Sinorama China Tour--Scenic Landscapes, Rural Villages 10 Days+5-night Yangtze River Cruise, November 10 to November 24, 2015 #1
We found this tour on Travelzoo in the beginning of 2015 and booked right away because of the attractive rate that seemed to be unbeatable with the interesting itinerary. After our experience with European American Travels on our trip to Turkey a couple of years ago, I did not want to deal with a travel agency that is not local anymore. For one thing, I have never heard of 'Sinorama' and they are based in Canada which is far away enough for us to do anything if something happens. We called our own travel agent and asked if she can book this tour for us and she agreed. Everything was handled nicely by our TA from the beginning which was the right move on our part.
We have visited China many times, on different tours to different cities. This itinerary will take us to the less traveled parts of Guangxi, including the beautiful cities of Guiling and Yangshuo which we visited on our very first trip to China in 1988. We have always wanted to go back to these places and this would be a welcomed opportunity for us to see the changes. We will also visit the terraced rice fields in Longji, Sanjiang (Liuzhou), to experience the minority culture of Dong, Miao, and Zhuang in the villages. After receiving our e-tickets from Sinorama about three weeks before the trip, we were ready to go!
Day 1 and 2--Los Angeles-Vancouver-Shanghai (November 10 & 11, 2015)
When we got our e-tickets from Sinorama, we realized that we will have to fly bright and early from LAX to Vancouver to make the connection to Shanghai. I suspect Sinorama finds the cheapest tickets available at the last minute (just like European American Travel) and booked those seats for their tours. Seats on all the flights were pre-assigned and cannot be changed until check-in for most people. We managed to be able to upgrade our seats online for some reason. Not sure if it was because of our bookings through our TA and they handled that separately. We were also the only two from the L.A. area flying this route. We found out later on that everybody else from the L.A. area flew from LAX to Beijing then made the connecting flight to Shanghai using Air China.
On November 10, we left our house at around 4:00AM and made it to LAX around 5:00 for our flight out at 7:20 on Air Canada Rouge. We arrived Vancouver on time at 10:11, went through Canadian Immigration quickly for our transit in Terminal M. This is a huge terminal but with clear signage showing exactly where one needs to go. After finding our boarding gate, we thought it would be a good idea to get some breakfast or brunch before boarding our flight. There were many choices and they all looked appealing but we finally settled for some won ton noodle.
The beautiful terminal M in Vancouver.
Not your typical won-ton and beef brisket noodle, still delicious though.
Our plane waiting for us.
Settled in our exit row seats. We had paid extra for the seats, wanting extra leg room for the long flight. It turned out that this flight was very empty and we could have saved some money taking the regular seats. The window seat next to us was not occupied either. One disadvantage about this exit row was the proximity being so close to the restroom.
working on my Sudoku
Food was quite decent. I think this was some kind of creamy chicken.
Menu on the IFE
2nd meal--beef stroganoff
Watching a Chinese movie
a whole bottle of red wine
After our 12-hour flight, we finally arrived at Shanghai Pudong Airport. We met up with the tour guide who was waiting for us at the exit after we picked up our luggage. We also met the rest of the group but noticed that they had yellow badges whereas the two of us had purple badges. I double-checked with the tour guide and she assured us that we were at the right place. She said unless you want to wait for the rest of your group which will come in two hours later. After she counted heads, we boarded the bus with group 2 to the hotel. Summer was a very pleasant, upbeat local guide who spoke English fluently. Unfortunately, we only met her a couple of times because we were assigned to bus #1 with a different Tour Leader and tour guide.
Inside bus 2, a nice coach.
Our tour leader Mi-Nan was waiting for us at the hotel so we got our room keys quickly and settled in. Our heavy bags were delivered to our room timely.
Our room at the Wyndham Bund East Shanghai in the Yangpu District, near the Yangpu Bridge. It was around 7PM and we had the evening free to explore on our own to find dinner.
Spacious and modern room...
...with a huge bathroom, notice the TV above the bathtub.
a separate shower
On our way to the hotel from the airport, Summer already pointed out the places nearby. A huge shopping mall was just two blocks away from the hotel so it was an easy find. We went down to the basement of the mall and found Yang's Dumpling which I have read about on Tripadvisor. Naturally, that was where we settled for dinner.
We ordered the combination dumplings, which we picked up right away from the kitchen. They were pre-made so they were not as fresh and hot as I liked them to be. We had to wait for the order of the original dumplings which turned out to be much better because they were freshly cooked.
Horrible curry-flavored beef soup. Tasted like dirt water.
This stuffed bean curd soup was much, much better!
Juice gushing out from the freshly made original dumpling.
Entrance to the restaurant. No English spoken here but they have pictures showing everything. This is cheap eats, it only cost us around $8USD for this meal.
After our simple dinner, we walked back to the hotel and called it a night. Slept well until around 3AM when we woke up due to jet lag ready for our first day of this tour.