Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy Holidays - and some client feedback.

At the end of a successful year for ChinaMango, we would like to take the opportunity to thank all our friends and supporters for their visits, introductions and help.

We now have associate guides in more and more cities, including Xian, Shanghai, Pingyao, Xinjiang and Nanning, so can offer a wider service. We have received clients from all over the world, young and old, rich and poor, male and female, singles, couples and a group of over 20 as well. They've stayed in 5 star hotels as well as simple courtyard hostels, stayed one night or stayed up to 3 weeks (in China). We've eaten in expensive restaurants overlooking Tiananmen Square (around USD 50+ per head) as well as local dumpling places for USD 5 per head. We've taken clients, upon request, to buy antiques (real and fake), tailor made shirts and cashmere jackets and trousers, pearl necklaces, and a whole range of other goods and services.

We have been successful in arranging day and night tours to meet client interests and needs. Our guides have been complimented on their level of English, and knowledge of local history and culture. Here is a sample of some feedback we have received.

" Hey Jet
I had a GREAT time touring Beijing with you. Thanks a LOT.
I did a quick upload of all the photos. Take what you like. Just attribute the photos to me. The first link are all the photos. The second link is you laughing – I think that’s your best picture. Enjoy, and I hope to see you again.

Let me know if you ever make it to San Francisco. Would love to show you our VERY short history, and I can introduce you to some local asian guys.


PS: You would be proud of me last night. I took the bus to the area you suggested. VERY fun and nice. Had a tea. Took the bus back to Tienamen Square. Chatted a little with some guys, then back to hotel. Great night. "

" Hi Jet

We had a wonderful trip. I was so jetlagged though. have just recovered. Your Shanghai guide was excellent, as was the content of the tour, and value for money. I would definitely use him again.

My one recommendation though is that the tip be standardised and built into the fee or be preset by you before meeting the guide. We dont come from a big tipping culture so its always an anxiety as to where we are overtipping or undertipping.

I would definitely recommend ChinaMango. I would like to visit Beijing in a year or so.

Shaun "

" Hello my friend,

We just arrived from our trip and wanted to say thank you for
the chance you gave us to visit your city in such a short time.
We really appreciated the time we had with you and I will recommend
your service to my friends that are going to visit your country.
If by any chance, you visit us in Canada, please let me know, I
would be more than happy to show you around.
Richard "

" Hi Jet!
Thank you for the wonderful tour of the Great Wall and the 798 arts district! Your tour was very informative and incredibly fun. It made for a fantastic way to see Beijing!
Warm regards,
Matt "

" Good morning Jet
.....we're just getting over our jet lag. As mentioned before, Martin and I are seasoned travelers and can gage pretty well travel services. We want you to know that you and your staff were excellent in every respect. There is not one single thing we would change from the itinerary to the restaurants to the staff. Each of your guides had his own charming personality; each knew exactly what we were intertested in and escorted us beautifully.
One of the greatest qualities your organization offers is dependability. Many Westerners are nervous about visiting China because of the language issue and the misconceptions we have about the New China. Your service was perfect! Everyone was where they should be at the arranged time. No waiting, no sweating! You held our hand as loosely or tightly as we requested. The greatest.
We felt the value for the money was exceptional and have no hesitation to recommend your services to anyone visiting China. If you can supply the same high level of service and guides to other areas from Thailand to Tibet, we wouldn't hesitate a second to use your agency again.
Thanks for the great job.

A & M "

" Dear Jet,

I want to confirm how satisfy I was by your tour and services. It was friendly, efficient, fun, fast, instructive etc. I will be happpy to recommend it to my best friends only!!!
This is what I talk about ( West side story song):

When you're a Jet you're the top cat in town

You're the Gold medal kid with the heavyweight crown

When you're a Jet you're the swingin'est thing

Little boy, you're a man, Little man you're a king!

(check this link if interested to hear the song

Take care and enjoy your holidays.

Bertrand "

Do keep your comments coming - we welcome all your suggestions, just add comment below or click the contact button on the left to get in touch directly. We will be taking a break till after Chinese New Year (Feb 3rd). Meanwhile, I wish all readers a happy and healthy 2011 (Year of the Rabbit).

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Old Shanghai! New Shanghai! (part 2)

Various colonial powers like the British, French, and Japanese, as well as German, Russian and Jewish immigrants have left their mark on Shanghai, so a walk around this city can be very interesting. Or if you jog, as a recent China Daily contributor did, be ready for ".....bikes, cars, scooters, children, dogs, giant carts of vegetables wheeled by tiny women, uneven pavements, men sleeping on lounge chairs in the middle of the footpath, buckets of fish heads, families walking five-wide (and holding hands), dance classes, badminton...". If you're tired, then take the metro, which has 10 lines in total and reaches almost every corner of the city. It also connects with the maglev line to Pudong airport - an amazing 7 min ride at 400km/hr+.

 Shanghai Expo (see blog July 2010) was a great boost to the local economy, and also the city government carried out a general clean-up and gave main buildings and houses a facelift. It seems however that all is back to normal now, including pollution levels. Contractors are rushing to complete building works delayed because of the temporary halt during the Expo.

There is a contrasting mix of old and new architecture and buildings. Beware of high-rise buildings under construction - every has been talking about the recent tragic fire when 58 died, an unfortunate mix of a new high-rise building and old low-rise firefighting equipment, and unlicensed welders. Also beware of the pretty girls. Shanghainese girls are known for being very strong, and the husbands for being hen-pecked.

 We would be happy to take you on a walking tour of the French concession, or browse around Tian Zi Fang, the new "hip" area built around old workshops. It's Shanghai's answer to the 798 art zone in Beijing, or explore the night life.

Or, for the more adventurous, take the high-speed train to Hangzhou (Paradise on Earth, see blog Aug 2010), only 30 mins away now... or go to Suzhou, "Venice of the East"....or take a ride on the longest road bridge over the sea, all 36km of it, to get to Ningbo in only 2 hours, and visit this historic old seaport and modern commercial centre...or 5 hrs by train to Beijing ( well not quite yet, but watch this space after end of 2011)...the list goes on!And if you can really wait, then go to Shanghai Disneyland in the year 2013. It may resemble Disneyland Paris - quite fitting for Shanghai to become Paris of the East again. (Photos courtesy of Danny).

Friday, December 3, 2010

Old Shanghai! New Shanghai! (part 1)

According to Wikipedia, Shanghai "... is a tourist destination renowned for its historical landmarks such as the Bund and City God Temple, and its modern and ever-expanding Pudong skyline including the Oriental Pearl Tower." I went there during the summer (see July 30th blog) when it was wet and humid, and now I have some photos from Danny who went there recently during the cooler dry season. (You can see some of his Guangzhou pictures in my blog of 5 Nov 2010).

With a population of over 20 million, and over 100,000 foreign expats and nearly half million Taiwan and Hong Kong residents, there is plenty to see and do in Shanghai. Shanghai was the "Paris of the East" in the 1920s and attracted the rich and famous. Now it's your turn to enjoy the city! Old and new, traditional and modern, and Western and Oriental can be seen in the photos below. It was the most Westernised city in China in the last century, and seems set to be the most Westernised city in Asia this century.

Shanghai led the country after 1949 in terms of quality of industrial goods and fashion. It was everyone's dream to own a Forever brand bicycle (cost was up to 3 months salary, and a quota system under the planned economy always meant supply could not keep up with demand) or a Butterfly brand sewing machine or "White Rabbit" candies. Now that has changed with many dreaming of Shanghai made cars from the VW or GM joint venture factories in Shanghai (though the socialist market economy still means a waiting list of a few months for the more popular models, even though prices may now be up to one or two year's salary). Of course for the super rich, you just buy an imported Rolls Royce or Porsche (I'm sure many of the 60-odd USD billionaires in China live in Shanghai!). See Motor Show blog Apr 25th, 2009.

part 2 follows.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Tourist favourite - Panjiayuan Flea Market

Many of my clients like to visit this place for a break from the various 'heavy' historical and cultural sites in Beijing. Here you can see a lot of local culture but not much real history. The market is sometimes called "Dirt Market" or "Antiques Market", I think there is more of the former and not so much of the latter. In some ways, 'dirt' may have been a suitable description in the early days of the 1980s when it started in a hutong as a kind of black market for secondhand goods, but the market has been expanded and renovated several times and now is quite a respectable place to browse around. However, 'dirty' be a suitable description for some of the goods on sale, see below, so to avoid embarrassment don't take curious young children round those parts.

Not quite sure if this what you were thinking of for the children's Christmas stocking.

The official website (in English also) describes it as an important sight for any tourist in Beijing, along with climbing the Great Wall, touring the Forbidden City and eating Beijing duck. Here you can mix with people of different colours, languages, religions and social status. Even royalty and presidents have visited, so you don't have to feel embarrassed to be seen here. In case you do there is now even an online purchasing option on the Panjiayuan website.

The market is situated on the 3rd East Ring Road, and will be more easily accessible when the No. 10 metro line extension south is finished. So of course before then you should have a guide to take you there.....and also to help you bargain. Beware, starting prices will be higher if you have a 'foreign' face! It is open 365 days in the year, but weekends are still the best time to go, though you would be joining 60,000 others on average with the same idea. Even if you visited 80 stalls a week, it would still take you one year to visit all 4000 stalls and their 10,000 staff!

There is a huge variety of stuff to look at, great for Xmas shopping......antiques, paintings, jewelry, classical furniture, books, folk art, chops and seals, snuff bottles, stamps, porcelain, Chairman Mao alarm clocks.......And the latest addition...yes diamonds in the flea market, started by a Ms Yang in August this year! That really is going upmarket. She helps customers choose using her secret TGF method. Also, there's now even a cafe (but no Starbucks yet) so you can sit down whilst your partner takes his or her time looking around.