Web sites, from AirTran (room set aside for one collapsible wheelchair per flight) to US Airways (ditto). Go to http://www.apparelyzed.com/ , click on "Support" and scroll to "Worldwide Wheelchair Holiday Reviews." The Aviation Consumer Protection Division of the Department of Transportation also addresses options for passengers with disabilities. Info: 800-778-4838, http://www.dot.gov/airconsumer .

Postscript

Diana Rodriguez of Urbana, Md., has a suggestion for the person planning a trip to Argentina and Chile and a couple of bordering countries (Travel Q&A, July 31, 2005). She suggests buying an open-jaw ticket arriving in Santiago, Chile, and departing from Buenos Aires. After visiting Santiago, cross into Argentina by taking an excursion (offered by several travel agencies) of the lakes between Chile and Argentina. "Some companies will take you as far south as El Calafate (to see the famous Perito Moreno glacier)," she said in an e-mail. From there, fly to Buenos Aires and then take a boat or a flight to Montevideo, Uruguay.

Send queries by e-mail (travelqa@washpost.com), fax (202-912-3609) or U.S. mail (Travel Q&A, Washington Post Travel Section, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071). Please include your name and home town.


© 2005 The Washington Post Company


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