Q – Our travel agent here in northern Virginia, has fixed us up with a really nice tour program created by a company called WildChina. I wonder if you know anything about this company? We’ve kind of put our faith in this agent but we are paying close to $1000 per day for a 16-Day program and we want to make sure we are in the best hands.
Our primary reason for contacting you has to do with some advice we received from friends who have just returned from a tour of China’s most famous cities. They have told us that their guide told them in Beijing that they should have brought cans of face cream – that the Chinese really like it as a gift from travelers. Tourists are said to give out red tins to all the guides, policemen, baggage handlers etc. they meet. What exactly should we bring along – our TA knows nothing about this.
Finally, a personal question. We’ve just paid a refundable deposit and we are wondering how much our agent really knows about Chinese culture etc. Would you consider taking over this booking if that could be arranged?
A – If we thought your travel agent was misleading you or not up to the task, we might help you. But we suspect you have an excellent agent and it would be inappropriate for us to get involved at this point. We think that WildChina is an excellent choice for private touring in China for those who want an insider’s view, They are particularly strong in some of the rural regions of the country that have, only recently, opened up to tourists. The founder, Mei Zheng, is a native of Yunnan Province and is a Harvard MBA. Her new book is called “In Search of Dali with a Bag of Ham”. The case study of her company’s success is required reading at Harvard. We think you are in excellent hands and your agent will direct the kind of guides and touring WildChina will provide. They have won numerous industry awards and they work with Virtuoso and several other well-known premier agency groups. A cost of $1000 per day strikes us as about right as long as it does not also include accommodations. For top-tier private guides and arrangements travelers should expect to pay between $1500-$2000 per day per couple.
Your friends are a bit confused about the skin cream advice. You don;t need to bring face cream to China to distribute. They have plenty and, you will note, the Chinese take great pride in their complexions. This story may have originated in a Wall Street Journal story that talked about the habit of Chinese tourists, particularly those traveling in Egypt, who bring dozens of small gifts of Tiger Balm and other soothing lotions to give out in Lieu of tips. But this is not recommended for American tourists. The best way to show your appreciation in China in a short, sealed, handwritten note with cash inside and, perhaps, a photo of your family.