A group of 19 (9 students and 10 chaperones) just got back from Shanghai and Beijing with Dragon Delight Tours/Chinatourstailor. Personally, I have been on 3 Chinese tours in the part(Grand American Travel located in San Francisco, H.I.S. from Japan and now Dragon Delight Tours from China), and I can't say enough about our fantastic experience this time around.
We started planning in the beginning of September of 2009 and I was hesitant at first because the company is located in Fuzhou, China (my hometown :-))... I was worried about the money transfer process and the fact that the company is in China (hate to say this, but there are lots of scams among my own people, lol). Mr. Josh Huang, whom I highly recommend, was awesome right from the start. We planned an itineray together that only included Shanghai and Beijing (we only had 1 week over the Chinese New Year's). Here is detailed day by day experience:
1. Day 1 Sunday (2-14): We arrived in Shanghai and were greeted by our tour guide Miss Ge. The bus took us to Swissotel Shanghai right next to Jin An Temple (she even recommended the Maglev Train but we wanted to be economical + some of us did it the last time we were in Shanghai). The hotel was superb (right next to the Jin An subway). Dinner was not included on the first day and I took my group to Xiao Yang Fried Dumplings. Unfortunately, the restaurant was getting ready to close because the staff was about to have a New Year's dinner together. After we told the cashier that we came all the way from Peru, NY, they were generous enough to fry up two pots of the GREATEST DUMPLINGS in the world for us. We even had a private table for the 19 of us (we were the only people in the store). We can't thank them enough, the cost for 19 of us was about 180 yuan (each person had around 8-10 dumplings). We ended the night walking to Nanjing Road and then took the subway back to the hotel (weather was cold and rainy :-()...
2. Day 2 Monday (2-15): We took a tour of the World Financial Center after breakfast (hotel buffet was excellent and I am a pretty tough critic). Unfortunately, it was extremely foggy and we could not see much from the top. All of us wanted to pay extra to get to the top floor, but the financial center staff didn't recommended itbecause visibility was close to 0 that day (honest Chinese comrades, more and more proud of them each day). Next came lunch on a restaurant boat, food was so so, 5 out 10 starts, typical tour lunch for westerners (my students enjoyed it though, these are kids that lives on burgers, fries and mashed potatoes)... We then checked out the bund and Nanjing Road again in the afternoon (kind of disappointing because of construction and the rain). At this moment, we were all a little bummed out since we travel so far to check out the bund view of the Pearl Tower, Jin Mao Tower, etc... The mood was changed completely when all of us decided to "shop..." This is even a new experience for me, usually we would stop by Cheapo Road or side streets near Nanjing Road. The new discovery is 580, and it was AWESOME, my friends bought 8 NHL jerseys and the students had a great time (vendors were much less aggressive then the Silk Market in Beijing, that will come later)... Dinner will be a story for the future since I am going on and on already :-)... The acrobat show at the Ritz Carlton was our treat for the evening, 10th row view (although I thought Beijing's show was better from 3 years ago)...
3. Day 3 Tuesday (2-16): It's a cold and dry day outside (should have done the World Financial Center today. We enjoyed the Jade Buddha Temple tour but the kids really enjoyed the Yu Yuan Garden (City God's Temple) more because of more bargaining and shopping... The place was completely packed because it's the first nice day during the New Year's. I tried to get some Nanxiang Xiao Lung Bao for the students but had no chance because of the crowd (I had them watch the Anthony Bourdain episode in Shanghai last year), lol...
I am going to stop with the detailed reviews because this could go on forever. If you have questions about the tour or the company, please let me know at firstname.lastname@example.org. I am not sure if I can post the following but I thought we got an unbelievable bargain on the trip. The cost per person in China was about $570 and it included the following:
1. Swissotel in Shanghai (3 nights), Beijing International Hotel (4 nights, needs updates, excellent location but very old hotel).
2. Lunch included daily (all tailored toward westerners), nothing like Xiao Yang dumplings, but good enough to satisfy the general public.
3. Only dinner included on the tour was Peking Duck at Quanjude (good not great), but I liked the option of having the evenings free to explore on our own (we were free at 5:00 pm every day).
4. 0 Government Center/Friendship Stores which saved hours each day, a HUGE +++
5. 2 shows, Acrobat in Shanghai and Kung Fu in Beijing (great seats too).
6. Entrance fee included all the main attractions (Great Wall, Summer Palace, etc), and the World Financial Center and the Birds nest (this was negotiated before departure with Mr. Josh Huang).
7. Our tour guide was superb, Nancy from Beijing even came to Karaoke with us at Partyworld (expensive like crazy, more than 800 RMB on Saturday for about 90 minutes not including food).
I can't say enough about this tour agency. It blew anything away for the price. Kids ate scorpions, everyone shopped till they dropped, we ate like pigs (ok, maybe I ate like a pig), lifetime of memories for everyone :-)!!! Please check out the photos at my school site: