I suppose I should’ve posted this from the get-go. Here’s a map of our trip. From Beijing to the Silk Road then south to Shanghai at the end. (Thanks to my sister for that graphic. She’s a professional for hire.)

In our group was me, my sister, our boyfriends, our parents — and 45 Chinese people from Vancouver. Have fun playing “Where’s Waldo” with the photo below. My boyfriend Jason is the one who’s not Chinese.

My parents have run a travel agency for 20-plus years. These days, they’re specializing in tours to China. (I’d put a link here, but their site’s not up yet. They can safely navigate hordes of Chinese-Canadians through foreign countries but still no site. Go figure.)

I don’t think we could’ve navigated this part of the world without their tour. But organized tours are not for the faint of heart.

  • It’s highly regulated: wake-up call 5:30, breakfast 6:15, bathroom 7:12, bus by 7:15.
  • It’s noisy: a bus full of 50 Chinese people? You betchya it’s rowdier than a Harry Potter midnight release party.
  • It’s aggravating: one late person makes for one late group. One lost suitcase makes for a lot of waiting on a bus, watching bad Chinese karaoke videos. (Are there any good karaoke videos?)
  • Group photos: enough said.


But there are good things too.

  • No worries: meals, tickets, translation, transportation, and accommodation are all taken care of. These are quality restaurants and hotels tried and trusted by the agency. (If you’ve got a good one.)
  • Security: everyone watches out for each other. And when Jason got a sore throat, fellow tourmates offered up three different kinds of lozenges.
  • Discounts: better bargaining power in bulk.
  • Endless entertainment: making fun of the sleeping, drooling person down the row never gets old. Especially if it’s my sister.