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Has anybody done a China vacation?

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Old 01-04-2011, 10:35 AM   #1
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Default Has anybody done a China vacation?

I was sent this link by my girlfriend & she would like us to do the life experience tour with her and her hubby on a trip to CHINA! Oh worldly travelers, have any of you guys been there & done that? If so let me know what you thought. Ironically, it has been on hubby's bucket list for years. Thanks!

http:/www.chinafocustravel.com/
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Old 01-04-2011, 10:47 AM   #2
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I've been to China and it was awesome! I was lucky enough to go with someone who spoke Chinese and had family in China.

In Beijing, the people I was with (minus the person who spoke Chinese) did a tour and it was good but also disappointing. They catered to Americans in terms of the fact that I had been in China for a week, eating wonderful food and then being told because I was American that we were eating at an American style buffet (pizza, hamburgers, etc) or Chinese food that was more like I'd find at a cheap, Americanized restaurant in the US (It was pre-paid/part of the package tour). We were able to break out and somewhat demand real Chinese food and we did go to a restaurant alone with just our handy dictionary.

I would recommend buying a small Chinese/English dictionary. Even if you can't speak Mandarin, pointing at the words was helpful. Also there was a wonderful Podcast on learning mandarin which I listened to before going. It didn't help too much other than helping me understand how words flowed and I appreciated being able to tell the difference between what was a streaming flow of nonsense (for me) to a string of various words.

Also westerners are EVERYWHERE in Beijing. The merchants know english and take american dollars. I liked the sights in Beijing but being in the non-touristy parts of China was my favorite part.
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Old 01-04-2011, 11:19 AM   #3
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I lived in NW China (pretty off the beaten path for tourism) for four years, teaching English at a university. I love China and would recommend a China trip to everyone who would like to experience a culture and history very different from our own, and who can travel with an open mind.

I don't have time right now to look at your link and comment, but I'll leave this tab open and check back later tonight. Also, feel free to PM with any questions you have!
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Old 01-04-2011, 11:27 AM   #4
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Jealous! Tell us about it when you get back.
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Old 01-04-2011, 11:37 AM   #5
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I haven't been, but knew several people in college who taught english there or studied abroad there. They all loved it. Not one has a single bad thing to say about the experience!
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Old 01-04-2011, 01:08 PM   #6
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I'm Chinese-American, but have terrible Chinese language skills, which means when I return I pass for Chinese (i.e. random people will ask me for directions and/or try to hawk me things) & can wander around without attracting attention, but I don't have much competency at actually getting around. I'd say that in my trips, the most memorable experiences have been culinary. So instead of recommending tour guides (I never went with a tour), I'll cover food instead.

I agree with nelie: Do not sign onto a tour that gives you American or American-Chinese food -- food in China is a revelation. There are four traditionally-recognized cuisines (by geographic region) -- spicy & fried foods in the North, sweet-sour stirfry & light soups in the South, even spicier fare near Szechuan, and a fourth 'group' based further west (Tibetan & other tribal cuisines).

But just because you'll be eating delicious restaurant food all the time doesn't mean you have to go off-plan. First off, most things aren't nearly as heavy as Americanized "Chinese" food. Second, if you order sane, delicious things (instead of the weirdest animal parts on the menu, which many tourists -- but not many locals -- are tempted to do), you'll find that the Chinese, esp in the southern regions, are extremely good at preparing vegetables to be super-delicious but not very heavy. Dishes with bok choy (sort of a dark-leaved, leafier, light-tasting lettuce), cucumber, & radish tend to be a safe bet for low-cal 'salad' equivalents. Ask if a dish is made in 'light' or 'clear' sauce if you're concerned about what it contains -- 'light' sauce is usually oil, sprinkled salt, broth, & herbs, without soy sauce or other high-sodium or richer preparations. Go crazy with Szechuan "fish in clear soup" with the caveat that that kind of clear soup is low in calories but freakishly high in chili content.

Go easy on the steamed buns & green-onion rolls & clearly-high-fat pastries at breakfast, which are delicious but ultimately forgettable, and go with congee (a rice porridge) instead -- usually high in water, low in rice, & with just the right amount of broth and some kind of light meat (or sweet red beans), it's basically all the goodness of a chicken noodle soup (or brown sugar oatmeal), in a Chinese remix.

Shutting up now, because this might be too long & too didactic to even be useful. I don't remember the names of the restaurants I went to off-hand, but in general you can't go wrong -- Chinese people aren't much for foreign cuisine and have a lot of business lunches, so mid-to-high-priced restaurants ($15 USD to $100 per person) as well as cheap-but-delicious lunch counters ($3-$5 pp) serving authentic local food aren't hard to find.
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Old 01-04-2011, 01:39 PM   #7
Pretty harmless really...
 
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fēi cháng gǎn xič! (Thank you very much) just brushing up on my mandarin! I knew you gals would know some 'stuff! Much appreciated, thanks!

As far as food, this is what the brochure states...
* American buffet breakfast, Chinese lunch and dinner daily except one free day (American breakfast only) in Shanghai.
* Delicious culinary events: Peking Duck dinner and Xian Dumpling Banquet.

So I would think an American buffet breakfast would be A-ok, being the guys favorite meal is breakfast, so the familiar will be good 'specially for them atleast one meal a day! That way- less whining perhaps- ha ha ha
Chinese is one of our favorite meals, but I imagine it is nothing like the Chinese in China! My mouth is watering already lackadaisy...

You people rock, again fēi cháng gǎn xič ! ~ Wendalyn
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Old 01-04-2011, 01:46 PM   #8
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I've travelled to Beijing, Shanghai and Xian and lived for 2 months in a less touristy part of Beijing. I loved it. More touristy places means you will have many many Chinese people trying to part you from your money! Learn to say "That's too expensive" in Chinese as a start (tŕi guě le in Mandarin)!

Seriously, go, have a GREAT time and try to see the less touristy areas if you can!
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Old 01-04-2011, 01:49 PM   #9
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evilwoman - If you want to experience authentic Chinese food, I'd ask about the type of Chinese food that you will be eating. Again, the places that they wanted us to eat/pre-paid meals were for places that had food similar to the US (kung pao chicken, etc). It was nothing like the food we ate when we struck out on our own or were traveling with people who lived there.

Our tour was set up in China but with an english translator/guide and it was interesting because they put us up in the hotel that Chinese people stay in but scheduled us for meals that Americans ate. The company we used offered tours for both Chinese nationals (and we fought to try to go to the restaurants they went to) and westerners. So for breakfast, we had a traditional Chinese breakfast at the hotel and our guide was a bit horrified by that once she found out and she was a bit surprised we were in the Chinese hotel vs the American/Westerner hotel. Apparently they try hard to give Americans an experience they think they would be 'comfortable' with.

Also, she told us that we should eat at the Hard Rock for dinner... Yeah.. no
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Old 01-04-2011, 01:59 PM   #10
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Oh and I should mention that I just am trying to add my cautions/issues. China was great, I had a great time but the Chinese tourism industry geared towards westerners is a well oiled machine. They have restaurants which only westerners eat at, hotels in which only westerners sleep in and they have stores which only westerners shop at and like Heather said it is highly geared to separate westerners from their money but also be hospitable in the sense of making things as close to 'home' as they can. Even in high tourism areas in other countries, I've never seen that level of tourism so geared toward a specific type of tourist.
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Old 01-04-2011, 02:24 PM   #11
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Thanks Heather- good to know too expensive- mama mia is more my native tongue!

Thanks Nelle as always, you rock!
I am happy to read that this particular tour "China Focus"- is rated A+ by Better Business Bureau, so that is good to know!
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Old 01-04-2011, 05:07 PM   #12
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Wendalyn, it sounds like you're interested in having a good & stress-free vacation experience instead of a more authentic one, which is a completely legitimate goal. Nelie, I'm with you on my travel preferences, but hoofing it alone without a tour group in a foreign country can definitely be stressful and lead to uneven experiences.

You'll have a great time in China in any case, and with a "Western" tour group you should know that you're not getting much of the real, modern-day experience, but you will be getting an experience which might be more fun anyway. It's like we all know Disneyland isn't the same as "real" Orlando but hey who cares? It's Disneyland.

On the other hand, any time you get tired of the group or want a change, just remember to stay safe, know how to say things are "tai gui le" (too expensive), and distinguish healthy delicious Chinese food from unhealthy but maybe also too delicious Chinese food, and you'll be fine. Have an awesome time with your family!
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Old 01-04-2011, 06:32 PM   #13
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One thing I forgot to add, in terms of eating/diet/etc. I had lost about 80 lbs by the time I went to China but I totally went off my diet. Ate whatever I wanted, etc and after 2 weeks, I had lost 6 lbs. I was amazed One thing if you get a chance from a street vendor, I'd say buy scallion pancakes. Some places here in the US sell them but those were sooo good.

Also, take toilet paper with you. It is a precious commodity You can buy it there which we did but if I had known the scarceness of it (even in hotels), I would've brought my own.
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Old 01-04-2011, 07:41 PM   #14
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Ditto on the TP! And hand sanitizer. There's often no soap!!

I lived in China weighing 265 pounds and lost 10 pounds in 4 months (2 in China and 2 in Japan). I ate whatever I wanted (was not yet trying to lose weight) but had to walk so much that I lost!
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Old 01-05-2011, 12:44 AM   #15
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Yeah lackadaisy your right, were looking for a stress free holiday where we can sit back & have the history told to us rather than winging it or backpacking china or touring it ourselves, far too big, maybe if we were 20 years younger! ha ha ha

Nelie, bonus on the lbs & those pancakes sound good.
Eeps on the toilet paper, jeeze just like mexico then on the no @sswipe or having to pay for it! I'll make a note...

Thanks heather, that was a good loss for you, walking in the heat. eeps on the no soap either
joises!!!! Hand sanitizer... check! Yeah I have heard from a gal that did a tour last summer with her husband & I was surprised she said she kinda hated China- she said the people were so rude & that much of it was actually really disgusting (sanitation and hygiene wise), but she said the great wall was cool.
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