hotel bookings

Hello, my wife and I are visiting China  for the first time in July 2011. We are trying to organise for ourselfs plane travel, and hotels on line so my first question - are booking  confirmations in english sufficient? Bearing in mind that not everyone reads english.  Also with a week in Beijing there is not enough time  for a cruise to three Gorges Dam so is there a train/bus service from Beijing to the Dam, and if so what are the time scales?

Are you referring to the confirmation information you received after making a booking? Info of that sort in English should be all right. Hotel staff should have some basic English in most cases, unless it is one of the places that rarely or never serve any foreign guests. You want to make sure, of course, you book your stay at a legit web site, so the booking would be honored by the hotel. For the most part, arranging a stay at a hotel is not much of a problem as there so many of them. 

If you go to Yichang, you should probably tour the Three Gorges, not the Gorges Dam itself, unless you have a particular interest in engineering feats. For those who do not have enough time to do a leisurely cruise down from Chongqing, there are quick hydrofoil trips through the Gorges that start start and end in Yichang. For example, the branch office of China Travel International Service in Yichang seems to offer such quick tours. It takes three hours or so to go upstream to scenic spots such as Three Little Gorges or Shennong Stream. One then tour these places, and, of course, view the sights along the way as the hydrofoil rushes through the Gorges. Packed tours also includes half a day spent at the Gorges Dam. Altogether, such a trip can bed one in two days and two nights. One arrives in Yichang in evening. Tour the Dam next morning. Go up the Three Gorges in the afternoon and stay overnight in a town out there. The next day, tour either Three Little Gorges or Shennong Stream. Return to Yichang in the afternoon/evening. You can then depart from Yichang.

There are two daily train services from Beijing to Yichang. The trains, however, are not particularly fast. One train departs around 1:00 pm and arrives before noon next day. The other departures before midnight arrives around 9:00 pm. Starting and arriving stations are Beijing West and Yichang East. A hard sleeper one way ticket costs about ¥350 and a soft sleeper ticket ¥530 or so. Return trains depart around 6:00 pm and midnight.

There are also flight services between Beijing and Yichang. You can fly out of Beijing early in the morning or around noon time. Flight time is two hours. Airfare is double the train cost or a little more. The latest return from Yichang, however, seems to be 4:00 pm. The airports are Beijing Capital International Airport and Yichang Sanxia Airport.