The reason for writing this blog is I again have found an amazing tour guide. Let me tell you how I do this. I had to go to Asia last year to check on a factory I do business with. My husband did not want to go to this part of the world so both of my kids who are also learning about my company went with me. I decide what area I wanted to travel to and started planning a year in advance.
Maps laid out, I knew where I wanted to start and where I wanted to end. My first call is to American Airlines and I use my points for first class tickets. If I am going to go this far, I want to be comfortable. If you have ever tried to snag these free tickets you need to plan at least a year in advance.
I did weeks of research of what I wanted to see and where I wanted to go and I emailed tour companies with the same information. I emailed over 100 tour companies and the ones that emailed me back I started conversations with them. You can tell so much in emails and how they respond to your requests. I was very lucky I found a company that was only two hours away from me in Tarzana, CA.
The company is Asia Pacific Adventures and the wonderful owner is Hima Singh. She helped me with the details of my Asia Tour. By emailing back and forth I knew she was the one I would hire. I wanted to a home stay in Kyoto, wanted to go explore Beijing, see the Terra Cotta Warriors in Xian and I wanted to hold a panda bear in Chengdu. With my research, I wanted to see the old China that is still lit with lanterns.
We started in Tokyo and since my kids are world travelers we knew we wanted to plan our own tours in Tokyo. We went to Tokyo Disneyland and wandered through luxe Ginza and ate strange food in bizarre places. We traveled the subways and fell in love with Tokyo. We left on the bullet train to Kyoto. Our host for the home stay picked us up at the train station. She spoke fluent English and we knew we were in for a real treat.
Her home was in the county of Kyoto and it was traditional Japanese. Since I had paid Hima in advance I never had to get my wallet out. She took us to bath houses, rice factory and we went to tea houses and learned origami. Read the story of us going to a place to be a Geisha for a day. She arranged this too! We love Fukiko.
She had a beautiful Japanese garden and cooked wonderful meals. She took us to stores and explained what the different foods were. When we left we knew we would have a friend forever. The rest of our time in China was planned by Hima since we had to have Visa’s and be with a guide. When we stepped one foot off the airplane a man was standing there with a sign that said our name. We went through customs really fast. We were fascinated by a machine that did a visual reading of your body temperature. They did not want you in the country if you are sick. We saw Beijing with a personal tour guide all arranged in the USA. Perfect!
We saw the Bejing acrobats, who took our breath away. The bugs that we saw for sale in the markets for people to eat was really awful. Next stop Xian. Annie was not feeling well and we were aware of the thermal imaging machines at the airport so she drank cold water before we got off the airplane. We are one of the fortunate to see the Terra Cotta Warriors. This experience will be imprinted on my soul forever. We were able to meet the farmer that was the first person to find these clay figures. We took rickshaw rides through the old city and I felt I was transported back in time. Each city we went to we saw elaborate shows that were famous for the region. The guide again was flawless.
The next airplane took us to Chengdu. The guide again was perfect and showed us this city like a local. We saw men that had tools to clean your ears in the park. We went to the panda reserve and got to hold a panda. Next plane took us to a city that would allow us to fly non stop to Thailand – the city of Kunming, China. We had so much fun here exploring this city. We went to the Zoo but this is not like any other zoo. The area we loved was full of GIGANTIC fish and they had a wading area that you can catch fish in a net. They gave you a turtle if you caught a lot of fish. Next stop my favorite county in the world. Thailand.