Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Final Review of Hong Thai Travel [康泰旅行社] and their 8D Beijing/Chengde/Tianjin Highlight Tour (8天皇城北京/承德/天津精选游)

My visit to the capital of China was more than three months ago and this final review appeared to be way overdue. However, i have my reason for not posting it earlier. 

A reply was what i was waiting for. 

The completed tour survey form was sent to Hong Thai Travel via customercare@hongthai.com.sg on 01 October 2012 and included in the email were detailed feedback about the entire trip. 

I did receive a standard return email but we are all aware that it simply doesn't count as a legitimate reply.  

Before i begin with my rants, you may wish to check out my posts on an almost day-to-day review of the signed up 8D Beijing/Chengde/Tianjin Highlight Tour (8天皇城北京/承德/天津精选游). They will give you some hints on my thoughts about the trip.

Day One - Highlights: Quanjude Roast Duck, Tiananmen, Forbidden City, Wangfujing and Donghuamen Night Market.

Day Two - Highlights: Ming Tombs, Fruit-Picking and Great Wall of China. 

Day Three - Highlights: Temple of Heaven, Summer Palace, Beihai, Hutongs, Shichahai Kungfu Show and Nanluo Valley.
Day Four - Highlights: Bird's Nest and Linglong Tower.

Day Five - Highlights: 
Chengde Rehe Summer Palace and Mini Potala Palace.

Day Six - Highlights: Bullet Train to Tianjin, Tianjin Ancient Culture Street, Famous Porcelain House and another Kungfu show

Day Seven and Eight - Highlights: Qianmen, Capital Museum, Central TV Tower and Yashow Clothing Market.


^^^^^

As far as attractions are concerned, i am not complaining! Who could actually dislike the beauty of traditional Chinese architecture and the richness of history in China? 

Definitely not me! 

Maybe due to the location this time (hello, this is the capital of China for god's sake), food was incredibly satisfying and featured a great variety of Chinese cuisines when compared to my first two visits to China (Hunan and Yunnan). 

As with most tour packages, tour agent commissioned shopping trips are part of the deal and i am well aware of this fact. 

Nonetheless, this trip was extremely bothersome when the number of shopping tours kept increasing and the line between sightseeing/highlights and commissioned shopping was intentionally blurred to hoodwink the unwary ones. Please click here to read my frustration and the details.

Key benefits of joining a tour package (this is true for most tour packages) are that a lot of attractions can be covered and you don't have to worry about transportation and accommodation. 

The bad part is that you don't have control over time and it's often that you cannot afford the time to fully cover an attraction (for example, we covered at most 1/3 of the inner court at the Forbidden Palace). Any extra time is likely to be re-allocated to those shopping trips that can earn the agents extra pocket money. 

What particularly irked me was the most important person in any tour package; the local tour guide. 

Xiao Cheng was no doubt an experienced guide and had in his hand, a fantastic grasp of Beijing in aspects of history, current affairs, fengshui, religions and even politics. 

He was fine initially but towards the third or fourth day, he started to get a bit moody and this coincidentally happened after the group was not seen to be buying much from the ‘shopping’ trips. 

Although he continued to dispense information, he stopped short of telling us at times that we have to walk a long distance from the coach to the various places of attraction (he was more than aware that we have a few elderly mates who have difficulties in walking long distance) and ignored valid questions that were posed to him.  

For a particular trip to the spectacular Bird's Nest (official stadium for Olympic Games 2008), he brought us to the spectators’ seating and just sat for like twenty minutes. No information was given and we just stayed put in the area for the period when we could have bloody explored the rest of the stadium like the exhibition of the props used for the Olympic closing and opening ceremonies etc; areas I realized only upon leaving the stadium.

I would have loved to empathise for whatever personal matters he might have but I am a working adult myself and know for a fact that work is work and it is never fair to our customers to have personal affairs determining our professional working attitude. 

My family would usually sign up with Sino-America (SA) Tours Corporation to China and we decided to switch mainly due to a strong recommendation by a cousin who went with Hong Thai Travel to Guizhou. 

A well-learnt mistake we would not commit again. 

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The itinerary (two-page) for the participated 8D Beijing/Chengde/Tianjin Highlight Tour (8天皇城北京/承德/天津精选游) for your reference. Click the pictures to zoom in. 

Pricing for Optional Tours.

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