Explore's Peter Smout recently had his first taste of the group holiday experience. He travelled on our China Highlights tour and here he tells us the top five surprising things about the adventure, from the group to his highlights of China.
5. The Group
As this was my first Explore trip I had few expectations from the group as it was not something I had experienced before. We ended up with a great mixture of experienced travellers and first timers, me included. This was everyone’s first trip to China and we all wanted to immerse ourselves in the culture.
4. The impromptu Meal in Shanghai
On the final day the group ended up taking a walk along the Bund in Shanghai. We split at this stage to explore the area and several of us had stopped at a restaurant for some lunch. Dominic, our Tour Leader, was not with us at this stage and we proceeded to order. Due to a comical mix up in translation we ended up ordering 108 dumplings. Since the food is so cheap in China it really didn’t amount to much and the hilarity when tray after tray of dumplings came out was definitely one of the highlights of the trip.
3. Night Cruise
The night cruise in Shanghai along the Bund was simply amazing. It was a lovely change of pace and lasted about an hour. I am definitely glad that Dominic persuaded us to go do this in the evening as, with all the lights on, the views were spectacular. It was just good to relax and take in the atmosphere, slowing the pace on what is a busy tour.
2. The Tour Leader
Our tour leader was Dominic Xing who is local to Xian, the second stop on this trip. Dominic had great knowledge of China, and no question that was asked too tricky for him. Every stop we went to he had all the information you could want to know about. Also nothing was too much trouble and he was willing to go above and beyond to help out the group.
1. Cricket Lou
‘Cricket’ Lou was the local celebrity we visited in Beijing. He is known for breeding crickets hence his nickname. This happened early on in the tour but was a moment that epitomises not only this type of tour, but travelling and exploring in general. The entire group were captivated by his stories, and although he didn’t speak any English his expressions and passion shone through. The local guide, Howard, was there to translate however Lou’s actions and the way he responded to our questions needed little interpretation. Lou will go down as one of the most charismatic people I will ever have the fortune to meet and was definitely an unexpected but huge highlight of this tour.
Notable mention: The Dumpling Banquet and Traditional Show in Xian
One of the optional extras on this tour is the Dumpling Banquet and Traditional Dance show in Xian. This is something that I was not 100% sure on prior to going, but am definitely glad that I went to. The show was about an hour, so not too long, and the dance was captivating. There were also many different kinds of dumplings, some sweet and some savoury that all adds to the show.