The tour was organized by Sinorama Holidays of Toronto and
Montreal. Our group consisted of 18 English speaking tourists,
ten from Toronto, four from Montreal, two from Vancouver, one
from Seattle and one from Beijing. There were also about 80
Chinese speakers on the itinerary, most of whom flew from
Montreal, I believe. The English speaking group had our
own buses and tour guides throughout. We were sometimes
with the two Chinese speaking busloads at visits and at meals.|
The 18 day tour was all-inclusive, with Air Canada Toronto / Beijing and Shanghai / Toronto, flights within China, 5 Star hotels, New Orient Express train travel along the Silk Road, Yangtze Cruise, entry to all tourist sites and all meals with beer or soft drink. Tips and luggage handling at a cost of $198 and China visa at a cost of $102.20 were included in the total tour cost of $4107 per person, double occupancy.
In general, the locations visited were interesting and the tour guides were well informed and spoke pretty good English.
Our tour director, Leo Liu, was extraordinary. He met us at Beijing airport (we were six hours late) and held our hands like a shepherd until he left us at the Shanghai airport security check 18 days later. He carried our passports, got our room keys, traded soft drinks for beer at meals, carried our luggage when the porters were not fast enough and dealt patiently when complaints arose.
There were some organizational concerns which sometimes made us grouchy, leaving Leo to smoothe things over.
One concern was that there seemed to be a number of occasions when there was a lot of time to kill between visits. For example, our day in Beijing consisted of a visit to Tiananmen Square in the morning and the Olympic Park in the afternoon. We did not visit the Forbidden City, nor the interior of the Birds Nest stadium, nor the Cube water palace. So there was a lot of time to wander around wondering what to do.
Another concern was that we went to supper at a local restaurant before checking into hotels, so there was no chance to wash up before supper, although there was usually lots of time to do so.
The train schedule was also pretty fatiguing, boarding the train late at night only to awake very early the next morning to get breakfast at a local restaurant, sometimes arriving there before they opened. Building on our late arrival at Beijing, the short nights became wearying. It is difficult to say how this could be changed, given the short train trips involved and the fact that the train could not occupy the tracks when not in use.
Fortunately, the scheduled four nights train rides before a hotel stop was revised so we stopped at a hotel for a reasonable night's sleep after only two nights on the train. A bit unfortunate, on the other hand, in that the idea of travelling the Silk Road on the New Orient Express was a significant part of the allure of the trip.
Despite these concerns, and the hot weather that many of us found tiring, we saw a China that I did not expect ever to see, and for that I am grateful.
Xi'an, Terra Cotta Warriors
The New Orient Express
Jiayuguan & Jiuquan
Fengdu Ghost Town
Lesser Three Gorges
Three Gorges Dam, Disembark
Ode to Leo Liu