We were taken to wonderful sights; the value for money was good but not great (we had requested Deluxe everything - more on that later); local guides were unfailingly prompt, punctual and polite; English proficiency of guides was generally good although heavy accents made understanding a chore; private transportation was clean and efficient; the food was generally vile except for the breakfasts in the hotel which tended toward Westernized fare and sustained us for the day. The USA staff of this China tour company were pleasant and helpful.
The up close and personal Chengdu Great Panda Reserve experience was thrilling, especially for our teenage son; excursion to the Mitianyu Great Wall(in order to avoid the crowds at the location closer to Beijing)was wonderful, and the views from the tram and cable cars in the ethereal mountainous areas near Zhangjiajie were magical.
The Terracotta Warriors near Xi'an were unbelievable! Also a great highlight was the silk factory where we learned and watched up close and personal about silkworm lifecycle and how the silk threads make their way from cocoon to garment.
If you are in Shanghai over a weekend, do NOT miss the flea market - we found treasures for very reasonable cost. Bargain hard!
Finally, China's airports are beautiful, modern and efficient. They actually have sufficient check-in staff, a concept not seen in the West since the 1950's. They do not, however, use Jetways consistently and mega-bus transport to the aircraft out on the tarmac is the general rule.
There may actually be no such thing as a 5 Star (Deluxe) tour of China because China’s infrastructure does not permit an ease of travel one would expect at a luxury level: Travel in China is not for the faint of heart nor for the even mildly disabled. There are essentially NO accommodations for those who are not sprightly, vigorous and reasonably fit.
There are endless stairs and most attractions require prolonged walking in order to reach the venue. This is often due to vast crowds of people who must be queued within an intervening distance from the attraction.
Regarding queues, the Chinese have not quite yet learned how to form nor respect a single-file line. We were sometimes cut off, jostled, and pushed out of the way if our guide did not find the "special line" for Westerners: many venues have this line and you should locate it!
If we could repeat this trip, we would not over-book so many sights within so few days (we visited 35 major sites in 10 days). This was our error, not the fault of the tour company. Also, all of our in-country flights were in the evening (7 PM or later) and about half the time these were late; we then arrived at our hotel at midnight or after and had to be up early the next morning to hit the pavement again.
Tip: conclude your touring in the mid-afternoon and book your flights for late afternoon so you will get to your destination at a reasonable hour, even if the flight is delayed.
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