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China with Vantage Travel #20152
05/30/2013 05:52 PM
05/30/2013 05:52 PM
Joined: Apr 2001
Posts: 507
Florida
RobT Offline OP
Traveler
RobT  Offline OP
Traveler
Joined: Apr 2001
Posts: 507
Florida
Vantage - Extraordinary Wonders of China and the Yangtze River
Took my first trip with Vantage Deluxe World Travel to China in April-May 2013. The trip turned out to be more of a urban experience than I expected, but it was a really good look at modern day China as well as the major tourist attractions. We saw a lot, but spent a lot of time in airports as we spent nights in 6 cities and 4 nights on the Yangtze River. I am not sure what to leave out, but all that time in transit was tiring and took away from our time actually seeing China. We did not see many other Western tourists until we go to Hong Kong. Our guide said there were lots of domestic Chinese tourists, but I could not tell the difference from locals.
Our group - Vantage specialized in small group travel, and we had only 25 in the group. Our program Manager Jonathan, was wonderful. He made sure we got everywhere on time. On tours he would like the local guide lead and he would be the last person, so no one got lost. He put his cell phone number on our badges, just in case we needed him.
Flights - We flew to China using the airline from Vantage which was United. We had a few problems with the reservations, but the long distant flights were pretty good for an American carrier. About half of the passengers on the return flight from Hong Kong to Chicago were Chinese. That resulted in a lot more standing in the aisles and one incident with someone apparently smoking in the bathroom. That was a first for me. We also had 5 internal flights on domestic Chinese carriers, so we spent a lot of time in the airports. All the airports in China were new, large, and not that busy. Most Chinese do domestic travel by train. Our guide never got us to the airport too early, but the flights were often late, with frequent gate changes. Once on board the plane, service was excellent. We had flights from one hour to two hours and we got a meal on every flight. The meal on the one hour flight was not much (rice and noodles), but it was food.
Hotels and meals - The hotels were all 5-star hotels and very nice. Maybe not up to US standards for 5-stars, but still okay. As our guide told us, "If the hotel did not meet your standards, change you standards." Except for hotel in Hong Kong, all had free wireless internet. No Facebook in China however. Vantage provided at least two meals a day (usually breakfast and supper), and almost all were in hotels. I like to try local restaurants in while traveling, but there was not much opportunity for that, and it was not encouraged. The Chinese use a lot of MSG, but our guide made sure that our meals did not have MSG. Most of the meals provide were Chinese food, except for the buffet breakfasts where we could eat Chinese or American food. In Beijing we went to a Peking Duck banquet which was just okay. Not nearly as good as the Peking Duck I got at the Peking Gourmet Inn in Virginia.
Shopping - The trip included about 5 stops for shopping. We might have gotten better prices on the street or at local stores, but you could depend on the quality at the stores they took us. I usually do not like these stops, but we did buy something at almost all of the stops, including an all silk bedspread that is now on our bed.
Beijing - Cars everywhere and really bad air. The smog prevented us from seeing the sun during most of the time in Beijing, and made it difficult to get clear pictures. The first highlight of the trip was a visit to the Great Wall at Badaling. I was expecting a easy stroll along the wall. However, it was quite hilly her and walking on top of the wall was difficult. Some of us took the more difficult side, which meant fewer tourists. That was helpful, as we could see lots of tourist going the other direction. Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City were awesome. We went to the zoo to see the pandas, which were cute. Finally, we got a rickshaw tour of the Hutong housing which gave us an glimpse of how people used to live in Beijing. They are saving a few districts with that type of housing.
Xi'an - The second highlight of the trip was the Terra Cotta warriors. They were in three large building that were built above the original pits. Another impressive sight. The city wall in Xi'an is in pretty good shape. So one stop was at a large gate, and chance to walk the top of the wall. This wall is very flat, so you can easily walk a long way.
Hangzhou (formerly Canton) - Here we visited a village that was dedicated to tea farming. The farmers seem to do really well in China. That night we went to a show on West Lake that featured many of the performers almost walking on water. Actually, they walked on platforms just below the water line. About one hundred performs, colored lights. Very entertaining.
Shanghai - We took a fast train to Shanghai. It was not a bullet train, but it was fast. It took about an hour travel time. All the cities in China have modernized, but Shanghai was more modernistic that any American city that I have seen. Just seeing the building was fantastic. We had a lecture on traditional Chinese medicine at a traditional medicine pharmacy, and saw an acrobatic show that night. We also drove out to a watertown which was like a Chinese Venice, and just about as commercial.
Yangtze River Cruise - We flew to Yichang to board our river cruise ship. It was a small boat with about 150 passengers. Mostly Chinese. We cruised through all three main gorges, plus took a small ship to get to an even small boat (pea pod boats) to go up one of the lessler three gorges (Sheng Nong Stream) off the main river. Our guide for the day spoke pretty good English which she learned herself. She was from the local village where we got the little boats. The rising water levels due to the dam changed the lifestyle of the villagers. They mostly serve tourist now. Their language did not even have a written version. We also got off at the dam site, in addition to riding through the 5 locks. We also stop at stream along the river where we got to see a traditional wedding ceremony. Very colorful with gorgeous scenery.
Chongquig (formely Chungking) - We got off the boat in Chongquig after breakfast. With lots of time until our flight we visited the General Stillwell Museum. The Chinese still remember our help during their was with Japan. This is essentially a transfer town. The Nationalist Chinese had their government here during WWII, and part of what saved them from bombing was the fog. Which is what we got a lot of that day.
Guilen - This was the smallest Chinese city we visited. Less than 1 million population. From here we took a full day cruise on the Li River. We also visited the Chuanshan Cave limestone cave and a Guilen Art Gallary. We got to do our own Chinese art work there. Finally, we made a stop at a local university and had a chance to talk with some of the students.
Hong Kong - Our last stop was Hong Kong. We only had one full day there. We took a bus tour of Hong Kong island, visited a beach, took a sampan ride through the harbor, rode up to Victoria Peak. We got a chance to get our picture on a rickshaw near the top of the peak. The driver did not take us anywhere, but he was really good at posing for pictures and a lot of fun. We also stopped at a pearl store for more shopping. If you like shopping, Hong Kong is the place for you.


Beach Hunter
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Re: China with Vantage Travel [Re: RobT] #20153
05/30/2013 08:45 PM
05/30/2013 08:45 PM
Joined: Oct 2003
Posts: 327
swg Offline
Traveler
swg  Offline
Traveler
Joined: Oct 2003
Posts: 327
I really enjoyed your trip report. Thanks so much for posting such a detailed report. Sue

Re: China with Vantage Travel [Re: RobT] #20154
05/31/2013 10:11 AM
05/31/2013 10:11 AM
Joined: Jul 2006
Posts: 13,451
Peaceful Eastern North Carolin...
GaKaye Offline
Traveler
GaKaye  Offline
Traveler
Joined: Jul 2006
Posts: 13,451
Peaceful Eastern North Carolin...
Great report! We are looking at a Viking River cruise next spring, so your report has been most helpful to us.

Re: China with Vantage Travel [Re: RobT] #20155
06/02/2013 08:02 PM
06/02/2013 08:02 PM
Joined: May 2002
Posts: 2,547
Spain and SXM
Sungoddess Offline
Traveler
Sungoddess  Offline
Traveler
Joined: May 2002
Posts: 2,547
Spain and SXM
thanks for your report...I fondly remember my few weeks in china and can't believe it's been over 10 years ago...I remember being amazed at how steep the steps are on the great wall and wished that I didn't have on jeans...

Re: China with Vantage Travel [Re: Sungoddess] #20156
06/03/2013 10:57 AM
06/03/2013 10:57 AM
Joined: Apr 2001
Posts: 507
Florida
RobT Offline OP
Traveler
RobT  Offline OP
Traveler
Joined: Apr 2001
Posts: 507
Florida
It was a little chilly climbing the Great Wall in late April, but I am sure it would have been very hot to try it in July or August.


Beach Hunter
Re: China with Vantage Travel [Re: RobT] #20157
06/03/2013 12:53 PM
06/03/2013 12:53 PM
Joined: Aug 2000
Posts: 83,260
Central Florida!
Carol_Hill Offline
Traveler
Carol_Hill  Offline
Traveler
Joined: Aug 2000
Posts: 83,260
Central Florida!
Thanks so much for a very interesting report! Do you have pictures online somewhere?


Carol Hill
Re: China with Vantage Travel [Re: Carol_Hill] #20158
06/03/2013 06:25 PM
06/03/2013 06:25 PM
Joined: Apr 2001
Posts: 507
Florida
RobT Offline OP
Traveler
RobT  Offline OP
Traveler
Joined: Apr 2001
Posts: 507
Florida
Sorry, no pictures. That is beyond my level of expertise.


Beach Hunter
Re: China with Vantage Travel [Re: RobT] #20159
06/04/2013 09:16 AM
06/04/2013 09:16 AM
Joined: Aug 2000
Posts: 83,260
Central Florida!
Carol_Hill Offline
Traveler
Carol_Hill  Offline
Traveler
Joined: Aug 2000
Posts: 83,260
Central Florida!
Sorry to hear that. Glad you enjoyed your trip though.


Carol Hill

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