I booked my train to Guangzhou and a room for a week. I also booked rooms in Hong Kong, Macau, and Kunming. I'm waiting on a response from a guesthouse in YuanYang to see if I can make it out there to see the terraces which are supposed to be really pretty. I'll be spending Chinese New Year in Yunnan for a few days before catching a 24 hour train back to Zhuzhou. And this time, I plan on getting a soft sleeper ticket though it's expensive. I haven't decided on if I'm splurging on one night at a nice place in Kunming the night before leaving on the train or not. I'm watching my money go pretty fast (at least, the money I'll be paid the day before I leave) and I'm somewhere between knowing that I saved over 2000 yuan specifically so I could travel a little more comfortably and knowing that keeping a fair amount saved is a comfortable feeling too. I'm sure I can do it. I plan on coming back a week before school starts and I get paid that same week too so I might be short on funds for a few days but I'll definitely be able to feed myself upon my return (and my meal card will be recharged when the new school term begins). I still need to book my train tickets for the return trip and figure out how to get from Macau to Guangzhou so I can catch my train to Kunming. That part will be crazy, but covering two former colonies, going around the delta a bit, seeing Guangzhou, going to Yunnan to see Kunming, the surfing Buddhas, the rice terraces...I may have planned for too much time in Yuanyang but because it's out of the way, the rooms are cheaper too. And that would leave me plenty of time to check out more than one spot. That and it takes a 7 hour bus to get from Kunming to Yuanyang, and another bus from there to get to DuoYiShu, the spot I'm looking at staying. I haven't decided if I should just take a day for the trip to get there, spend two days looking, and hop on a bus back for two nights in Kunming before getting on the train or really enjoy 4 days out there (and I'd be there on the 19th, the new year). I'm trying to finalize all the things that I can so I'm not nervously standing in a train station for hours hoping for something to come my way. I'm not as worried about going from Hong Kong to Macau though I still have to work out how to get from Guangzhou to Hong Kong.
Needless to say, budgeting aside I'm excited. I'm traveling for 4 weeks and I can take a week to rest and regroup for the next term after that (or see about going up to FengHuang, which I've heard is gorgeous and close enough to not require quite as many resources to go). I'll miss my kids, but I finally have a lengthy vacation during which to venture a little further. I heard we have a week in May too so that might be my time to go up to Xian, see the warriors and the Ming dynasty walls and the old capital of the Tang dynasty. China's so big, it's been hard to prioritize where I really want to go first/next/second etc. I thought about trying to make it over to Kyoto after I finished teaching here for a year, but now it does sound like a good idea to see about an extension so I could see a little more. Or sign up to teach here for another year and see where my kids are at.