MaggieI had mentioned our great tour guide on our trip through the Guilin area and promised to blog about her, so I better do it before I forget.

The first thing Maggie Mao told us when she and her driver picked us up from the airport was that her family is from the same village as Mao Zedung — and then pulled out some postcards of a younger Mao and held it up to her face to show us the village resemblance. And then she grinned.

Maggie was with us for about four days, showing us not only Guilin and its sights but also its hidden gems and never tiring of our questions and requests.

Mao learned English at the Guilin teachers’ college but she said teaching jobs didn’t pay enough, so that’s why she turned to tourism. She’s been in the business for years, and her experience is obvious. Anything we asked to see or do, she had the number programmed on her cellphone to make it happen.

I grew up with a tour guide as a dad. Our “family vacations” were usually part of his company’s tours.

Guided group tours are not for everyone; they’re extremely regimented and firmly on the beaten path. On the other hand, there’s little you have to worry about, and you’ll be ensured of experiencing what you travelled to see.

But this trip was the best of both worlds. My parents were half-vacationing and half checking out new possibilities for their big group tours. So we hired Maggie as our local tour guide for the little private trip for four of us.

I’ve had guides in China who had perfect academic English and could recite facts, but had no common sense or sense of humour. I’ve had guides who were all about chumming up to you, but knew very little. Maggie was a perfect combination of everything we needed.

I highly recommend her if you need a guide in the Guilin and Yangshuo areas. Rates will vary depending on how many days and how many people are in your group.

Maggie Mao, tour guide, phone 135-0773-6744, email maojiemaggie [at] yahoo [dot] com [dot] cn.