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Old 07-13-2009, 07:08 PM   #1
nyfan
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Reflections on Enchanted China - June 28 trip

Just back from the June 28th Enchanted China Trip and it was a truly wonderful and special experience. In part, that is because of the truly great people who I had the pleasure to travel with – you all know who you are and you are missed.

This will be far from an exhaustive posting since my body is still badly jet-lagged and my brain is in a holding pattern over Toronto.

A couple of things worth addressing:

H1N1 is for real and I am glad I purchased insurance. I bought one policy to insure my DVC points that I used to pay for the trip and another policy to insure my airfare and provide medical dental and trip interruption lost luggage and assorted other coverage.

We lost one family to quarantine in our first 24 hours and it really cast a pall over the rest of the trip. They turned out to be fine but were only released 7 days later and decided to return home. We really missed you guys and we were all so sorry your trip ended so suddenly. We hope we will run into you on another ABD trip.

After landing in Guilin (I think…) we sat on the tarmac for at least 40 minutes while safety suited medical personnel came onto the plane and tended to a sick passenger a dozen or so rows behind our group who was then removed from the plane. As it turns out, my worst fears were not realized and we were finally released from the plane and allowed to go about our business (though not before writing our names, locations, and phone numbers on the airsick bags that were passed out by the plane’s crew).

Reportedly, Chinese authorities have begun to quarantine fewer and fewer passengers around a sick passenger but on the other hand, we heard more and more reports during our stay of cases of H1N1 in China. Do what you will but all I can say is that the extra money I spent on insurance brought me tremendous peace of mind and was well worth it. (And no, I do not work for an insurance company nor do I own stock in one.)

Our guides were Daisy and Brian and Kudos to both of them for leading a really well-run trip. Brian was great with the kids and did an excellent job of herding us through difficult obstacles like 5:15 luggage collections and 6:00 AM departures. Daisy was outstandingly bilingual and did a lot of the heavy lifting in interfacing with local authorities and making sure the group got where it needed to go. The two made an excellent team I give both of them very high marks for personality and ability.

A few things to keep in mind:

China in the summer is hot. Really really hot. Bring lots of light comfortable clothing and a lightweight sweater or jacket to wear on planes or buses with lots of AC. Make sure to bring a sun hat and lots of sun screen and you can always buy an umbrella when you arrive to protect yourself from the sun the way the locals do.

Be sure to get out and walk at some point. You will see a lot of china but it is more intimate to get down and walk around versus riding your bus from point A to point B. If you do, you will have a dramatically greater appreciation for the size and scope of the country as well as a better understanding of how the people live. Yes its hot and humid and the air can be a bit uncomfortable but you need to leave the cocoon once in a while and see how people really live.

Shopping is everywhere. You will be told that the best deals in China are to be had in Shanghai and while that may be true, good deals abound everywhere you go. The key is that Time really does equal Money so if you see something you like and you get an okay deal, don’t walk away thinking that you will find it cheaper later. You may, but it will also cost you significant amounts of time to try to find the item again.

In Beijing, try the Pearl Market just East of the temple of heaven. They have loads of electronics as well as a wide range of other stuff. The silk market is okay (and more accessible to the China World Hotel) but the vendors there were way too aggressive for my taste.

In Xian, if you go to visit the terra cotta soldiers, you will be told that the gift shop there is price fixed so don’t bother to bargain. On the other hand, there is a small “mall” in the far corner of the museum compound (near to pit three) and many similar items can be had there and the prices are not fixed so bargain away…. (Do be advised that there was no toilet paper in the bathrooms however and the place on the first floor that sold it was fixed price. I consider that my admission fee to pit 5!!!)

In Shanghai, we found nice stuff at the Shanghai museum. The exhibits were very good and since the museum was free we did not mind paying fixed prices at the gift shop. We thought the prices were reasonable (if not outright bargains). We also tried the 508 market (I think that was the name…) and that was not bad either. They had a very wide range of souvenirs, clothing, electronics, software, movies etc.

Hong Kong shopping was also good. The tour went to Stanley Market which was a typical souvenir market but there was also some very nice artwork thrown in at a few locations. We happened on some nice little shops in the Central District on the HK side in some small alley between some of the larger office buildings. The night market in HK was disappointing – sorta like Stanley Market after subtracting the artwork and adding in some outdoor food. Frankly, the whole city seemed to be a big night market so I am still not sure why the big deal about Temple Street. On the Kowloon Side, we enjoyed the market area that was made up of the ladies market, the electronics market and the sporting good market. Many good deals were to be had in this area and some bargaining could be done and all sorts of merchandise was available. To be honest, the ladies market was a more souvenirs than ladies clothing but it was still fun.

Finally, the box lunches provided by ABD were uninspiring. Make sure to bring snacks with you or buy some of the excellent beef and pork jerky that you will see during the trip (fruit or spicy flavored are both good) so that you always have something with you to eat.

Best regards to all of my travelling companions. I miss you guys and hope we will see you on our next trip.
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Old 07-13-2009, 08:04 PM   #2
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I am glad to hear you had a great trip! I came back to the States on June 28th from my 10 day trip to Xi'an. I had a wonderful stay. It was a trip of a lifetime! My exchange student who lived with me this last school year was from Xi'an and her parents paid for my whole trip to come back with her. We went to see the terracotta warriors as well, and also seen the home of the emporer that is there on the mountain. And we walked everywhere! Besides the trips that we had to take that were too far away to walk to. But i also suggest getting out and walking to see how life really is there. And the food is amazing, and the way it is served when you go to a restauraunt. We had a whole room to ourselves in the restaurant with a big circle table and a "lazy susan" on the table where all the food was put. And you sit at that table in order of importance. Lots of good deals to be made when shopping also in Xi'an! I would have loved to go to hong kong, etc, but was only there to stay in Xi'an. I would do it all over again if the opportunity arose, although not anytime soon (the plane ride was a bit too long for me!)
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Old 07-14-2009, 04:45 PM   #3
2GirlsMama
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Welcome Home!

Hi China Travel Group!
We were SO SAD to have been taken from the group! We were having a great time and enjoyed the time we got to spend with the group. After dinner on Monday night, I told Brian how great the trip was, and how much we appreciated the hard work of Brian and Daisy. THEN...we got the CALL.

Many tears were shed. It was terrifying, and I am very glad that is over!! Daisy and Brian remained in contact with us the entire time we were confined. They are FANTASTIC! In fact, every aspect of contact with ABD has been wonderful. We will certainly take another ABD trip. If not to China, we are considering Ireland and Germany (any of our travel group interested??)

It looks like we will be able to return to China next year as long as the quarantine is lifted. We will not return if there is a possibility of being quarantined again. That is no place for children. Please consider the serious nature of quarantine if you are traveling with children.
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Old 07-16-2009, 04:19 PM   #4
nyfan
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More on June 28 Enchanted China

Well my brain seems to have arrived, finally, and more importantly, I have started moving my pictures from memory card to my PC and I have started to remember a lot about my trip.

First, we were fortunate enough to go to Xian “on the way” from Chengdu to Guilin. It was a very difficult day of travel for us. Our luggage was picked up at 5:15 am, we were in breakfast at 5:30 (Disney got the hotel to open up the breakfast buffet early just for us) and we left the hotel at 6:00 AM for the airport. We did not check in to our hotel in Guilin until 8:00 PM or so and much of our food that day was sandwiches.

Nevertheless, we were all thrilled when we found out we were going (well all of us except the very lovely family that arrived early and when to Xian on their own…. Sigh) and the terra cotta warriors more than lived up to their advance billing. The very first sight of Pit 1 was simply a jaw-dropper. The building that covers over pit 1 seems big enough to hold a 747 and is well lit from above by skylights that allow the visitor to see clearly down to the excavations going on some 15 feet below in the pit.

You have all probably seen pictures or heard about the warriors so I will simply say that this is one of those cases where pictures do not do justice to the reality of what you will see before you. The scope and scale of the army is simply breathtaking and has to be seen in person to be properly appreciated.

Second, I found it interesting (and a bit daunting) to survey the extraordinary investments that the Chinese have made in new infrastructure and to compare it to what we have here in the United States. All of the airports that we visited were at the least serviceable and functional. Several of them – Shanghai, Beijing, and Hong Kong – were simply world class and were the best that I’ve ever seen in my travels. It is nearly impossible to overlook the incredible amount of building going on as you work your way through the country – new roads, power plants, subways, and bridges all being worked on. Shanghai, which will host the world expo next year, is in the throes of a massive building boom. We were told that there are 22 million residents in the city but another 4 million workers live there working on one building project or another. Quite incredible.

The scope and scale of the country is simply off the charts. I suggested in an earlier posting that it pays to get out and walk a bit. Be advised that especially in Beijing, the maps the hotels offer you will appear deceptively cozy. What passes for a block on the Beijing map would easily accommodate 10 or 12 city blocks in a city like New York. Hong Kong is quite walkable and compact, at least in the Kowloon and Central areas. Shanghai is somewhere in the middle – we walked back to our hotel (The Sheraton) from the Shanghai museum and had we not stopped so often along the way to shop or gawk it still would have been a solid 45 minute walk.

Third, every day of this trip brought jaw dropping sights. From the Great Wall, to the Forbidden Palace, to the Shanghai Skyline at night, to the Pandas, to the Terra Cotta Warriors, to Fireworks at Disneyland this was a wonderful and exciting trip. If you are lucky enough to be on it, you will return with incredible memories and you will find that it haunts your dreams.
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Old 07-18-2009, 02:53 PM   #5
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Can you explain about the quarentine? Why was the family removed from the group? What day did it happen? Was anyone in that family sick?
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Old 07-18-2009, 03:56 PM   #6
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China has taken a very strong stance on fighting the H1N1 virus. Once the plane lands in China, officials enter the plane and take every passenger's temperature. They also have temperature screenings in a few places in the airport as you walk to customs.

No one in our family was sick. We were removed from the tour by the Chinese government because they said that someone on the plane we took to Beijing had symptoms of the H1N1 virus. They quarantined everyone within three rows of the infected person. So, in effect, we got quarantined and put into horrible conditions just because of where we were sitting on the plane.

It is a very scary reality. It ruined our ABD trip to China. We hope to return to China with ABD once there is no chance this could happen again. If you are traveling with children, please do lots of research into this very real situation.
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Old 07-29-2009, 08:45 PM   #7
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NYfan, do you have your pictures uploaded anywhere for all to see? I would love to see them. So far, I have not seen a China TR that has any pictures.
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Old 07-29-2009, 09:03 PM   #8
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Quote:
China has taken a very strong stance on fighting the H1N1 virus. Once the plane lands in China, officials enter the plane and take every passenger's temperature. They also have temperature screenings in a few places in the airport as you walk to customs.

No one in our family was sick. We were removed from the tour by the Chinese government because they said that someone on the plane we took to Beijing had symptoms of the H1N1 virus. They quarantined everyone within three rows of the infected person. So, in effect, we got quarantined and put into horrible conditions just because of where we were sitting on the plane.

It is a very scary reality. It ruined our ABD trip to China. We hope to return to China with ABD once there is no chance this could happen again. If you are traveling with children, please do lots of research into this very real situation.
07-18-2009 02:53 PM
WOW!! I am so sorry this happened. I hope you do not mind me asking a
few questions.

I know you said that the ABD guides kept in touch however who was your advocate once the tour resumed and your family stayed behind.

How long were you in the Q and what kind of provisions and accommodations did they provide?

I am sure ABD viewed this as a an issue for Insurance Trip interruption but was the American Embassy notified?

Were you the only American/ABD family affected Being US citizens I assume that happened.

If you could educate all of us that would be Awesome!
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Old 07-30-2009, 07:59 PM   #9
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I'll try to answer your questions.

Once we were put into quarantine we were contacted by our ABD guides and ABD management everyday. We even talked to our ABD guides when we were in the airport waiting to go home. ABD has remained in contact with us since we arrived home. They are an outstanding company.

We are still waiting to hear from the trip insurance. There is a clause that says that pandemics are not covered. There is also a section that specifically says quarantine is covered. So, we will have to wait to find out what happens.

Once we found out that we would be placed in quarantine ABD contacted the US Embassy and put us on a list. They also provided us with the contact information for the Embassy. People at home contacted our Congressman's office. Unfortunately there is nothing they could do to help us. We were told something similar to: China's game, China's rules. We were told there was an agreement that parents and children would not be separated.

The conditions in quarantine were awful. The room was filthy, the beds were rock hard and the food was disgusting. The air-conditioning had been turned off because they were afraid the H1N1 virus would spread through the AC. (temperatures in Beijing were abetween 95 and 100) No one in our family had any symptoms fo the disease. We were quarantined because we sat near someone on the plane to Beijing who either had H1N1 symptoms or the actual virus. We don't really know.

We were placed in quarantine Monday evening and had to stay there until Saturday. The rule is that you are quarantined for seven days from the date/time your plane lands in China.

We were the only family from our tour that was quarantined. However, there was a family removed from the trip before ours. There was also an ABD guide that was quarantined.

ABD was outstanding through the entire ordeal. They have continued to be outstanding. We will definitely book another adventure with them. Hopefully we will be able to return to China next year if the quarantine is lifted.
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Old 07-30-2009, 10:42 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by 2GirlsMama View Post
I'll try to answer your questions.

Once we were put into quarantine we were contacted by our ABD guides and ABD management everyday. We even talked to our ABD guides when we were in the airport waiting to go home. ABD has remained in contact with us since we arrived home. They are an outstanding company.

We are still waiting to hear from the trip insurance. There is a clause that says that pandemics are not covered. There is also a section that specifically says quarantine is covered. So, we will have to wait to find out what happens.

Once we found out that we would be placed in quarantine ABD contacted the US Embassy and put us on a list. They also provided us with the contact information for the Embassy. People at home contacted our Congressman's office. Unfortunately there is nothing they could do to help us. We were told something similar to: China's game, China's rules. We were told there was an agreement that parents and children would not be separated.

The conditions in quarantine were awful. The room was filthy, the beds were rock hard and the food was disgusting. The air-conditioning had been turned off because they were afraid the H1N1 virus would spread through the AC. (temperatures in Beijing were abetween 95 and 100) No one in our family had any symptoms fo the disease. We were quarantined because we sat near someone on the plane to Beijing who either had H1N1 symptoms or the actual virus. We don't really know.

We were placed in quarantine Monday evening and had to stay there until Saturday. The rule is that you are quarantined for seven days from the date/time your plane lands in China.

We were the only family from our tour that was quarantined. However, there was a family removed from the trip before ours. There was also an ABD guide that was quarantined.

ABD was outstanding through the entire ordeal. They have continued to be outstanding. We will definitely book another adventure with them. Hopefully we will be able to return to China next year if the quarantine is lifted.
I am *SO* sorry you had to go through that! What an awful experience. But I'm glad to hear that ABD was so good to you. One bright spot in a dark place.

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Old 07-30-2009, 11:11 PM   #11
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WOW!

I echo SayHello!

Please make sure this info gets out there it's Powerful! Please keep us posted on what the end result is with the insurance company regardless of the result( my prayer for you all is positive of course) It again will yield some very important info for all future travelers!

Thanks!
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Old 08-27-2009, 01:48 PM   #12
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Thanks for the update on the H1N1 - it had not even crossed my mind!
We are getting set to book this ABD for next summer... so I'll keep up to date on H1N1 as it develops.

Question: were any shots required before travel?

Also: did you book your own airfare or did ABD?

Thanks so much for sharing your story!
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Old 08-28-2009, 10:29 AM   #13
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the only 'extra' shot my dr suggested was Hepatitis A but when H1N1 becomes available definately get it

and be prepared to see masks everywhere...
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