Our party of three retired and nearly retired couples made this 20 day tour in late November, early December 2017, beginning in Beijing and ending in Hong Kong. We obtained the required Visas ourselves over the internet with Sinorama’s assistance.
Generally we found our trip well organized, interesting and educational; however, one couple found the full schedule taxing. Our reasons for choosing this tour was the itinerary and the affordable price, which included the Great Wall, Terra Cota Warriors, Pandas (Chongqing zoo), high speed train and south eastern area. If you are looking for a flexible itinerary (daunting due the language), a sun holiday or needing the comfort of accustomed surroundings, I would suggest finding an alternative. The brochures accurately described our program and schedule. Should you be interested in learning a little of the history and life of the Chinese, a culture and way of life likely much different than your own, I encourage further investigation. In addition to the primary objectives noted above, other highlights for us were the Beijing Olympic site, Forbidden City, Water Village, excursion on Shen Nv Stream, Three Gorges Dam/locks, Shanghai acrobatic show, Impression Sanjie Liu, Guilin Pagodas, Guangzhou doughnut building as well as the Chen Academy, Hong Kong sampan ride, observing daily life, architecture and the night time lighting.
Due to the off season, we had a total tour group of 12 Canadians. The weather for the northern portion was cold – as low as 5 degrees Celsius; however, the small group enjoyed the roomy coaches and the guides’ attentiveness.
With the exception of one, our more than a dozen guides were fluent in English, knowledgeable, considerate and made every effort to make the trip enjoyable, including adjusting the schedule to suit the group’s desires. These individuals discussed politics, economics, challenges and lifestyle with us. They meet and accompanied us through airports, hotels and transfers. The Hong Kong guide, Patrick, was the most knowledgeable, entertaining and humorous guide we have encountered on our 15 international trips.
Our hotels were spacious, clean, well-supplied and comfortable but generally dated and located outside the city hub. The mainland Chinese tourists have limited respect for non-smoking areas, which sometimes results in heavily perfumed non-smoking rooms. Alternative rooms were arranged. One needs to become accustomed to the large window, with a blind, between the washroom and the bedroom. The hotels provided a huge assortment of delicious hot and cold breakfasts, including bountiful Asian and Western style cuisine. The other meals became tediously similar to a number in our group. However, none of us experienced any ill effects from the food or beverages. There was no weight gain on my part!
Our transportation by land, air and rail was agreeable. We experienced no major delays as some reviewers reported. Our biggest disappointment was the Yangtze River cruise aboard the Yangtze Gold 3. My comments pertain to our cabin but conditions appeared similar in the other cabins and the suite we visited. The cabins are a practical size, with a huge comfortable bed and a wonderful shower. Paper was not permitted in the lavatory. The floors are uneven and there is little sound proofing. There is limited storage in the room. The diesel fumes on the 3rd and 4th floor aft were nauseating and couldn’t be alleviated due to the inoperable rear doors. The carpet was slightly worn and filthy, particularly near the walls. The rich wood trimmed furniture was badly abraded and in need of repairs. There is limited temperature control, other than opening the balcony door. The linens are clean but grey. The buffet contained food with a local character (frequently chicken, pork, fish and duck, little beef; spiced to suit Western tastes) and little variety. We would have appreciated interspersing with more Western style foods. The dining room service was excellent. While all 12 group members recalled Sinorama advertising beer and wine included with lunch and dinner, the group was unable to counter the hotel manager who abruptly demanded “Prove it!” Beer was $3 and wine $60 CAD per bottle. The cruise excursions included some spectacular scenery and were well organized with great guides. The on board entertainment and lectures were marginal at best. Four of the twelve persons at our table had an inflated bill on checkout. The staff were friendly in the common areas.
The ship had an unfavourable exchange rate. Hotels and banks are the preferred locations to exchange funds. Bank notes with marks or gashes are rejected.
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