My sincerest apologies. If you read this blog post before it’s rehaul, it was one big snooze fest. I am not sure why my writing voice went a little off the rails, but it did. It was like a slow train on the Shinkansen tracks. *yawn* Needless to say, I deleted the old post and here we are. Back to the quirky, honest, lively review of Contiki’s China Adventure.
Last June (okay, okay, I am waaaay behind on these things, but it doesn’t mean that they are any less important to me!) I left for a 12 day trip through China with Contiki. I kinda thought that I was crazy when I booked this trip. Did I really want to go on a tour with a tour company that has the reputation of being one big long party? I mean, I like to drink and dance with the best of them, but, I am not into that every. single. night. Once or twice a month is fine with me. Either way, as a treat to myself for finishing my first year at my new job I booked myself this trip. I’ve always wanted to see the Great Wall and hey--why not?
I looked at other tour companies but ultimately chose this one because:
I have a friend who went on tours before and she really liked them.
They catered to singles 18-35.
The itinerary was excellent, it hit all of the things I wanted to get to in China in 12 days.
The price and timing were spot on.
There was no single supplement.
We arrived in Beijing and 19 of us met and started our 12 day tour together. Our tour guide, Alex, was super laid back, easy going, and set the tone for a great tour. The group mates were all over the board, most on the older side of the 18-35 and repeat travellers. I was still skeptical--I was determined not to party my way through China, but the group seemed to reflect the tour leader’s personality, laid back and ready to have fun.
We were about to hit five cities in 12 days. We were in and ready to go.
The whole 12 day trip was extremely well planned out and really took the traveller into consideration. The tour had great people on it, yes, but the tour was also very well paced. The first couple of days were full on, we had at least 3-5 things to do a day. We spent time outside, inside, going from major site to major site, but honestly, when you go from the capital of China (Beijing), to X’ian and Shanghai--how can you not be jammed packed all day? We did The Great Wall, Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square, Terracotta Army, dance shows, river cruises, Jin Mao Tower, shopping, eating, and more eating. Those are just the first 8 days! When feel like you just can’t do anything else, or have yet another busy day, you fly into Guilen and take a two hour bus ride to Yangsho. Then life slows down. Yangsho is about the scenery. All of the art work that comes out of China looks like the mountains that surround Yangsho. It was spectacular. Time for massages, cups of coffee, a cooking class, and some extra sleep were well placed within the overall tour. Yangsho honestly was one of my favourite destinations, just because I felt like I got to see some of the real China outside of the mega cities. After Yangsho we were back into the hustle and bustle of Hong Kong. We saw the major sites of the city but I could have easily spent another three days there.
This tour included most of the activities we did. There were not a lot of what Contiki calls “MeTime Optionals”. Most of what was offered the entire group signed up for. Was I a major fan of the optional dinners and included meals? No. I think that was what, if anything, I was most disappointed with. If I travelled to China on my own I would probably have eaten far better. We often times ended up on what I like to call the “tourist track” following the groups that we saw at tourist sights earlier in the day. The food was bland and westernized. Again, I understand this--we’re westerners and most of us won’t eat things like chicken feet (we’re not Anthony Bourdain, okay?) By going on this tour I feel like I sacrificed the culinary delights of China, but I also know that being adventurous in China can be...scary.
As far as the other MeTime optionals, I chose not go to the Impressions show in Yangsho. It seemed...boring? So I ended up getting a drink at the bar instead which I felt was a far better use of my money and time. The other MeTime optionals were fun, and like I said, generally everyone signed up for them which made more time for us to get to know each other. Everything else on the tour was included in the “Backstage Pass” which basically means “in the cost of the tour”. All transportation was covered in the tour cost, all entrance fees, city tours, local guides were included in the cost. Overall, it was great bang for your buck, or quid, or yen, or whatever currency you use.
Bottom line: book this tour. It’s an excellent way of seeing China in a short amount of time. Stay a couple more days in Hong Kong if you can, it’s easy to get around and you don’t get enough time there during the tour. The hotels were clean and well located, our tour guide was excellent, and the length gives you enough time to see rural China, the major cities, and the unforgettable sites.
From top left to right: Forbidden City, Shanghai Old Quarter Garden, Yangsho, Terra Cotta Army Solider
Bottom left to right: Summer Place, Xi'an, Shanghai, Victoria's Peak