Charles from US Customized a Harbin Snow Festival Tour

Hi Grace Wang,

Please don’t think I am criticizing your firm and the trip. I am giving you my critical perspective for your use. You can rest assured I am very happy with your firm, and will gladly be a reference and continue to use you.

Airport meeting. It went well except on the inbound flight from the USA. We did not see our contact, Lily, for at least fifteen minutes.  I would suggest to cut down on the angst is to let the traveler know the sex of the guide, if possible their name, and photo. You should give the tourist an emergency numbers if they don’t connect with the guide. For a first time to China traveler they are very anxious when they get off the airplane.

Hotels . The Hilton Hotel still very good, but I would be careful and make site inspections at least once a year. I saw signs of age and ware, which in time will reduce its splendor. You should be ready to make a switch to another hotel before a client complains that the hotel was not up to standard. The staff at the hotel is outstanding. They were always anxious to help, and the doormen always greeted us whenever we come or left. Their breakfast is outstanding.The room staff is attentive.

Harbin Ice and Snow Festival Tour

The National Museum. Was as wonderful as it was two years ago. I know it is not on the normal tour, but if your tourist is limited by time tour the ground floor. If you have an inclement day you can send your client to the ground floor. It has a great and well-displayed exhibit that gives a good history of the Chinese dynasties.

The National Art Museum should not be on the tour. The exhibits are of interest to the Chinese only.  Our guide was stopped by a patron and asked, “What are you doing here with the foreigners”. There was nothing of interest for us in the museum. I had asked Lili if we could see the Peking Museum, but we didn’t have time.

Harbin Ice and Snow Festival Tour

Train. The train to Harbin was all I hoped. Lily got us through the station and on the train without any problem. This was a much better experience than we had at on our last trip where we nearly missed the train in. We had very nice seats, and good view of the countryside.The pollution obstructed our views to 100 meters until we got past Tiensien. Then it opened up so we could see the countryside.

I would suggest from our experience that you make sure your tourists are booked on the highest grade of service on any train ride. E.g. superior or business whichever is the highest. You were correct in suggesting we bring our own food.  The food on the train was expensive, and wasn’t very tasty.

Train Station. The meeting in Harbin went well. Daniel was waiting and found us easily.

Harbin Ice and Snow Festival Tour

"We recommend you to customize a China Festival Tour including Harbin based on your interests and requests!"

Hotel. The Shangri-La Hotel was a very nice hotel. Their staff was as good as the Hilton, and the included meals were comparable. You need not worry that it wasn’t up to standard of the Peking hotels.

The Harbin guide, Daniel, was a very nice boy. His English skills were very poor, and he had virtually no knowledge of the city. He was from Xian and had been in Harbin only two years. He didn’t have a good handle on time and as a result we had to modify our lunch plans both days. Another problem with guides that are in school their perspective is that of a student. They are used to eating at the cheapest places.

Peking. Had dinner at a restaurant near the hotel. We had a hot pot which was outstanding at Xin Dong. An Restaurant. The tour of the Temple of Heaven was very good. I had not been there since the early 80’s and the government has developed the tourist access very well.

Harbin Ice and Snow Festival Tour

The lunch at the Dadong restaurant was the best Chinese food I have ever had! This should be a must on all of your Peking tours.

Additional issues: Have the guides recommend restaurants for dinner. It isn’t necessary for them to be there, but they need to tell the client of establishments in the immediate area that are suitable for dinner. They could go a further step and coordinate the reservation. You could offer an add-on for dinner guiding. In Peking Lili gave us some suggestions, and we did just fine. In Harbin we had no idea of the local facilities, and as such we ate in the hotel each evening

The vehicles were clean and well-kept. However, three issues you should be on top of. Most Americans are offended by smoking. Our Peking driver was a smoker and would smoke in the car when we were off sightseeing. It was clear when we returned. In Harbin we had another issue. The vehicle reeked of the smell of a dead animal. Clearly this wasn’t the case, but there was some local food specialty that the locals liked must have been the case. As a result of this the vehicle was very unpleasant. The driver was late one morning and kept us waiting. The driver can be early and wait for the client, not the client wait for the driver.

Harbin Ice and Snow Festival Tour

The guide shouldn’t leave the tourists to their own resources. He should be with them at all times. We toured the snow festival with the guide, but in the evening when we were ready to enter the ice festival the guide announced as we were entering the venue that we would be on our own, and he would not be joining us. The reason was that he couldn’t get a free ticket unless he had six or more tourist. The exhibit is very large, and there is a very large crowd with a hostile climate and conditions. If the tourist had a problem they would have no one to turn to.  Say the tourist fell on the ice and broke a bone this could be a very big problem for them without a guide to call the rescue squad. This had the potential for a very big problem for your firm.

Harbin Ice and Snow Festival Tour

We were well dressed for the festival I had gotten a special pair of over shoes which were suggested to be comfortable to 20 below zero.  They were. We also had silk underwear and gloves. My wife had conventional boots, and they were not suitable for the icy conditions, and extreme cold. They did not keep her feet warm, and she had difficulty moving around on the ice.

Be mindful that the restrooms in China are not up to what European and American are used to. The guides should warn the tourist that once they leave the hotel the facilities are not going to be up to their standard. Some restaurants that have a higher-class restroom should be sought out for lunch. There was an article in the China Daily that the government was aware of the problem, and was going to address it.  Let’s hope they move quickly. 

Lastly for tours to Harbin and the snow sculptures.  Do it as early in the season as possible. As the time progresses soot from the pollution settles on the sculpture and they are not a special.

Charles from US, customized a Harbin Ice and Snow Festival Tour to Beijing Harbin Xi'an and Shanghai

>> Charles Hooff also customized a Luxury China Tour to Beijing Yantai Qingdao Nanjing Suzhou and Shanghai.

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