Saturday, May 16, 2009

China Highlights

We reviewed many itineraries from various tour companies before we made our final selection. A private tour for our 4 members was our main criteria. We had done a private trip in 2007 when in Egypt and loved the flexibility it provided – The itinerary was to include Beijing, Xian, Yangtze cruise, Shanghai and Guilin. We asked that our flight to Hong Kong also be booked and then we would be on our own in Hong Kong, arranging our hotels and tours ourselves. China Highlights arranged for 14 days of our trip. Additional side trips were added for Chongqing, Yichang as we had time available between flights.
We also liked that China Highlights generally didn’t include dinner as that gave us a chance to wander around and choose our own restaurant. Special dinners were provided as an option and it was not problem if we decided against it. There was no pressure to up sell side excursions.
Shopping trips were included again with no pressure; in fact, we enjoyed these as they were always professional and provide top quality items. We generally bought our souvenirs on these trips.

The four of us had narrowed the selection down to about 6 at New Year’s. Then we narrowed it down to two, china Highlights and one other company. The other company was slightly cheaper with a few more options. The guide for that company had kept in touch with me constantly. When Air Canada started messing around with the timings of our flights these 2 companies were the only ones who stayed with us, while we couldn’t make a decision as we did not want to pay for anything until Air Canada finalized our flights. In March, we felt we had to make a final decision and move on with our plans. Leon Long from China Highlights could not have been more accommodating. Hans from the other company was also attentive; however something just did not feel right about his company and website. The copyright was outdated on his site (when mentioned he said he could fix that right away). The photos on his site were stock photos; there were no photos of happy tourists standing in front of Chinese attractions. He provided 6 references, only 2 responded and 1 was from 2003. Gut feel made us go with China Highlights. Their website is professional, provides a plethora of Chinese information and has many references and photos.
We could not have made a better decision. All four of us have raved to everyone about how well we were treated. The airport pickups were professional; there was always a guide with a driver waiting for us, regardless of flights delays. The drivers provided large well kept vans. The guides spoke excellent English and were extremely knowledgeable and passionate about their country and subject matter. They also provided additional insights into Chinese culture and life that you would not have gotten with a large tour company on a large tour bus with many nationalities. They would take us to our next airport, check us in, ensure we had seats together and not leave until we were through customs or security.They checked us into our hotels, some even coming to the rooms to ensure they met our satisfaction.

Cell phone numbers were always provided if we needed them after hours.
I will publish a separate blog showing each of the guides and writing a brief review of them with photos.
Once again, I cannot thank China Highlights enough for providing a trip of a lifetime!
We had the opportunity to meet Leon when we were in Guilin. He had asked the guide to bring us by. We had a great chat, he gave each of us a small gift as a token of his appreciation and had our photos taken with him.
The hotels selected were 4 star hotels that provided all the amenities that we like. Large comfortable rooms, spotless bathrooms, always located in prime locations for restaurants and walking around in extremely safe areas.
If we didn’t want to do something or wanted to change anything every guide rolled with it and provided other options. In most cases the lunch menus were pre=-selected by the guide and we could not have complained about any food. See separate blog on food! Meals generally came with beer and if we wanted more we would buy it ourselves. The guides generally didn’t eat with us, they ate with the driver and other guides. For the last meal they usually joined us. Eating by ourselves gave us a break to discuss the fantastic food and chat about what we had seen that day.

No comments:

Post a Comment

This blog does not allow anonymous comments.