OK, Linda, here are my reviews:
Beijing: First, it was a little scary booking our tours. Here I was, sending money to a company in China I wasn’t sure existed. But everything turned out fine.
We did 2 small Beijing Bus Tours, and they were enjoyable for us and our 11 year old son. The small bus (large van?) was perfect for the groups of 11 or so people each day. We enjoyed the international mix of tourists in our groups. Our guide was excellent. The lunches were very good, also.
Downsides: These are LONG days – especially if your body clock has not adjusted to China Time. Each day, when we returned to our hotel at 6pm or so, some member of our family fell right to sleep, making going out to dinner an impossibility. I had to go get take-out food and bring it back to our hotel each night.
Private Beijing Hutong Tour: Our guide was great, and accomodated our wishes. (Like when I needed to buy a new backpack!)
Xi’an: Our night train was fine except that there was no dining car as advertised. A snack cart came around, but other than candy & chips there wasn’t much to eat. Only his beer was cold; all other drinks were warm. If you do this trip, I advise bringing some food along – it was a long night with only potato chips to munch on. In the morning, again, no food on board. Our guide greeted us at Xian Railway Station (it turned out to be a private tour!) and she was great. Our hotel was great, and just a block from the modern downtown. The dinner show was excellent, as was the dumpling dinner. We asked our guide about getting a massage; she made a call and said 2 massage therapists would come to our room at 9pm for y100 each. An incredible deal, and well worth it!
Terra-cotta Army though…that is a long drive from town (an hour?) plus a stop at a “terra cotta warrior factory”. Lunch was OK. But the whole event was a let down for me. The place is just an excavation, and you get maybe 15 feet (5 mtrs) from the statues. As much as I was looking forward to this, the excursion to Xi’an and Luoyang came to $1000 usd for our family of 3, including the sleeper car train from Beijing and our flight to Shanghai afterward, and I don’t feel that was a good use of our money…
Luoyang: The high speed train from Xi’an to Luoyang was fun, but it was followed by a one-hour van trip to the “Kung Fu City”. The show was good, but frankly, all the Bhuddist stuff got repetitive. Unfortunately, the van driver took a rural route home and we almost got stuck in the soft dirt road, out in the middle of nowhere. We did get to see a very poor community (accidentally) and we were dying for a bathroom, but it became a highlight of our trip. Luoyang Longmen Grottoes is fantastic and worth visiting!
All in all, I recommend Tour-Beijing.com, everything was as advertised (well, except for no dining car on the night train), prices were reasonable for what we received, and they were reliable. Dave California, USA
Below is the original travel program (Xian and Luoyang Part ) Dave and his family took:
Jun 27th: Beijing – Xian by overnight train Transfer to Beijing West Rail Station by yourselve. Take overnight train for Xian. Z19 (21:18 – 08:19).
June 28th: Xian
Arrive in Xian. Met by our local tour guide and transferred to your hotel in Xian – Citadines Xi’an Central.
After lunch, first visit Shaanxi Provincial History Museum. If you love Chinese history, Shaanxi Provincial Museum is a must on your Xian trip. It is one of the four largest museums in China ( the other three are Forbidden City Museum, Shanghai Museum and Henan Provincial Museum. It focuses on the highlights of the Shaanxi culture and depicts the development of the Chinese civilization.
Then move on to Xian Big Goose Pagoda for a visit. Big Goose Pagoda is one of the oldest structures in China. It is one of the city’s most distinctive and outstanding landmarks, possibly the most beautiful building left in Xian today.
After the day tour, get to around 6:00pm and our tour guide will help you find your seat for Tang Dynasty Music and Dance Show Dumpling, or Jiaozi in Chinese, is one of the most representative Chinese food. The food can be dated back two thousands years ago. It is quite popular in China, and also loved by most of foreign tourists. Enjoy the jiaozi dinner before and over the Tang Dynasty Show. The Tang Dynasty Show showcases the costumes, music, and dancing of China’s golden age: the Tang dynasty (618 – 907). Return to your downtown hotel in Xian.
End of service. Transferred to your hotel in Xian. ( L D )
June 29th: Xian
Pick up from your hotel in Xian. First visit Army of Terra-Cotta Warriors. To visit Army of Terra Cotta Warriors is the main reason why you are here in Xian. . It is located about 50km east of the Xian City. The museum includes Pit 1, Pit 2 and Pit 3 as well the exhibition hall of the chariots and horses. The Pit 1 is the largest of the three. The museum and the mausoleum are listed the world’s cultural legacies as the UNESCO.
Typical Xian local flavor lunch will be arranged in a nice restaurant in Lintong County on your way back to the downtown Xian. You will see how chefs make noodles.
After lunch, drive back to the city center of Xian and visit Xian City Wall. The main magnet of Xian is the city wall, which is the most complete city wall that has survived in China as well being one of the largest ancient military defensive systems in the world. It was enlarged in Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) from the city wall initially built in Tang Dynasty (618 -907). Now it is 12 meters tall, 12-14 meters wide overing 14 kilometers in length with a deep moat surrounding it. You can walk, even cycle on the wall. Its south gate is the most largest with a suspension bridge. Most of the tourists choose the south gate for sightseeing.
Afterwards, visit the famous Xian Muslim Quarters and the Great Mosque is located in the Muslim Area. For the tourists coming here, the bazaar in the Muslim area is most attractive with a wide area of stalls selling everything. The streets and walkways are full of life. The shopping is great, very cheap and some unusual items we will seldom see anywhere else in China. The Great Mosque in Xian is one of the oldest, largest and best-preserved Islamic mosques in China. Unlike most mosques in Middle Eastern or Arab countries, the Great Mosque of Xian is completely Chinese in its construction and architectural style, except for some Arabic lettering and decorations. ( B L )
June 30th: Xian – Luoyang by high-speed train G2002 0830-1021
After breakfast, transferred to Xian Railway Station and take high-speed train for Luoyang Longmen. Firstly, visit the Longmen Grottoes. It is situated on the Yihe River bank, about 12 kilometers from Luoyang city. It is one of the three most valuable Buddhist cave and rock carvings in China. The grottos were first carved during the Northern Wei Dynasty (386-534), when the rulers relocated their capital from Datong to Luoyang at the end of the 5th century.
Have a late lunch at a nice restaurant, continue to visit Luoyang Baima Si (White Horse Temple), the first Buddhist Temple ever built in China! (B L D) Stay at Longyang Marple International Hotel (one queen bed room + one extra bed)
July 01st: Luoyang – Shanghai by air MU5390 1510-1640 (there is only one afternoon flight from Luoyang to Shanghai).
And then excursion tour to Luoyang Shaolin Temple . Shaolin Temple is famous not only as one of China’s most important Buddhist temples, but also as the center of Chinese kung-fu. First constructed in 495, the temple was mainly designed to accommodate Batuo, a famous Indian monk.
After many years of preaching Buddhism, he was later respected as Fo Tuo, or Grand Monk. In 537, another respected Indian monk, Boddhidharma, came and stayed in the temple. As the as legend goes, he created a kind of primitive bare-hand fight routine described “xingyi boxing” after he had sat meditating in a cave for the duration of nine years. That began the tradition of kung-fu at the temple. At the early seventh century, a small team of 13 Shaolin monks were said to have saved Tang Dynasty emperor Li Shimin by beating a whole division of the ruling Sui Dynasty’s army and assisting him run out of prison. When he took power, Li offered land and wealth to the temple. Shaolin then grew into a center of kung-fu masters from all over the country. At its prime time, it held as many as 3,000 solider-monks.
After lunch in Luoyang and transfer to airport. Take flight for Shanghai. (B L)