We booked several days with Keith and Lijiang Guides, based on the excellent reviews he receives here and we were not disappointed. The experience was superb! He spent a lot of time communicating with us before the trip, to make sure that the sites we visited met our needs, instead of just suggesting the standard day trips. There were four of us in the group, and two are fabric artists, so we were interested in spending time with the Naxi, seeing their fabric work and how they live. Keith set up the day in Shuhe and Baisha to make sure we had this opportunity. In addition he heard that there were some Miao tribeswomen traveling and selling work from their village, so he arranged for them to come to our hotel one evening. This type of service is rare.
We arranged our time in China (ten days) to spend half the time in Lijiang, so we could be able to get a deeper sense of one place, rather than flitting across the country to see as many of the big tourist sites as possible. Now that we have left it is clear that this was the correct decision, and that selecting Keith and his company was a big part of the reason for our satisfaction. The little things: taking the local buses instead of a car when possible, eating at the local restaurants instead of the tourist places, make such a difference. The guides who work with him (Kevin and Sophie in our case) were excellent as well. The small Muslim restaurant that Kevin took us to was one of the highlights of the stay in Lijiang; in fact we made a special return trip the day we left, because the food was so fresh and well-prepared. The fact that the owner had saved the mangosteens we left, in case we came back for them, was an added bonus.
Keith also set up a guide for us in Kunming: John, and he was also an excellent guide. We wanted to visit the Stone Forest, but not in the main tourist center, and John made it happen. It was probably pure luck, but we arrived on the day of a local festival which featured bullfighting with water buffaloes and got to eat lunch with the Sani tribesmen. Truly a day to remember!
All in all a GREAT travel experience! We couldn't give a higher recommendation.
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