Sharon's Feedback on 27-Day China Tour
|Client: Sharon (Female) Ask Sharon about her experience||Age: 60-75||Nationality: Canada|
|Tour Date: September 4, 2011 - September 30, 2011|
|FeedBack Date: October 3, 2011|
I just wanted to let you know that Neil and I made it home late Friday night. We had an amazing trip and we wanted to thank you so much for all the work you did and the great advice you and the guides provided.
I want to let you know too how much we enjoyed the guides. They all had their own personalities but were fun to spend time with and very informative. The service you people provided was exceptional but I will be sure to use examples in the questionnaire. You made the trip easy and China made the trip an education as well as a very busy vacation. It will take a few days for us to recover!
I would say this was the best choice to tour with China Highlights. We had come along way and wanted to do some things that were not on large group tours so this was certainly the best solution. I would change it slightly but overall it worked well.Neil would say the Great Wall was the most memorable attraction and I think I would too. It is such an icon, it was an absolute thrill! PS. the toboggan ride down from the wall was great too. There were certainly other highlights that were stunning and surprising, though the grottoes at Dazu (the 2 hr. drive there and back were worth it); the Giant Buddha at Leshan the Lama Temple, the Sanxingdoi Museum in Chengdu, the Stone Forest, the Forbidden City, the old town in both Hangzhou and Lijiang if they can be called attractions. Some of our favourite moments were the 3 visits we made into the homes of local people - the 2 scheduled – one in the Hutong and one with the widow in Yangshou and the 3rd - the impromptu visit the woman in the village at Longshen Rice Terraces (thanks to LeLe). Some of the other truly memorable highlights were the interactions with the locals that happened while we were on our own in the evenings, those were great fun! The one attraction I would eliminate would be the Mural in the Baisha Village - but we had a great lunch there and enjoyed seeing the village so I guess it was OK.
That would be tough to answer who is the most outstanding. We had so many excellent guides. Certainly Ginger in Beijing; Ciici in Chengdu LeLe in Guilin and April in Huangshan stand out as being exceptional but we were with all of them for several days. Other guides that we were with for a short time were good too; Linda in Kunming; Tony at the end of the cruise and Lee in Huangzhou. What made these guides stand out was that they not only gave great service but they were very easy and interesting to talk to. They showed flexibility as well as responsibility and they really made sure that our time was well spent:
Ginger - Made dinner reservation for us with Li Family and drove with us into the Hutong and made arrangements for us not only with the meal but also for the waitresses to call a taxi to take us back to the Hotel when we were finished, which they did. (none of them spoke English so that was very helpful and interesting to drive through the Hutong at night).
Linda - we were suppose to go to a restaurant back in Kunming but she felt that we would be facing too much traffic and risk being late for our flight so we went to the Stonehedge restaurant (which was great) near the Stone Forest instead and then had time to go to the Tea market (which wasn't part of the schedule) but was really interesting.
LeLe - On our way up the hill to the Longshen Rice Terraces LeLe spoke to 3 women from the Long Hair minority and asked if they would take their hair down for us so we could see how long it was and how they put it up, we gave them a tip, and that was fascinating! He also talked his way into one of the farmer's homes there which was very special.
CiCi - When we went to LeShan it was the Moon festival and so crowded that we couldn't walk down beside the Giant Buddha but CiCi suggested that when we got back to Chengdu we might want to visit the Narrow and Wide Lanes and I wanted to go to the People's Park so they drove us past the park to the lanes so we could wander the lanes and then find our way back to the park which was really fun. Also, after lunch we walked past a group playing Ma Jong and she stopped and spoke to them, they welcomed us to watch and showed us how the automatic table worked, a small thing but very interesting for us to see.
Driving in China is very different than driving in Canada; I certainly admired the drivers in the big cities particularly. They all did a good job but the exception was the driver in Lijiang. He was late 2 mornings but I wouldn't complain about that but his driving really was a concern. Again, I understand that driving is different in China but when we were coming back from the hike the roads were full of S curves and he tried to pass everyone in front of him, in spite of the rain. Even after he tried to pass a small truck on a blind corner and met a car coming the other way head on and after a yak jumped onto the road in front of us he still drove aggressively. He seemed surprised that the rear wheels of the car slid out at one time, I wasn't. He even turned on a video of club dancers that played in his dashboard, just a little distracting I would think and totally illegal in our country. We were not impressed and did not tip, we should have said something to Stephen, I'm sorry we didn't. When we were in Kunming and were speaking to Linda she mentioned that she had heard the same complaint from other clients coming from Lijiang.
HOTELS FIRST: We were satisfied with almost all of the Hotels; they were what we were expecting and certainly met our needs. A couple of exceptions; the overnight train was a good experience, even good food! But the bunk was rock hard and neither of us was able to sleep. Also, the Eling Hotel in Chongqing. The room was OK and it was clean but the wifi was inconsistent, the mini bar was locked and when someone came up to open it they couldn't find the right key (it took over 5 minutes) and then there was only soft drink in the mini bar. Normally we don't use the mini bar but it was late by the time we got there, there didn't seem to be a restaurant in the area and the restaurants in the Hotel were very formal and we only wanted something light, so we ended up ordering room service and a beer would have been nice. The breakfast food was not good. It seemed like we went a long way into the city to the Hotel only to drive out of the city again the next morning and the traffic was really bad.We were really happy that we upgraded and stayed at the Peace in Shanghai - it was wonderful and the location was great.
In Lijiang - It was great to be in the Ancient City. The Hotel on the yellow mountain was not great - no heat in the rooms until Nov., but I know the choice is very limited, April took us to the other Hotel for the better food. The rest were fine.
MEALS: We were very impressed with the meals the guides arranged for us, it was usually too much food and we had to ask them to reduce the number of dishes at lunch. The only exception was when we were in Xian and went to a restaurant called 'Qian Zhou', it was a little shabby and the food was OK but afterwards we both felt a little ill. Lunch the next day was not our best meal either at Awa Cart near the Hot Springs. Also in Xian I had really been looking forward to the dumpling banquet but when I asked if JingJing about it she could not get us into the one we wanted but arranged for us to go to the 'Other' Tang Dynasty Dumpling show. The food was not good but Jing Jing did get us good seats and we enjoyed the show.
In Beijing: Li Family Restaurant was terrific, just ask the guides, if anyone else goes, to explain how the meal will progress (they bring out many small cold dishes at once then keep the rest of the plates coming) before the guide leaves and ask the waitress not to bring the dishes too fast, I think most Westerners like more relaxed dining and would prefer not to have the food come out so quickly. Da Dong Duck was WONDERFUL!! Recommend the caramelized apples! The lunches were all really, really good! In Shanghai we had dinner at Shanghai Grandma's and it was really good, a real local restaurant. Even the food on Tiger leaping gorge was good.
We did shop a little, Pearls in Beijing at the Pearl store and an embroidery picture at the school in Lijiang. In Xian JingJing insisted that we go to the Jade store even though we said we were not interested and were very tired after the overnight train ride. We seemed to spend most of our time in Xian driving across the city and back. The traffic was terrible so a lot of time was wasted.
We actually bought teapots and tea in Huangshan, April took us to the Old Town for dinner and we shopped on our way back and I felt it was better quality and certainly better prices than other places, plus no crowds or pressure. I would have bought other items there if we had more time and space in our luggage. It would have been nice to have been there longer, we really liked the Old Town in Huangshan.
Service- When we were in Chongquing our guide Ginny told us in the early afternoon that due to the flooding we would have to take a bus 3 hours down river to get the cruise boat. An hour later you (William) called to tell us the same thing. Later when we spoke to other people on the cruise they said they were put on a bus and told they were going to the boat without any other details, they thought it was a 5 min. ride to the boat in Chongquing, three hrs. later they arrived at the ship. Other people said they got very little information about how the transfer to the ship would take place or why it was changed.
Customized program: Some of the WOW moments for us was when LeLe talked our way into one of the houses in the village at the top of the rice terraces and also arranged for us to visit the widowed farmer in Yangshou. The visit in the home in the Hutong in Beijing was great too, these were special opportunities. Another WOW was when April took us out to a Hot Pot restaurant for dinner and showed us how to eat Hot Pot, a really great evening. Also, when we arrived in Huangshan we expected just a transfer to the Hotel but April wanted to come back and get us and take us into the Old town for dinner, she had already eaten but she took us to a restaurant and helped us order then walked back with us and didn't even mind when we stopped to shop and ended up having a tea tasting. We said we could walk back to the Hotel by ourselves from the bridge (just straight down the road) but she said she would call to make sure we made it back the hotel OK and she did! That night in Huangshan was very special, it was an old town like Lijiang but far less far crowded, really fun. In Lijiang Tiger Leaping gorge was a WOW, the scenery was fabulous. When we were in Lijiang Stephen took time to show us through the local market which was a really interesting experience. In Chengdu a real WOW for us was the Sanxingdoi museum, it was fabulous and totally unexpected - that was a great day, the panda's and the museum.
Absolutely, I will recommend our company to or friends or colleagues for all of the reasons above and more importantly for the personalized service and wonderful guides that were so willing to share information, they were very easy to relate to. We have looked at other large group tours and it seems we did twice as much in a day as they did, so much easier to get around and be flexible in the private group.
In Xian - The Dumpling dinner and show we went to was a disappointment - the food was not good but the show was fun. We couldn't get reservations to the dinner show we wanted so settled on the other one in town but the food was disappointing. We took a pedicab back to the hotel and that was GREAT.
In Beijing the Li Family Restaurant was wonderful, so was Da Dong Duck, the night market afterward and Ghost street - (we went to Hu's Courtyard Restaurant there). In Shanghai - Shanghai Grandmother's restaurant was wonderful. Also in Shanghai it was worth it for us to stay at the Peace Hotel, a real look at Shanghai as it was and a great location. Also, we stopped on the Bund for a drink at the Long bar in the old Shanghai club which has recently been renovated and is now a Waldorf Astoria Hotel, it felt like being a part of History.
In Xian - bicycling on the wall was really fun. Tiger Leaping Gorge was really challenging but worth it, I do wish we had started earlier in the day (we left the hotel at 8:30) so we didn't feel rushed. The Li river cruise was VERY crowded, could some other arrangement be made to do part of the river in a kayak or small boat, maybe earlier in the morning or later in the afternoon? Neither Neil or I were really impressed with the Yangze river cruise but we have sailed in the sounds in New Zealand so we are spoiled, we thought it would be a relaxing few days, time to recharge for the rest of the trip - it wasn't.
We are 56 - 65. This was a very busy trip, we did a lot. I would cancel the Yangtze River cruise and put 2 days more relaxing days in.
I It would be helpful to have the phone number for the next guide before we left the one we were with, April gave us Lee's number but she was the only one that did - some guides never gave us their own number.