Our Experiences in China - may be a useful reference to other cruisers heading that way

Sea Mist > Sold to New Owners July 2016
John and Cheryl Ellsworth
Fri 5 Jul 2013 10:30

References regarding Hotels, Travel, Guides and Misc while in China June 2013

NOTE: We were heavily influenced in our hotel selections based on reviewing recent guest feedback for each hotel considered; we have not bothered to include those ratings below. We have used www.Agoda.com  for all hotel bookings and have been completely satisfied with their service and pricing for Cambodia, Vietnam, Malaysia and China travel.





Our Basis for Choosing

Room Rate (US$/Night

Ratings after Stay: poor=1 to 10=excellent




Hotel Overall

Additional Comment



Days Inn Forbidden  City

1 Nanwanzi Alley

Nanheyan Street


Location proximity to Forbidden city and price






Would stay again:

Comfortable  &  GREAT location…just don’t have too high expectations on overall hotel quality..note the brand.


Bell Tower Hotel

No.110 South Avenue, Beilin District


Best location in Xi’an….heart of the city!!






Highly Recommend!



H-hotel Riverside

No.39 East Zhimin Road


Newly rebuilt Boutique Garden Hotel close to riverside






Would recommend!

Surprise: breakfast was included in rate…maybe their mistake? Interesting General Manager , Simon Shi who was educated in UK…very smart and a pleasure to chat with which we did one afternoon for a long while.


Guilin Han Tang Xin Ge Hotel

No. 27 Xishan Road


Not sure what led us to this hotel….






Would not recommend: OK but no strong merits> suggest finding a hotel by the Li River outside of the city near the main tourist attractions of mother nature’s beauty.


SSAW Hotel Hangzhou Plaza

No.261 Tiyuchang Road, Xiacheng District


Although not in centre of city or close to lake and tourist attractions, it received strong +ve feedback and it was a good price






Would recommend….Hotel was good ….BUT…they do not control the restaurant in hotel which is badly managed  by outside company, the hotel  did influence breakfast, thank goodness, as you bought breakfast vouchers for big discount at front desk.


Suzhou Garden View Hotel

NO.66 LuoGuaQiao Lindun Road


Location within walking distance to best regarded Attractions: i.e. Gardens, Parks, canals






Nicely designed gardened hotel. A good location at a good price….a bit tired in age. We would stay there again if we were to be in Suzhou


Pacific Hotel

No.108 West Nanjing Road


Location proximity to City Center (People’s Sq, big bus tours,public transit, historic hotel, price






Would recommend based on price combined with location Built in 1920 – art deco; a bit of a relic of that former grand era….comfortable but a bit tired.. There are much higher end hotels in same immediate area….but pricey!

Guides (Note exchange rate of 6 RMB = $1)

Special Note: Be very wary of scams that are targeted at tourists; check out some of the tales/warnings with Google searches. The most widely spread one is a scam where locals, usually younger women…but can be men and women together, start up a conversation with you and eventually invite you to join them in a cup of tea…..DON’T accept….you may end up down a few hundred DOLLARS or more…and when you try to leave, you will be faced with some burly guys/thugs who will insist you pay. We were informed of this before going to China so we did not get caught….but we were approached many times over in our travels all the way from Beijing (where it is widely practiced) to our final city, Shanghai.


Michael Fenghua (+86 13120287620)( michael_fenghua {CHANGE TO AT} hotmail {DOT} com ):  Cost RMB450/day; Good English; superb/experienced guide: historical knowledge, offering great background/insights without us needing to probe but would answer anything we asked without being guarded on the subject or in expressing his opinion. We used public transit and taxis to get from place to place with him within Beijing. Highly recommended; he might ask higher daily fee>we negotiated.


Simon Xiao +86 1352-0315-006; simonxqz1973 {CHANGE TO AT} hotmail {DOT} com; www.simon-service.com; cost of RMB650/day; Simon is “a driver” not a guide so very little value to us in terms of his guidance and/or information. Drove to Mutianyu Great Wall; took great care of us but we should have added a guide to enrich the experience. Very nice car, nice person/flexible/dependable/good English.


We used Stefanie (+86 13008421515) ( stefanie_29 {CHANGE TO AT} hotmail {DOT} com )…great English…..who happened to spot us in the train station when we got off the train….she….and many others…were scouting business from tourists as they got off the train. She was good and we would recommend her; she knew her stuff around Xian (particularly the Terra Cotta Warriors) and took us there with one of her tour company drivers  + nice van for a total of RMB500 total (if my memory is right….some tough negotiation got that result). She also arranged tickets for us to see the Tang Dynasty Music and Dance show at the Grand Opera House at the standard price of RMB 240 pp.  Would recommend her and her services. But don’t expect the rich historical knowledge and all that we found with Michael.


We used Big Bus Tours for a cost of RMB300 pp for 48 hours of hop on/hop off….plus entrance to the 88th floor observation deck on one of the big towers in the financial district on the river bank…Plus….entrance to one of the main temple attractions….plus…an evening 90 minute cruise on the river to see this remarkable city before and after the lights come on. Easy way to get around most of the city on their 3 separate overlapping routes.

Travel within China



Booked all of our train travel with Ivy& Amy at booking {CHANGE TO AT} travelchinaguide {DOT} com they were outstanding in every way in servicing us!  Used Overnite Train  soft sleeper, LOWER, berths for (1)Beijing to Xi’an and (2)Xi’an to Chengdu….all good….but the 2nd train was a lot slower as it had to wait on sidings many times for other traffic which made sleeping more difficult. Used 2nd Class seats (they were perfect!)on the 2 HIGH SPEED trains: (3)Hangzhou to Suzhou  one day and (4)Suzhou back to Shanghai the next day…300 kph+!! Cost of 4 trains including service charges for the 2 of us in total: 1=RMB 1101; 2=RMB 850; 3=RMB 455; 4=RMB299. Getting to/from Train stations and finding trains/platforms was all very easy….just want to be in the Waiting Room half hour ahead of departure.

Domestic Air Travel

Used www.ChinaTravelDepot.com for all bookings: excellent service!  Flew Chengdu to Guilin on Air China (Total Cost for 2 of us US$257): ; Flew Guilin to Hangzhou on China Southern (Cost=$266)

City Buses, Subways

Very cheap>>1 RMB per ride for around city……a bit more, maybe up to 6-6 RMB to a distant city airport; expect lots of crowding…..and pushing to get on….in rush hours


Inexpensive; meter starts at anywhere from 8RMB in some smaller cities up to 11-13 RMB in the big cities and that base rate basically covers the first 3 kms of distance with a minor add on if stopped in traffic.  MAIN THING>>>>use metered cabs; insist on meter ….or get out. Don’t use the gypsy drivers who try to hard sell you at the airports, trains stations and tourist high points.  Also, be prepared to expect that a lot of empty (i.e. For Hire) taxis will drive right by you when you flag them….or will say no when you show them your destination written in Chinese characters on a piece of paper you are holding….they are holding out for longer rides/higher fares.   But all in all, we had very positive experiences with taxis everywhere.




I bought a pre-paid sim card from China Mobile as soon as we arrived in Beijing>>cheap and worked all over China for the duration.  Excellent for connecting with/meeting up with guides etc.


I bought a WCDMA sim card with 3 gb of data included for RMB270 from China Unicom that gave me high speed internet EVERYWHERE we travelled (except in Hangzhou….some conflict between ISP provider arms of same company – I just used the freeHotel internet for that location). All of the hotels had internet but some were sketchy for connection from your room and you had to go to the lobby or restaurant for a good connection. I really liked having my own highspeed service as it allowed us to always know where we were when walking or taxi etc with my GPS capable ipad using the Maps App.  I should say that I found it a bit difficult to locate the broadband sim card due to no English speaking shops…but with the help of the odd stranger who could speak a bit, I eventually found the card I wanted on the 2nd day in Beijing.


We had no problem with sickness in the country; we ONLY drank bottled water…NO TAP WATER!; we ate lots of fresh fruit (they have great fruit stands/markets/stores readily available within a few minutes of walking from your hotel…..and we just wiped down all the thin-skinned fruit (i.e. apples, peaches, grapes, plums, etc) with Dettol wipes and all was good. In a pinch, we succumbed to McDonald’s occasionally as we knew what we were going to get and it was very inexpensive and located everywhere….you just have to get them to dig out a menu from under the counter that has the menu items in English so that you can point to what you want.


Not many to recommend; very difficult to find menus in English and find items attractive to our tastes. Chinese really like to chew on bones, tendons, and grizzly bits…not our cup of tea….and of course, the selection covers every part of the fish or animal’s body to the last part of the intestinal track….DEEP FRIED for your pleasure!

In Shanghai we can recommend: Pho Asia on the 5th floor of Raffles City Shopping Center just beside People’s Square. Excellent Vietnam, Thai and Asia Cuisine at a reasonable price….and not too long a cue.

Also in Shanghai: Tamarand Thai at the Cool Docks on the river; newly popular redeveloped area away from the city center…on the river.


Bargain HARD/Hard/Hard….and then some; don’t really pay any attention to the seller’s starting price. He might say 300 RMB and you might walk away with it in your hand….IF…you wanted it….for 20 RMB or less.  Just start below where you want to end up…IF …you want something and stick to your guns…maybe upping slightly in the end from YOUR lowball start. You may often feel like you are almost stealing the item in the final walkaway price but that it the name of the game.

Hongquai Pearl Market in Beijing

·         Sharon’s on the 4th Floor….no bargaining here to speak of..but high quality and great reputation for quality and service for years

·         Another NEW shop, where hard bargaining is in order: Pink Tulip on the 3rd Floor


·         Government Silk Factory complex between Xi’an and the Terra Cotta Warriors site – excellent variety, quality and bargained price

·         Silk Town in Hangzhou; silk shops go forever through the streets of this town within the city….if silk is what you want, then you will find it here