I booked a tour with China Connection Tours in 2008 when I visited China with a friend. This time I was traveling with my mother in September 2013.
The organization and reservation process was done through Eric and we were setup for a lot of travel to see as much as we could in the short time we had. Eric was very helpful with the booking and there were no issues with the planning stages.
The first day we booked the Beijing Bus Tour to see Tian’anmen Square, Forbidden City, Temple of Heaven, and Summer Palace, with shopping stops at a Chinese Traditional Medicine Culture and a Pearl Market.
Our Tour Guide was Anna and she picked us up a few minutes late from our hotel lobby in a taxi where she took us back to another hotel to pickup more passengers as some of them were late. After we picked up all the other passengers, we made our way to Tiananmen Square. Anna provided us some brief history on China along the way. The driver was excellent at navigating the streets of Beijing.
Although Anna failed to properly explain that we were walking through Tiananmen Square (I told me mom where we were when we were walking to the Forbidden City), she was very good at explaining all the different parts of the Forbidden City to the group. Next we went to one of the shopping stops and had a demonstration of Chinese medicine. It was funny when all the doctors entered the room for people to have their health examined. We opted for a massage instead.
Onto the Temple of Heave and Summer Palaces which were great sightseeing stops. We also visited the pearl shop where Anna encouraged my mom to buy a set of earrings.
That night we had also arranged a visit to an Beijing Opera Show but was told by Anna that it was sold out, even though we had paid China Connection Tours months before. She assured us we would see it tomorrow, but it raises the question for those travellers who do not have spare time to rearrange activities.
The next day we had Anna again to do our China Connection Tours excursion to the Great Wall. This time the driver was a little bit more relaxed and it was discouraging that he was not always ready for us. On two instances when we went back to the bus, he was caught sleeping!
I have to admit that Anna was very helpful in bringing us to a different section of Badaling Great Wall so that we would not be in the busy area. We took a cable car up to the top and shot some amazing photos. The sky was so clear - it was a way better experience than my last trip to the Great Wall as that time it was smoggy. Anna really shone by making that experience great.
After the Great Wall we visited the Ming Tombs and got to see that sight. Shopping stops were also offered at a jade carving factory and a silk factory.
That night we went to the Opera show, which I highly recommended. It is not even close to the North American opera. You have to see a show to understand why. We were transported to/from this show in private car.
The third day of our Beijing tour was a Hutong and Olympic Site tour with tour guide Andrew. Again we were promptly picked up from the hotel, but at the next hotel we waited more than 30 minutes for another family. We were ready to leave them behind. On this tour we had a lot more fun because another tourist was so entertaining to listen to. At the Ming Tombs, she asked a question in a loud voice at the enterance "Is the Dali Lama here? I really want to meet him!" Poor Andrew did not know quite how to say to this so answered that he (the Dali Lama) rarely comes here and is not available to have visitors today. At the Olympic site, we only had 45min to see the Birds Nest and the Water Cube. Based on where we were dropped off, it took us a good 15min to get to/from leaving us only 15min to see the sites. Very disappointing. When you book a tour to see the Olympic site, there should be enough time to properly see it. We did not even have enough time to go into either stadium (we went back the next day on our own). China Tour Connection needs to do better here. Once back on our way we went to the Hutongs. I personally did not enjoy this too much. We also visited the Beijing Zoo to see the pandas. It would have been nice to have more time at the zoo, but you can only do so much in a day.
After the tour, Andy explained to us that we had about an hour before we could go to our prebooked Roast Duck Dinner. We thus went shopping on Wanfungjang and Andy helped us out finding some presents on our list that my mom wanted to buy. After dinner, we got to go to a prebooked Kong Fu show. We went with the same lady from earlier who made us laugh and all three of us really enjoyed the show at the Red Theatre.
We also booked a private tour of Xi'an.
One arrival in Xi'an we found Jasmine (she did not find us) at the airport. Jasmine showed us the sights of Xi'an and we really liked our first lunch, which was just around the corner from our hotel.
The next day we got to see the Terra Cotta Warriors. I really liked how Jasmine never rushed us there. We had ample time on our own to see as much as we wanted. It was a highlight for my mom. We also had lunch in a small restaurant near the site, which was simply fantastic.
We also had fun strolling the Xi'an City Wall. Jasmine came walking with us but was not quite dressed for the weather like my mom and I were so we felt it was better to cut the walk short because we were worried for her well being.
When we said goodbye to Jasmine at the airport, she gave us her business card. I think China Connection Tours contracted us out to a contractor and Jasmine wanted us to book with her company if we ever went back. It was kind of awkward. It displayed a true lack of loyalty to the company we booked through.
I know I covered a lot, so here is a recap of our trip. All of it was booked with China Connection Tours.
For the most part, we really enjoyed our time in China. I would not hesitate to book with China Connection Tours. Although there were a few issues we dealt with along the way, I cannot imagine that other companies would not have the same issues too. They have some places where they can improve, but on the whole they offer a solid tour product. There are options for public or private tours.
I enjoyed them so much that I may just use them when I look at going to the Harbin Snow and Ice Festival in 2015.
I highly recommend that you consider China Connection Tours when booking a trip to China.
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