Once Bitten, Twice Shy – Package Tours FTL

I shouldn’t have given in and sacrificed 6 days of precious annual leave on that package tour to China.  OTL

While I don’t regret visiting the scenic spots that I have – Jiuzhaigou (九寨沟), Huanglong (黄龙) & Mt Emei (峨嵋山), what I regret is visiting those spots on a package tour.  Yes, I knew that it’s gonna be a pita but somehow I was hoping that it’ll be better than what I’ve expected.  My parents were against going free & easy.  I thought that giving in and spending some ‘quality time’ with them was gonna make up for all the inconveniences and negatives of the trip.  I was wrong.  Would rather spend ‘quality time’ at home or at the very most, I’d rather have gone on a meaningless cruise – at least it’s a lot of eating & sleeping >_<”

The negatives of the trip:-

1.  Forced shopping stops.  I knew this was part of the itinerary, and it was a big deal for me even at the start.  All that time wasted visiting places that I’ll never have visited if I’d gone by myself… and I’m not talking about general shopping areas i.e. malls, streets… etc.  I’m talking about crap like: a tea production factory, a honey bee farm, a silk factory, a gems factory & a jade factory.  Oh yeah, one might claim that it’s educational, having the sales people relate the origins & process of stuff… but trust me, you get more knowledge by simply sitting home & googling.  Pretty sure not everything the salespeople say are true.  And face it, it’s China – you honestly reckon that everything sold is real?

The worst of all has to be the silk factory we went – if I didn’t get it wrong, it’s called Dibao Silk.  After an explanation about how silk was made, and how to differentiate between real and fake, we were led to the showroom area where we were harassed by the sales assistants who used pushy hard-selling tactics.  Eventually a few of us wormed away, on the pretext of going to the washroom, and went outside.  What happened next was totally unpleasant.  We were then escorted back to the showroom for more hard-sell.  Only after a couple in the tour group purchased a set, then we were actually allowed to leave.  I can’t imagine what would have happened if no one gave in.  Stuck there for hours maybe?

2.  0600hrs morning calls.  Dafuq?  I don’t even wake up this early when I’ve to work.  There were some nights that we arrived at the hotel past 8pm.  After dinner, check-in, it’s way past 10… and that’s w/o taking our shower, changing our clothes… etc.  Think I ended up sleeping like 6hrs or less each night T_T

3.  Terribly long bus journeys.  Am not exaggerating.  Am pretty sure the time we spent on the coach & scenic spot private buses are equivalent, if not more than the amount we slept.  If I don’t remember wrongly, the guide did mention that we had to cover like 1,300km in those 8 days (excluding the flight, mind you).  You can imagine how many hours that translates to on a coach going really slow.

4.  Short time at scenic spots.  Picture this.  Almost an hour coach ride to the foot of Mt. Emei + 1.5hrs of the scenic spot bus up to the cable car station + another 2-3min of cable car ride.  Time allowed on the golden summit before we were rushed off?  45min.  Just take a look @ the Mt Emei map below.  There are that many scenic spots on the mountain, and the only thing we managed to view was 金頂 Jinding Peak (lit. Golden peak).  The Mt Emei bus took us on the ‘outside’ of the mountain, skipping everything.  Granted that the other spots have to be hiked to, but really… 45min is all we got?  After the long unpleasant (the bus was enclosed, with no aircon + a driver who smokes openly) journey?  And that isn’t all…

At 黄龙 Huanglong (lit. Yellow Dragon), we were only given about 3hrs to ‘hike’ up to the final (and prettiest) spot up the mountain.  The walking trail was about 3.5km one way – 3.5km of mostly wooden stairs.  Sounds simple enough?  Sure I could have made it in the stipulated time if I didn’t stop to take a single photograph.  The crowd makes it mandatory to actually wait to take a decent shot.  Oh… guess what?  Only 4 out of 14 in the tour group made it up to the top & back.  The other 10 were forced to turn back due to the stingy time allocation, and hence they missed the awesome view @ the top.  I made it down with a fellow tour group member, half hour late, and that was after jogging most of the way down already.  Plus might I mention that we were >3,000m above sea level and the risk of altitude sickness was there?  The couple who made it down in time, barely took any photos & they are marathon runners.  Nuff said, huh?

5.  Lousy food.  Ok, the food wasn’t bad.  It was edible.  However, it was far from authentic and some dishes were pretty tasteless as the restaurants we went to were specifically instructed to use a lot less oil and a lot less salt in their food – in accordance with the typical “Singaporean way”, just to accommodate to the majority of the peeps.  /sigh.  One of the best parts of visiting another country is sampling the cuisine.  But all I managed to do eat was a watered down version of the Sichuan dishes (which are traditionally very strong tasting… aka spicy, oily, salty).  Hence yep, taste was greatly compromised.

5 points.  The other dissatisfactions of the trip have more to do with the country & people (no, I am not f**king racist) that are beyond the tour agency’s control.  That I will elaborate more when I get down to relating my trip.  LOL, yeah I do seem like a whiner, don’t I?  But pretty sure, those who travel often and travel for experiences will understand where I’m coming from.  However, even bad experiences are experiences.  At least now I’m certain I’ll never go on a package tour ever again (Note: Exception is a NZ LOTR Tour)… well, not till I’m really really really too old to do a DIY anymore.

Lesson learnt.

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