We have just completed this tour. We stayed one extra night in Hong Kong.
The tour was excellent. I’m mostly going to concentrate on hopefully some useful tips for future travelers as all the components of the tour were excellent.
Our Tour Director was LARRY. We had him on our Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos tour just less than two years ago and he is one of, if not the very best Tauck Tour Director we have ever had so we were very excited to see him.
There were 24 people on our tour, I believe the tour takes 36 people, 32 had booked, but 8 had cancelled because of the Hong Kong troubles. So it was the same size as a Small group tour. One couple had changed from a small group tour because Tauck told them that due to the huge 70th year celebrations in China, the Forbidden City and Tiananmen Sq. being closed, they were given the option to change, it ultimately saved them around 3 or was it $4000 for what turned out to be a small group anyway.
We arrived the day before the tour. Larry did the same as on his previous tour, he invited us to meet him that morning and then he offered everyone a pre tour visit to Lama Temple and Confucius Temple. Thirteen of us took up his offer and this helped us get to know names. If you ever have Larry and you made other pre tour plans, you missed a treat.
This was the nicest, most friendly most fun group of Tauck travelers we have ever encountered and it was sad to part with them.
All hotels were excellent. Extremely luxurious. Several people had housekeeping issues at the Beijing Waldorf, we had to ask for our room to be done on two days , as did at least one other couple I spoke to, others complained about dirty glassware remaining in the room, things like that. But in all hotels and boat, the staff were friendly and extremely polite, helpful and eager to please.
On the Yangtze Explorer Boat, we had one of the lower priced rooms on deck 3, it had a good layout and was much roomier than a room of similar grade on the two Small Ship trips we have taken with Tauck and probably even our European River Boat room too. I recommend it is not worth the extra money for a bigger room or being on a higher deck.
The actual itinerary we had from Larry differed from the app considerably, I tend to look at that on tour , we never really looked at the green book once we arrived, but followed the Tour Director’s paperwork.
I suggest that it would be hard to plan extra activities for what you think might be free time before you arrive in China because there are extra choices in addition to the published itinerary. You may not be able to take advantage of them.
Weather and clothing......we knew the weather would be cool to begin with and warmer as the tour progressed. I took lightweight jeans and nice sweaters that I could transition into the evening if time was too short to change or I was too tired to bother. This worked well with the group, most were very casually dressed during the day, wearing mainly black and blue jeans, some did not change for the evenings or maybe put a new top on, a couple of the woman did dress up some evenings. If I wasn’t planning to write a review, I would not have even noticed how people dressed. I dress colorful as usual, so to be honest, it was easier for people to notice whether I was wearing a new set of clothes or not. One day, we had torrential rain and were walking down cobbled streets with small streams to negotiate as a result. Pretty much everyone had soaking wet shoes and socks. I reminded people how useful hairdryers can be on such occasions. I wore capris and thin tops for Hong Kong.
Only one other part rainy day. Wonderful clear sunny day at the Great Wall, otherwise China had dull maybe polluted dull days but with coolish temps perfect for site seeing, not so good for photography.
Hong Kong was very warm and sunny with humidity quite high on our extra day of site seeing. It was just at the end of their rainy season so I had prepared for rain then, not so much in China.

Walking.....There is a great amount of walking on this tour, sometimes long distances, often with steps to negotiate and No way of avoiding them. If you have any mobility issues, this tour is not for you, you will not be able to walk the distance to even get to the Great Wall or the very long walking over Tiananmen Square or the Forbidden City to name a few.

If you are a woman...Toilets....many of the toilets are of the squatting variety, sometimes they are unavoidable. I’m suggesting you practice squatting to almost floor level before you take the tour. I’m pretty fit but even I found it tough on my knees rising up again.....sorry to be graphic but trying to be helpful. Never be without tissues in your pocket.

Laundry.....we usually do very little laundry on vacation but did get some done at the Beijing Waldorf. As an example, two pairs of pants, two pairs of socks, two tops, one piece of men’s underwear were around $70. Our Tour Director said the cheapest place on the tour was the River boat, but it’s not that cheap, there would be little opportunity to find anywhere to do your own laundry on tour. Smalls dried quickly in the first few hotel bathrooms.

Shopping.....oh dear, shopping....
Larry told us that Hong Kong was no longer the place for cheap shopping except maybe good quality but still expensive pearls.

My suitcase weighed 40 lbs when we left the US. I dare not guess what it weighs now and I had to buy a small carry on for all the extra purchases! I even got the reputation of being a bit of a shopper. There is not a lot of time to shop on the tour, but there are options in free time to go with the local tour guide to,
One, a Jade wholesaler (Beijing), where you get a talk on Jade, what it is, how to see good quality and so on.....jade is not cheap, staff here were quite pushy making you feel you had to buy the best quality, think hundreds of dollars for even a small piece of high quality.

Two, Silk (Shanghai), you go to a silk factory, look at silk worm cocoons. Are shown how the silk is unraveled and spun. Some on the tour had no ideas and were fascinated. I know all about silk since being a teenager and even have some silk cocoons at home but I did find seeing processing the thread on an old machine very interesting. Then you go into the shop. They were big on telling us how wonderful silk duvets are, we helped stretch a piece of silk to make a sample duvet, again, most interesting. I bought a duvet. Was advised to pick king size for better side draping. As I had just bought a new extra large duvet cover at home specifically for better draping on my queen bed, I bought the lightest weight King one. I bought two silk pillows, yes pillows, when I have slept on them I’m guaranteed to look younger, either way, Mr. B’s bank account is lighter. Then there were the silk duvets covers that ranged from at least $600 and up and up, I recoiled, when it was obvious I was not going to bite, I was led to a bargain corner. I had noticed a lovely pattern there as we came in, so did choose that one, I think it was around $200 for King size plus two standard pillow cases, they don’t make king ones. They shrink/compress everything for you and there is shipping. I heard one tour companion say it cost her $148 to ship to Florida. I totally underestimated how heavy a duvet cover can be and that is when I realized I had to buy another bag. Of course our local tour guide, aptly named Fun Fun was right by my side to order me a carry on bag that would be delivered to me later, it cost me $48 but oh well!


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    Hi British, glad you enjoyed the China trip. Do you have the name for the silk factory in shanghai? We will be there next year after our Singapore-Bali trip. Thanks. Sandman

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    Hi Sandman, still sorting out all my goodies, will be opening my quilt later on today, it’s still shrink wrapped and I’m still jet lagged.
    We go on the Singapore Bali tour next September, how about you?

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    We are on the October 10th Singapoore / Bali tour; last of 2020. I guess we will have the benefit of your experience on tour after you return. You are my go to Tauck authority! Welcome home.

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    Wow, I’m glad someone appreciates all my blether! Looks as if we will just be returning from our tour of Singapore and Bali when you leave for yours. We start three one hour day classes about Bali in a couple of days, hope it’s useful.
    I couldn’t get signed in to the forum last night, but let’s hope these two pics I took of the quilt packages are going to be of use to you, because otherwise I have no idea where this silk place was. Of course I don’t know whether the name is the place we went or not. I assume you mean you are going to Shanghai independently. I have looked on Amazon and see that silk duvets are on there for similar prices. There are certainly no bargains in China.

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    Here are a few pics of Fun Fun and guys stretching the small piece of cocoon silk from a double or twin cocoon Into a demo silk quilt

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    Of course, now I’ve blown up the pic for you, I thought last night that the quilt cover I chose is not the one I opened when I got home, it’s the same colors but a different pattern, I can see it the one I wanted hanging up in the background!

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    edited November 2019

    I’m on a roll.....if you blow up this pic. You can see

    how few people are walking the harder choice of the Great Wall compared to the hoards in the very background.
    And a cute panda for you too

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    Commentary and pictures; the ultimate tour guide. Thanks

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    Thank you, British, for writing such detailed, informative and entertaining reviews. You and Alan S. are my heroes on this forum :)

    I am thinking I 'need' to go on this trip in 2021. You made it sound sooo fabulous - thank you.


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    My wife and I did this tour in the Summer of 2018. We too had Larry as our tour guide. We thought he was the best of the best, as did many of our fellow travelers. Knowledgeable, gets the job done. Humor is definitely part of his secret sauce. His pre-trip tour to the Temples was interesting, and in taking us there via the Beijing subway, it was another part of the China experience you would not otherwise have had.

    I will offering some additional perspective on a few comments here. First, we took advantage of the laundry service on the Yangtze Explorer. We, and others on our tour, found the laundering to have been done very well, including folding everything quite nicely. We left the laundry in a bag in our room in the morning, and at the end of our touring in the afternoon, it had been returned already. The 3 day sail is right in the middle of the trip, and so it is an opportune time to get some laundry done. We did not find the price unreasonable. Quite frankly, given the price of the trip, the cost of having a load of laundry done seems trivial. If you can afford this costly trip, paying for laundry should not, in my opinion, be an issue or an obstacle. I think if you are going to travel, roll with some small things, and some costs you might avoid at home so you enjoy the experience.

    With respect to Shanghai, we too had Fun Fun as our local guide. We only have positive things to say about her. By the way, if you have interest in the Shanghai Jewish experience during wartime, when many took refuge in Shanghai, Fun Fun was able to give us a private guided tour at the local Shanghai Jewish Refugees Museum, so you need not look for another external guide as some in this forum have done. Larry arranged it with Fun Fun for us at the beginning of the tour.

    With respect to the silk factory, we went there too. We have a few recommendations. Certainly the silk making was a featured experience, coupled with purchasing of bedding. We found that there were other things there that you might miss, if bedding is not your need. Downstairs on the other side of the floor from bedding, there are other silk items - clothing and accessories. We bought many nice boxed sets of neckties, which included a necktie, coordinating handkerchief, and also matching cufflinks. The price was great. It made a great gift, and was not too hard to bring home (we brought along an extra Tauck duffel for just such a purpose). Upstairs, we purchased lovely pearl earrings. And on the other side of that floor, while my wife was buying earrings, I found a series of four watercolor paintings on rice paper scrolls. The price was reasonable, and they rolled up nicely into four boxes which traveled well and easily. The main point is that there is more than just bedding, and with limited time for the stop, be sure to use your time wisely.

    The trip is great.

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    Yes, lots of other silk things to buy. Expensive. The cheap things are cheap quality. Scarves were more expensive than the really lovely one I bought in Italy on one of our stops in the Lake Como area with Tauck six months ago.
    By the way, when I finally opened up my silk bedding, the duvet cover I chose was not the one I was given it was the same colors but not as nice a pattern. I have still not used it, waiting until the summer, then I will find out if it was a total dud buy. I like my bed to look perfect, always iron my sheets and tuck perfect corners, it must be the nurse in me! Back in the early seventies we spent hours during training making the perfect bead as quickly as we could whilst creating the least amount of dust and infection into the atmosphere. That’s more than anyone needs to know! 😀 I’m concerned that the silk cover will be creased and a beggar to iron!

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    edited January 2020

    I did this trip 2-3 years ago and was surprised that Tauck had us stop at two "tourist traps," the silk factory and the Guilin Tea Co. It was so out of character for Tauck. I suspect the local guides probably got kickbacks on purchases, as they were so helpful and interested what everyone was considering buying. I paid little attention to the silk store, but at the Tea Co, the stuff there was at least 300% higher in price than the same stuff elsewhere, even at the airport stores.

    And digressing to anything that touches food (tea sets, plates, chopstick sets, etc.) I bought nothing because I don't trust anything being sold in China. How do you know they don't use leaded paint? Don't forget this is the same country that produced and exported to the US toxic dog food and drywall. If you're buying for display, fine, but if you plan on using any of these items, caveat emptor.

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    10:07AM edited 10:09AM

    . . . Don't forget this is the same country that produced and exported to the US toxic dog food and drywall. If you're buying for display, fine, but if you plan on using any of these items, caveat emptor.

    And don't forget the contaminated baby formula!!!

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    And now they are sending viruses over, too :-)

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