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Jim Pomfret Tailor-made a China Tour

Jim Pomfret Tailor-made a China Tour

Hi Grace,

Finally I have some time to offer some comments on our family trip to China. First, everyone had a great time enjoying the varied itinerary you help us develop.

Hotels:

I asked that you book us into boutique hotels where possible and you did just that. The Red Wall Garden in Beijing and the Buddha Zen in Chengdu were perfect! The atmosphere in each was uniquely China. Their breakfasts and restaurants served our needs perfectly! The rooms were clean and linens very comfortable. The upgraded suite in the Buddha Zen provided a treat for our daughter and husband who were celebrating their 25th wedding anniversary in Chengdu!

Jim Pomfret Tailor-made a China Tour

Our ranking of hotels:

  1. Red Wall Garden
  2. Buddha Zen
  3. Sheraton, Guilin – Massive breakfast and nice view of the river by walking just across the street
  4. Tied: Grand Noble, Xian well maintained rooms and public areas. Excellent breakfast. Happy hour in lobby bar

Salvo Hotel, Shanghai, The location was perfect. Near the Bund, Nanjing Street, and Shanghai Museum. Lobby, staff, and breakfast not quite as good as Grand Noble or Sheraton but no complaints.

All the accommodations were excellent.

Jim Pomfret Tailor-made a China Tour

Transportation:

The bullet train from Beijing to Xian was great! Exactly on time and very comfortable.
The other in-country flights were excellent. We were met by drivers and guides at each terminal.

The vans used for ground transportation were clean and comfortable. The van in Beijing seemed to have a weak air conditioner but it was hot and we were stalled in bad traffic from the PEK airport to downtown. After that trip, it seemed adequate. (I think most Americans are used to freezing air!)

The drivers were all polite and helpful.

Guides:

All of the guides seemed knowledgeable about their cities. Some were more organized and enthusiastic that others. It is a truism that the guide can make or break a tour! I can understand how one can become complacent after taking foreigners to the same places day-in and day-out. Guides need to be able to quickly assess members of the group and decide how to reach and engage each person. That’s why I think teachers or ex-teachers make the best guides. They need to perform for the group!

Jim Pomfret Tailor-made a China Tour

Our guide rankings:

  1. Jim in Chengdu. He was well organized and was able to reach out to the kids to get them involved. He was their favorite.
  2. Kenneth in Xian. Again, well organized and knowledgeable.
  3. Irene in Guilin. Full of information! She kept us moving!
  4. Tied: Bright, Shanghai and Dream in Beijing. Both of these women had good knowledge but seemed less professional that the others. They were not as well organized. Perhaps they were chosen to appeal to the young people in the group that effort fell short. Again the kids like Jim the best of all.

Meals:

Hotel breakfasts were excellent –more than adequate to provide enough calories for the entire day!

I like the idea that lunches are included in the tour and most dinners on one’s own.
The memorable lunches were the hot pot in Chengdu where Jim was very helpful in suggesting things to order. Also the dumpling restaurant in Xi’an provided a unique experience.

It was disappointing not to go to the Courtyard 7 Restaurant in Beijing. The description in the itinerary sounded very interesting and different from the usual.

Also disappointing was not going to the Peking Duck Private Kitchen. One can order Peking Duck in almost any Chinese restaurant in the US and you get some sliced duck, usually with crispy skin, pancakes, green onions and duck sauce. But in Beijing, you can get the whole experience from the duck presented by the chef through a meal ending in duck soup. It can be a real event and show that we hoped to share with the kids. The fact that these two restaurants were missed can only be blamed on poor organization by the guide.

I was really hoping for a famous Shanghai soup dumpling but we were given not choice in Shanghai.

Jim Pomfret Tailor-made a China Tour

Attractions and Visits:

We saw some of the best of China! The Great Wall at Mutianyu was worth the longer drive. (The restaurant there was only so-so.)

We even got to go through Chairman Mao’s tomb.

Getting to The Panda Research center at 7:30 AM showed savvy planning by the guide! Wonderful!

There is no need to go through all the places –everything was great!

The extra visit to the small town along the river outside of Guilin was very educational and I’m glad we chose to spend an extra 900CNY to do it.

With more time, a visit to a minority community would be a good addition-maybe even drop in on a school and have lunch prepared with traditional dishes.

An hour or so at the National Museum at Tiananmen Square would be worth it.

Jim Pomfret Tailor-made a China Tour

A few Suggestions:

  1. If possible, the guide should spend 10-15 minutes sitting down with the group in the hotel at the start of the day to describe what will be happening that day and why it is important. Give some basic facts and data. In the hotel everyone will be present and paying attention. This is more effective than trying to do it in the car.
  2. If there is some free time built into the itinerary, provide a list of possible things one can do. For example if one is staying at the Salvo, tell everyone that a walk on the Bund after dark is magical. Also, let people know that the Shanghai Museum (free!) is just a few blocks down the street.
  3. Also provide a list of Add-on options and their costs in the final itinerary so people can choose. Guides should not appear to be selling (pushing) extras.
  4. No need to visit TWO pearl shops. I think pearls are a bit old fashioned and I bet not many people buy. And the Silk Factory? Sorry to say but I think these old state owed stores are on their way out. The silk production information is interesting but the prices in the shop are fairly high and truthfully, if one wants silk items, the internet provides a perfect shopping opportunity.
  5. The worst shopping experience was at the Big Goose Pagoda where our guide turned us over to a local guide who was very good at showing us around explaining things. Of course we ended at an artists’ studio where one could purchase traditional pictures. The local guide (not Kenneth) became quite aggressive when my daughter decided there was nothing she wanted to purchase. We left with a bad feeling.
  6. My wife and I traveled once (not in China) with the Roads Scholar company. They pride themselves on highly professional guides and only optional shopping opportunities. Absolutely no tipping! It is explicitly prohibited. Your branch of CITS could become the China Scholars company! You are getting close.
Jim Pomfret Tailor-made a China Tour

In summary, we had a great trip and the family learned a lot and had a good impression of China. It was good to meet you in person in Guilin! Your firm is trustworthy and willing to make things right! I would definitely consider booking with you in the future.

Jim Pomfret

Jim Pomfret from USA Tailor-made a China Tour to Beijing, Xian, Chengdu, Guilin and Shanghai.

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