- Reviewed on April 28 2019
- Tour Customized by: Vivien
We've just come back from 2 amazing weeks in China booked through China Discovery based in Chengdu, our travel consultant was Johnson. We chose a bespoke tour taking in Beijing, Xi'an, Chengu, then a short river cruise on The Yangtze, followed by a night in Zhangjiajie and finishing off in Shanghai. We had the most amazing time. Johnson organised the trip and was very patient with our infinte changes to the itinerary,
Johnson arranged all the transport within China, hotels, and guides in each of the cities, all guides spoke excellent english, were really well organised and knowlegeable. Ruby (in Chengdu), Kimi (in Xi'an) and Johnson (in Zhangjiajie) were absolutely excellent and made our stay really special. Having a guide cuts down the queueing time considerably as tickets are prebooked for you and they only need to be picked up, in some places there are preferential queues for guided tours.
We travelled mainly by high speed train, which is by far the most convenient way of seeing the country. We were astounded by how efficient, clean and punctual the trains were. We also used the underground system of most of the cities we stayed in, we found them all easy to navigate, modern, clean and punctual.
We had 3 days in Beijing, we stayed at the Park Plaza: excellent breakfast comfortable and clean rooms, excellent location. In Beijing we saw the Forbidden city, the Temple of Heaven and the Summer Palace and had a great day on the Great Wall, which is astoundingly impressive, coming down on the tobbogan was great fun. We were supposed to visit the Hutongs and have a go at some calligraphy, but unfortunately due to a mix of Beijing traffic, an early afternoon train to catch and the calligraphy person being called away, we were unable to do this last activity.
The second stop was Xi'an, we stayed at the Grand Mercure on Remnin Square, Less impressive than the other hotels in the square, but comfortable and excellently located. It was built in the Soviet era and had an air of faded grandeur. The Terracotta Warriors were breathtaking and we had a lovely time cycling round the town walls. Xi'an is a really pretty city by night with bustling markets and pretty lights everywhere. We took the opportunity to learn to make dumplings and have lunch with a local family. This was a great experience. It was in one of the super-modern high rise buildings that are ubiquitous, the host was a former guide and it was one of the best meals we had in the holiday. It was more a demonstration of how to fill the dumplings rather than a cookery lesson, but we enjoyed it nevertheless.
Next stop Chengdu, home of the pandas. We stayed in the Dorset Grand, the only way to describe the hotel is WOW! The highlight was the Pandas, we enjoyed Renmin park and the Opera. We mentioned to our guide that we wanted to try the local hotpot so she stayed with us into the evening to help us with ordering and show us how it was done.
The next stop was Chongqing, from here we took a 3 day cruise on the Yangtze on the Century Legend, which was a lot of fun and restful after the busyness of the previous week. Food was ordinary at best. The cruise had group excursions, which made us really grateful that we booked a private tour with China Discovery for most of the holiday (rather than a group tour with a UK based agency) as there was a lot of hanging around waiting for other people. The quality of the guides provided by China Discovery was also much higher. Breathtaking scenary and an amazing feat of politics and engineering.
Second last stop Zhangjiajie, the slow train was incredibly interesting, and it was the first look of small town, rural China we caught. It had a completely different feel from the other places we visited. As we got there we wished we had followed Johnson's advice and stayed an extra day. To sum the place up in one word: spectacular, we saw Tianmen Mountain and the Yellow dragon cave.
Finally a last few days in Shanghai, we stayed at the Sunrise on the Bund, a beautiful hotel, but not really on the bund. We were unlucky that there were night roadworks going on outside our window, but the staff did their best to mitigate their impact. Shanghai does not really need a guide, it is quite westernised and it is easy to navigate. The advantage of having a guide is that you will pack much more into the day. Again, we were grateful to have one of China Discovery's guides for one of the 3 days we spent here. As when we asked the concierge at the hotel for direction for a shopping centre, he arranged for a taxi to take us to a really hard sale place that made us feel quite uncomfortable. During the rest of the holiday only twice we had been taken to places where we felt in some way obliged to buy something, but it was not a hard sell, the trips were listed on the itinerary and we could have said we did not want to go there.
Overall it was a great holiday and we have been so impressed by the organisation and value for money provided by China Discovery and Johnson that we are planning to do a tour of Southern China in the next couple of years.
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