The entire trip was wonderful and despite some very challenging weather, we all had a great time in this beautiful country.
This was certainly facilitated by the great planning that Susan Chen helped us with.
China Highlights employs some very excellent staff. Right from the start of our emails to the care that we received from most of the guides and all of the drivers, we felt that we made the right choice in China Highlights.
Our itinerary was customized to our wants and they were always attentive to our needs.
A few special things happened along the way. One of these was having the opportunity to meet Susan Chen, our tour advisor. I want to say a special “Thank you” for her coming to meet me in Guilin. It is always special to finally meet someone who you only email with. We celebrated with a toast to her with a delicious sparkling wine. “Thank you”, Susan! Dealing with you made the trip planning easy.
We did have very attentive guides. In Guilin and Yangshuo, Jason was extremely capable and able to change the itinerary with whatever the weather demanded. His English was clear and very understanable.
As a suggestion for the next visitor, you might find a boutique hotel in Guilin to suggest for the 1 night stay. The Waterfall hotel is very tired and the beds are very hard. Though it has a very good location, there are probably many hotels that are around the lake and would be suitable to allow the visitor to easily access an evening walk around the lake (which is incredible beautiful and well maintained) and to the night market and shopping (very loud and bright) and restaurants. As we were only in Guilin for a short time, we did not have so much time to explore the city but we did squeeze in a peek of the waterfall at the hotel (a novelty at best), a great dinner that Jason helped us to order before leaving us for the evening (Thanks Jason!!!) and an extensive walk of the lake area (beautiful in the evening with the lights, towers, boats, people exercising).
We loved the cooking class with Chef Bin Bin at Cloud 9 Restaurant in Yangshuo. We had a meal at a restaurant on West Street in Yangshuo where Jason helped us to pick the carp that we would eat as a Beer Fish dish (delicious). Jason was very friendly and comfortable with spending time with us and shared his own personal story with us. Though we had extremely heavy rain while traveling in this beautiful area, we were never disappointed with what we were doing. Your suggestion of hotel (Moondance) suited our sensibilities perfectly. The staff and location were outstanding. With the fast flowing river, we were witness to the river flooding, which overflows the access road. Both our very capable guide and our driver still managed to get us safely, everywhere that we needed to go. When the weather forced us to change the itinerary, Jason was able to accommodate our needs and we still had a great visit to this very beautiful area.
The next location, Xi’an, proved to have an equally excellent, but very different hotel experience. Again, we were guided to an outstanding location and facility. This new hotel, Wyndham Grand Xi’an South, proved to be of incredible standard and we were welcomed and pampered by the hotel staff. Thanks again to Susan Chen for guiding us to book this hotel. We were disappointed with our guide, Mark. Upon landing, we were met at the airport by a driver with our name on a sign (but not a China Highlights sign) and we were handed his cell phone. We initially thought that he was our guide, and that the phone call was from someone in Guilin from China Highlights with some news of forgotten items from that part of the trip. But as it turned out, it was our next guide, Mark, letting us know that he would meet us at the hotel.
We then were taken on the long ride to the hotel. The driver did not speak any English, so we had no introduction to the city of Xi’an or what our itinerary would be. This was not what we expected and were very disappointed with this beginning to this incredible city.
Upon arrival at the hotel, we were greeted by the hotel staff (outstanding) and we did meet Mark. We are very capable travelers and I could have made the airport pickup arrangements with the hotel, in order to get there. The start of Mark’s abilities proved what was to come for our time in the city. Though Mark was very knowledgeable about Xi’an and the itinerary highlights, he did not go that “extra mile” that all of the other guides did. He suggested an evening trip for the show in Xi’an and we felt that he was more interested in adding value for himself rather than for us. He did not accompany us nor suggest dinner choices. We were very able to ask direction from the concierge at the hotel. The hotel staff actually walked us over to the mall for a great choice for dinner. This young man went above and beyond the call of duty. The Concierge gave us direction to 2 other wonderful choices as well. We were staying in a part of town that had great evening things to do, right outside our hotel, but Mark did not direct us to anything. When we were leaving the hotel, I asked if we could walk through the Great Wall Xi’an Mall. He was okay with this and he did have information to share, but we needed to prod all information from him. The time when Mark actually fell asleep while we were driving summed up the disappointment that we had with him. We did not have the same “China Highlights” experience that we did get everywhere else.
We did have a special guide, Patrick, when we went to visit the Big Wild Goose Pagoda. Patrick was personable and very interesting. We ended at the gift shop and we welcomed Patrick’s talent with watercolor as well as showing us the beautiful works of the monks. We all happily bought art to take home and remember this place as well as feeling that we were able to make a donation to the monks. Mark did not impress upon us to come back to this location in the evening to see the light and water show. This was very unfortunate, as this was an easy walk from our hotel and I understood that it is spectacular to see.
The cycle around the wall in Xi’an was not well explained to us. We had 1.5 hours to do this and we felt that we were rushed to complete the cycle. It was a workout and it was an incredible opportunity. But if we had received any information on highlights and what we were seeing, we would have had some grounding for the historical details. The opportunity of being in the Muslim Quarter in Xi’an could have been enhanced had Mark taken us through and explained to us what the foods were and what the people were selling, the ethnic rather than the souvenirs. A description of the Muslim mosque would have added to this time in this area. Instead, we wandered aimlessly in a bazaar.
At our final destination, Beijing, we were warmly greeted by Frank, another excellent guide and Mr. Wong, an exceptional driver. They were at both ends of the exit of the train station to assure that we would be met. The CH sign with our name on it assured us that we were back in the hands of a caring guide. They assisted us with our bags and started us off on the right foot. Frank had a special treat for us. A bag full of fresh baked Beijing cookies and cakes. His thoughtfulness was so much appreciated! We arrived at our hotel with a good feeling about what this huge city would unveil to us in the coming days. Frank was able to show us a great tour of Beijing, despite the weather challenges. We had unseasonably cold and snowy days. He was very capable of altering our itinerary with what suited our needs. We felt well cared for and had excellent explanations of everything. A huge thank you to Frank!
We did have an ex-pat guide, Colin, for our second day at The Great Wall. The weather did not co-operate fully with our itinerary, but Mr. Wong was able to safely and professionally get us there and back. We did get to hike and see this remote part of the wall. Colin was excellent at altering the tour as the weather permitted and our lack of winter hiking equipment permitted. It was a great opportunity to be able to get a foreigner’s perspective about not only the hike at The Great Wall, but a Western perspective from inside and out. Colin is a gem and we had a spectacular day with him.
We wanted to drive past the “Olympic Bird’s Nest”. Mr. Wong and Frank allowed for the time to not only drive past, but to hop out of the van and to get a perspective from a bridge with great explanation. All of these small pieces were appreciated by us all.
Upon our departure, Frank shared some of his mother’s beautiful watercolour paintings. These will be cherished. Not only was it a spectacular personal touch, but she is very talented. These will be framed and enjoyed for our lifetimes.
As you can see, China Highlights did an outstanding job and the people who you work with at China Highlights are very special. The CH team, for the most part, are exceptional. There is a reason why CH has been in business since 1959. I am so very happy to have been suggested to use this tour company for this China Adventure.
Own or manage this property? Claim your listing for free to respond to reviews, update your profile and much more.