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Wild China vs Travel Guide China (or the like)

Wild China vs Travel Guide China (or the like)

Sep 12th, 2017, 05:57 AM
  #1  
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Wild China vs Travel Guide China (or the like)

Hi! I am planning a mother/daughter (she'll be 11yo) trip to China for next summer for about two weeks. I have gotten two different quotes so far for private tours that include most of the same basic sites most travelled (Beijing, Shanghai, Guilin & Chengdu) with some emphasis on the pandas in Dijuangyan (volunteer program and a photo). The Wild China tour also includes a trip to the Wild Panda Reserve to look for wild pandas as well and includes some classes: Kung Fu, cooking, and ink painting. The Travel Guide China trip does include the "shopping" stops like pearls, jade, silk, pottery that I have read about in forums as a downside to tour groups. However, the Travel China Guide tour includes local trains/flights and Wild China does not. Wild China costs $4K more than the Travel Guide China tour. Does anyone have any experience with these two tour groups or travelling in China and can offer advice on if the Wild China is worth the $4K more. Wild China does not mention shopping stops. Are the guides better? Are the hotels better? Are both options bad? I still haven't even completely decided to travel with a tour company! I have read the arguments for not doing so but I also think travelling alone with a kid in a foreign country where I do not speak the language and the language is nowhere near Spanish, French, English and Italian of which I would feel more comfortable does give some peace of mind. I am comfortable travelling independently and do understand I could save money that way. There has to be some peace of mind though with having a tour guide. I've read on some forums that Wild China takes you off the beaten path a bit more and I do like the idea of taking classes and really learning a little bit by actually experiencing some of the local cultural experiences. But 4K is a big price difference! That's another smaller trip! ;-) Thoughts? Advice?
jennyturin is offline  
Sep 12th, 2017, 07:20 AM
  #2  
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I meant Travel China Guide. Sorry for the word flip! I've also just requested a quote from The China Guide.
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Sep 12th, 2017, 07:21 AM
  #3  
 
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Setting aside the drawbacks of organised tourism, none of which can be recommended in China, I must admit (and I've spent several years in China), there's no way I'd take an 11-year-old into China's larger cities, or indeed a great deal of its countryside, with the current state of its air. Wait until she's older.
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Sep 12th, 2017, 08:28 AM
  #4  
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temppeternh: Yeah, I've just decided after reading negative reviews on the more expensive Wild China I think it really sounds like a better trip all around if we just book it ourselves. I know the pollution is terrible in Beijing itself on which I only plan to spend two full days (one of which travelling outside of the city to The Great Wall). Is it really that bad in Chengdu, Dijuangyan, Guilin, Yanghuo, Longsheng and Shanghai that I should avoid the trip altogether? We were planning on landing in Beijing on Aug 2nd in the PM and flying out Aug 5th to Chengdu. I viewed this year's pollution levels for early August and it ranged from 104(high) on Aug 1 to 47 on Aug 3 and 55 on Aug 5th (moderate). Is it really worth cancelling the whole trip? Can we do something like wearing a mask while in Beijing if the pollution levels are high those days and still enjoy the rest of the trip?
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Sep 12th, 2017, 04:34 PM
  #5  
 
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I travel to China and Beijing every year. I lived there for a few years. I never wore a mask and nobody that I know owns one. You are only visiting for a few days. Even if you are unlucky enough to be there during bad days, it will not have any lasting effect on you. If you have an existing condition then it might be different.
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Sep 13th, 2017, 06:23 AM
  #6  
 
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There is no reason to go on an all-inclusive guided trip through China. Having a guide is essential in your situation for going off the beaten path, but you don't need one for Beijing or Shanghai.

Here is what we did: we booked Beijing and Shanghai ourselves, and also we booked ourselves flights to and from Lanzhou -of course you choose the destination(s) of your preference. We made arrangements in advance for a guide, car, and driver to meet us at the Lanzhou airport for an eight night trip in between visiting Beijing and Shanghai which included transportation and hotels, but we paid for food and activities on our own. Food is so cheap and plentiful in China, you don't really need to pay in advance for three meals a day.

We chose to travel in the Gansu province because of the weather in summer; we were trying to avoid the heat and humidity. It worked out extremely well for us, and it was a spectacular trip. Nothing but clear skies and mild temps. Certainly choose whatever destination excites you the most.

We worked with a woman who is now based out of Yangshuo who came highly recommended from a close friend, though she and her company were ultimately not personally involved in the trip because we didn't go to Yangshuo. She recommended to us the company we finally booked with, but she also gave us excellent advice.

Another travel organizer, Warrior Tours, comes highly recommended from the NY Times, and I would not hesitate to contact them.

Here is the contact info:

Jessie Lu
http://www.yangshuo-travel-guide.com/
This is very personalized touring and can get you off the beaten path minus all the hassles.


https://www.warriortours.com/
They cover all of China. You can go group or custom.

If you want to visit multiple far-off areas, of course you can book the air travel yourself and through the above links, arrange for separate guided trips in each destination. The more you do yourself, the less you will pay for the same flights, etc. plus there is no reason to pay in advance for things you will not take advantage of anyway.

Ultimately, you get to decide the level of accommodation you want. If you don't want to sleep on Chinese beds (think box spring without a mattress), make that clear while deciding. Of course, you can always bring Therm-a-rest mattresses with you, the kind that backpackers use to make any surface acceptable.
shelemm is offline  
Sep 13th, 2017, 09:24 AM
  #7  
 
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> Yeah, I've just decided after reading negative reviews on the more expensive Wild China I think it really sounds like a better trip all around if we just book it ourselves.

Plenty of advice on that available here. There is no organised travel in China that's completely honest as we understand the term, regardless of who recommends it. Just some that's not as bad as others. There's nowhere in China that can't be visited independently by anyone with common sense, even with no Mandarin. But for independent travel you're 10 months early in thinking about this, most of what you might want doesn't need booking, and is best booked while in the country if it does need booking.

> I know the pollution is terrible in Beijing itself on which I only plan to spend two full days (one of which travelling outside of the city to The Great Wall).

In terms of pollution, which is more the product of factory emissions than vehicles, The Great Wall isn't outside the city in any meaningful sense. Air pollution smothers vast areas of China, floats into Beijing from a ring of factories in circling Hebei Province, and Beijing is anyway far from the worst place (although it may be the worst of those you'd be likely to visit). You weren't clear on which of several different measures of air pollution the figures you quoted were taken from, or whose was the scale. On some the figures you quote are several multiples of what is considered safe for longer exposure. That doesn't make short exposure a good idea, and certainly not for a child's lungs.

Be careful of falling into the trap we can all fall into of confirmation bias--having decided you'd like to go to China then giving more weight to arguments that suggest you should, rather than suggest you shouldn't. On air pollution if you're looking at a scale produced in China then in order to make the government look good it is already altered to make look acceptable levels of particulates considered dangerous elsewhere. I have a daughter the same age as yours, and who's keen to see China because her father has spent so much time there. I won't be exposing her to China's air until she's fully adult. And despite what you read, by that time China's air will likely be still worse.

And on medical matters (which this is) beware of specious arguments like 'Well X didn't have any injections and he was fine.' Many of those forced to live in China have their heads in the sand. If you do go you should take masks of N95 grade or higher, keep a close eye on reliable reports of pollution (so not Chinese ones), and make sure those masks are tightly fitted and worn at all times. You may be lucky, of course. But if you find that idea particularly cheering, that's confirmation bias kicking in. Blue skies are a good sign, but still little indication of NO2 and particulate issues at ground level. Runny nose, watery eyes, intermittent cough, and the sensation of having heavy flu are commonplace amongst visitors from cleaner environments, year-round.

> Is it really worth cancelling the whole trip?

If you haven't booked anything yet, it's not really much of a cancellation. There are other Asian destinations. I'd choose Japan. Or a Vietnam and Cambodia combination.

> Can we do something like wearing a mask while in Beijing if the pollution levels are high those days and still enjoy the rest of the trip?

Most certainly. But it won't only be in Beijing you'll need them.
temppeternh is offline  
Sep 13th, 2017, 10:29 AM
  #8  
 
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Another alternative to China is Taiwan. There is an excellent museum in Taipei (since the Kuomingtan escaped with a lot of China's cultural heritage which would otherwise have been lost to the Cultural Revolution). There is good scenery - don't miss Taroko Gorge. The temples are fascinating and authentic.

Singapore and Hong Kong are other possibilities, but they are expensive.
thursdaysd is offline  
Sep 13th, 2017, 12:05 PM
  #9  
 
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It is overly dramatic to think there are no honest tour operators in China.

Although anywhere could be traveled to without a guide, it is a question of how much time you have and what frustrations you are willing to put up with.

On the itinerary I took, for example, I did see a couple of travelers doing roughly the same thing themselves. But they missed an important stop along the way and it was taking them a lot longer. Fine if you have the time, but if you don't want to wait half a day for a bus and you're not sure about the schedule, then it could be a miserable experience, especially with a child who needs to get to a bathroom.
shelemm is offline  
Sep 13th, 2017, 06:45 PM
  #10  
 
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> It is overly dramatic to think there are no honest tour operators in China.

Where 'overly dramatic' has that meaning unknown to dictionaries of 'demonstrably the case and admitted to be largely true even by the Chinese government'.

People who have already paid for and taken a tour are commonly unwilling to entertain the idea that there may have been better alternatives. But just imagining a worst-case alternative scenario (in which buses only come every half day and the schedule is obscure) is simply petitio principii.

Independent travel up the Gansu corridor was routine and commonplace even 20 years ago, and far more likely to include unusual and remote stops than organised travel. Wanting to take a tour is, of course, a sufficient condition for doing just that. But in China it should only be done with great caution, and those who have not attempted independent travel on the same route as an alternative, and who were not in a position to detect what was practiced upon them within the confines of a single tour, are not in any position to comment.
temppeternh is offline  
Sep 13th, 2017, 08:14 PM
  #11  
kja
 
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I would strongly encourage you to consult your daughter's physician before taking her to areas with such severe air pollution as some of the parts of China you are considering -- including Beijing. JMO.
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Sep 14th, 2017, 03:07 AM
  #12  
 
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I agree with Shelemm.
CanadaChinaTraveller is online now  
Sep 14th, 2017, 06:50 AM
  #13  
 
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It should also be pointed out that N95 of N98 masks (the only ones that work on pm2.5s and then only if properly fitted and sealed) do not come in child sizes. (Unless someone has recently spotted an obvious market opportunity.)
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Sep 19th, 2017, 10:53 AM
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tempeternh, you sound like someone who does not travel with young children in tow, the subject of this thread.

I have already pointed out two organizations that provide honest services. If you can find anything bad about them on the internet, then by all means point that out.
shelemm is offline  
Sep 19th, 2017, 07:16 PM
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> tempeternh, you sound like someone who does not travel with young children in tow, the subject of this thread.

Difficult to think of an observation, even if it were true (and the speculation is at best fallacious) that would be less relevant to the truths of Chinese organised tourism.

> I have already pointed out two organizations that provide honest services.

No, you haven't. You've mentioned one organisation with which you never travelled, and so are not in a position to know (and in that part of China in particular, honesty as we know it is rarer than any rare thing you care to name). And another with which you did actually travel, but about how much it may have behaved inappropriately you're not in a position to know.

Even had you travelled with both, and had both in fact been shining lights of honesty, accepting nary a kick-back from anyone, never taking a chunk of your shopping expenditure, etc. (which would make them unique in China) your experience would be statistically entirely irrelevant, and the Chinese tourism industry would remain so spectacularly and vastly corrupt that it can be seen from space.

The evidence for this is so overwhelming that it is even admitted by the Chinese government, and your single experience, with no comparisons of any alternative, with no previous experience of the region, and perhaps without any Mandarin, during which you likely had no idea what was practiced upon you, is of no relevance to the argument whatsoever. There are worse and better organised tours in China, and if you were happy with yours (as most people are with their tours in China, being in a similar situation) all well and good. But even whether yours was a better or worse one neither of us is in a position to say, and overall leaves you in no position to comment on the ghastly state of the Chinese tourism industry. It just remains what it is, and impossible to recommend.

This has all been pointed out to you on more than one occasion, and I shan't waste further breath.
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Sep 20th, 2017, 03:56 AM
  #16  
 
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@shelemm - don't bother to argue with temppeternh, he is always right. He owns the truth, his way is the only way.
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Sep 20th, 2017, 08:55 PM
  #17  
kja
 
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As I understand it, Peter was, for MANY years, a primary editor of Frommer’s guides to China. He has also contributed to some more recent Eyewiteness guides to China and is a long-terms student of the country and its tourism. So I give a great deal of credence to his input. I would add that I found his input to MY trip planning invaluable and invariably on target.

I must admit that I’m not sure what credentials CanadaChinaTreveller brings to the table – which isn’t to say that his input doesn’t have merit. I'm just commenting on the information that I have....
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Sep 21st, 2017, 04:31 AM
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What kja said. I know Peter's credentials and I know how much help he has been to posters here. I know nothing about CanadaChinaTraveller except that he/she showed up in January 2016 apparently so she/he can take issue with everything Peter posts.
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Sep 23rd, 2017, 07:48 AM
  #19  
 
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tempeternh,

For the record, there was no shopping on the trip I took. So I do not know what 'kickbacks' you are talking about in regards to my particular travels. And when I priced a similar itinerary with Warrior Tours, there would have been no shopping on that trip either. You have the say in your itinerary.

And again, it is not just my 'single experience', though maybe if English is not your first language, you are having a hard time understanding. The OP is looking for specific info, and you are offering generalizations.

I have a high degree of confidence in my recs. First for Warrior Tours because I did my homework, They come recommended by the NY Times (so it is not just my opinion, please stop that misinformation) and when I priced a trip with them, I looked into the organization. They offer contact info for their clients, and I contacted a couple of them in the US. I spoke with them, and their service was as advertised. On their website, they have pages and pages of testimonials with full names and often specific contact info, unlike most travel organizations. I cross-checked their contact info with white pages.com, and then I reched out to them.

For Yangshuo Travel Guides, they came recommended me by a close friend I was staying with in Beijing. He lives and travels extensively in China and although he is a Chinese speaker, he still prefers to use a travel agency. He finds it a better use of his time. and as a bonus having an expert travel guide makes the trip all that much more rewarding. That was my experience as well. Sorry if my experience does not jive with your generalizations.
shelemm is offline  
Sep 29th, 2017, 03:34 PM
  #20  
 
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I did not know that one needed to present credentials to participate in such a forum.
I am not and never was in the travel business. I am a retired senior management executive. So I have no axe to grind or business to promote. I can understand that for a former book travel writer, guides and tour companies are viewed as competitors. Not for me. I think that these are mostly honest folks trying to earn a living like most people on this forum in their own trade.
As far as my knowledge about China, I am not expert and don't claim to be. But I have traveled to China every year for over 10 years, usually 1 to 3 months each time. Lots of free time when you are retired - and I also travel to other places. I also lived there for 3 years and I know that this disqualifies me in the eyes of Peter who has often said that expats know nothing, although I was not there as an expat as such.
Forums are about diversity of opinions and points of view. Reader can choose which advice fits their need better. As I have said before, I have no issue with Peter's excellent knowledge. My beef is with the "opinion" part that I generally disagree with. We should all be able to state our opinions which may be different than Peter's without being attacked as not knowing anything or not understanding how things work there..
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