Turtle, Ecuador

Your words, not ours

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Your Words - We tell it like it is! Holiday Reviews by previous Exodus travellers  

Here at Exodus we thrive on feedback from our customers. It's the only way we can ensure our trips continue to be the best they can be. So, for the real tales, twists and turns of the trip you're interested in, look no further than the reviews from our previous travellers.

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  • Reviewed May 2017
    Zoe Griffin

    Pandas and Warriors

    Well organized and enabled us to see a lot of Chinese highlights in two week. It did involve a lot of travel, which we knew beforehand on several days. We were lucky with a very compatible group (all boys of similar ages).

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Walking the Great Wall and watching the young pandas play.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Knowledgeable, friendly, good with the kids and hard working.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Take a phrase book for restaurants.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    On the whole we had. A grant time and the trip was well organized. There are a few things that could be improved such as: The whole day spent traveling overland to Hong Kong is tedious. This should be looked at and potentially a flight used. Although we recognize another guide may then have to be used in Hong Kong but this would be advantageous in terms of local knowledge and local guide privileges. For example, we had to get a taxi up the Peak as our Chinese guide could not get access to the 'group' priority lane to avoid 1.5hr queuing. We felt that the tips given out to the drivers and local guides were in some instances not necessary or proportional to the services they provided, or the culture of tipping in the country. The amounts advised in the Trip Notes felt excessive for this type of trip in this country. We were a little surprised that we had to pay for the guides meals on several occasions with the bill being divided by 11 rather than 12 on numerous occasions. The travel on days 6 and 7, following the overnight train, seemed to be excessive and unnecessary when we spent over an hour traveling in and out of Luoyang on the same road for no purpose as we didn't need to be in the centre of town that night/there was nothing to see. Could the overnight train is substituted for the bullet train or a hotel further outside Luoyang be used?
  • Reviewed April 2017
    Juliet Osborne

    Pandas and Warriors

    We really couldn't fault this trip. The itinerary was a great mix of physical (Great Wall, cycling and then climbing Moon Hill in Yangshuo), history (Terracotta Army, Longmen caves), cultural (calligraphy, cooking lesson, kung fu), wildlife (pandas), and a mix of urban/rural. We used different modes of transport (flight, bullet train, overnight sleeper, bus) so the journeys were fun as well. The pace was just right - busy enough that you felt you were making the most of the time in China, but not frantic by any means. And, a great balance between organised activities and 'free time' when families could do their own thing. Above all, the success of the trip was because of our tour leader, Jing, who was absolutely amazing. (Jing also arranged specialist guides for Terracotta Army, cycling in Yangshuo, cooking - and these were all great as well.)

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    So many but if we had to choose (1) walking 5km along the Great Wall in an area relatively untouched by tourism, so you really get the feel of it (2) a trip to the park to see young and old engage in dancing, tai chi, outdoor gym, mahjong etc etc - and being invited to join in (3) wandering at night through the Muslim quarter in Xi'an with stalls selling all sorts of weird and wonderful stuff, and then cycling along the city walls (4) a lesson from a kung fu master in Luoyang.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Jing was a first rate group leader - absolutely outstanding in all respects. She was extremely knowledgeable about every China-related topic i.e. history, demographics, regional cuisine, geology etc, but kept it interesting and fun/accessible even for the kids to understand. She seemed to have expert knowledge/insight about each area/attraction/hotel we visited, and was always on hand to resolve any tiny issue that arose. Jing was amazing with the kids (five boys on the trip) and always took their perspective, whether it was about what might be more fun for them or altering the schedule because they were tired/hungry. Jing made a particular effort to make sure that my son's birthday was fun and arranged a birthday (panda shaped) cake and dinner at a local restaurant. Finally, Jing went to extraordinary lengths to make sure we were all well fed (3 vegetarians on the trip), happy, rested etc. Exodus is extremely lucky to have such a talented and caring guide!!

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Well, 'book and go' ... but also, don't be surprised when Chinese tourists want their photos taken with you/your children ... bring some books/games for the internal bus/train/flights ... bear in mind the temperature difference between the start of the journey (north - we were v cold) and the end (south - v hot) and pack accordingly ... if your kids are fussy eaters, you might want to bring some favourite snacks from home but you can get reasonably familiar biscuits/crisps etc in shops in the cities.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Don't be tempted to leave your souvenir shopping until Hong Kong. There was very little there and it was expensive. The best gift shopping (by far) was in Xi'an.
  • Reviewed September 2014
    Deanne Hutchinson

    Pandas and warriors

    This was an excellent trip, well organised, well thought out, with travel times between destinations allowing for enough time to fully appreciate the experience. Our guide (Dennis) was exceptional, passionate about his country, it's history, it's politics, it's culture, and clealry enjoyed emersing us in our experiences. The children had a fantastic time discovering a new culture and ways of living, they learnt to speak some chinese, tried new foods that they would never dream of trying at home, and learnt to appreciate thier own culture a lifestyle.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    The great wall was absolutely breathtakig, the terracotta warriors were amazing, the cycle ride through the countryside and the mountains was such fun, there is nothing about the trip that wasn't inspirational

    What did you think of your group leader?

    The group leader, Dennis, was exceptional, he was knowledgeable about all aspects of the trip, passionate about his country, so considerate regarding everyone's individual needs, patient with us all when we were too hot, tired, (late). His ability to create an environment where a diverse group of people, who didn't know each other before the holiday, could gel and become friends was masterful. He related to the children at a level suitable for their ages in order to engage them fully in the holiday, and was able to get them to try lots of new things that us parents would never have been able to convince our children to try.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Book now.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    This was a holiday of a lifetime, well worth every penny. Do not be put off if you are single parent considerng travelling with your children - I was on my own with my two children and we had an absolutely wonderful time. We will defintiely be travelling with Exodus again.
  • Reviewed September 2014
    Elizabeth Poe

    Pandas and Warrioirs

    Excellent trip and highly recommended. It would be impossible to see and do as much as we did within the time scale if you were an independent traveller in china. It's an intense journey full of noise , smells and colours. We left with so many wonderful memories and it's a journey that will never be forgotten.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    The Great Wall lives up to all the hype and is truly amazing. The reality of being on the wall is overwhelming and more than lived up to all of our expectations. We also loved The Forbidden City , the shaolin temple , the terracotta warriors, the pandas, ( but don't expect your children to have to opportunity of holding one ) cycling to moon hill and Hong Kong is a fantastic way to end the journey.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Hui ( Sophia) was absolutely brilliant. She made the trip into something extraordinary and we cannot praise or thank her enough. She was fun and informative and helpful and caring.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Don t worry too much about the weather if travelling in August. We did not find it too hot and we only had rain on one morning. All of the hotels were of a good standard with western loos. I used my umbrella as a sunshade most days. Mosquitos increased as we went further south but again non of our party were badly affected. We ate all types of food from hotels/ restaurants / markets / street food and non of our group were ill at all.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    En route you can choose a number of optional extras. Cycling on the walls in xi'an was great fun. Also the Chinese show in chengu with music and shadow puppets was great. If you have time at the Shaolin monastery take the cable car up to the cliff walk at the top. It is spectacular and one of our trip highlights. Finally the yangshoa light show is definitely worth seeing. Don't expect anywhere to be quiet or uncrowded ( the exception being the Great Wall). It's a full on trip in every sense.
  • Reviewed August 2014
    Brian Adams

    Pandas & Warriors

    This was a fantastic introduction to the ‘highlights’ of this fascinating and ancient country leaving us all with life long memories. The schedule can be a bit hectic, too hectic for some possibly. There were lots of early starts and a lot of travelling, but certainly our group were really prepared to go the extra mile to fit everything in, including being first in the queue for the Terracotta Army and on the Great Wall at 4-30 am! China as we know is a rapidly changing country. The increased urbanisation and the rising affluence means that the cities are very busy and the tourist attractions are packed with ‘local’ tourists. This is something that we were not prepared for. We felt in the end that it was just part of the China experience. With our guides help, using public transport in the big cities was easy and cheap. Although beautiful and fascinating in parts, we found the Shaolin Monastery disappointing. The Kung Fu show as tacky and ‘Butlinesque’ however Shaolin had been one of the things that attracted us to the trip. In the afternoon we did visit a Kung Fu school which was much more interesting. Seeing the sheer scale of the these schools with their thousands of Bruce Lee wanabees was astonishing.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    The most inspiration thing for us was being on the Great Wall at dawn. There was no one there but our group and a couple of local photographers, amazing.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Our group leader, Dennis Yang, was a fantastic guy. He worked extremely hard, was very knowledgeable, calm, funny, well organised and went to great lengths to make out holiday a success. Nothing was too much trouble, he added trips and visits outside the main itinerary in a response to the interests of the group. We were very interested to hear his full, frank and personal views on Chinese society, politics and history. Every night he was willing to find us appropriate and interesting restaurants and was great at getting the kids to try new foods. We felt very privileged to have him as a leader, he was exceptional and the best guide we have ever had on this type of holiday. Exodus are fortunate to have him as an employee.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    As mentioned before, many of the major sites and cities are packed, be prepared! We were there in August and it was both wet and hot. Buy or take a brolly for both the sun and rain. The trip notes say bring boots for the great wall, I am sure this is just Exodus being cautious. Trainers or even good sandals are adequate, be prepared to see some of the Chinese tourists up there in their high heels, we spotted several! We found the food great in mainland China, tasty, clean and interesting. Even our picky 14yr old got stuck into most things, including the donkey and frog! There is always much said about the toilets and yes some of them can be unsavoury and you need to take tissue, but hey, “when in Rome….” Be prepared to be looked at and, especially if your kids have blond hair, photographed. It is not intrusive and the people are very polite, it is even fun. It was a surprise to be asked by trendily dressed Chinese if they can take a photo, they may not have seen any westerners in the flesh, but they usually pull out the latest Iphone or top of the range Canon SLR to take the pic with, again astonishing!
  • Reviewed August 2014
    Pippa Hyde

    A fascinating trip

    An illuminating and often astonishing introduction to a populous, exponentially developing, hugely impressive but also contradictory country. A week after coming home, I am still processing the experiences and thinking about everything we saw.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    There was very little “dead time” and a plethora of extraordinary experiences. We loved: Beijing, particularly the Temple of Heaven park; the Great Wall; the (unexpected) bullet train from Luoyang to Xi’an - 380km in 100 minutes; cycling the city walls of Xi’an; the Terracotta Warriors; the pandas; Yangshuo scenery, and the bamboo rafting; Hong Kong - the Peak and the markets.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Emma from Xi’an made our trip for us. She looked after us all very well, but gave us plenty of opportunities to get closer to the real China, we didn’t feel “babysat”, which was very refreshing. She was happy to discuss anything, and I found her views on Chinese politics/society and how it interacts with the West really interesting, even quite moving. She was an excellent guide to nearly all the sites, and without fuss always ensured that we timed our sightseeing to make the best of it. She took care to ensure that when we ate together we tried the local specialities, but took account of our individual preferences. Immensely likeable, we thought she was the best guide we’ve had in nearly 10 years of family trips.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    The cities are enormous and the numbers of people on the streets everywhere - even Yangshuo - like Coldplay at Glastonbury, quite overwhelming. There’s a lot of travel and some of the arrangements can be tiring (arriving day 1, and arriving and leaving Yangshuo). The panda hug is now 2500 yuan (£250), unaffordable. Shaolin monastery was tacky and overcrowded, we would have preferred somewhere more rural to contrast with all the cities. We enjoyed three of the shows - acrobats, Tang Dynasty and Liu Sanjie - but our group found the Kung Fu one irritatingly macho and rather facile. With our guide’s help, using public transport was really not difficult, similar to using public transport in London, and invariably very cheap.

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Industrial development means that you rarely see blue sky - we didn’t see any until we got to Chengdu. Rain it can be problematic - our journey back was delayed by a typhoon in Beijing, so we arrived home 14 hours late (and our luggage 24 hours later still) although this was nothing to do with Exodus. It’s a great trip - do go!
  • Reviewed August 2013
    Anonymous

    PANDAS & WARRIORS

    A trip with a good mix of geography, history, culture and shopping. Lots to see, do and think about. 

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Seeing The Great Wall snake into the distance in the pounding heat of a quiet summer's day. 

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Excellent. Well informed with a good balance of professionalism and friendliness. Calm and well organised, but also fun. 

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Be prepared to be active in VERY hot weather. It was well over 40 degrees when we were there with very high humidity, although these were exceptional conditions I believe according to the news when we were there. 

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    A great trip for 12 and upwards we would think. It was quite active and full of history, geographic wonder and culture. It may be wasted on younger children. 
  • Reviewed August 2013
    Anonymous

    PANDAS & WARRIORS

    An excellent trip for the whole family with a 'wow' moment every day.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Walking the Great Wall late afternoon with no one else on it and watching the sun start to set.Sparring with a Shaolin monk.Listening to my daughters stories of clubbing in Beijing and Hong Kong. Doing ball room dancing and Ti Chi with the older people in a park early one morning.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    William was fantastic. He worked exceptionally hard on making sure the whole group were happy especially the younger children. He bought toys and kites for us.He was very canny in getting us to places when we might see and experience more than most, i.e. early morning in a park to join in with Ti Chi and dancing and many other exercises including throwing hoops over our heads by an old Chinese guy. Getting to the Panda's early so they were still awake. Walking the Great Wall late in the day so it was cooler and less people. Getting us into a training session at the Shaolin temple and paying the 'master' to teach as a Kung Fu kata (and allowing me to fight one of the monks).He also didn't take any s**t from anyone if someone tried to push in front of the group he would sort them out, if we needed porters he would get them running around for us, if people needed anything he would fix it. He had no fear and also stopped to sort out kids arguing in the railway station, and two women fighting over recycling bottles.I wouldn't be surprised to see him in the Korean DMZ sorting them out next.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Going in the summer it is very hot and humid so be ready, we couldn't believe how much water we bought.But lots of air con so bring something to throw on in super cooled restaurants.There are quite a lot of early starts but they are worth it.The trip notes miss off just how amazing many of the fantastic things we saw such as:Street life in BeijingChinese OperaXian Muslim quarter at night with its eye popping range of food been cooked in the streetCable car in Hong KongNight  Liu Sanjie Show in YangshuoEarly morning in the parksKite flyingThe range of food we experiencedThe cooking lessonand many more.Other things to consider:No good wine any where except Hong KongHotel at Great Wall charming but dampGreat Wall trek is sweaty especially if you do the full 5 hours so take a complete change of clothes in your overnight bagTake tissues to every toilet (NB: more elephant feet than western)If you or your children are blond and/or blue eyed many rural Chinese holiday in the summer and will not have seen many westerners so be prepared to have you photo taken by and with many strangers, always great fun and very happy

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    The people were great almost everyone we met, talked to, bumped into, haggled with, played games with in the parks were happy to meet us and talk. 
  • Reviewed August 2013
    Anonymous

    PANDAS & WARRIORS

    A wonderful adventure! We really got a good feel for how modern China is developing (William was very informative and honest). It was inspiring to find that the Chinese are so proud of their country's past and present acheivements (their perceivement of it anyway). It was wonderful to see the elderly in the parks enjoying themselves and their friendliness was unexpected. I have taken home a great respect for Chinese people and their traditions. 

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    The children were struggling with the long Great Wall trek due to the high temperatures, but we were all ecstatic when we all acheived our goal! The vast scale of the terracotta warriors neede to be seen to be believed!Our family really enjoyed the cooking school, the chinese food was superb and the whole group really enjoyed themselves.We really enjoyed the company of our group.  

    What did you think of your group leader?

    William had a great grasp of English and therefore his jovial personality, was a constant source of amusement. He obviously loves children and he had a great rapport with the kids. Also he was very caring and constantly watching out for the younger children and ill members of our group. He was very flexible with the itinery when he could be.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Apply the DEET insect repellant rigorously. Expect to get an upset stomach due the change in diet and take appropriate medications from the UK. Most medications there are not labelled with familiar English names! Also we struggled to be able to order wine at the restaurants, some members of the group wished they had brought some wine from home.Take tissues and antibacterial wipes with you and take a toilet roll from the first hotel on your travels around China.I would recommend the lower age limit for this holiday to be aged 10 due to the heat in Summer.Also I would not recommend traveller's cheques because VISA ATM's are usually avaliable. 

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Having watched a recent documentary on Wild China, I was disappointed not to see the Cormorant birds traditionally fishing, even though they were available for photo's! We didn't see any paddy fields carved into the mountains but it was great to see what the farmers were harvesting such as lotus flowers.The light show at Yangshou was definitely worth the expense but a better description of the storyline would have been helpful, Daniel the guide on that day appeared stressed. 
  • Reviewed September 2012
    Anonymous

    PANDAS & WARRIORS FAMILY HOLIDAY

    A great trip with a real insight into everyday life in China.  We enjoyed the variety of activities from sunrise on the Great Wall to the cooking school, panda hug and market shopping.  Generally the hotels were of a good standard and the food great.

    What was the most inspirational moment of your trip?

    Great Wall at sunrise, smiles on my children's faces after having a panda sit on their laps and hugging it.  Having a free day in Hong Kong was good, the children enjoyed swimming in the outdoor pool at Kowloon Park.  Haggling in the markets for absolutely everything was fun.  The food at the banquets (lunch/dinner) was varied, but McDonalds, Pizza Hut and Starbucks were also welcome.   We also enjoyed cycling on the wall at Xi'an, Kung Fu and calligraphy class, Birds Nest staduim, druming at the Drum Tower, Hutong visit. Cycling to Moon Hill in Yangshuo and the evening light show were unforgettable.

    What did you think of your group leader?

    Vivian was great, always chuckling along with us and her use of the phrase "snacks for lunch" gained momentum.   Vivian organised another guide for us at the Shaolin monastry when she realised the first one wasn't making himself clear in his explainations.  Her organisational skills were excellent and very caring.

    Do you have any advice for potential travellers?

    Travel as light as you can because the airports and some railway stations are massive involving a lot of walking with your suitcases and we had a three hour border queue to endure going into Hong Kong.  Be prepared for some early mornings and long days.  The boat trip at Yangshuo is very touristy, a quiet early morning bamboo raft is an alternative. Take a torch for the early morning Great Wall walk and an umbrella each will come in handy for rainy days and sunny days when sightseeing.  Be aware that Beijing and other cities are massive and there are hoards of Chinese at the main attractions and public transport may be busy and crushed, queues on the roads and at attractions.  But you can also feel like a celebrity with many Chinese wanting to take pictures of you. 

    Is there anything else you would like to add?

    Some activities felt a bit rushed and we would have liked more time at the Terracotta Warriors to see all the exhibits, longer cycling on the wall at Xi'an and more time in Hong Kong. Exodus should make the flight back from Hong Kong direct to the UK and likewise the one into Hong Kong direct from Guilin and not into Shenzhen.
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