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We had an absolutely perfect day with our tour guide - Rogin Luo - who took us for a hike along The Great Wall! Didn't know what to expect and were thrilled to have him as our guide. Very imformative, knowledgable and fun! We go to experience a part of The Great Wall that was unrestored and see all its natural beauty. Got a long history lesson along the way!

After the hike, we all went to lunch at a small place at the bottom of the hill. Located in a house, we ate lunch in the proprietors bedroom! What a hoot! Rogin is the Best of the Best! This tour company delivered for us and we are extremely grateful.

Westborough, Massachusetts
Reviews onTour-Beijing.Com
Mostly positive
We had a really, really good time in China thanks in Large part to Mary Ma who helped book our tours. Others had used her before so she came recommended to us. With some emails back and forth Mary arranged a well planned tour four us. We didn't know exactly what we wanted to see besides a few key things. There were adults, a teenager and a little one in our group of two families. We were planning on all seeing Guilin as none of us had been and my family was continuing on to Beijing and Xi'an.

We were delayed a day to start off in our trip to Guilin due to tropical cyclone Usagi. All the airports around Hing Kong were shut down. My BIL got a hold of Mary early the day of the trip to see what was happening. He was better able to find airport information than her, but she did a great job of getting us on flights the next day to Guilin and changing our flights to Beijing.

We had a lovely hotel in Guilin. Room was well up to our standards, clean, comfortable and well decorated. They provided a cot with zero difficulties as well. The buffet lunch was adequate. Lots of selection, although we did arrive for lunch at the tail end of lunch and items were not refilled/ empty. There was a lot to choose from although a lot of it was very foreign to us.

Our guide Richard was a great guide in the end. The first day we were supposed to go to Elephant Trunk Hil park and the Reed Flute cave as well as seven star park. Well, due to the rain from the cyclone we didn't do that all. We missed the Reed Flute Cave. On the way back to the hotel the guide hopped out at a light and said "see you at 8am". We were a little surprised, but, we didn't need him for anything more really that day. The driver knew where we were going.The second day we did the Li river cruise. I can't rave about the scenery enough. It was so beautiful. The Karst Mountains are truly something to see. The lunch on the cruise was ok. Would have been alright but it was all "fishy" tasting. I don't like fish. But no one else seemed to have any issue with it. The drive through the country side was well worth the side trip. The only mar is locals running after you wanting you to take thier picture for money. We stopped in a local village and it was fascinating to see how little most common people live off of. The lady who owned the house was a very gracious host and we happily bought some fruit off of her after she offered us Oranges and Pomellos. She opened her home to many tourists that we saw and showed us how to operate her grain mill etc. Richard our guide was very helpful in explaining the different crops in the area and the hows and whys of the way the people live and manage in the village.

We did finally make it to the Reed Flute Cave which in itself was magnificent. Richard had a story for every group of stalagmites and stalactites and by the end out the tour we were able to even guess a few. He took us on a private tour area of the cave and it was great to be able to hear his stories without a lot of people talking and making it hard to hear him. He was very well versed in his area and it's history. He was a fascinating guide and did a great job in the end. His english was spoken very well and we were well pleased with him. Our driver in Guilin was excellent as well. Spoke not a word of English, but he got us where we were going safely and on time. His ability to navigate that crazy traffic earns high laurels from us! His vehicle was clean and in an apparent good running condition. Richard saw us all off from the airport which was nice for us not knowing the airline or the airport or the language. He was a lot of fun too, which we appreciate. The only real mar was what felt like the obligatory stope at the pearl store. We had said we didn't want to go, but we still went. Got a two second demo from a lady who worked there and were shown to the salesroom. I felt pressured to buy something just because we were brought there. No one did buy in the end, but I really didn't like that we were taken there after we said no and it wasn't part of our itinerary.

Beijing....what can I not say about Beijing! We all loved this city. Mary Ma kept our days booked and busy, but we saw an awful lot in a short amount of time. We were picked up by our driver at the airport in the early hours and we were a little worried when he held a phone to my husband and it had a translation from our tour guide that he would pick us up at 8am. We initially thought the driver was the guide. Not the case. We met Oliver at 8am outside our hotel, The Penta Hotel. When we first arrived at our hotel we were given a room as we had asked for but it was clearly not the renovated ones advertised on their website. It was ridiculously small and horrible. Looked unclean and felt like torture. As it was 3 am and we were tired we didn't argue the point. The next am I went downstairs first thing and told the desk clerk the room was simply not adequate. She imediatley gave me a key for another room on another floor and asked to me to go see it that one was better. It was immensley better! The staff at the Penta Hotel were amazing. They changed our rooms right away and moved the cot as well. Our housekeeper was a nice little woman as well. I found the front desk staff always helpful and English speaking staff was always available if needed. The breakfast buffet was great as well. Nice selection for everyone. Chinese and western cuisine available. Lots of fresh fruit and breads as well. I would stay there again. Plus it is attached to a mall which is great for anyone with a teenager. The bottom floor of the mall is a huge grocery store which was great for picking up snacks. Thanks to the New Zealanders who told us about it. Starbucks is around the corner as is Pizza Hut and KFC for those looking for something familiar to eat.

Most of our meals in Beijng were arranged by Mary Ma. After the cruise bit with the fish, I simply asked Oliver if he could tell them no fish dishes. He did so at every meal afterwards. I never had to remind him again. I can not rave about the food enough in Beijing! I like to eat, we all like to eat. We ate some terrific food in Beijing! Some spicy, some weird looking to us (lotus root) but oh my it was all delicious! I liked that Oliver and the driver ate with us. Having only 3 of us in the party after Guilin would have meant a lot of wasted food. It was great to eat with them and get to know them better. The beer is always free flowing and the chinese make a great beer. All our meals in Beijing that Tour-Beijing arranged were fantastic!

Oliver our tour guide was simply the greatest! He was friendly, full of knowledge and even got a few jokes. He kept our spirits light when he walked us another 8 miles and did it all with a smile. He had long days with us and still had to travel over an hour each way to get home with us, taking time away from his family. I know we paid him for this service, but I would call him a new friend rather than just a tour guide. We were very sad to leave him behind when we left Beijing.

We loved the Mutianyu section of the wall. I was terrified on the chair lift up, but it got us there safely and in one piece. We didn't feel rushed and Oliver stayed behind with my hubby who was not able to walk as far as we did. He entertained my husband with the history of the wall and the village and showed him sections of the ramparts people cold go through and explained it all to him. He loved it. My kid and I hiked up the short section and had a great time doing so and conversing with others along the way. The wall wasn't what I would call crowded at the time. The next best part was the sled down! That was so much fun i would have ridden that ski lift again just to come down the sled. It looks intimidating but you can go as fast or as slow as you are comfortable.

We loved the Summer Palace complete with dragon boat tour. Olivers knowledge on this era is impressive. We had fun with the big yellow duck in the water as well. It was quite the novelty. The Drum Towers, Forbidden City, Temple of Heaven were all impressive. I must say some of the most fun shopping I had was here as well. I ducked in to an art shop on the way to the drum tower and ended up negotiating for a painting fromt he owner/artist. I am thrilled with my painting and can't wait to have it framed and on display. The Hongqiao Pearl market was the most fun ever! If you like to bargain! Oliver was not a great bargainer so I showed him how it was done. I got some great deals that I am very happy with. I had heard great things about Ling-Lings pearls on the 4th floor so I wanted to check her out. She had great stuff and was very reasonable priced. I bought other necklaces that I regretted not buying from her in the end. I did buy more pearls from her and at a very reasonable price. Her salesgirls were proficient in English and were willing to hash out price a little. I will recommend her to anyone needing pearls in Beijing.

At the end of our time in Beijing Oliver saw us off to the train station and made sure we knew where we were going before he left us. Very professional and we miss him already! Our driver in Beijing was fantastic as well. Very good driver. Those Beijing drivers are crazy! We never did learn his name, but he was great! His van was immaculate and it was obvious he cared for his vehicle well. He would always put the seat belts back over the seat when we left the vehicle, so when we got back in the seat belt was always neat and ready to go. He trained us well, by the end of the third day we were putting it back up as we got out so he wouldn't have to. LOL Since he was obviously particular about it.

The overnight train to Xi'an. It was an experience. Fun for someone who had never travelled by train before. The cabins are small but ok. Not the cleanest, but that's sort of standard in China from what I have seen. The bedding was all clean and neatly folded waiting for us. The beds were hard,LOL but that never killed anyone. The worst part was the noise of the wheels. We could hear every bang and clunk loud and clear. But it was an adventure nonetheless.

My first impressions of Xi'an are not favourable and not much will ever change that. Arriving by train it is downright depressing. The pollution hanging in the air is incredible. The city as a whole is dirty and shabby and the trail station was filthy as well. Our Hotel in Xi'an was mediocre at best. We were supposed to be going to a local restaurant for breakfast after pick up from the train by our guide. Dyllis and the driver simply dropped us at the hotel and arranged to get the tour started at 1pm. After a night on the train, the time to shower was appreciated, but if I paid for a breakfast at a local restaurant not the hotel buffet, I expect to be taken to a local restaurant. We toured the City wall, which was beautiful for all of 15 minutes. Dyllis gave us a very short rendition of it's history. The big Goose pagoda was nice as well. Had a cute little tour guide who gave us the tour and talk about it. The Shanxi history museum was a let down. Dyllis gave us "free" time to tour the museum but there was not a lot of history or explanations on their exhibits available. The tour of Muslim Street and the Mosque didn't happen as we had about enough of the day. We did go to the Dumpling dinner and Tang Dynasty show. Both of Which were amazing! The dumplings were fantastic and the show breathtaking. The show was long enough to be worthwhile and the performances short enough so no one got bored. It looked to me like the whole audience enjoyed it as much as we did.

The next morning we detoured to the Starbucks down the street. The driver didn't want us drinking in his van so we stayed long enough for a quick coffee. We were off to the Terra Cotta Warriors. Dyllis spent the whole time on her phone, alternately talking and texting. She couldn't answer easy questions my husband was asking her about the exhibit. Again once we got there she left us at the entry and met us at the end. The warriors in itself were well worth the side trip to Xi'an, but we got nothing like we were wanting out of our guide. Our driver was just as dismal. He appeared to be a surly little man with a dirtier van and didn't seem to take any pride in his job.

At the airport the guide out and out told us we didn't tip the driver enough. According to what we were told was standard tipping and what he did and his attitude, he should have been grateful to get any tip at all. Taking into account I also paid for his services through Tour-Beijing. So in the end I felt I had to more than tripple what he was tipped and accordily had to tip the tour guide much more than she would have got as well. This was the only mar on our trip and I would highly recommend Tour-Beijing. Yes there was emails back and forth and issues paying, but not every country operates like North America. I found Mary in particular accomodating and very easy to deal with. She arranged a great tour for us, great meals, two fantastic guides who I would not hesitate to recommend and two great drivers who I can only hope gets lots of future work with their company. As for the company itself it did state tips were our responsibility. I feel the company may want to include driver/guide tips in their quoted prices so this sort of thing doesn't happen again or include a firm tipping guideline for foreigners. I truly believe this guide in Xi'an was just out to make a bigger tip for her and the driver and their rotten customer service and people skills as they were never going to see us again.

I happily paid the other drivers and guides tips as I felt they were truly well deserved, but based on Dyllis's comment of not tipping enough, my biggest hope is that I didn't offend the others who were tipped what I was lead to believe was more than quite well.

Calgary, Canada
Visited September 2013

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