I chose to travel to China on an escorted tour back in 2007 visiting Beijing, Xi’an, Shanghai, Yangtze River cruise, terracotta Warriors, Great Wall, Forbidden City and much much more.
As I was working in Switzerland at the time my Chinese visa was applied for at Bern, the capital of Switzerland, at the Chinese embassy. I had to leave my passport which was a little disturbing, for over a week, while they put the very pretty picture of the Great Wall on the visa in my passport. I still have no idea how China expect more tourists to travel there when the Visas are firstly so expensive and secondly so complicated to apply for with embassy visits and finger prints now the latest requirements…. If you are planning a trip to China and want any advise just let me know.
China have introduced several options for no Visas with various cities like Beijing and Shanghai to stay visa free for a number of hours in some cases up to 144 hours which is 6 days. These are fine if you are staying just in one city and then join a ship to sail elsewhere. Many regular travellers to China do this as there is no extra expense and it avoids the embassy visit. I always recommend to visit GOV.UK for any travel advise and visa requirements for UK citizens.
My Tour was fully organised and guided in every way, but me being a holiday rep I wanted to ensure that I knew as much about the culture, people, places I was going to visit and foods that I was likely to experience so I ordered the Lonely Planet guidebook to China. There was a lot of information to take in and nothing can really prepare you for all the differences you are going to experience in China. There was a whole section on toilets and China is one of the few countries with a Western toilet star rating system. Not a lot of people now that….it never really occurred to me how we take for granted our western style seated toilets. It’s not until you experience a hole in the ground where water covers everything that you really appreciate home.
Our group were met in China by our guide, who travelled with us throughout our two weeks. then in each individual place there was a guide and expert from their local area. This was really useful as we were able to gather lots of information about how things were different in parts of China away from the capital Beijing.
Some of my more memorable moments were being taken to see giant pandas and being disappointed by the fact that they were in cages that were filthy and looked un-kept. compared to the zoos in the UK, this really upset me. Although they breed very well there and are keeping the species alive.
The Great Wall of China is one of the most amazing architectural features on a landscape that I have ever seen. I visited Badaling which was a short drive from the city to the wall. It’s over crowded with tourists, it has coaches left right and centre, tourist shops trying to sell everything from China hats to Terracotta Warriors but away from all of the touristy parts if you’re able to walk up the wall far enough away from where the coaches drop off, you can still experience the amazing mountain scenery surrounding the incredible snake of a wall. I was surprised how cold it was considering I was in China in October and had to purchase a Beijing Olympics wooly hat, because the wind was blowing and my hair was quite short.
The Yangtze River Cruise part of our tour, was in fact the most relaxing part, due to the fact that our ship moved with us, we saw some incredible villages along the route of the Yangtze which were due to be flooded shortly after as part of the dam project and we were in the countryside which has a different feel to the cities of China. The temples we visited in all of the locations had some incredible sculptures and the landscape on the Yangtze was scenic and very peaceful. The travelling companions who joined me on the tour were an interesting mix of recently retired people celebrating their retirement with a holiday of a lifetime and a very hard-working couples who loved travel.
I can highly recommend China and if you have any questions about any of our great land tours just let me know on 03333002480 Adrian