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May312013

Tour/Activity

Great Wall of China at Badaling and Ming Tombs Day Tour from Beijing

Beijing, China

My Rating
4 star rating: Recommended

My Review

The tour picked us up at our hotel exactly on time. We thought we would be on a bus full of people, but we were in a van and it was just the two of us, the driver and the guide. He offered to take us to a different part of the wall because the Badaling section is the busiest. He took us to the "quieter" Juyong Pass, but there was still a ton of people there. It took 1.5 hours to get from our hotel near the Forbidden City to the Wall. The guide told us a bit about the wall and took some photos of us before letting us go off on our own for 1.5 hours. From there we drove to the Ming Tombs. We were brought to the largest of the tombs and spent about an hour there. Afterwards, we were taken to the Jade Market. We were shown how the jade is mined and sculpted and then we were led into a giant store. Showing us how it was made was a great way to get us to buy something. At the Jade Factory, we had our lunch: a pre-set Chinese meal. After the Jade Factory, we were taken to Dr. Tea where we we took part in a "tea ceremony" and were shown how to properly drink tea. Again, we were introduced to how tea is made and the different kinds with the intent to sell us tea (which we bought). At that point, we returned to the hotel. The tour was from 7:30 am to about 1:30 pm and we were thoroughly tired by the end. The guide didn't do a lot of talking (he was sick), but he was very nice and informative. It was nice to have our own guide so we could go at our own pace. You spend a lot of time driving on this tour (you drive past the Olympic Park). It was worth it though.

May302013

Tour/Activity

Beijing Classic Full-Day Tour including the Forbidden City, Tiananmen Square, Summer Palace and Temple of Heaven

Beijing, China

My Rating
5 star rating: Highly Recommended

My Review

Our tour picked us up at the hotel on time. It was just the two of us and one other woman on the tour. Our guide was full of information and talked almost non-stop. This was an extremely fast-paced tour. I would recommend this tour to people who only have a short time in Beijing because it crams a lot into on day. We first went to the Summer Palace and although we spent about 1.5 hours there, we only saw a fraction of it. You could easily spend an entire day there. The next stop was the Pearl Market where the showed us how pearls are made and opened an oyster. We were brought up to the next level where they wanted us to buy pearls. Afterwards, we were taken to the Temple of Heaven and spent about 45 minutes there. From there we went to lunch at a buffet. The food was not great. All of the dishes were vaguely labelled 'pork', 'chicken' and 'vegetable'. After lunch we were taken to the Silk Market. Another shopping experience where they showed you how silk is made. They let my boyfriend open up one of the cocoons, stretch the silk and help make a layer of a quilt. It was a fun experience and we did end up splurging on two silk quilts. After was Tiananmen Square. We only really saw it from across the street, but we were there long enough for photos. We went directly into the Forbidden City and again, we were there for over an hour, but only saw a small section of it. The guide walked very fast and we were exhausted by the end of the day. He was full of information and offered to take photos for us (which was the best part of being on such a small tour). There were a lot of people and panhandlers around the tourist attractions and having a mandarin speaking guide helped shoo them away faster. At the end of the tour, the guide offered to bring us to a cheap place for a foot massage. We were taken to a holistic medical school where we were given foot massages by students and the cost was whatever you tipped. Great tour even with the forced shopping stops.

May282013

Tour/Activity

Big Bus Hong Kong Hop-On Hop-Off Tour

Hong Kong, Hong Kong

My Rating
4 star rating: Recommended

My Review

Only had one day in Hong Kong and this was an efficient way to get around. It included a round-trip ticket up the tram to Victoria Peak (which you must take advantage of). It also included a 25 minute Sampan ride through a boat village which I wouldn't do again. The boat village and the water were filthy, but the driver of the boat offered to drop us off at the Jumbo Floating Restaurant which we wish we had time to take advantage of. If you have time, stop at the beach in Repulse Bay as it was so hot and humid in Hong Kong that we considered jumping in fully clothed. Stanley Market is worth a visit: they have a lot of the same stuff they sell at the night market, but they are way less in your face. We only had one day to use the bus and i was worth it.

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