Our Viking River Trip to China was the best trip ever! I cannot begin to tell you how grand this trip was - despite our ongoing jet-lag. Flying over it wasn't so bad but coming home is something else.
Viking treated us first class all the way. Our guide Steven Shu was the best ever and I would recommend this trip. In fact, my husband and I would like to do it again. We've been fortunate to take other trips and travel the world - but this is the best trip we ever EVER took.
Here's what worked for us:
1. I brought sleeping pills. I used them on the plane and when I arrived so I would be guaranteed sleep at the proper time. I used them during the entire trip and it worked. I am not taking them now that I am home and am dealing with jet lag more "naturally." I am not normally a pill taker and don't want to continue with them here. Door to door - it took us 27 1/2 hours to get there so a sleeping pill on the long flight worked well so I wasn't "dead on arrival."
2. We got sick - stomach stuff - forgot and rinsed our toothbrushes in sink. Peter suffered for a day before he saw a Chinese doctor. It was a speedy recovery after that for him. I got it too and went to see the doctor immediately and never had to skip a meal - but did skip one short shore excursion. i.e., Chinese medicine works very well in China and a doctor is always on board the ship. Our remedies from home didn't work...we shouldn't have bothered - except for the sleeping pills and Advil for headaches.
3. We packed light (laundry is easily available only onboard the ship) and bought a cheap suitcase in Beijing to bring home our souvenirs. I would advise any tourist to grab a suitcase when they see one - if they need one. Some people waited too long and couldn't find one easily. They are available at the shops near the Great Wall in Beijing.
Here's what didn't work:
1. We did not make any allowance for global warming. It was hotter than we expected and we did not have any warm weather tops. Believe it or not, the Chinese don't offer many T-shirts to tourists - in most places. Also, their sizes tend to run small, i.e., a Chinese XL might be our M - don't buy by the tag.
2. Eastern toilets without toilet paper took some getting used to. By the end of the trip I was carrying my own paper and preferred them to western style.
3. My AAA ATM Travel Card - no place to use it until I got to Beijing at the end of the trip. In the ATM Machine at the hotel it didn't work - as it required a 12 digit code. My experience was that we quickly ran out of money. The night before we came home the Beijing Hotel advanced me Chinese money on that card but charged me a hefty interest. I used that to tip the guide...etc.
4. Were I to do this again, I would carry at least $400 in small American bills - lots of $1's, $5's & some $10's. Because you can get "forged" bills in change, it is a good idea to not bring a bill that you may need change for (don't bring $20's unless it is for the guide). I would also pre-figure and carry the cash to tip the riverboat staff and the guide in addition to this (aprox. $250?). We were all going nuts because we couldn't get to a bank on any of our stops. The Boat does not advance cash on our credit cards. We tipped all our drivers and single bus tour guides....it was a lot of small change.
5. There was no problem using American dollars. However, it is a good idea to have some Chinese money as that is how prices are marked. (I would recommend changing $150 into Yuan.)
6. At first, remember to look down when you walk. Because of the adherence to Fung Shui the Chinese place barriers in every single doorway we entered. It took two days to stop tripping over things. :o)
This was a fabulous trip!