Customer Reviews: China (Eyewitness Travel Guides)
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VINE VOICEon October 14, 2006
I used two tour books to plan my trip to China: Eyewitness for the general details of the itinerary, and Lonely Planet for the logistical details. The Eyewitness guide has a massive amount of beautiful photographs and illustrations that help give the traveler an idea of the sights he or she can choose from, which is very important--unless you have a year or so to spare, planning a trip to China is as much about choosing what NOT to see as it is choosing what to see. I could also see this being the perfect guide for the more casual traveler; someone in a tour group or someone accompanying a designated "navigator."

That being said, if you are traveling solo (that is, not in a tour group or other organized group of some kind) you will also want to have a more "details-heavy" guide such as the Lonely Planet, which is full of details Eyewitness does not have, including bilingual maps and place names, as well as more and deeper descriptions of sightseeing locations, hotels, restaurants, and nightlife.

All tour books have their strengths and weaknesses, and although the lesser amount of logistical details is the main drawback of Eyewitness China, the large number of helpful photos and illustrations is its main strength. Although solo travelers will need a little more than this, for the casual or group traveler this guide alone would probably be more than enough to enjoy your trip to the Middle Kingdom.
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In preparing for a recent business trip to China (my first time going there), I asked one of my (Chinese national) colleagues for a few suggested books that provide a good overview of China, both from the historical perspective as well as the "touristy" perspective, and this is the book that was recommended to me.

I've had "China (Eyewitness Travel Guides)" (672 pages) for a couple of months, and found it fascinating reading but really didn't want to judge it until I had a chance to put it to the test while traveling in China. Well, I am here to tell you that the book performed great from that perspective as well. But before we get to that, let me point out that the first 70 pages of the book, providing a general overview and a summary of China's 5000 year history are nothing short of essential, and one of the things that set this book apart from many other China travel guides.

The real test of the book came for me when I was in some of the not so obvious places on my trip. Yes, we all have heard about and know some things of Beijing, Shanghai and Hong Kong, but what about places like Xi'An (in Shaanxi Province) and Xiamen (in Fujian Province), which I happened to visit. The information provided by this book is just excellent, and helped me prepare, both mentally and otherwise, for my trip. I agree that the "Where to Stay" and "Where to Eat" sections in the back of the book are not the best parts of the book, and frankly I did not use them for my trip, although I did find the practical tips such as "Do's and Don'ts of Eating Etiquette" quite helpful. Not only does this book make a great travel guide, but it is on top of that available here on Amazon for 40% off of the book's cover price. You can't go wrong with this.
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on January 18, 2007
I am a graduate student in US but came from China. This book has a lot of vivid pictures and illustrations. I bought this book because I want to know what China is from the point of view of the US tourists. Although I had been in China for 27 years before I came to US, I only visited limited places that the book covered. I think this book is very nice and interesting because it contains some personal experiences of the author(s). However, in the first chapter, I still found some misunderstandings or incorrect information about marriage of people from 1949 to 1980's. Anyway, these are not related to eyewitness guide to travel. But as a travel guide, it is great!
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on April 10, 2007
I've been a devoted fan of Let's Go (back in the 80's), transitioned to Lonely Planet (the 90's) and experimented with Rough Guides and Moon books for all my world travels. I shunned the glossy photo-rich books as being too short on valuable content and too heavy and thick to carry. But after reading all the site reviews, I bought this along with Rough Guide (also highly praised), and wow, I am a total convert. I am actually halfway through reading it cover-to-cover, and the photos are invaluable in helping us decide where to spend our free time in China. You won't be disappointed.
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on August 1, 2006
The book has a little heft to it (as in weight not dialogue) but the photos and insightful captions make it worth the carrying. It is more an intro guide than a map for an experienced Asian traveler. Much more an introduction and overview of the biggie tourist attrations (w/good pictures and great basic synopsis)than a treasure map to some hole in the wall establishment or practical contact information for reservations. It offers a great addition to any scrapbook. We took it on a group excurision and ended up passing it around to several others who showed great interest in browsing the pages and ultimately lent it to a couple of travalers who spent weeks following this text's advice for their day trips.
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on January 9, 2007
This guide proved to be an excellent resource for our trip to mainland China (Dec, 06). As a first-time traveler, I appreciated the tips on customs, eating, bathroom facilities, tipping, etc. The street guide for Beijing was extremely useful. The history section and timeline were interesting reading on the flight home. Our son, who is living in Yunnan Province, used to guide to plan some future trips of his own.
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on October 10, 2005
Although China is one of the most popular destination today, amazingly there is very little good reference book about it.

This is one of the good one; a continuing great series of DK.

However, perhaps because China is so large, each province only have a small coverage about them. Won't satisfy the thirst of a comprehensive information on China.
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VINE VOICEon December 28, 2007
Trying to review this book is somewhat hard, technically it's a travel guide and as that its ok, but its really more than that. Its one of the best birds eye views of the major attractions in China. Kind of a Whats-What of China. Having been to China on several trips I can personally attest to the quality of the selection and information.

They Layout is organized by region, usually two provinces to a Chapter. You get a brief overview of the province, then it moves to 1-2 pages per location (maybe a city or a park) in that province. The information is a smorgasborg of text, photos and illustrations. It covers the major attractions and why they are significant. The photographs are stunning (if small by necessity). The information is both informative and concise. Its amazing how much stuff they've packed in there.

Sprinkled throughout the chapters are various shorts (1-2 pages) on Chinese history and culture. Again high level concise information but enough to get you started.

The construction of the book is way above your newsprint guides. Its got good binding, vinyl covers and slick glossy pages. Top notch.

The only thing I would knock it for is that as a travel guide its travel nuts and bolts (specific places to stay, eat, shop, train schedules, directions etc) is pretty weak. They have some information but it tends to be focused more on the high end stuff rather than the budget backpacker.

This book is best bought, used and enjoyed as a overall reference book on China for people who just want to know more. As a travel guide it is a good source of information to get you started, but its not where you'll finish. You'll want to look at other information and resources when it comes to the specifics of your journey.

So to Recap

Excellent Photos, text and diagrams
Well organized
Concise chocked full of info
Good quality printing and binding
Wide variety of information

Weak on travel specific information

A great book for someone thinking of a trip to china and wondering "what is there to see" as well as reference to China and its many highlights.
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on August 23, 2005
This is a book trying to fit 5,000 years of history. It succeeds in doing that and gives every first timers a lot of details about the places they are visiting. However, the pictures they use cannot compare with other DK series books, they are old (some from the 70s) and therefore not showing the real country as it is now.

So get your camera and go to see it yourself.
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on January 9, 2007
DK Publishing produces one of the very best travel guides: Best paper, best directions, photography, maps, etc. The only minus is that they are heavy to carry with you when trekking around the world. But that is what you have to endure for high quality. And I always have mine with me.

Also, their specialized editions on music, art, etc. are also great!
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