Geckos China Odyssey
Geckos China Odyssey Shanghai Reviews
Aug 17, 2007
It can be a very appealing idea, travelling with a group instead of doing it independently, especially if you're travelling alone. I chose to do so while travelling China, a country that I had been told isn't set up for Western travellers and has the added language barrier that isn't as much an issue within the rest of Asia.
After travelling China, I don't think it would be impossible to do it on your lonesome: signposts in English are now prevalent and you can often find people with who to communicate. It is, however, nice to have a lot of the legwork done for you by having a group leader who can help get you from A to B and suggest things for you to do.
Our leader, Dragon, was a very good guide who definitely improved my experience of China. He was knowledgeable and enthusiastic - essential when travelling a country as tiring to travel as China.
There were downsides. The itinerary was so vast that it meant that you never really felt like you had any time to relax. It meant you were doing things within a day that I might have assigned two or three days if I were travelling alone. Xi'an, for example, we spent only one night, where no-one would argue that there is enough to do to spend three or four nights. This means that you might do more than you would if you were alone, but it means that experiences become things to tick off, maybe not things that you look forward to doing. It also means you spend a lot more money than you might have.
In a group, you are confined to the same people, pretty much, for however long the trip lasts. I was lucky that I got on great with my group, but if I didn't, I can imagine not enjoying the group experience too much. It also means that you are unlikely to meet people every few days, as you do when travelling independently. This was also the case with the accommodation, which was to a very good standard, but often pretty lifeless hotels, instead of friendly hostels full of backpackers who are keen to share their experiences of the places they have been and the things they have done.
All in all, I made the right decision to join a tour for China. It wouldn't be my choice for any other country I have been (Australia, New Zealand, Vietnam and Thailand, for example, you could travel with your eyes closed) but for China I feel like it was a sensible choice.
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