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Far from the Madding Crowd

-- 11 Days Private Tour to Zhangjiajie & Huangshan with China Discovery

Our trip was stress free and enjoyable because we had China Discovery as our trip consultant. Even on short notice, our trip coordinator Catherine Liu found excellent guides and drivers. Along the way, when we realized too late that many vendors and even hotels do not accept American credit cards, China Discovery solved our temporary cash flow issues so we could buy the souvenirs we wanted. Catherine also re-scheduled changes that involved transportation, guides, drivers and hotels throughout the planning process and trip without us having to worry about it. If you’ve been thinking of planning a private tour, we highly recommend China Discovery of Chengdu - excellent service.

The Details of Our Trip

We had an opportunity to make an impromptu visit to China with only two weeks to plan a tour. We decided it was a great time to check off some places on our bucket list - Huangshan (Yellow Mountain) and Zhangjiajie. Even though we speak Mandarin and have been to China many times, we don’t know the national parks well enough to plan a trip totally on our own. But the last thing we wanted to do was join a tour and follow someone with a bullhorn in a herd of fellow tourists. We have arranged private tours in China since 2007 and feel this is the best way to go. The benefits of using a good, private tour coordinator include:

• Peace of mind: knowing we have a local contact who can help us at a moment’s notice. Also, good tour companies will make sure you get to the airport or train station on time depending on how you’re are getting to your next destination.

• Safety and handling medical emergencies: Fortunately, no issues this time.

• Convenient financing: Many of the smaller and out of the way cities of China do not accept American credit cards. That leaves us with the dilemma of how much cash to bring. An advantage of using a good tour company is that it can arrange payments for us before the trip which we can reimburse them for by credit card.

Handling spur of the moment schedule changes: As it turned out, we had to make several unforeseen schedule changes on our trip.

• Saving time: With a private guide and driver, we can park closer to the destination and avoid long lines by using special queues for licensed guides. REALLY IMPORTANT.

Personalized tours allow you to go in more depth about the region, culture, traditions, etc or whatever you’re interested in.

Luckily for us, a few months before our trip, some friends had been planning to visit Huangshan and Zhangjiajie too. They checked out several tour companies and decided on China Discovery to plan a private tour for them. They chose China Discovery based on responsiveness, flexibility and price so we decided to give them a try too.

Our trip coordinator was Catherine Liu who took care of our itinerary before we left the US. She was very responsive and got back to us promptly when answering our emails. We asked her to arrange a tour guide and driver for Zhangjiajie, Fenghuang and Huangshan. She could also arrange our hotels but we wanted to select our own to avoid chain hotels and more touristy ones. (More about the Chinese B & B’s that we stayed at in a separate review.) China Discovery had no problem with that. At each stop we asked Catherine to have the driver pick us up at the airport or train station upon our arrival. The drivers were there waiting for us as we exited the terminals - a reassuring sign! Each time we had nice, clean roomy minivans and were promptly taken to our hotels as we arrived at night. 

Zhangjiajie and Fenghuang Tour

Our guide for two days in Zhangjiajie was a young woman who grew up in the area which is home to the Tu minority ethnic group. Xiaoli’s mother is Tu and her father is Han Chinese so she is very familiar with the national park and local folklore. At our first meeting, she greeted us in Tu fashion by singing a Tu folksong for us. What a treat!

She met us each morning on time at our hotel even though she had to take public transit for an hour and half. Despite the crowds at the park, she made sure we never had to wait in line for the shuttle bus or entrance gate for more than 10 minutes. She knew all the famous geological features of Zhangjiajie and best places for picture taking. We also enjoyed her recounting of Tu fables and traditions.

Zhangjiajie Tour

Featured Mountains in Zhangjiajie

On our third day we planned to drive from Zhangjiajie to the ancient town Fenghuang. It was a Saturday. We left at 10 am but should have left earlier. Our driver Mr. Zhou was making good time until we came to a grinding halt at about the halfway point. It was solid gridlock with tour busses haphazardly parked along the two lane highway blocking passage. Mr. Zhou was very adept at maneuvering the minivan through narrow gaps to make some headway. He kept his cool and finally got us to Fenghuang without incident. Unfortunately, the charm of Fenghuang is fading because of the influx of outside investors from Beijing and other large cities who have purchased retail space and converted it into Karaoke bars with neon lights and music blasting away at night.

Fenghuang Tour

Great View of Fenghuang Ancient City

Huangshan Tour

From Fenghuang, Xiaoli and Mr Zhou took us to the train station and bid us farewell. We took the high speed rail to Huangshan City North train station. Before we arrived, the Huangshan driver assigned to us called and met us at the train station on time. As it turned out, Mr Zhang had a great deal of experience driving precious cargo in his previous job. He was an excellent driver and quite personable.

Huangshan Tour

Amazing Huangshan Landscape

Our guide Mr. Z, was very knowledgeable about the history and culture of Huangshan, Huizhou and the local villages. He listened to our requests and was very conscientious about making sure we got the best prices for things we wanted to buy. He also helped us exchange money at the most favorable rate on his own time so that we didn’t have to hassle with waiting in line at the bank.

China Discovery is an excellent private tour choice.


" Hi, I'm Jack, William's travel consultant. Are you interested in William's 11 Days Private Tour with China Discovery? Want to know his trip itinerary, accommodation, transportation or other arrangements? Feel free to contact me, and I will be glad to tell you more stunning stories about the places they visitied. Or, if you want to customize a tour on your own, I'm always ready to help at any time. Join us. Let me to bring you to discover the real China, the beautiful and magical land. I am here waiting for you. I will use my knowledge to provide an ideal itinerary and valuable service for you. "

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