We really enjoyed the whole tour, the guides, the drivers and most of all Vivien, who worked very hard to make our trip a success and enjoyable. Thank you again for a wonderful holiday. Here is what I posted about my trip to China.
I had been to China before and talking with my son, we decided to go to China together, including my son's partner. The previous company I toured with wasn't conducting tours for anyone over 30, so I went to the local travel agent and had quotes done for the airfares and tour. I had to sit down at the price quoted.
I took to the internet to see what was available, and found China Discovery (based in Chengdu). I emailed for a quote on a tour and Rita came back very quickly with all the answers and the quote. I had to look twice as it was considerably cheaper than the local travel agency. Being a bit distrustful of the internet, I read through the reviews of China Discovery (based in Chengdu). I found a lot of glowing reports. Again, being a bit distrustful I emailed about 20 reviewers and asked some questions of their tour. About 7 of them replied, and I was getting a good feeling about China Discovery (based in Chengdu).
I decided to go with them, and Rita continued on with us as our agent. Rita had to leave as she was having a baby, and Vivien was assigned to our tour. Vivien was wonderful, in that she picked up where Rita had got to, and then finalised our tour details. Payment was by bank transfer, and I will say, follow their instructions very carefully. I made a very small deposit to make sure the money was received by their finance department first before I transferred the full amount.
The next thing was getting a visa for China, again Vivien forwarded me the right documents to apply at the Chinese Embassy in Australia. The photo requirements are different for passports but the Australian Post Office has all the details in their camera and so getting the Chinese photo requirements was a breeze. Just make sure you tell the APO that you want photos for a Chinese visa. The visa application was not hard, just read the form, put the letter in from China Discovery (based in Chengdu) and send in your passport.
Visa for China
Between getting the visa and waiting to fly to China, I received an email from Vivien advising that the Peony Flower festival was on in Luoyang when we were visiting, and would we like to go, at no extra cost, as it would fit into our timetable. It is small things like this that sets travel agents apart, and Vivien was on the ball with this one. China Discovery (based in Chengdu) has guides in the places you visit, so on arrival to Shanghai we were met by the guide and a driver called Geng. Only for our small group of three. We were taken to the hotel, and booked in, and then the itinerary was sorted with the guide.
Yearly Peony Flower Festival in Luoyang
At the end of the time in Shanghai we were taken to the airport, waded through the large bustling crowd and checked in on our plane. Emily the guide was wonderful in this as it went smooth as silk. The same happened when we arrived in Xian, Luoyang and Beijing. I found the guides very good and wanting to please the group. They were knowledgeable about their city, and the attractions we went to. On top of this I felt very safe in their hands. I won't go into the attractions as you can read about them on line. Suffice to say any deviation from the normal tourist run was easily accommodated by Vivien and China Discovery (based in Chengdu).
An example was we couldn't go to see the acrobat show in Shanghai as it was booked out, but after sms'ing Vivien, she arranged for the guide in Beijing to organise for our group to go to acrobat show in Beijing.
Some things that are useful to know are when booking into the hotels it is very common to ask for a deposit, to cover the minibar. The hotel will ask you for a credit card and reserve an amount on there, to be released when you leave. Unfortunately, this release takes a long time by the banks in Australia. So my work around was to give cash as a deposit, and collect the cash on check out. This worked well. I used Aussie dollars for the deposit, as the classy hotels we were booked into had no problems with foreign currency. Please note this is nothing to do with China Discovery (based in Chengdu), as they book the hotels like every one else does, but on your behalf. It is the individual hotel policies.
As an Aussie, tipping goes against the grain, but it is the way of the world. To solve this, I talked with our group and we all decided on what to tip as a group. This worked very well. There is a guide on the tipping in the documents you receive.
Tipping in China
I also took a cheap travel phone with me, and our guide in Shanghai helped with a Chinese sim card. By doing this we always had contact the guide and driver. Vivien was very helpful and was regularly sms'ing and calling to make sure everything was going well.
Also note that Whatsapp and Microsoft Bing work well in China but Facebook and Google don't. Well mostly don't as the in one hotel we did get to use Facebook to call home.
SIM Card and Internet in China
To sum it up, we really enjoyed the whole tour, the guides, the drivers and most of all Vivien, who worked very hard to make our trip a success and enjoyable. As I said, I felt safe, and always had someone whom I could contact if I needed to sort details out. Would I use China Discovery (based in Chengdu) again, you bet, and I am already talking to my family for a return trip to China, and we will most definitely use China Discovery (based in Chengdu) again. They have good prices, great hotels, and a friendly attitude to you as a traveler.
" Hi, I'm Vivien, Steven's travel consultant. Are you interested in Steven's 12 Days well-Organized and Wonderful Visit in China? Feel free to contact me, and I will be glad to tell you more stunning stories about the places they visitied. As for me, travel around the world is the dream for my whole life. Let me serve you with my enthusiasm, patience and the love for the travel. "
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