We didn’t know what to expect from our Intrepid Travel tour to China.
The great people at the Toronto Intrepid Travel store had offered us a trip and since we were going to be in China anyway for a press trip, we decided that we would take the opportunity to sample the Grand China Tour.
Our press trip ended up not happening due to some logistical problems (i.e.; the other company (which we will not name) wanted us to pay for all our domestic and International flights. Our China press trip was going to end up costing us $3000 to promote their product)
So it was with Intrepid Travel that we set off for the first time to China. It really has exceeded our wildest expectations.
It is the perfect tour to bridge the gap from backpacking to touring. With a maximum group size of 12, there is an intimacy that other tour companies do not offer.
We were expecting to be eating in the hotel buffets and sitting on private tour buses as we whisked through tourist sites. That hasn’t been the case at all.
We have sampled the local cuisine with our Chinese guide Wei Ying. Karen as we call her has been an extraordinary leader. She takes us to places that foreigners not dare to go and we eat in very local Chinese restaurants. We wouldn’t have a clue how to order in these places and if we were on our own, we would be missing so much of the culture.
China is more difficult to travel than anywhere we have been before. With 45 countries under our belt, we have never encountered a land where the people truly do not speak any English. Having an Intrepid Guide enriches the experience and we are grateful to be able to take part in such a once in a lifetime opportunity.
Taking us off the beaten path we are seeing the real China. They offer a grassroots travel experience giving the traveler the opportunity to explore the real China. We have tours set up in the best of places. In Chengdu we have the Panda Breeding Centre Included, Xian offers the Terracotta Warriors guided tour and Beijing gives us a trip to the Great Wall. It makes sure that we don’t miss the best of a place, but it also give us the freedom to make our own itinerary.
In Yangshuo, we booked our own rock climbing excursion and Li River Cruise. When we were having trouble finding a place to eat, we bumped into Karen and she gave us the excellent suggestion of eating at Kelly’s Place for a spicy Hot Pot.
We have enjoyed the perfect mix of being with the other 6 people on our trip to having alone time and enjoying each other’s company. Every other night we meet for dinner and enjoy an authentic Chinese meal, but then we are left to our own devices to get out there and find our own original experiences as well.
We have found the Intrepid Travel tour to be very similar to our backpacking travels but without the usual hassles.
We have slept on the over night trains, we have taken local transport and we have hopped in taxis for a night out. We would do this entire itinerary if we were to come to China on our own, it would just take us longer. It would be difficult for us to find our way and we would probably end up in the wrong taxi or two and end up going in the wrong direction on the bus, but we would eventually make it there.
With Karen at the lead, she asks people what bus to get on, she finds out where we need to go and she talks to the locals to find out where the station is.
Dave and I enjoy staying in nicer places. We have never been hostel goers. Many times we end up in dumps due to lack of planning or lack of knowledge, but for the most part, we enjoy 3 star hotels and guesthouses. That is what we are getting with Intrepid. The 3 star hotels are phenomenal in China. We have checked out the prices of places that we are staying and for the most part they are between 40 to 100 USD per night. Cheaper in the more rural regions and in the cities like Hong Kong or Beijing, we are reaching the $100 to $100+ prices. (Whenever we stay in places like New York, Hong Kong or Paris ourselves, we always pay $100 or more)
If you are ever looking to travel the way that Dave and I travel and are either afraid to take the step of backpacking around a country or don’t have the time to deal with the hassles of long term travel, give an Intrepid Tour a try. I guarantee you’ll love it.
Note: Intrepid Travel sponsored our trip but they did not ask us to write this post. We have enjoyed it so much that we wanted to share the Intrepid Travel experience with all of you. We want everyone to be able to live the life that we are living. We love to travel and know that many people don’t have the time to get out there and see the world. We truly believe in the Intrepid Experience. Now that we have enjoyed an Intrepid Tour ourselves we wanted to share it with the world. Just like any time that we recommend a specific tour guide or tour company that we have used and paid for ourselves, we are recommending Intrepid Travel because we sincerely believe they are an excellent choice for travel to off the beaten path destinations with peace of mind and comfort.