This post is based on an interview with Odynovo guest Raquel Padilla. It was published by Forrest Yu.
Raquel Padilla recently traveled to China with her husband Edwin. They visited the country's best highlights with a Yangtze River cruise, pandas, the Terracotta Warriors and the Great Wall, and had a wonderful experience in each city with Odynovo.
How did you plan your trip?
My husband and I had the wonderful opportunity of visiting China in November. After two weeks of searching the internet for travel agencies, we decided to go with Odynovo Tours. I had asked several online agencies to quote for a 16-day trip including the following highlights: Yangtze River Cruise, Pandas, Terracotta Warriors and the Great Wall. We truly wanted to immerse ourselves in the culture. Shelly of Odynovo was the first to respond. She was very friendly, professional and prompt in her responses to me. She provided various itinerary recommendations to meet with our arrival and departure from Shanghai. For this reason and the great reviews, especially from Westerners, we decided to go with Odynovo.
Raquel Padilla and her husband enjoying Chinese tea
Do you worry about traveling with an overseas travel company?
At first, we were a bit concerned as we had no direct referrals and all communication was via email. Additionally, full payment was required before receipt of transportation/hotel accommodations confirmation. Rest assured, Odynovo is legit! A couple of days prior to arrival in Shanghai, we received all confirmations, final itinerary and contact information for all guides and their managers that would provide service to us.
What's the most impressive thing during the tour?
Odynovo's promise of worry-free travel goes above and beyond! In our haste of leaving our Shanghai hotel, we forgot a personal item at the hotel. I contacted Shelly via email who worked with our hotel and coordinated delivery to our hotel in Chengdu. She went above and beyond our expectations and we are very grateful.
Did you feel unsafe in China?
Our final itinerary included transfers (air, cruise, train, sights), hotel accommodations at 4/4.5 star hotels with breakfast, entrance fees for sights, personal English speaking tour guides and drivers. Never once did we feel unsafe, lost or confused. All guides provided door-to-door service, were all knowledgeable about their hometowns but more importantly made us feel welcomed.
Tell us more about your travel experience in China?
Our trip began with the river cruise which included daily tours and we also opted for several optional tours also organized by the cruise line. Although we were the only foreigners onboard, everyone was friendly and very accommodating. Our cruise director made sure we were being well taken care of and would personally escort us to our tour guides. Once our cruise was over we went on to discover the highlights of the following cities: Chongqing, Chengdu, Xi'an, Beijing and Shanghai. I have included additional details below.
Day 1-4 Yangtze River Cruise
The cruise was amazing and we highly recommend the Goddess Stream tour. We also took the optional dam ship lift tour and Three Gorges Tribe tour. For the most part we were the only Puerto Rican foreigners on all tours and some people would ask where we were from and take pictures. We had fun with it and took selfies with all who took pictures of us! They loved it too!
Day 5 Chongqing ½ day tour and transfer to Chengdu
After our wonderful cruise, we disembarked at Chongqing and were greeted by our tour guide Jasmine. We visited Erling Park and the Ciqikou Old Town. The market was alive, bustling and so interesting! We loved every minute of it! Jasmine recommended local treats which we were open to trying and were great snacks for our train transfer to Chengdu. Jasmine then escorted us to the train station where we boarded a high-speed train to Chengdu. Again, door-to-door service; she walked us to our gate and wrote down how many stops and the exact time we would arrive in Chengdu. Upon arriving Chengdu, we were greeted by Lisa who escorted us to our hotel where we rested for the evening. The hotel was beautiful.
Raquel Padilla's husband at a high-speed railway station
Day 6 Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding
We were up and about at 8:30 am to visit the Panda Bears. The Research Center is well kept and the Pandas are healthy. Although we were not able to touch the pandas, they were in proximity. They are so cute! Then off we were to a city tour to Chengdu where we had a great lunch. Chengdu is famous for its spicy food and we were somewhat concerned as we do not do spicy. However, they do have mild alternatives which were flavorful and oh so good! Rich in history and great food! Lisa knew of all the great spots and shortcuts around busy areas.
Day 7-9 Bullet Train to Xi'an, City Tour, and Terracotta Warriors
In Xi'an we were greeted by Louise. On our first day, we rode bikes on the City Wall. Such an amazing feeling! Louise was funny, caring, responsive and so knowledgeable! She even cloned my husband! Check out the cool picture she took of us at the Terracotta Warriors site. This city is a must-see! The Grand Tang Mall with its beautiful lights, live performances and great food is perfect for an evening stroll. We took the subway back and Louise was sure to provide us with stop names both in English and Chinese. It is really easy to follow and signs are in English too. Xi'an has a great balance of old and new. We really felt immersed in Chinese culture. We opted for a beautiful costume show that demonstrated the different fashion styles of the great dynasties. It also included a dumpling dinner with over 13 types of dumplings which were pretty good.
Raquel Padilla and her husband in the ancient city of Xi'an
Louise really made our days there special! Her storytelling way of sharing Xi'an's history was very entertaining. She was truly a great host! Louise escorted us to our gate at the train station and even offered to stay with us. Truly living up to Odynovo’s promise of attention to detail and worry-free travel. And off we were on the famous Bullet train to Beijing.
Day 9-13 Transfer to Beijing for the Great Wall, Tiananmen Square, Forbidden City, Summer Palace, Lama Temple and so much more…
Once again we were whisked away by the Bullet train, which I do have to say it's the most effective and convenient way to travel in China. Upon arrival at Beijing, we were greeted by J. T. who escorted us to our hotel where we rested the afternoon. Beijing is a very modern city with beautiful palaces and temples. Additionally, it is near the Mutianyu section of the Great Wall. Hotel accommodations, although somewhat smaller in comparison to the other hotels, was in good condition and very central. When arriving at the temples and palaces, it's hard to imagine the beauty that lies just behind the walls but once inside the feeling of splendor and greatness overcame us. My personal favorite was the Summer Palace; its beauty is amazing and the story of its origins even more so!
To experience the Great Wall, we highly recommend going up in cable car and coming down on the slide. We had so much fun! Once atop the wall we took in the beauty of its landscape and the wall itself!
J.T. shared the history of each place and answered all of our questions. He even had us try locally grown apples and pears which honestly have been the biggest and sweetest I have ever had. He had us experience a Hutong home first hand where we met the Cricket Man who was funny and very entertaining with his crickets and grasshoppers.
Raquel Padilla and her husband in the Hutong
The temples of Beijing are very impressive especially the Temple of Heaven. We opted for the Kung Fu show which was amazing; I highly recommend it! Beijing has much to see!
Day 13-16 Shanghai
We flew into Shanghai and our guide Jayson escorted us to our hotel where we had the rest of the afternoon to ourselves. The following morning we up and about at 8:30 am to explore the city with Jayson. The skyscrapers are beautiful by day and even more beautiful at night. Go for the evening cruise on the Bund, I believe it provides the best view of the amazing light show! We also visited the French section where we appreciated the colonial style and locals residences.
Jayson did an amazing job of providing the city's past and current history! His experience and knowledge was very impressive. We also visited Suzhou which is about 1.5 hours from Shanghai to experience the beautiful gardens, a rickshaw ride and also enjoyed a ride on a Chinese style gondola on the Venice canals of China!
What do you think of Odynovo?
We are truly impressed by the professional, knowledgeable, personal and customized service provided by Odynovo's Team! We just booked our flights to Shanghai and Odynovo took care of the rest! Our experience in China was enlightening and memorable and this was due to the efforts of many! We took on what may seem like an aggressive itinerary but still managed to feel that we were on vacation and were able to rest. Perhaps because we took advantage of the traditional Chinese Foot and Body massages in almost all cities! We had a chance to experience the new China, its culture, people, food and way of life and loved every minute of it!
If you are looking for a hassle-free experience, book your travel with Odynovo! No regrets, no concerns, hands down one of the most amazing experiences of our lives! Thank you Odynovo Team for making this possible!