We booked one day tours in Xian to see the Terracotta Warriors and the Wild Goose Pagoda and then in Luoyang to visit the Longmen Grottoes and White Horse Temple through Vincent at China Odessey Tours while we were still in the States. All the arrangements were conveniently prepaid through PayPal.
My colleague and I were absolutely delighted with all the arrangements and marveled at the seamless efficiency and warmth of our English speaking tour guides James and Shirley as well as the expert drivers. They created a highly memorable, pleasant journey that is one of our lifetime treasures.
Vincent booked our flight for us from Beijing to Xian. We were picked up at the airport and started our day with a visit to the Terracotta Warrior Museum. If you are interested in getting a figurine you will want to get one at the museum store as that is the only place you can get one made by the museum factory out of the same local clay. We found the souvenir guide books in English to be a good value and a great way to share the experience more indepth with friends later. James provided us with intriguing insight as we made our way through the vast museum. He frequently had some logistic tricks that were greatly appreciated and kept us from getting overly tired during our pretty aggressive touring schedule. Next we were off to a local restaurant for delicous dishes covering a wide range of offerings. During lunch we decided that we had made a mistake and forgot to get something at the museum store. Even though it was outside of our original plan and required us to swap out another minor stop we had on our schedule and now wanted to skip, our guide and driver agreed to be flexible and return (even though it was inconvenient for them) so that we could make a one-of-a kind purchase of a gift for a dear friend. We were so pleased that they were so accommodating and kind. James ran back to the shop for us and made the gift purchase then ran back to the car where we were waiting in the parking lot. Now that is outstanding service!
Our next stop was the Wild Goose Pagoda and James continued to bring history to life for us. Then we were dropped at the Grand Noble Hotel in Xian for the evening and were pleasantly surprised to find it to be such an upscale accommodation. Arrangements were made to pick us up early the next day and take us to the train station for our trip to Luoyang. Because we were leaving so early, James also made arrangements for our breakfast to be prepared to go when we checked out. We enjoyed happy hour cocktails in the hotel lounge that evening and purchased red bean buns and a walnut, fig bread at the hotel bakery for our train trips the next day.
Early the next morning, James walked into the hotel just as we entered the lobby to checkout. Everything on our tour worked like that, perfect timing. Once at the train station, James took us all the way through the process and deposited us at our correct platform with our tickets and instructions on how to board. The high speed train was very clean and efficient with a helpful conductor that made sure we were ready when it was time for our stop. It was actually quite easy to follow since the train stops were listed on a monitor in both Chinese and English. Once we exited the station, Shirley was standing ready to greet us with a sign listing our names and we were off again. This time to visit the Longmen Grottoes. We were lucky enough to have clear blue, sunny skies again and enjoyed our visit to the caves along the river. Shirely made the history of the caves and the local people so colorful and real to us. We also enjoyed our many conversations with Shirley (and James too the day before) in the car rides inbetween sights and later during the longer ride to the train station at the end of the day when we headed back to Beijing again on a high speed train. Next we had lunch at a local restaurant that was both picturesque and again serving wonderfully delicious food. Being able to visit both The White Horse Temple and the Longmen Grottoes sacred sights was such a mystical experience and we felt very fortunate to have Shirley as our guide. We also bought some local candy that was being made in the market area with big wooden mallets. It turned out to be a fun mix of ginger and pepper mixed in a sweet candy confection. Our ride back to the Train Station did run a little long with the Sunday afternoon traffic where parents were taking their visiting college students back to school. Our driver expertly manouvered the vehicle through the endless streams of traffic and deposited us in plenty of time to make our train. Shirley led us through the train station all the way to our platform and made sure we were informed as to what our next steps would be to board.
In summary, the trip was customized to meet our desires and demonstrated flexibility when we wanted to make a minor adjustment. The tour guides and drivers were highly professional, knowledgable, warm and friendly as was our tour arranger. I would not hesitate to book another tour with China Odessey and hope to do so in the future.
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