We went to the great wall and we were there only 1 hour, when we took the bus again thinking that we were going to another section, the guide told us that the next stop was in the Ming Tombs. He show us the highlights with almost no time to see each part and then we headed to a Jade Factory, where we found an absolute tourist trap, trying to sell us jade things again and again. Lunch was in the top floor of the factory, and even though we love chinese food, it was one of the worse meals we've ever had, extremely bad quality. Finally we went to a Tea Ceremony, which was surprisingly the best part of the tour, where a kind girl taught us about the chinese way to drink tea, and let us taste some different kinds. However, she also tryied to sell us tea, cups and other stuff at the end. If you want to see the Great Wall, don't book this one.
Excellent tour. Gale was our guide and she and her driver were great. We were picked up on time from our hotel the Howard Johnson Paragon. Gale explained a lot about the history of Beijing, the Great Wall, and the Ming Tombs. Personally, I enjoyed the Ming Tombs more than the Great Wall. It was a very hot and humid day, so we really appreciated the air conditioning in the car! We also enjoyed the Tea Ceremony and Jade Factory. Throughout the tour, Gale was very passionate about the history and made the experience fun. She let us do things at our pace and even took pictures of us at each stop.
The tour itself was amazing. The Great Wall and Ming Tombs did not disappoint. We found 2 hours to be plenty long enough for the Great Wall. It was very hot and I felt a bit sick climbing. Some of the stairs are very small and others are big and the railing is quite low. However, I was able to sit down and drink water in the shade of the watch towers before continuing my climb there is even a bar if you get far enough on the climb!. We even had extra time to buy a drink when we got back down and a couple souvenirs we did not get bothered by anyone. The bus ride was short from Beijing on an air-conditioned bus, and our tour guide Cathy was very friendly and she pumped us full of interesting history about the ancient Dynasties. It was so neat to walk in the same footsteps as people from the years BC.
The only thing we were not huge fans of were the tea house and jade factory. While the demonstrations were interesting, you finish the tours by exiting into gift shops where employees follow you around persistently and use high-pressure sales tactics. However, I think we got a fair deal at the Jade factory as my sister and I both bought beautiful Jade necklaces for only 100. There was also a delicious free lunch provided at the Jade factory. As for the tea house, we love tea, don't get us wrong! But initially we did not even want to buy any tea, and finally agreed to buy one flavour, but were told you have to combine it with another flavour to get a certain taste, and then when you buy 3, you get 1 free or something like that. So in the end, we ended up with every flavour of tea they offered. Once we left and did the math conversion, we had spent over 150 Canadian on tea which we would never do at home. We should have just said no and walked away because you cannot even freely look around without being hounded by staff. No one likes to be bothered when looking around a shop - if we have questions, we will ask. I assume the tour guides get some kind of kick-back for taking tour groups to these places, as I saw several people from different tour groups that I recognized from the Great Wall at the jade factory. That was disappointing to us as the tour was already paid for but then somehow we ended up spending another 300 that we didn't even plan on spending. I know in the end it was our choice and we should have been more firm but we also didn't appreciate being taken to these places. I was also cornered leaving the Ming Tombs and everyone left me and boarded the bus and I could not get this lady to leave me alone. I finally bought a magnet off her.
It is a bit of a mixed review, but all in all, I do recommend this tour. You will thoroughly enjoy the Great Wall and Ming Tombs! My word of advice - if you do not want to buy anything, just say NO and walk away. Don't engage!!! I read these reviews before I went but somehow I still got swindled.
Things I liked:
It was a little cold but it was amazing. The tour company had a message waiting for me at my hotel to call them for details on pick up the next morning which was very nice. My guide for the day was Alice and she was well spoken and really knowledgeable about the history. It was a nice small group of 9 people so we were not always standing around waiting for others.
Things I didn't like:
We stopped twice at different little places. One was the Jade factory and the other was a Tea tasting. It was fun to see these things but I felt obligated to buy something and hounded by the sales associates. That was a turnoff for me. The other was the food. We stopped at a restaurant and were served a pre planned menu. All the tour companies must go to these same locations. It was bland, westernized and over cooked. You could tell that the must make massive amounts of the same 6 dishes. It would have been nice to try some local Beijing specialty dishes.
Great Wall of China and Ming Tombs were great - both of the things I had signed up for! I would have liked longer at both, rather than being forced to go to Jade factory and Tea House, which no one in the tour group had signed up for or wanted to go. The food was awful, so bring a packed lunch!