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China Trip Report - Beijing, Xi'an, Guilin, Yangshuo, Suzhou, & Shanghai

China Trip Report - Beijing, Xi'an, Guilin, Yangshuo, Suzhou, & Shanghai

Old Nov 30th, 2009, 07:19 PM
  #1  
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China Trip Report - Beijing, Xi'an, Guilin, Yangshuo, Suzhou, & Shanghai

I just got back last night after an incredible 12-day trip to China visiting Beijing, Xi'an, Guilin, Yanghuo, Suzhou, and Shanghai. I was the group organizer of my church singles group of 32 adults and had begun preparations for the trip last February. I researched numerous companies -- both U.S. based and China based, and selected "Discover China Tours" (www.discoverchinatours.com) headquartered in Guilin, China, based on price, references, and what was included in the tour.

Because I had a large group, I had the luxury of customizing the tour itinerary and selecting the hotels. Like others, I had concerns about using a China-based tour operator and paying for a trip to a company I had never used before. To say the least, Discover China Tours not only exceeded all of my expectations, but I felt I have made a new friend in China. My itinerary included staying at 4 and 5-star hotels researched on tripadvisor.com (Jian Guo Hotel in Beijing, Jinshi International Hotel in Xi'an, Guilin Bravo Hotel in Guilin, Suzhou Garden Hotel in Suzhou, and Yun's Paradicse Hotel in Shanghai). All five of these hotels received ratings from tripadvisor.com in the top 10% and they lived up to all the expectations.

My tour included an overnight train in 4-berth soft sleepers from Beijing to Xi'an, a domestic flight on Air China from Xi'an to Guilin, a domestic flight on Shanghai Air from Guilin to Shanghai. 28 buffet style (lazy susan-type) meals (western breakfasts and westernized Chinese lunches and dinners), 3 river cruises (4-hour Li River Cruise, 1-hour cruise on the canal in Suzhou, and 1-hour night cruise in Shanghai on the Huangpu River), 4 shows ("Peking Opera" at the Liyuan Theater in Beijing, "Tang Dynasty Music and Dance" show in Xi'an, the "Impression of Sanjie Liu" show in Yanghuo, and the "ERA - Intersection of Time" show in Shanghai), admission fees (if required) to everything in the customized itinerary including in Beijing: Tiananmen Square, Forbidden City, Summer Palace, Great Wall at Badaling, the Ming Tomb, the Sacred Road, Rickshaw Tour through the historic hutongs, the Panda House at the Beijing Zoo; in Xi'an: the Terracotta Warriors Museum, the Wild Goose Pagoda, the Shaanxi Provincial History Museum, the Ancient City Wall, the Great Mosque and the Moslem Quarter; in the Guilin area: the West Street in Yanghuo, bicycle ride to a local farmer's home, the Reed Flute Cave; in the Shanghai area: the Humble Administrator's Garden, the Master of Nets Garden, the Oriental Pearl TV Tower, the Shanghai Municipal History Museum, the Shanghai Museum of Ancient Chinese Arts, Jade Buddha Temple, the French Concession to the Shanghai Arts and Crafts Store, and the Yuyuan Market (watch out for the fake antiques).

I can go on an on but this tour was packed with extras and we still had time to do shopping on our own. Yes, we had the proverbial "official" shopping stops (limited to 5 for the entire tour), but they were tolerable and mostly interesting. There was also absolutely no pressure to buy anything (and I succeeded most of the time). Our local guides "Betty" in Beijing, "Robin" in Xi'an, "Joy" in Guilin and Yanghuo, "Alan" in Suzhou and Shanghai were phenomenal and their English was easily understood. To say the least, I feel that I got the best possible tour for the best possible price. The only drawback in using a China-based tour operator is that they are 14 time zones ahead of me thus requiring my phone calls to them on their toll-free line to be made at night to reach them during the day. All and all, I would not hestitate in using Discover China Tours again.
ptadin is offline  
Old Dec 1st, 2009, 12:35 PM
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But you should.

This company is indistinguishable from many others of whom the same inaccurate claim of 'best possible tour for the best possible price' is mentioned. Many have similar prices, all include the same abusive shopping stops, and all will do tailor-made for two or more simply because they make so much money from kick-backs and tipping abuse.

The web site is the usual mix of inaccuracy and mendacity, the tour a whirlwind of clichés with the most touristed (rather than best) sites, the usual rip-off shopping stops, dumbed-down-for-tourists buffet dinners, and the utterly abusive advice on tipping in a country where there is none except that visited upon naive foreign tourists by dishonest tour companies. This is shameful. The view of China is about as Chinese as chop suey, and the advice 'watch out for the fake antiques' should be modified to read 'watch out for the fake culture, fake history, fake information, fake food, and fake shopping.'

There is no need to take a tour in China. You won't get as much done as this tour does, but you'll have a much better range of choice, you'll be able to spend a reasonable amount of time at the destinations you choose rather than be rushed through at high speed, to sample really excellent food at very low prices, and to pay much less for every element except your international air flight (and with canny shopping there may not be much difference).

If you do really want to take a tour, then first read this thread

http://www.fodors.com/community/asia...ritz-tours.cfm

and, for the reasons given, you'll probably choose something foreign-based, more expensive and with a foreign tour director to protect you from assorted shenanigans, but with no shopping stops, and no tipping abuse. You'll still be best to bring reading from home if you want accurate history, though.

Peter N-H
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Old Jan 20th, 2010, 11:04 AM
  #3  
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Just read your reply "N-H". Don't know where you're coming from because as I stated in my post I just returned from China (not going to China as you state in your comment "If you do really want to take a tour, then first read this thread.") What I stated is factual from personal experience. I do not work for any travel company (I actually work for the state of Texas) and I put this customized trip together as a ministry from my church singles group here in Austin (even hand-picked the hotels based on tripadvisor.com reviews). All I can say is what I have already said in my post-trip report and stand by it. The readers can read it for themselves.
ptadin is offline  
Old Jan 20th, 2010, 01:40 PM
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Ptadin-don't worry about PNH's comments. he is an expert on China, but he's not open to anyone taking another way. It sounds like you arranged a very nice trip and you and your friends enjoyed your time in China. That's the important thing. Thanks for reporting back to us.
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Old Jan 20th, 2010, 05:41 PM
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ptadin: The comments I made pick up on your remark that you would use the same travel company again, and go on to explain for *the benefit of the wider readership of this site* why that might not be a good idea. No one has suggested you work for any travel company, and it is difficult to see how that would in any case make any difference to the information about the company that was set out. Trip Advisor is the absolute opposite of a reliable source of travel information, but either way, I cannot see how that affects the comments made about Chinese travel companies in any way.

Perhaps the posting, made with the best of intentions to help those still to choose their tour companies or method of travel, and to avoid some of the pitfalls this company openly presents, needs to be re-read?
PeterN_H is offline  
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