Hangzhou is a lovely city, and West Lake there is a must-see. The venerable Longjing tea plantation tour and tasting were excellent, if a thinly-disguised ploy to stimulate the buying impulse. The problem with this daytrip is that the majority of one's time is spent in a van, picking up and dropping off fellow travellers and going to and from Shanghai. Fast train might be the better transportation method. The lunch place was disappointingly mediocre and lacked a lake view. Lastly, our guide added little to the experience. His role seemed simply to be shepherding us to and from the bus and the boat on the Lake. All in all, the Hangzhou day trip served as an enticing but hardly satisfying introduction to one of China's top 10 destinations.
As this was my first trip to Beijing, even to China, I could be relaxed about arrival because I knew I was being met. My driver, however, was not outside customs as I expected. I had to call the office, and luckily had enabled my cell phone to work in China so could do that easily. My driver arrived very soon, thank goodness, and was a paragon of good service thereafter. Having now taken a taxi from Beijing to the airport, I would do so again if expense were a priority. A taxi costs $20 less. If, however, total comfort and individual service are more important, then Viator's transfer service is the way to go.
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